Home/PowerTips e-newsletter/Business Etiquette


How to Merge Business Development with Business Etiquette

By: Meredith Flory

As you grow and develop your small business, it’s important to not lose the special touches in customer service that encourage customers to support local and aspiring companies. There are ways to build into your business while being conscious of how your company interacts with the public. As you grow your company, be mindful of the ways you establish company etiquette, with an eye to the values and ethics that are important to you. Here are ways to think about interacting with customers, social media, and business partners while maintaining the values you established when your business was just a dream.

1. Interacting with Customers

Make customer service a part of your business plan. Thanks to online shopping and increasing interconnectedness, small business doesn’t have to be local, and customers can purchase goods and services from around the world. This means you need to stand out in the quality of goods and ease of customer service. Make sure to include in company planning what customer service looks like for your business. Growth plans shouldn’t only include product and sales but should also outline how you treat people and what kind of business culture you are developing.

Make sure employees are trained and committed to customer service. Do not assume when you make a hire that your employees will interact with customers the same way you would, even if you hired them in part due to their people skills. Establish company guidelines for behaviors such as time limits on returning contacts, away messages, language, and expectations for handling problems. Making this a part of job training, rather than fixing a problem when it appears, will help you, the employee, and the client. Win, win, win. (more…)

2020-12-31T16:51:40+00:00December 31st, 2020|

Manners Matter When Growing Your Nonprofit

By: Randi Cairns

When you think of etiquette, you likely think of things like keeping your elbows off the table or not talking with your mouth full. As a society, we have certain rules or conventions we’ve agreed to regarding the proper way to behave in certain settings.

Well, business etiquette is the same thing: It’s about how we behave or interact with others in our work environment. And while most of the personal rules we tend to agree on apply in a work setting as well (nobody needs to see your lunch while you’re talking about your fundraising goals for next quarter), here are three tips specific to business etiquette and growing your nonprofit. (And yes, like your mama told you, manners DO matter.)

1. Be responsive. Whether it’s with the people you serve, your volunteers, your funders, or your critics, show them you’re listening. It’s great to be passionate about your mission. It’s better still to make sure what you’re offering aligns with the needs of your stakeholders. Are you paying attention when your clients tell you what they need? Are you delivering on promised deliverables to grant funders? Are you communicating—both when things are going well and when you hit an inevitable obstacle or challenge?

You want buy-in from others if you’re looking to grow your nonprofit. An easy way to get that? Let them know their feedback matters. (more…)

2020-10-01T14:40:40+00:00September 24th, 2020|

20 Business Etiquette Tips

By: Lindsey Stone

In business, the way you behave strongly influences how others see your level of professionalism. Doing or saying the wrong thing can negatively impact your career more than you may realize. By understanding the influence of business etiquette and recognizing what matters most, you can set yourself apart professionally.

Tip #1: Be Aware. Names are one of the first pieces of information we learn about someone, and remembering someone’s name is more beneficial than you think. If you have trouble remembering names, try repeating the name back to the individual as you interact. Writing down a name and job title with some brief notes about the circumstances in which you met can help for future connections and references as well.

Tip #2: Use Your Full Name. Introducing yourself by your full name distinguishes you from anyone else the individual may know with your same name. In addition, knowing your full name will make it easier for others to find you after the meeting or conference on sites like LinkedIn so you can stay connected and build your network.

Tip #3: Be Mindful. Do not walk into someone’s office without announcing yourself. Imagine how you feel when someone walks into your office without notice and interrupts your train of thought or important business call. Remember, the perfect time for you to talk about something may not be the ideal time for someone else. Take a minute to send an email to find out what time works for both of you.

Tip #4: Know Who Pays When. If you invited the client or coworkers to coffee, lunch, etc. for a work meeting, then you should pay. It does not matter if it is a quick meeting or note, the tab is your responsibility when you invite others somewhere.

Tip #5: Limit “Thank You.” Being polite is important, but in the professional world, it is more about minding your p’s and q’s and less about making sure to say thank you consistently. One confident and sincere thank you is sufficient, but being overly thankful may make you seem insecure or insincere. (more…)

2020-07-06T21:10:36+00:00July 6th, 2020|


20 Quick Tips for Freelance Survival

By: Karen Pinkston

In our smart-phone, text-message culture, it’s sometimes easy to forget that business is about people. If you want to thrive as a freelancer, you must get to know the people behind the organizations you serve. Having proper etiquette will help you foster client relationships and grow your business. Here are some tips to help guide your freelance journey.

1. First impressions matter.
When you first meet clients, introduce yourself with your first and last name. This shows confidence and makes you more memorable.

