Business Etiquette 101: Communication

by Dan Harr

The title of this article sounds like a college course for MBA graduates, and yet it is something anyone who represents a business in any manner should pay close attention to when scanning their inbox each morning.

How often have you reached out to a company with a question via phone or email, only to have your message disappear into the void of unanswered space? If you are like me, it makes you want to reach through the phone or internet wires and grab the person on the other end, shaking them and screaming “HEY, I took the time to write you. How about taking the time to respond?”

In today’s fast-paced business environment, many people claim they are “too busy” to respond to every email or phone message. After all, communication has been made easier with the stroke of a key or computer software that records every message left by voice mail. And, of course, the internet hasn’t helped when every piece of contact information is out there for anyone to grab and use.

But something I was told long ago has stuck with me throughout my time as a magazine and business owner, and has guided my principles on responding to inquiries no matter how trivial they might seem.

When I was a photographer working back stages at concerts, I watched a tour manager for a major act sitting at his desk and answering every email he had in his inbox. I asked him how much time every day he spent responding to each email or phone message, and didn’t that distract him from his work duties. I’ll never forget what he said.

“You never know who the person is on the other end of the line, or who they might one day be.”

While you look at your inbox and see emails and think to yourself, “nah, this one isn’t important because they aren’t offering anything I need,” it’s actually the second half of the above statement that is more important to the art of communication and the future of your business – “… or who they might one day be.”

After hearing that statement the first time, I realized I would never know just how important to my business someone might become down the road. By ignoring their email now, it may negatively affect their interaction with my business when they one day become the head of a company that has the potential to spend mega-dollars using my company’s services.

In other words, if I treat them with respect now and give them a few moments of my time to respond to their inquiry, they may one day remember that moment and pay me back with good business sent my way, or help me by opening a door to which they have the key.

Communication is THE most important part in any relationship, whether personal or business. Without it, nothing can ever be accomplished because you will never connect to those who you can benefit, or who might benefit you and your business.

So, when you receive those 200 emails a day from people you don’t know, take the time to send a quick response even if only to say, “no thank you”. It means more than you might know to the person on the other end and, in responding, shows courtesy and respect, both of which have become lost arts in today’s world of business.

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