Making Good Business Etiquette Good for Business

This article is written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting, who facilitated the August SBDC Roundtable discussion: “Good Business Etiquette Gets a Better Response”. Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities begins, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,… Read more »

The post Making Good Business Etiquette Good for Business appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This article is written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting, who facilitated the August SBDC Roundtable discussion: “Good Business Etiquette Gets a Better Response”.

Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities begins,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it

was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it

was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,

it was the season of Light, it was the season of Dark-

ness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of de-

spair, we had everything before us, we had nothing be-

fore us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all

going direct the other way, — in short, the period was so

far like the present period, that some of its noisiest au-

thorities insisted on its being received, for good or for

evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

While the motifs presented here set the stage for the major plot of the book, it also sets a strong statement of time contrasts as so different and yet all the same. In this way, I think of how different we are from our forefathers when it comes to cultural and business mores, and yet, simultaneously, how the same we are. As Small Business owners, we have to navigate personal and business etiquette much like the polar opposites of Dickens’ famous opening to A Tale of Two Cities–understanding of the best and worst, both wisdom and folly, and all manner of personalities with whom we engage in the course of our professional lives. Alexandria SBDC hosted our monthly Business Development Roundtable with a central theme, Good Business Etiquette Gets a Better Response, on August 16, for our business owners to come together and discuss. We know that every touchpoint with a past, current or potential customer or referral source is an opportunity to appeal or repel new or repeat sales. I want to highlight some of the wisdom to use and some of the folly to avoid when engaging with contacts in-person, via digital communications, especially on Social Media, and on mobile today.

In essence, your “soft skills” matter. Wikipedia colloquially defines soft skills as “the cluster of personality traits that characterize one’s relationships with other people. These skills can include social graces, communication abilities, language skills, personal habits, cognitive or emotional empathy, and leadership traits.” And, Monster.com identifies six soft skills–communication skills, teamwork and collaboration, adaptability, problem-solving, critical observation, and conflict resolution skills–as the most desirable soft skills in the professional world. Needless to say, the proliferation of the Internet, email, Social Media, and mobile communications have increased both the volume of communications and reduced our opportunities to practice in-person soft skills. So, in case you’re feeling like you need to “sharpen the saw” when it comes to etiquette, here are some key insights into how to best navigate professional interactions.

Traditional, In-Person Etiquette

First, show up on time and know what your mission is at any business event. It’s best to have crafted a personal, professional introduction that takes less than 30-45 seconds to say (sometimes called an “elevator pitch”). Make sure that you’re showing genuine interest in the person with eye contact and questions of interest about him or her, not just their professional life or title, and how you can be of benefit to them. As Dr. Ivan Misner of Business Networking International sagely coined, networking is all about “giver’s gain.”

Also, it makes a great deal of sense to bring business cards to share with new contacts. This may seem antiquated to millennials; however, this is still the predominant way that much of the workforce shares contact information and remembers the people they meet at networking and business events.

Another important tip is to make sure that you don’t lie to people when disconnecting after a conversation.  For example, if you were ending a conversation and say, “It’s been a pleasure speaking to you, I’m going to the restroom now,”  Then it’s imperative that you actually go to the bathroom! If you walk away and head over to grab a few refreshments and start up another conversation, your new contact will see that, be offended, and it will sour potentially your future relationship.

Finally, when it comes to in-person business etiquette, it’s always best to avoid taboo topics of politics, religion, and sex. Unless you happen to be at a professional event that was focused on one of these three as an industry, you’ll likely make your newfound contacts uncomfortable.

Digital Communications

When it comes to digital communications, such as commenting on websites and blogs, emailing, instant messaging,  or any number of other Web-based engagements, it’s really important to treat people with respect. The most important concept about digital communications is to consistently remind yourself of the fact that there is another human being on the other side of the computer. Since you don’t see that person it’s easy to respond with trite, curt or even downright rude response because you’re not confronting them face-to-face.

One way to combat this loss of humaneness is to consistently use a face when representing yourself and your business online. This includes Social Media profiles, using services like Gravatar that displays your face on websites and in email programs, and making sure that you or the person representing your business is shown alongside your logo online.

