Question: With all of today’s new communications technology voicemail, e-mail, video teleconferencing, cell phones, etc., is there any applicable etiquette, or does anything go?
Answer: Yes, certain etiquette does apply. And it isn’t simply that if everyone else does it, it must be OK. In most cases, good old-fashioned common sense and courtesy make for good communication skills.
Here are some tips:
– Voicemail: Keep your recorded message short, sweet and professional. You don’t have to say you’re sorry about missing a call. That goes without saying. Leave out cliches like “have a nice day.” Those expressions just get annoying.
– Leaving a message: Why is it that people think it’s OK to talk as long as they want? If you want to have a long, detailed, one-way conversation, you might do it via e-mail. The recipient will be better able to digest it when it’s in writing.
Always leave your number s-l-o-w-l-y. Most callers forget that the whole idea of leaving a message is to have the person call you back. It’s really hard when you don’t leave a number, or if you leave a message so quickly that it’s hard to understand and has to be played several times.
– Speaker phones: It’s polite to ask the caller whether he or she minds if you use one. You could also pose that question to nearby co-workers, who might be disturbed about being forced to listen to your conversation, especially if it’s none of their business.
Personally I hate when someone uses a speaker phone because you have no idea who else is listening to your conversation.
– Video teleconferencing: There is a slight delay in receiving the signal so you must listen carefully. Keep your movements to a minimum because they can be very distracting. Dress the way you would for a television interview: solid colors with a light-colored shirt or blouse instead of stark white.
– Cell phones: When meeting with a client, you might want to turn off your cell phone so it doesn’t ring during a presentation. The interruption is inconsiderate to your client and distracting to others. If you’re expecting an urgent call, acknowledge the possibility at the outset of the meeting so your client understands the reason for the interruption.
Keep in mind that cell phones are easy to tap into, and as a result your conversation could be overheard by a competitor or someone else you don’t want to have proprietary information.
– E-mail: Remember that even though it appears to be informal, e-mail is still business correspondence. Keep it as professional as you can. I always forget to check spelling and grammar, even though I would never do that with a letter or memo. Since most computer systems provide a spell-checking function, make sure you use it.
Also create a phone book to easily find e-mail addresses. I have a tendency to go back and use the “reply to sender” button, which I think can be confusing to the recipient of my e-mail. It also becomes cumbersome because it will include the original message.
Try not to send a message when you’re angry. Sometimes writing and then re-reading it later will help you get through your anger. Just don’t send it until you’ve had a chance to calm down.
Q: I’m 16 years old and have always been sort of an entrepreneur. I’d like to make some extra money for the holidays but want to do something that’s my own business. What do you suggest?
A: There are lots of ways you can make extra money (and maybe even work with your friends or siblings as well).
How about making gift baskets? You can customize them to your customers’ needs.
If you have access to a computer, you can make personalized holiday cards. Make a few samples and then try and to get some orders. You can start with your family and friends and then branch out.
There’s always gift-wrapping or wreath-making. I know that’s a service I would definitely use if it were made available. You can post signs at your local shopping centers or grocery stores to market your services.
There are lots of ways to make a few holiday dollars. You never know, this could become the beginning of your business career.
Q: I worked as an assistant to the president of a national travel business for many years. I’ve been at home lately raising my two little boys, but I’m getting a bit antsy. Do you think I could use some of my experience from the travel business to work from home?
A: What a great idea! Oddly enough, my daughter has had the same urge. She loves to travel and would like the opportunity to become an entrepreneur. So I’ve had a chance to investigate this business opportunity, and I’ll share some of what I’ve discovered.
Since you have experience in the travel agency business, you already know the basics. In order to make it profitable, you might want to find a niche in the business and then market it to the hilt.
In our case, my daughter was extremely interested in Italy Tuscany in particular. As we were planning our own trip, we discovered that there are very few specialists in this field. So, for example, being able to help others, especially at the high end, would probably fill a niche market.
You might also want to hook up with the Outside Sales Network, a community of independent agents who can share ideas and help you find solutions. You can find the group on the Internet.
Market to your personal contacts and through introductions and word of mouth. Plus, you can create a quarterly newsletter to send to new customers.
Get the proper equipment. You’ll probably want a system like Apollo that will give you direct access to the airlines. Of course, you’ll also need a fax machine, computer, answering machine (see above for etiquette), and probably two phone lines.
Except for the equipment, there appears to be very little up-front expense, so this is an easy business to start.
It’s definitely an interesting opportunity, particularly for someone who already has experience.
Lorraine Spurge is a personal finance advisor, author of “Money Clips: 365 Tips That Will Pay One Day at a Time,” and business news commentator. She can be reached at (818) 705-3740 or by e-mail at email@example.com.