2. Find common ground.
Break the ice. Ask your clients about where they’re from or what they’re really passionate about. Do they have kids? Pets? When you get to know people first, you’re creating a comfortable environment from the start. You see them as people and not just as a paycheck.

3. Don’t schmooze too much.
Relationships take time. Find the right balance of getting to know your clients yet focusing on the work as well. Even though you can use a more relaxed tone, you should maintain a certain level of professionalism.


2020-03-25T18:53:14+00:00March 25th, 2020|

Fine-Tuning Your Communication Skills

By: Meredith Flory

For entrepreneurs, our increasingly technology-driven society can be a blessing as unique ideas, products, and services can reach clientele and specific market niches easily. However, when considering self-care and needed time away from one’s desk, constant communication through email, texts, and social media can also be a source of stress. Each business needs to make a plan for approaching communication among staff, clients, and the public to protect not only your business interests but also your mental and emotional health.

Set limits and expectations for communication.

Smartphones are able to keep us connected to our teams and clients, but it’s important to understand both spoken and unspoken communication rules for the field you work in. Make firm decisions as a staff as to how long is acceptable to wait to respond to an email, text, or phone call during the workday and how you will handle away messages or direction to a coworker when out of the office. Make sure rules are clear for how those out of the office are allowed to set limits on responding.

Be present with those in front of you.

While setting rules for being in contact with your team is important, it’s also good etiquette to know when to put away the phones. Make sure staff understand that when you are at a work function, such as a dinner meeting or presentation to a new client, it is important to show the people you are in front of that they are a priority and put communication with others away.

Use “reply all” sparingly.

Another possibly dangerous area of constant communication to navigate is “reply all” emails and group texts. Group communication can function to let everyone working on the same project know important dates, deadlines, and other information, but it can also cause headaches. Almost everyone can share a story of being left to scroll through unnecessary comments and emails from people who should have learned to talk directly to one person. Or, on the other hand, missing an important detail because someone replied only to the sender. Be mindful of people’s time and overrun inboxes and learn to differentiate the information that should be for the whole group versus only for a select few.  (more…)

2020-01-14T18:36:35+00:00January 14th, 2020|


Seeing 2020—A New Protocol for Strategic Planning

By: Julie Kirchner

As the last quarter of 2019 approaches, business teams the world over will turn to planning for the next full year.

We will dig out or print multiple copies of our calendar, annual strategic business plan, marketing plan, and budget. We will sit around big conference tables (physically, or virtually and metaphorically) with on-demand coffee and individually wrapped chocolates, surrounded by giant post-it papers on the wall and rainbows of colored markers.

Sorry to interrupt all that inspiration you were feeling just now. Umm…call me crazy, but I’m fairly certain this is not the magic fluff that wildly successful companies are made of. (Unless you’re in the business of giant post-its or colored markers, of course.)

It’s time we cleared things up with a 2020 prescription for our “Vision.”

We’ve always done it this way. We thrive on flexibility and new ideas.


2019-09-30T19:03:27+00:00September 30th, 2019|


Three Things You Need to Know about Unleashing Creativity in the Business Setting

By: Julie Kirchner

In a competitive business landscape—as an executive, entrepreneur, or employee—the pressure to “be creative” can be high. Your capacity to get creative can make the difference between whether or not you stand out in the crowd, determine how many customers you can reach, or affect your ability to convey your message accurately and concisely. Creativity is something we often relate to intelligence, talent, and ability. It is regarded as a very desirable quality, both individually and within an organization.

  1. Your creative style may be rooted in your culture.

As it turns out, how we perceive and define “creativity” actually varies by culture. If your business has a diverse workforce, customer base, or international strategy, it pays to tune in to one rather simple nuance: Is your work “unique,” or is it “useful”?

Psychologist Letty Kwan’s research on the culture-and-creativity connection is summed up in an article in Psychology Today entitled “What Is the Relationship Between Creativity and Culture?”

According to the article, “A common definition of creativity is ‘something both novel and useful.’ In this context, ‘novel’ means original, unique, or innovative. ‘Useful’ means viable, practical, or aesthetically pleasing.”

As Kwan and her team point out, recent studies have emphasized that our cultural background, Eastern or Western, may influence which ideas or creative products are selected for continued development.

And along those lines, your ability to get excited about something—and therefore devote your creative energy—may depend simply upon whether you see it as practical or original (or both). (more…)

2019-06-30T21:09:50+00:00June 30th, 2019|

Finding Work/Life Balance in Today’s Changing Workforce

By: Rheanna Bernard

The phrase “work/life balance” is one that has been a topic of discussion for a long time. How do we have it all? How do we succeed at our work and keep our home life together and successful as well? With more and more people having the option to work from home, or to telework on a regular basis, the work/life balance has started to blend together. How can we successfully navigate our careers and our home lives? Here are three tips to put you on the right track. (Many thanks to the military spouses and working moms who contributed to this conversation.)

