Defining Professional Development Goals

By: Meredith Flory

As your company expands, employee growth won’t only be connected to the number of employees you have, but to their expectations for career progression, benefits, and skill-building as well. As a small business or entrepreneur, you don’t have to fear employee growth; rather, it shows your dedication to quality work and the development of your team, which aids your customers. If you’re in a position to start providing professional development opportunities, here are three suggestions for making it a part of your company culture.

Consider Your Goals for Professional Development 

Just as you have measurable goals for sales and services, developing professional development programs requires considering cost, time, and measurable outcomes. There are multiple types of professional development, some that focus on the individual, some that focus on skills and networking, and others that the team participates in together. As you develop a professional development program, consider the following to get the most out of your plan:

  • What is your budget, cost, and available time? Do you want to spend money on specific classes or conferences to then offer to employees, or do you want to provide funds for employees to request when they find their own opportunities?
  • Where do you see a need for improvement? If you have a specific skill in mind that you see a pattern of employees needing assistance with, you can enter professional development programs with a measurable goal in mind. This goal might be related to growth if there is a new technology or skill your company will be implementing, or it might be a professional skill where your employees need more experience or coaching.
  • Can you attach professional development to company growth? If you foresee growth that will lead to new positions, developing needed management skills in current employees may allow you to promote from within and encourage company loyalty.
  • Plan for time to offer opportunities for feedback, both named and anonymous, for any programs you will offer.


2021-10-12T17:48:29+00:00September 27th, 2021|

Marketing or Messaging? Tips for Communicating as a Business with the Community

By: Meredith Flory

Not every piece of external communications from your company will be targeted advertising to gain new clients. External communication also includes messaging regarding what your company does, your values, and your engagement with the community that will tell the general public who you are. Not just potential clients, but current clients, business partners, and current or future employees. Consider how your company balances sales pitches with other forms of engagement. How do you show leadership in the community in addition to a solid product – through service, employment opportunities, civic engagement? Communicate these practices in your newsletters, website, and social media.

Plan for mistakes. Inevitably, your company will make a misstep in communication: an advertisement that falls flat, a poorly handled complaint, or a social faux pas when dealing with current issues. If you prepare ahead of time for how you will handle an internal review, public statement, and commitment to changing behavior, then when a mistake happens, your team can feel more confident that you can approach the situation fairly, calmly, and appropriately. Writing a crisis communications plan that makes the chain of communication, responsibility, and review process clear and available can help employees at all levels navigate their roles in guiding the company back to sure footing.  (more…)

2021-07-01T23:45:27+00:00July 1st, 2021|

It’s Not Just What You Say—It’s When and How You Say It

Business Etiquette and Internal Communications

By: Randi Cairns

Unless you’re a business of one and wearer of all the hats (we’ve been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt), you’ve got a team of folks you rely on to do the things your business does. The best way to get those things done, and more importantly, to have a team that loves doing them, is to prioritize your company’s internal communications.

We’ve got experts ready to rock that function for your business (and we’re happy to tell you all about that), but you can choose right now to improve your internal communications skills or at least start thinking about what that might look like. (Spoiler alert: When it’s done right, it looks like increased teamwork, productivity, and employee engagement.)

Here are a few tips on business etiquette when it comes to internal communications:

  1. Value your team’s time.

By being mindful about what and how often you communicate with your team, you demonstrate that you care about how they use their time, and you minimize unnecessary distractions. Nobody wants to work to the relentless alerts of incoming emails, texts, and Slack messages. If there’s a time-sensitive message that needs to be communicated, of course that needs to go out right away. But for the things that aren’t on fire or bleeding, be deliberate about the communications you put out there. Can you send out one email that highlights key information instead of a dozen as they occur to you? Do that instead. 

Bonus points: It’s totally okay to use multiple tools to communicate. No one tool is perfect for everything, but you can agree as a team about which platforms are to be used to communicate depending upon urgency and importance (or whatever other criteria you choose). (more…)

2021-03-29T21:07:19+00:00March 29th, 2021|


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|
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