“Etiquette: noun. the customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group.” (google)
Etiquette…. Its something we usually reside to those at a fancy dinner party and knowing how to greet people in the right way. It’s something that has been on my mind a lot lately as I think it is just as important for people to execute business etiquette as it is knowing how to behave in personal situations and sadly I hear all too often of circumstances where it is lacking. And a lot of the time I think it is because people genuinely are unware. With 7 years experience under my belt, I’m a lot wiser and just a little horrified at some of the things I have said in the past (ie. point number 1 (hides face…)), simply because I was young and really didn’t know better and had no one to guide me. But it doesn’t have to be that way for others!
So here are my tips if you are starting out in business…
1. “Can I pick your brain?”
This is one of my biggest pet peeves. And maybe its because I am horrified at the fact I actually asked people this back in my early business days (cue me curling into a ball and flushing in embarrassment!!). When you say this to someone and offer to buy them a coffee, it can say to them that an hour of their time (or more if they travelled to meet you…) is worth about $4.50 to you. I’m not sure about you, but very few of us would work for $4.50!
As start-up businesses it can be really hard if you are literally starting up on the smell of an oily rag to put money into things like that. But the advice you may receive from someone more experienced than you, someone who has already made lots of mistakes and perhaps lots of connections can be priceless for your business.
If you would like the opportunity to pick someones brain, ask if they provide 1:1 sessions and what their rate is. It shows that you value their time and expertise and it will gain respect. And sometimes you will be surprised and they will offer to catch up for free anyway (quite often consultants/coaches may have an amount of pro-bono hours they allocate per year), but they will really respect that you asked!
Now, if you are looking at starting a business exactly the same as theirs? Well, just no. Think about how you would feel if placed in that situation and you will rethink that.
2. “Me, Me, Me…”
Never underestimate the respect you can gain by asking people about themselves. I have been in situations and events where people have spoken about themselves the whole time, aside from me sharing my business name, they didn’t ask a single thing about me. Not only did this not create conversation and it rubbed me up the wrong way, but I honestly can’t even remember who they are!!! They didn’t ‘connect’ with me, they simply ‘told’ me about themselves. And there is a big difference.
I was at a wedding a couple of years ago where I spoke to a brilliant business couple. They were really surprised at how I was genuinely interested in what they did and said how rare it was!
When at a networking event, ask others about themselves. Build a connection not just a contact.
3. Selling before building rapport.
LinkedIn and Facebook are brilliant tools to connect with people where you may not be able to. But use them wisely. Build rapport or a connection with someone before you go in with a hard sell. While some may have had sales success from this tactic, anyone who has added me and then immediately sent through a sales focused message has lost some respect as I realise that they didn’t really want to connect with me, they just wanted me to buy from them!
With this point do what you want and what your business plan is. But if you are sending me a request, please don’t sell to me. Connect with me first.
4. ‘Can you reduce the price because I’m a startup/my car broke/I’m creating another business/dog needs an operation/studying…’
I would be a millionaire if I got a $ for all the times I had heard of women in business who have sent through a quote to a client to then have an email back asking for a discount or sometimes even offered exposure in exchange for a job worth thousands….! Obviously this is especially rife in a service based business. Because think about it…. Would you go into your local woollies and ask for 10% off your shopping trolley because you need to fix your car that week? Or when you’re buying that new pair of jeans will you ask for a discount because you are currently losing weight and will need another pair soon? I think not. So then its not ok to ask that of others!! You are devaluing their talents and their worth.
Reverse it and think about how you would feel if someone asked you that question.
When you receive a quote, accept that it is what it is. If you can’t afford it all but really want to work with that person, ask if they offer a payment plan. But please don’t ask for a discount.
5. ‘Love that idea, maybe I can do the same’
Copycats. They are everywhere. And I mean lets be honest, a lot of what has been created is because of inspiration of something that already exists. I mean Sass Place and coworking isn’t unique, there is coworking locations all over the world! But I made it unique to Adelaide by having a new niche with being female focused. I deliberately didn’t and still don’t pay attention to what my ‘so called competitors’ are doing here in SA, because I don’t want to do the same as them. My business is unique to me and my community and I don’t want to be reactionary (is that even a word? Spell check says yes….) in my approach.
I have seen complete products be copied. Pricing and business structures be ironically similar. Website designs look the same. I have even seen businesses try and poach the clients of other businesses directly. Ex clients/staff leave to replicate a business they worked for. People threatening to start their own brand the same, if you don’t sell yours to them. And you know what, despite the market being big enough for everyone, it is down right hurtful and disrespectful to those who have put so much work into their brand to have it happen to them.
I know not everyone has the same values and morals that I do, and I am probably on the softer side! But I’m sure you will agree, blatant copying is just not on. And when it comes to etiquette and respect it lacks both. Rise up. Think outside the box. Be a changemaker, do something different!! Build respect for your innovation and who knows it may even open you up to collaborate with a business you admire down the track!!
So these are just 5 things that have popped in my mind while writing that I have either seen or have learnt along the way and I think everyone new to business should know…. What would you add?
First published on She Nurtures, www.shenurtures.com.au, 2017.
About Carly Thompson-Barry…
Known for her nurturing ways, Carly has an never-ending passion for helping and encouraging women to rise up, turn dreams into reality and achieve a joy-filled life, while also doing so sustainably. She manages to beautifully weave together her skills in business and wellbeing to nurture women through their own life journey. With a multi-award winning PT business, over 8 years of business experience, including the creation of Australia’s first coworking space for women, a thriving women in business community in SA Woman and a “nothing is impossible” attitude, Carly will be there beside you to nurture you holistically towards your dream life – body, soul and business.