Remember, people do business with people they like, not with companies.

Mobile

Today, it’s so simple to rattle off a SMS text-message to a client or potential customer. The problem with this is the vast majority of people who neither text-message nor consider it as an appropriate professional communication means. Yes, some of this is generational, and some of this is technological fear. However, you should always communicate with people in the way in which they choose to be communicated, not in the most convenient way for you.

So, when it comes to mobile communications you can make it a standard question to ask new contacts how they best communicate with others and how best they receive communications from professional contacts. This sets your contacts and engagements up for success and it acknowledges that you are thinking about them, and not just about yourself. I’ve seen this time and time again, this small act of empathy from you generates a large positive impression with professional contacts.

Keeping up with all the latest business and Internet etiquette can be daunting. The times and technology are ever-changing, especially as new generations become a greater and greater part of the workforce. My hope is that notwithstanding who is engaging professionally, that we all remember that we’re all still humans communicating with humans. And, as such, we should treat one another with a standard amount of respect and dignity. This creates better business environs to work and increases revenues through better, more positive engagements with customers and referrals. So, no matter if it’s the best of times or the worst of times, we can all be civil, sensible and constructive in all our interactions online and offline in business.

The September SBDC Business Development Roundtable will take place on September 20th at noon and participants will discuss: Referrals & Leads – How to Effectively Get, Use & Give Them.

The post Making Good Business Etiquette Good for Business appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Making Good Business Etiquette Good for Business

This article is written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting, who facilitated the August SBDC Roundtable discussion: “Good Business Etiquette Gets a Better Response”. Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities begins, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,… Read more »

The post Making Good Business Etiquette Good for Business appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This article is written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting, who facilitated the August SBDC Roundtable discussion: “Good Business Etiquette Gets a Better Response”.

Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities begins,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it

was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it

was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,

it was the season of Light, it was the season of Dark-

ness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of de-

spair, we had everything before us, we had nothing be-

fore us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all

going direct the other way, — in short, the period was so

far like the present period, that some of its noisiest au-

thorities insisted on its being received, for good or for

evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

While the motifs presented here set the stage for the major plot of the book, it also sets a strong statement of time contrasts as so different and yet all the same. In this way, I think of how different we are from our forefathers when it comes to cultural and business mores, and yet, simultaneously, how the same we are. As Small Business owners, we have to navigate personal and business etiquette much like the polar opposites of Dickens’ famous opening to A Tale of Two Cities–understanding of the best and worst, both wisdom and folly, and all manner of personalities with whom we engage in the course of our professional lives. Alexandria SBDC hosted our monthly Business Development Roundtable with a central theme, Good Business Etiquette Gets a Better Response, on August 16, for our business owners to come together and discuss. We know that every touchpoint with a past, current or potential customer or referral source is an opportunity to appeal or repel new or repeat sales. I want to highlight some of the wisdom to use and some of the folly to avoid when engaging with contacts in-person, via digital communications, especially on Social Media, and on mobile today.

In essence, your “soft skills” matter. Wikipedia colloquially defines soft skills as “the cluster of personality traits that characterize one’s relationships with other people. These skills can include social graces, communication abilities, language skills, personal habits, cognitive or emotional empathy, and leadership traits.” And, Monster.com identifies six soft skills–communication skills, teamwork and collaboration, adaptability, problem-solving, critical observation, and conflict resolution skills–as the most desirable soft skills in the professional world. Needless to say, the proliferation of the Internet, email, Social Media, and mobile communications have increased both the volume of communications and reduced our opportunities to practice in-person soft skills. So, in case you’re feeling like you need to “sharpen the saw” when it comes to etiquette, here are some key insights into how to best navigate professional interactions.

Traditional, In-Person Etiquette

First, show up on time and know what your mission is at any business event. It’s best to have crafted a personal, professional introduction that takes less than 30-45 seconds to say (sometimes called an “elevator pitch”). Make sure that you’re showing genuine interest in the person with eye contact and questions of interest about him or her, not just their professional life or title, and how you can be of benefit to them. As Dr. Ivan Misner of Business Networking International sagely coined, networking is all about “giver’s gain.”

