How Not to Behave When You’re in Business

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Whether you’re doing business online, in-person or both, what you do both professionally and personally is a reflection on your business. I remember growing up, that there were certain kids in the neighborhood that my parents would not let us play with. We always thought it was totally unfair and that our parents were prejudiced (not sure if we were old enough to even understand what that meant). I remember my grandmother saying something about “guilt by association”. Being the rules-person that I am, I listened but it wasn’t until I was an adult with children of my own that I started to truly understand. Then I became a business owner and other small business owners and entrepreneurs were telling me that everything you do is either a relationship builder or a relationship destroyer. That’s when it started hitting home and I started paying attention.

It’s true that there are certain people we’d rather do business with. We can buy the same newspaper and bottle of milk at any convenience store but if you’re like me, you have a favorite place to shop. Sure, it may be convenient but lots of times there’s someone there that you like. Maybe it’s the business owner who let you pay for your items the next time you were there (when you made a purchase and had forgotten your wallet). Maybe it’s because the clerks are always polite and friendly. For the same reason, I know there are stores I avoid almost completely because someone there was grumpy or rude.

So, don’t the same rules apply on the Internet? If you don’t promptly answer an email from a client, isn’t it pretty much the same as the clerk behind the counter who totally ignores you? If you leave a comment online that comes across as rude or pompous, is it any different from the store clerk who looks down at you as if you appear not to be able to afford their product. (This actually happened to me once in a jewelry store and I’ve never set foot in the place again.)

Here is a very short list of things I see people doing online that I believe is a poor reflection on them:

  • Spamming
  • Irrelevant comments on online discussions where the only purpose is self-promotion
  • Leaving hurtful comments on blogs
  • Posting unprofessional pics and video on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace…. etc.

I actually went on today’s rant over something that didn’t happen online at all. It happened while I was driving and a delivery truck cut me off. This truck prominently displayed the florist shop’s brand. It had their name, 800# and URL. I didn’t want to order flowers! I wanted to call them and complain! I didn’t call because I did cool off but I did think poor advertising and relationship destroyer. Little thing but it certainly didn’t cast the store in a very good light.

We’re all in this together and I truly believe that in most cases, this bad behavior is unintentional. I’m sure I’ve innocently offended someone along the line and to this day I probably don’t have any idea that I did. What have you observed that was off-putting to you? What else can you add to my list? What other relationship destroyers can you think of?

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Author: Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

47 thoughts on “How Not to Behave When You’re in Business”

  1. Just want to share this one. ”As far as customers are concerned you are the company. This is not a burden, but the core of your job. You hold in your hands the power to keep customers coming back – perhaps even to make or break the company.”
    – Unknown

  2. From my point of view, there are two main things, which help an entrepreneur to succeed in business. First of all, an entrepreneur has to have a successful marketing strategy and apply methods, which work effectively. Also, an entrepreneur has to provide people with high quality products and convenience! So, if you market business effectively and provide high quality you will become a successful entrepreneur in the end.

  3. You would think this would be common sense. My favorites are when the comment is absolutely irrelevant to the topic- like a very general statement about how much a blog is liked, even though the writer simply asked a question. Cracks me up every time!

  4. Hi Sheryll,

    How Not to Behave When You’re in Business is a thought-provoking article that opens a lot of information that we should know about. I am totally impressed with your writings because its like you always manage to dine new topics to talked about and fresh insights to share with everybody.

    Thanks! 🙂

  5. I totally agree with these things that most people do online like Spamming, Irrelevant comments on online discussions where the only purpose is self-promotion, Leaving hurtful comments on blogs, Posting unprofessional pics and video on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace…. etc. because some are thinking that they can create backlinks through Spamming and Irrelevant comments on online discussions. But they don’t know that the real score to get quality backlinks is to genuinely comment or share their insight on the topic being discussed because these may entice other readers to get to know you and why you’re so well versed giving responses to the topics.

  6. Greetings, Sherryl, really effective points. I believe online writing and commutes are the most ambitious, as we can’t ascertain to each one other people aspects or motions.
    I think it’s critical to ascertain what we say and however we articulated it online because of that, specially whenever we’re ablaze around a issue.

  7. Simply put, never put into writing what you would never say in person. I sometimes wonder what people are thinking when they write on social sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Handlers are needed for many grown-ups, let alone youngsters. Good Luck

  8. Sherryl
    That would be a great new article. I have tried to keep my business and personal networking separate but FB makes that hard to do. It is difficult to have people come to your fan page or networked blog page if they are not also a friend.