  1. Organize Your Work at Home

Meghan Wieten-Scott, senior outreach advisor at Blue Star Families, shares that organizing your work life at home is key. “It helped so much when I turned our guest room into an office. It gave me a door I could close.” And gave her a place to “leave” work at the end of the day. Setting boundaries is a sentiment shared by those who work from home and is key to organization. Social Media and Content Manager Jennifer Morrison shares that “I have an app that turns off notifications for work emails after 4 p.m. on the weekdays and completely off for the weekends.” Overall, if you’re working at home, organizing how you do that and sticking to that plan are key for success.

  1. Organize Your Home Life

Jennifer Porter, a lawyer in Northern Virginia, shared that Google Calendar has been an essential part of the success of her work/home balance. It’s how she and her family manage multiple calendars and share them with each other. Meal planning and meal prep are additional ways to stay organized and ahead of the game at home. Paying for a meal planning service or just spending the extra time compiling easy recipes to put in the Crock-Pot or throw in the freezer ultimately saves time.

  1. Set Expectations

Having a healthy understanding of what your expectations can really be is important. You have to be realistic about what you can and cannot do. This may require some trial and error and could be different from one month to the next. But it’s important to set realistic plans and remember that you can’t do everything you want to do all the time and still have balance. For example, Heather Oster, Northern Virginia educator turned stay-at-home mom, and her family set time aside to make an actionable plan for the coming weeks. Decide what is a priority, whether that be sitting down for dinner or going on a monthly date night, and get it on the calendar. “Yours will look different, but start with the tangible, important and realistic actions that you and your family value,” says Oster.

Regardless of whether you work in an office outside of the home, at your kitchen table, or some combination of the two, you can take actionable steps to continue to work toward navigating the home/work balance. Start a conversation with those around you and surround yourself with those who can support you and whom you can support as well. Because your community is a key part of success in life!

2019-04-17T01:37:28+00:00April 15th, 2019|

Four Best Practices for Contracting Freelancers

By: Rebecca Alwine

Freelancers are increasing in popularity as the gig economy continues to grow. For many, freelancing is the perfect way to blend their professional passions and their personal goals. But they are still professionals. They work hard, and those efforts should be rewarded appropriately.

Here are a few ways to make sure you are treating freelancers well so that they will want to work with you in the future:

  1. Use the right terminology.

Freelancers are not employees. You don’t hire them. They don’t work for you. Starting a professional relationship with a freelancer is the best time to lay the foundation of the agreement. Make sure you are using the correct terminology when referencing the contract, terms, and compensation. If you have questions on what these terms should be, check with your legal department.

  1. Honor the contract.

Just as you would not conduct business with a new client without a contract, a freelancer won’t either. And you shouldn’t expect them to. A freelance contract or agreement can be as simple or complicated as needed. But it should include a few important things like payment terms, length of period for work, and any specifics for the project they are being contracted for. Once both parties sign the contract, do not assume that “because they are freelancers” you can choose to change or ignore it.


2019-02-23T19:17:26+00:00February 23rd, 2019|

The Follow-Up: Tips for Not Losing Conference Momentum

By: Angela Caban, MHRM

There is nothing quite like the opportunity to get away from the everyday routine of your office and attend a conference to build up your career. The learning, networking, and professional lunches may have you feeling amped up, energized, and ready to share with the world everything you have learned.

However, conferences can also have a crazy period of nonstop meet and greets, to the point where your head is spinning from all the overwhelming connections being made. Plus, you are probably thinking about getting settled back into your office, tackling the emails waiting for you, and attending the meetings that will follow. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose the momentum built within a few hours of returning home.

How will you remember everything you learned, and, most importantly, how will you preserve the post-conference glow and maintain your revived energy?

Before heading home, there are a few must-do items that will help keep the momentum going and get you organized before you dive back into the mayhem of the office.

  1. Brain dump.

Have you ever arrived home to read over your notes and not understood one word you wrote? Somewhere between the overload of conference information and the hastiness with which you wrote down the ideas you wanted to remember, you may realize that this would be the perfect time to know shorthand. Two things to do before heading home, when everything is still fresh in your brain, are to review and to rewrite important notes. I typically carry two notepads with me—one for housing the scribbly day of notes and the other for rewriting any important ideas I want to remember and share with others. Here’s another tip: Search the conference hashtag online. Oftentimes, on the day I travel, I will dive down the hashtag rabbit hole and jot down anything I may have missed from other attendees and sometimes even the speakers.


2018-10-25T13:48:16+00:00October 25th, 2018|