Last Updated on April 1, 2024 by Lorna Barrow


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“…but you only need to know business etiquette if you’re the CEO of a large corporation!”


This statement was deposited into a conversation I was having with a very progressive business woman. It was deposited by her husband who was, in his words “a retired small business owner.”


Here we were, on the beautiful Caribbean island of Antigua, relaxing after a long day of business, with deals and no deals.


We were reflecting on how much business we thought small business people fail to get, simply because they did not have good manners. (If you think that was our experience during the day, you’re right!}


What’s more, we were concerned that they actually believed that it was not necessary for them to understand and apply business etiquette, because they were not top brass in “big business.”


And here was her husband providing tangible evidence of the very mindset we were cussing about!


I was just about to think that “idiots travel too!” But just in time, it occurred to me that that would not be good etiquette of any kind. 


What really is business etiquette?

Before we go any further, let’s have a little discussion on what is business etiquette.


In his book “Business Etiquette,” David Robinson describes it as “the commercial application of acceptable personal behaviour.” This is my favourite definition because it’s simple and it can be easily understood by anyone smart enough to start a business.


In my experience, good business etiquette is recognized and understood across business and borders, in much the same way that “taxi” is understood in any country.


Even when you can’t speak the language of a country, if you display good business manners, you  sends the message that you are “open to business.”


Going even further, good business etiquette should also be a part of those interpersonal skills which you should have. And to cement my point, it should certainly be an important member of your tools to win new clients.


Now, if you’re going to implement Robinson’s definition, you have to first of all, (if you did not already know) find out  what socially acceptable personal behaviour is. And then apply a “commercial” version of this to your business.


The big question is: Why would you even want to do this? And…how can you benefit from knowing and using business etiquette?


Benefits of knowing and using business etiquette

Well, right there at dinner, off the top of my head, I came up with 8 benefits you can have, just by knowing and using business etiquette. 


Let me share them with you…


1. You earn the respect of the business community 

When you display good manners when you’re doing business, it helps you to quickly earn the respect of your customers and suppliers. 


It also signals to the world that here is a small business person who can be taken seriously.


Equally, when you display good manners when dealing with your “internal customers” you get similar results. They expect you to communicate effectively, listen to their ideas and recognise their productivity.


The net results are that you create goodwill for you and your business. 


2. You increase your self-confidence and self-esteem

As you become better at conducting business in a professional manner, based on your defined core values, you become known as a person worth doing business with.


This significantly increases your self-confidence. This in turn increases your self-esteem and ensures that you’re able to be strong and assertive in any situation.  


This can only be good for your business.


3. It Help you easily do business across countries and cultures

I think I’ve established that business etiquette is the commonly understood framework for business interactions.


So, what happens when you expand your business into other countries and by extension into other cultures?


If you rely on commonly understood patterns of behaviour and social norms, it increases the speed at which you can connect with the market and its key players.


A word of caution though…


Each country that you expand your business into, will have its own collection of norms, which translate into its unique culture.


This now requires you to upscale your business etiquette to discover and understand these norms, so that you keep your reputation intact.


4. It improves the relationship between you and your customers

Think about it…an important part of how you do business is having good manners and treating people well, right?


But we know that that does not guarantee that your customers have the same values and standards in their dealings with you.


More than ever, this is when you need to show love for your business and keep your business etiquette principles intact.


When you treat your customers decently and fairly, especially those who are irate and rude, relationships will improve and you will “tame” and keep those customers over the long haul.


5.  You increase your earnings potential and competitive edge

It is pretty much established that people do business with people they know, like and trust.


It is also well established that of those 3, trust is the most important. One of the ways you build trust, is really how you apply personal good manners to commercial situations.


When we combine 3 & 4 above and support it with trust, we immediately create a competitive advantage. A competitive advantage helps you to stand out in a crowded market. Naturally, this increase your earnings potential which shows up on your bottom line.


6. Business etiquette helps you to attain power and influence

It is a common practice for Small Business Owners like you, to join organisations as part of your networking efforts.


It is also common practice for these organisations to select or elect members to lead the them. This is a great opportunity for the elected person to attain significant power and influence.


Financial success, though important, is seldom enough for you to become a person of power and influence.


Here is what I mean…


Members want their ideal leaders to be able to demonstrate that they know how to conduct themselves and represent the organisation professionally in any situation.


When you know business etiquette, first of all, you use it to get yourself elected. Then you can depend on it as you lead from a position of strength and influence. In addition, you can easily connect your organisation to its many publics with decency and class. 


7. Win the support of those who can help you to achieve your goals

One of the great benefits of having good business etiquette skills, is that people are generally comfortable with and around you. As a matter of fact, many of them will be quick to declare how much they like working with you.


That’s because without even realising it, you would have built a platform of trust and credibility, from which to achieve your business and personal goals.


So, do you want a mentor? A business partner? New investment for your business?  You will find attracting any of these far easier than if you were a rude, miserable and boorish person. 


 8. Business etiquette lets you increase productivity in your workplace

In your workplace, your good business etiquette leads to good working relationships.


This is especially so, when you treat your staff with respect and decency and make it a requirement for everyone to treat each other as you treat them.


When there are good working relationships in a workplace, this reduces the amount of time and effort you spend on “outing employee fires” and this leads to increased productivity.


Your next “business etiquette” steps…

Yeah…I did it for you. I gave you just 8 benefits of having business etiquette as part of your success arsenal. In each benefit, I also show you how it can work for you.  


And in this etiquette specific post, I share some tips on how to behave as you navigate the holidays.


Now, it’s over to you…if you have not already started using good business etiquette as one of your tools for doing business effectively, start here.


If you need any help at all, be sure to contact me…

Business Etiquette: 8 Easy Ways You Can Make it Work for You

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!

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