These aren’t hard. You probably learned them in kindergarten. But for some reason, your competitor forgot them along the way. But your competitor’s loss of common courtesy should be your gain. All it takes to stand out these days is to be the small business owner, manager, or employee who does the following.
1 | Be on time.
Being on time shows that you are organized and says to others, “your time is valuable and I’m not going to waste it.”
2 | Dress for success.
Here’s a hint. If your type of business has moved to “business casual” attire, focus on the “business” part of the fashion. If you are going to be attending a meeting with a client, use their dress code, not your’s, to determine what to wear. If your business is one in which uniforms are worn, make sure your’s is washed and pressed. The idea: Look your best.
3 | Introduce yourself.
Whenever you’re in a crowd, introduce yourself. A firm handshake and using your full name is all you need in such situations. By being proactive and introducing yourself, you’ll keep your guests or clients from having to ask your name—always an awkward experience. Even if you think the other person should know your name, err on the side of helping them out: introduce yourself.
4 | Listen. Really. Stop talking and listen.
Remember the old saying about why we have two ears and one mouth? Well, if you don’t remember it, that may explain why you’re talking too much and not listening. Be a passionate, active listener. Not only will you learn what the custom or client needs, or discover some great opportunity, you’ll be impressing the other person with your charm.
5 | Know how to communicate. Practice if you need to.
Some rules last forever. A speedy confirmation or reply. Following up on what you promised you’d deliver. Sharing something you think might be of interest. However, also know how to keep things brief and appropriate. Some specifics: Update your voice mail greeting. Make email subject lines relevant and the email short. Set up an auto-reply message for your contact list if you’re out of the office and hard to reach. Let them know how to get a message to you, or where to turn for immediate assistance. And, most of all, practice explaining things that are critical to your ability to help your customer understand what you are recommending they purchase.
6 | Don’t be dumb, put away the smartphone.
Many businesses today are technology oriented. That’s a good thing. However, there are times when it’s best to shut down the smartphone and pay attention to what’s happening in front of you. For instance, you should never check email or listen to music in the hallways or the elevator. Instead, spend that time talking to a coworker or employee. And you know that instant, angry email you want to send? Don’t.
7 | Be kind.
(Image: on Flickr via mkrigsman)
If you own a small business, there’s nothing more important than kindness—and a little of it goes a long way. Common courtesy toward employees and customers (like not raising your voice, saying please and thank you when asking for favors, and making eye contact when someone is speaking to you) goes a long way to raising your image in the minds of others.