Here are some business etiquette updates that apply almost anywhere, at home or on the road.

Power Dining

The rules of power dining are straightforward and more common sense than anything.

Breakfast - You can get to business after you pour the coffee. Breakfast meetings are more focused and faster-paced. There are time constraints and you have a goal. Try to avoid having your breakfast in a crowded restaurant where everyone is shifting around you. Some people are very uneasy about such a crowded setting and may reluctantly hold back on the opportunity for open discussion.

Lunch - The pace slows, but is still somewhat focused. After you place your order, open your agenda for business. But, before that you must flex your conversational speaking muscles. Conversation should be casual but sincere.

Dinner - Is a more complex challenge, especially if it involves spouses or other guests. In fact, you may not discuss business and dinner becomes a get-to-know each other social occasion. But, avoid isolating guests or spouses from casual conversation. It could be your fatal mistake.


Handshakes are probably one of the most critical issues people actually need to practice. A lot of men do not know how to shake hands with a woman. And women are equally confused about whether to shake hands at all.

Shaking hands is a primitive form of bonding and men recognize that. A strong handshake means confidence, a limp handshake means insecurity. (See my previous article "The First Handshake" about handshakes in foreign countries).

When somebody extends his hand for a handshake, he has the distinct advantage, he's establishing control. It is a form of communication and reveals something about us. Bottom line: For business people in North America: Establish a firm handshake with customers and co-workers.


Without fail, listening appears on any list of admired business behavior. We appreciate people who stop what they are doing to listen to us, who prevent interruptions of scheduled meetings, who reschedule meetings, who reschedule conversations to provide us an appropriate environment to address important issues, who look us in the eye and wait for us to finish a sentence.

Bottom line: Practice and refine listening techniques to be more responsive to others.

Honoring Time

If anything upsets people in business today, it is not showing consideration for time. This is especially important to Americans who measure time as a precious commodity, account for it, evaluate it as well spent and guard its use.

Bottom line: Honor people's time. Let them know how long things will take, when they might know results and what to expect so they can make plans. Limit interruptions. Apologize for inconveniencing people.

From some of my past articles, we all realize time has a different connotation in different countries and parts of the world. In Latin America when I am invited to dinner at 9 p.m., I always ask, "Is that local time or American time?"

On the other hand I arrived on time for a morning appointment in Tunisia and finally got to see my client around 4:30 p.m. and he did not feel it necessary to apologize to me, yet because I am American, he expects me to be on time.

Business Parties

Do not eat too much and do not drink too much, if at all. Learn something about the senior management so you can talk to them about something other than business. Avoid low-cut dresses for women; it detracts from your professionalism.

If you bring your spouse, brief him or her on dress code and people attending. When you make introductions, you introduce the senior person to the less senior person, the client to your superior.

Top management really does pay attention to how employees handle themselves in party situations. With all the downsizing today, employees have to distinguish themselves from the crowd to get ahead.

What to Say to Customers

"I don't know"


"That's not my job"

"You're right-this stinks"

"That's not my fault"

"You need to talk to my manager"

"You want it by when?"

"Calm down"

"I'm busy right now"

"Call me back"

"I'll find out"

"What I can do is this..."

"This is who can help you..."

"I understand your frustration"

"Let's see what we can do about this."

"I can help you"

"I'll try my best"

"I'm sorry"

"I'll be with you in just a moment"

"I will call you back"

Give clients, customers, and co-workers the VIP treatment, meet their needs and keep them coming back to you. This is the cornerstone of any small business. The simple knack of giving a positive answer rather than a negative reply will do wonders for your relationships with customers, clients, and co-workers. As my mother used to say, You get farther with honey than you do with vinegar.

"Bad service saves money and loses customers. Good service costs money and saves customers." See you next month