    I would rather have LinkedIn connections for business. I have reluctantly added more FB friends because the interactions are different than they are on LinkedIn.

    I dont have too many things to hide but I am sure many of my business associates were not interested in my sons wedding pictures or the pictures of when I was in High school. On one hand it makes us more human to see family photos but it also is personal.

    I would like a way to post to business associates and separately to friends and family. Until then I am not sure what the answer is.

    1. You don’t have “too many things to hide”? Now you’ve piqued my interest Julia! 🙂

      Seriously, I feel the same way. I would love to be able to organize my Facebook friends the same way I organize files and email. 🙂 Maybe that will be a change in the future. Facebook seems to be trying to accommodate the needs of business people. They finally let us reserve a user name for our “fan-page”. (Now, if they’d only get rid of the term “fan”!) And at least there’s a way to hide all those games like FarmVille thank goodness.(Hope there’s no serious Farmville players commenting here.)

  9. Hey Sherryl – I’ll take a different perspective for the sake of conversation! Being rude is one thing, but being personal is another. Before businesses intruded social media, social media was just that – social. So I don’t take offense when people say something that I would consider irrelevant or post pictures or something on their profiles that has nothing to do with me. Again, the difference being between something rude or offense and something merely off-topic.

    At the same time, I think people should offer two options – a personal profile (say we’re talking about Facebook) and a professional one. I will sometimes accept professional contacts as my personal Facebook friends but my opinion is that they do so at their own peril!
    Tia recently posted..Blogging is Like Cold Calling- How to Stop Getting RejectedMy Profile

    1. I think the whole thing would be so much easier to manage if you could have a Facebook page for your business or blog without associating it with your personal page. I like to keep the two separate when I can.

      That would be a good conversation! How does your behavior on social networking sites affect your professional life? Sounds like fodder for another article! Thoughts anyone?

  10. Hello Sherryl, Amazing article, here is a great quote that sticks with me all the time.

    “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” – Jeff Bezos

    Thank you

  11. Hello, Sherryl, very good points. I think online writing and exchanges are the most challenging, because we cannot see each other’s expressions or gestures. I believe it is critical to check what we say and how we articulate it online because of that, especially if we are passionate about a topic. Good analogy about the customer service aspect of in-store visits and visiting online blogs.

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation David! I definitely check what I say whenever I post anything for that very reason. Sometimes, it’s difficult to sense the intentions of the person who is writing. On the other hand, I hope that people who aren’t comfortable writing will still participate! 🙂

  12. I totally agree with you. I believe, in a clever way, that you are talking about customer service, which I am big on. Most small business owners (SBO) shoot themselves in the foot when they get the attitude that customers are placed on this Earth for you. They get a sense of entitlement and the truth is none of us are entitled to anything. We need to earn every client and every compliment.

  13. Hi Sherryl, here are two relationship destroyers that I can think of off the top of my head:

    In the real world – bad customer service! Especially rude or grumpy cashiers.

    In the online world – ignoring or not acknowledging your regular fans/followers/readers/etc. I dont comment on articles or retweet them or whatever ONLY to get some acknowledgment, but at the same time – I think its really rude if I comment regularly on a blog and never hear anything back at all.

    So, that’s just my two cents. 🙂
    Libby Fisher recently posted..Two Types of Clients You Deal With as a Freelance Web DesignerMy Profile

    1. I agree Libby. Commenting on blogs, tweeting and acknowledging other bloggers is a great way to reciprocate. Online is very much the real world to me. I feel that I’m part of a network – a community and you can be rude here just as easily as you can be rude face to face.

  14. So true Sherryl. Last spring I gave a couple presentations on how to use LinkedIn and had to specifically tell one group that it doesn’t work to “one-up” someone, be sarcastic, or be arrogant online. The goal is to build relationships along with one’s reputation. People do business with people they like and trust. At the same time, I don’t have a problem writing about poor customer service – I just say it was poor. I don’t need to insult anyone when I state the facts.

    1. Exactly Catherine. I’m with you on giving honest feedback about customer service both good and bad. Like you, I don’t stoop to insulting anyone. There’s nothing to be gained by it.

  15. Good points. You have to be aware of your brand at all times because you never know who is watching. We recently had a harsh, hateful comment on one of our posts. The comment could have been made in a constructive way but instead the person choose to be harsh. I have been debating on whether to leave it or take it off. I decided to leave it on. It was a difference in opinion which was ok with me but her tone is actually a reflection of her and not me.