Also, it makes a great deal of sense to bring business cards to share with new contacts. This may seem antiquated to millennials; however, this is still the predominant way that much of the workforce shares contact information and remembers the people they meet at networking and business events.

Another important tip is to make sure that you don’t lie to people when disconnecting after a conversation.  For example, if you were ending a conversation and say, “It’s been a pleasure speaking to you, I’m going to the restroom now,”  Then it’s imperative that you actually go to the bathroom! If you walk away and head over to grab a few refreshments and start up another conversation, your new contact will see that, be offended, and it will sour potentially your future relationship.

Finally, when it comes to in-person business etiquette, it’s always best to avoid taboo topics of politics, religion, and sex. Unless you happen to be at a professional event that was focused on one of these three as an industry, you’ll likely make your newfound contacts uncomfortable.

Digital Communications

When it comes to digital communications, such as commenting on websites and blogs, emailing, instant messaging,  or any number of other Web-based engagements, it’s really important to treat people with respect. The most important concept about digital communications is to consistently remind yourself of the fact that there is another human being on the other side of the computer. Since you don’t see that person it’s easy to respond with trite, curt or even downright rude response because you’re not confronting them face-to-face.

One way to combat this loss of humaneness is to consistently use a face when representing yourself and your business online. This includes Social Media profiles, using services like Gravatar that displays your face on websites and in email programs, and making sure that you or the person representing your business is shown alongside your logo online.

Remember, people do business with people they like, not with companies.

Mobile

Today, it’s so simple to rattle off a SMS text-message to a client or potential customer. The problem with this is the vast majority of people who neither text-message nor consider it as an appropriate professional communication means. Yes, some of this is generational, and some of this is technological fear. However, you should always communicate with people in the way in which they choose to be communicated, not in the most convenient way for you.

So, when it comes to mobile communications you can make it a standard question to ask new contacts how they best communicate with others and how best they receive communications from professional contacts. This sets your contacts and engagements up for success and it acknowledges that you are thinking about them, and not just about yourself. I’ve seen this time and time again, this small act of empathy from you generates a large positive impression with professional contacts.

Keeping up with all the latest business and Internet etiquette can be daunting. The times and technology are ever-changing, especially as new generations become a greater and greater part of the workforce. My hope is that notwithstanding who is engaging professionally, that we all remember that we’re all still humans communicating with humans. And, as such, we should treat one another with a standard amount of respect and dignity. This creates better business environs to work and increases revenues through better, more positive engagements with customers and referrals. So, no matter if it’s the best of times or the worst of times, we can all be civil, sensible and constructive in all our interactions online and offline in business.

The September SBDC Business Development Roundtable will take place on September 20th at noon and participants will discuss: Referrals & Leads – How to Effectively Get, Use & Give Them.

The post Making Good Business Etiquette Good for Business appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

It is Time to Get Organized!

The end of summer is often a time when folks recall what they had hoped to accomplish in the calendar year and panic when they realize that there are only four months left. Where has the year gone? Why haven’t I finished any of the things that I started earlier in the year? The answer… Read more »

The post It is Time to Get Organized! appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

The end of summer is often a time when folks recall what they had hoped to accomplish in the calendar year and panic when they realize that there are only four months left. Where has the year gone? Why haven’t I finished any of the things that I started earlier in the year? The answer may well lie in the need to be better organized. Participants in the July Small Business Roundtable examined the ways that they could better organize their time to be more productive. Roundtable facilitator Ray Sidney-Smith recommended a great book on the subject, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Checklist Image

The first step is to define whether something is a “project” or a “task”. A project is generally a main event – something big that needs to get done. It may even be broken down into related mini-projects. Tasks are the steps that need to be done in order to complete the project. A task is any physical action taken that moves a project forward. Most people find that creating “task lists” really helps. When composing your task list make sure to use strong verbs – action items for you to accomplish. Keep the task list close at hand, whether on paper or digitally, and cross off items as they are accomplished. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks, divide them by theme, such as all marketing tasks together, accounting together, etc.

