Common Business Etiquettes You Should Live By

I have been tremendously concerned with the way some entrepreneurs operate their businesses today. Maybe my views stem from being raised in a generation where common courtesy and strong values were the norm and not the unexpected, or perhaps I’ve just grown old and our culture has given way to new standards set by younger trailblazers. Either way, I am flabbergasted by the business ethics and etiquettes I observe on a weekly basis. I wonder if this is the best that we currently have to offer or if the following topics should be addressed more in the business world. I definitely think it’s worth discussing in this post.

Common Business Etiquettes to Live By

1. Be on time and start on time.

When a person agrees to a meeting time whether that is in person, by phone, or an online app like Google Hangouts, I believe that person should be there when they said they would. It’s understandable that emergencies do happen, but almost always the reason for tardiness really comes down to a lack of discipline and respect for other’s time. If you make an appointment in advance you should be able to plan accordingly. My recommendation is always to be five minutes early and never five minutes late – or thirty minutes late as one CEO I know constantly does.

2. Watch your language.

I can see people rolling their eyes right now, but I believe this important. Offensive and vulgar language might be accepted while hanging out with your drinking buddies, but in a professional business setting or in the presence of women or children, this is unnecessary and uncalled for. I’ve noticed a lot more people on Twitter, Google Plus, and on their blogs using the F-Bomb like crazy and it makes me cringe, even when my own commentary can be coarse at times. When you cuss to me or at me, and you’re not a close friend, it shows disrespect. Of course I can unfollow you or not visit your site, but why send people away? For me personally, it will also affect whether I refer business to others because I don’t want clients to be disrespected either.

3. Be approachable and be friendly.

People like friendly people and it’s a turn off when a person comes across as too big for their britches. If a person reaches out to you on Twitter or email continually, have the courtesy to respond even if it’s brief. If a fan or potential client approaches you in public, show your humble appreciation and gratitude. We all have busy, complicated lives at times, but none of us are too important, too good, or too busy to make a positive long lasting impression. Your next meal may just be based on how approachable you are.

4. Always act in the best interest of your clients.

Clients are not transactions; clients are investment partners in your business. I’ve heard so many war stories over that last few years about web development firms, SEO experts, or digital media agencies taking advantage of the ignorance of people who don’t know any better. It’s like when you go to a bad mechanic who gives you an $1,800 overhaul bill for a $50 part replacement and then you find out the truth about it. This totally sucks!

Your clients pay you for honest work and honest answers. Selling them on services or solutions they don’t need is bad business. Taking advantage of a client will eventually catch up with you and ruin your business. Treat your clients as you want to be treated and you will build a business for life.

5. Be honest even when it hurts.

We all drop balls in business at some point. The difference maker is being honest with your customers or clients when you mess up. Most people, if not all, appreciate honesty and will be forgiving if you explain the situation. Bad things happen and if you can be forthright and not make excuses, there is a huge change you can salvage the relationship and even build a more loyal trust in your company. Remember the Tylenol situation?

6. Don’t slam or badmouth your competition.

A wise person once said “if you don’t have something good to say about a person, than don’t say anything at all.” I think this is good advice. I’ve not always practiced it, but I’ve always regretted it when I have said something negative. We have all seen the political bad mouthing going on and it makes us sick no matter what camp we call home. I felt this way yesterday as everyone joined in on the Internet about GoDaddy being hacked. GoDaddy isn’t perfect by any means and I certainly don’t recommend them for website hosting, but all the other hosting companies throwing their pitches at everyone was unsettling. Consumers are smart enough to make changes on their own if a business is horrible. They don’t need mobs throwing feces.

LET ME BE CLEAR … I don’t think that personally sharing your concerns online about businesses who make big mistakes is a bad thing, depending on how it’s done. Social media is a valuable tool, especially when companies you have complaints about don’t listen. I’ve personally used social media to voice my displeasure and try to do this only when my other communication efforts have gone unnoticed or unresolved. What I don’t like is when a company hurtles insults or negative comments towards another competitor in an effort to win customers. Just stop the grade school tactics!

7. Respect the Professional Advice You Ask For.

This is more difficult because there are times where we truly need a second or third opinion. We all want the right answer. But if you go through the process of seeking professional advice from someone you trust or that you hire to provide you with a successful solution, then it is wise to listen to their counsel. Don’t dismiss their insights when they have proven, veteran experience in their field. They have been around a while for a reason.

8. Show Your Appreciation.

Our businesses are built by our sweat, but they are made because other people (clients, friends, family) have decided to invest in us. I think at times we forget this and pass over the opportunity to show our appreciation or gratitude for great clients, friends who give us profitable ideas for our business, or family members who sacrifice time or money to see us succeed. Give credit where credit is due and don’t forget to say thank you.

These eight business etiquettes are ones that I see abused on a very regular basis and feel are not worth neglecting for any business. Perhaps you have some you would like to share.

Do you agree or disagree with what I am saying?


  • Mark Leo Bongcasan

    Hi James!

    Very nice pieces of advice here. I really enjoyed myself reading on your points and insights.

    Anyway, I stumbled on your site because of Bill Erickson. Maybe you are partners or what, none of my business anyway. lol :)

    I am still new in the business and looking for some inspirations online. I found Bill. After a couple of months, I saw his website has been changed. I checked his works and there is a lot already. However, when I check the sites, I saw your name. So I came here and never regret on slicing my time for this epitome of artwork.

    I learned a lot from your blog.

    God bless, Sir. :)

    • jamesdalman


      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

      Bill Erickson and I work together on a lot of projects. He is an amazing WordPress developer that I have much respect for, professionally and personally.

      Please let me know what I can do to help you or what resources you may be looking for. I am always willing to give back to others and help any way that I can.