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business habits

Update July 2023: Because this matters. If you practice good business etiquette and align with others who do, everyone prospers.

I originally published this article in 2014. It’s amazing how relevant it still is, and yet how much the world has changed since then. I’m ready now to add something important: Keep politics and religion out of business. Just don’t.

How many times this week have you noticed your emails or phone messages went unanswered? Or your lunch meeting cancelled at the last minute. Or you’re late to your next appointment because a guy in your last meeting wouldn’t stop talking – about himself.

People have gotten rude.

We’re all a lot busier than we used to be. Many of us don’t have an assistant or office manager to keep us on task. Details get lost.

Busy-ness is the way of the world. But it’s not an excuse for bad business behavior.

Successful executives and entrepreneurs devise systems for keeping track of what’s important. They’re considerate of others. They follow up.

If we just do these five things, we’ll set an example for others. We’ll raise the bar. We’ll succeed more and stress less.

Building relationships and maintaining a good reputation are an often-overlooked part of marketing. We are what we sell.


Habits that build business.

1 Show up. Seems simple, right? Someone invites you to lunch or a workshop. You have an opportunity to submit a business proposal. Be there. Show up on time or early. Confirm appointments. Have cell numbers handy for those you’ll be meeting in case of an unavoidable delay.

When you arrive, turn your phone off, put it away and participate. Be interested. Be present with the person or people you’re with. If you need to make a call or respond to a text, excuse yourself and step outside.

We’ve all made the mistake of paying more attention to our phone than what’s happening with the people who have devoted time to actually being with us in the room. It’s tempting. Put the device away!

Business Meeting2 Follow up. Thank the other party or parties for the meeting or opportunity. Time is precious to everyone. Acknowledge others for taking time for you whether it’s meeting you for coffee or submitting a proposal. Get back to them. If you say you’ll do something after you meet, make yourself a note and do it.

At the same time, there’s no need to pester someone with multiple after-action emails or calls. Never add them to your email list without permission or abuse your social media connections. There’s a rhythm that’s appropriate for communicating after an interaction, and it varies depending on circumstance. Find the rhythm.

3 Respond. We used to shoot for returning messages in the same day part that we received them. If you got a call in the morning, you returned it before noon. With flex schedule and transnational business, that’s not realistic. Now it’s more like 24 hours. If possible, return messages the same day. You’ll win points with the other person and build a reputation for following up.

4 Be honest. Communicate. Be candid and realistic, but don’t break off the communication without an explanation. No one appreciates being blown off. If you’re not interested or things aren’t going well, deal with it in a straightforward and respectful way.

business-meeting5 Take the time to build relationships. Relationships are the foundation of business. We need to trust the people we’re doing business with, which means we need to get to know them, both personally and professionally. We need to understand their business, their aspirations and motivations. This takes time. Building relationships is easy. Just follow tips 1-4 above and you’ll be on your way.

How are you doing with these practices? Do you need to change some habits that are holding you back from success?

My record is far from perfect, but I strive to excel in communication, and I definitely notice when others embody these principles.

It’s understandable to miss a detail here or there. It’s the habit that matters, not the exception.

allison rae

Based in southern California, Allison is a brand marketing expert and web designer with an extensive background in consumer and business-to-business marketing. She's also a professional photographer. Her passion is blending creativity with business savvy to achieve results with her clients. Sōlfire Creative is the third iteration of her marketing agency.

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