Time management is equally important when it comes to managing your professional projects and tasks. Use time blocking to allow a certain period of time when you only concentrate on the tasks within a theme, essentially wearing only one of your many entrepreneurial “hats” at a time. It is important to track your time, whether productive or non-productive, regardless of how you charge your time to a client. When tracking you may find that you overcharge for some tasks or projects, and undercharge for others. Either way it is good to know where you spend your time, which naturally modifies productive habits.

You may also find that there are some tasks involved in a project that you absolutely hate doing, and that you realize do not have to be done by you. It’s time to outsource them, whether to a virtual assistant, an employee, or another company. The time you save by outsourcing some of your tasks can then be put to use on those parts of the project that are best handled by you – without the other tasks weighing on your mind while you are working on the “important “ things. You may find that projects can be accomplished sooner and with less stress on your part – a win-win. Suddenly you have time to develop new business, take a mini-vacation, or just breathe. The last four months of the year may be your most productive yet!

The post It is Time to Get Organized! appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

It is Time to Get Organized!

The end of summer is often a time when folks recall what they had hoped to accomplish in the calendar year and panic when they realize that there are only four months left. Where has the year gone? Why haven’t I finished any of the things that I started earlier in the year? The answer… Read more »

The post It is Time to Get Organized! appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

The end of summer is often a time when folks recall what they had hoped to accomplish in the calendar year and panic when they realize that there are only four months left. Where has the year gone? Why haven’t I finished any of the things that I started earlier in the year? The answer may well lie in the need to be better organized. Participants in the July Small Business Roundtable examined the ways that they could better organize their time to be more productive. Roundtable facilitator Ray Sidney-Smith recommended a great book on the subject, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Checklist Image

The first step is to define whether something is a “project” or a “task”. A project is generally a main event – something big that needs to get done. It may even be broken down into related mini-projects. Tasks are the steps that need to be done in order to complete the project. A task is any physical action taken that moves a project forward. Most people find that creating “task lists” really helps. When composing your task list make sure to use strong verbs – action items for you to accomplish. Keep the task list close at hand, whether on paper or digitally, and cross off items as they are accomplished. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks, divide them by theme, such as all marketing tasks together, accounting together, etc.

Time management is equally important when it comes to managing your professional projects and tasks. Use time blocking to allow a certain period of time when you only concentrate on the tasks within a theme, essentially wearing only one of your many entrepreneurial “hats” at a time. It is important to track your time, whether productive or non-productive, regardless of how you charge your time to a client. When tracking you may find that you overcharge for some tasks or projects, and undercharge for others. Either way it is good to know where you spend your time, which naturally modifies productive habits.

You may also find that there are some tasks involved in a project that you absolutely hate doing, and that you realize do not have to be done by you. It’s time to outsource them, whether to a virtual assistant, an employee, or another company. The time you save by outsourcing some of your tasks can then be put to use on those parts of the project that are best handled by you – without the other tasks weighing on your mind while you are working on the “important “ things. You may find that projects can be accomplished sooner and with less stress on your part – a win-win. Suddenly you have time to develop new business, take a mini-vacation, or just breathe. The last four months of the year may be your most productive yet!

The post It is Time to Get Organized! appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Support Small Business in the Summer!

Most of us are familiar with the push to support local small businesses during the holidays with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday promotions. In Alexandria, every season is small business season, and our colleagues at Visit Alexandria are promoting two special summer events to show our support. On August 13 – 14, enjoy Alexandria’s… Read more »

The post Support Small Business in the Summer! appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Most of us are familiar with the push to support local small businesses during the holidays with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday promotions. In Alexandria, every season is small business season, and our colleagues at Visit Alexandria are promoting two special summer events to show our support.

On August 13 – 14, enjoy Alexandria’s 7th Annual Sidewalk Sale as over 50 boutiques throughout Old Town and Del Ray offer deeply-discounted summer merchandise. Don’t miss your chance to find incredible bargains and unique treasures in Alexandria, the DC Region’s Shop Small headquarters. Local retailers will display a wide range of goods, from fashion and jewelry to home décor, culinary, seasonal, and gift items at discounted prices. You can spot the deals by looking for bright yellow balloon markers outside of participating stores.

In Old Town, the City of Alexandria is offering free parking at all City meters on Saturday and Sunday, and DASH’s free King Street Trolley will start at 9 am (Saturday only). Parking in Del Ray is always free.Small Business in the Summer

If this weekend is spent shopping until you drop, you can relax next weekend at Alexandria Restaurant Week. On August 19 – 28 more than 50 Alexandria restaurants will feature a $35 three-course dinner or a $35 dinner for two during Alexandria Summer Restaurant Week. More than two dozen restaurants will also offer lunch deals at special prices in addition to the lunch deals. Alexandria Summer Restaurant Week showcases the inventiveness of local chefs in neighborhoods throughout the city, including Old Town, Del Ray, and the West End. At a range of locales, from fine dining establishments to casual neighborhood favorites, you can savor the flavors of Alexandria’s distinctive collection of eateries.

More information and a list of participants for both the Sidewalk Sale and Restaurant Week can be found on the Visit Alexandria website. So, if you are not fortunate enough to be spending the month at the beach or some exotic locale, act like a tourist in your own home town and support your fellow small business owners!

The post Support Small Business in the Summer! appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Recruiters: Managing Search Vendors

Recently, we’ve been diving into the ins and outs of recruiting – when to hire a recruiter and your relationship to your recruiter.  Now, we get into the kinds of recruiters and who to call for what purposes. In my last post, we talked about whether or not you want to own the recruiting process generally or manage professionals who …

Recently, we’ve been diving into the ins and outs of recruiting – when to hire a recruiter and your relationship to your recruiter.  Now, we get into the kinds of recruiters and who to call for what purposes. In my last post, we talked about whether or not you want to own the recruiting process generally or manage professionals who ...

Advertising on Social Media Platforms

Social advertising, or advertisements published through Social Media platforms and networks, hit $23.6 billion in 2015. According to eMarketer, that spending is estimated to hit $35 billion in 2017. Just as the Social Media revolution took Small Business by surprise, so too is the Social Advertising evolution from purely content marketing to now a hybrid… Read more »

The post Advertising on Social Media Platforms appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Social advertising, or advertisements published through Social Media platforms and networks, hit $23.6 billion in 2015. According to eMarketer, that spending is estimated to hit $35 billion in 2017. Just as the Social Media revolution took Small Business by surprise, so too is the Social Advertising evolution from purely content marketing to now a hybrid of content + advertising to impact your local business’ bottom line.

The Alexandria SBDC recently held a seminar that covered the major advertising platforms and strategies to address each for maximum exposure and return on investment (ROI) for your business. The seminar covered advertising with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube (Google), and several other small players that may be very effective for niche businesses.

The instructor for this program was Ray Sidney-Smith, Digital Business Strategist, author of SoLoMo Success: Social Media, Local and Mobile Web Marketing Small Business Strategy Explained, and President of W3 Consulting, which operates W3C Web Services and Small Business Blog Network. This video is an overview of the presentation and the slide deck is available HERE.

 

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Voted One of Americas Finest Optical Retailers

Storefront Store Fixture DesignWE ARE VERY PROUD to announce that eye2eye Optometry Corner, a project that we completed in late 2015, and located in Hilltop Village Center here in Alexandria, has won Honorable Mention in the 2016 America’s Finest Optical Retailers competition put on by Invision Magazine, an important optical industry publication. We wish to extend our thanks to Dora Adamopoulos, OD for bringing such a great project. Likewise thanks to the following team members and all who participated in this project.

BC Engineers Inc.
Mesen Associates Structural Engineers
Independence Construction
Ambiance Lighting
Hermin Ohanian “Artoholic”
Ennco Display Systems
Miller Creative Solutions

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.