  16. Agree with you Sherryl!

    Just got one spam message from someone in LA I have never even heard of saying “Join my facebook fan page”. How can anyone promote themselves like that? Will never have anything to do with him and his internet marketing company. He cannot even communicate, or maybe he’s too influenced by Hollywood.

    Just one thing I slightly disagree with. You shouldn’t write hurtful things but you cannot praise anything that’s written in a blog, at least not if it’s a blog about business, since it looks bad for the blog. You can disagree and come up with suggestions or questions. That will actually make the blog more appealing to readers.

    1. I agree that suggestions and questions are good in comments. I didn’t mean to imply that you can’t disagree with someone. I like seeing healthy discussions on blogs. That’s how we learn from each other.

  17. Hello, Sherryl, very good points. I think online writing and exchanges are the most challenging, because we cannot see each other’s expressions or gestures. I believe it is critical to check what we say and how we articulate it online because of that, especially if we are passionate about a topic. Good analogy about the customer service aspect of in-store visits and visiting online blogs. I can tell you that I go to the virtual places that service me the best, and the local stores that do the same!

    1. Thanks for joining us Sherry. I find sometimes that it takes me longer than I hoped to comment or post on a forum because I’m so conscious of my tone and how I’m projecting myself because as you say, no expressions or gestures. Smiley faces can be helpful but they’re limited.

  18. Sherryl you bring up very good points and Joseph brought up one of my pet peeves. I do not like people complaining about their life offline and certainly not online as we all have our problems.

    I also do not understand why some people have to leave negative comments or tweets. I remember my mother and grandmother saying If you do not have anything nice to say then be quiet.

    Julie I have sacked 2 specialist doctors of my mothers for arrogance and got much better results. I was encouraged to do this by the a friend whose father was a doctor. If you need any information just let me know.
    Susan Oakes recently posted..Is Your Marketing a Mishmash of TacticsMy Profile

    1. More great advice from your mother and grandmother! “If you do not have anything nice to say then be quiet.”

      Why do people feel the need to leave negative comments and tweets? Don’t they realize that it reflects negatively on them and most people empathize with the blogger they’re being negative to?

  19. More great insight Sherryl. I am still trying to picture Paul in his rocking chair on the front porch LOL

    My pet peeves in business, personal, online, offline is “arrogance”. If someone acts like they are better than me (or anyone else for that matter) I avoid them – if I can. There are some times when you can’t – like my dad’s surgeon, but if possible, i don’t shop in an arrogant person’s store, visit an arrogant person’s website, comment on an arrogant person’s blog, etc.

    The “guilt by association” rule is pretty powerful isn’t it? My parents used the same line with me except I wasn’t so easy and didn’t just accept what they said. I was not an easy kid – but I am hoping I am making up for it now LOL. Another phrase my parents liked to use is “you are judged by the company you keep”. They were and still are right!
    Julie Weishaar recently posted..Total Transparency or TMIMy Profile

    1. “You are judged by the company you keep” – another good example! That echos Joseph’s earlier example about his interchange on the internet marketing forum. In Jo’s case, it sounds like he was put in the position of defending himself but I think we’d all agree that it’s best to try to not get into a verbal interchange online. As Cady pointed out – “if the only “reasoning tool” that you have is a web page then you are left with only a few options to save the relationship”.

      Great discussion everyone!

  20. What a wonderful post and reminder of business etiquette. Thanks for all your points.

    Customer service is my main marketing strategy. It is also something I take keen notice of anywhere I shop. Stores (either online or brick & mortar) that give great service will get my business even if they charge a wee bit more.

    My pet peeve as of late is when somewhat gets hold of my email address and sends me offer after offer after offer with deadlines and “buy now or else” traps. I immediately unsubscribe even if that person has some good information or products to offer. The email harrassment simply isn’t worth it.

    1. Keyuri, I’m so glad you brought that up. I’ve been ruthlessly unsubscribing from emails lately for that very same reason. It seems lately that more people are abusing the right to make me offers. Are people seeing this as a new trend?

  21. Doing damage and having no idea at all that you did is the most frustrating of all in this business. If its a face to face confrontation then you’ll have a chance to really understand the other side and why the cold shoulder, but if the only “reasoning tool” that you have is a web page then you are left with only a few options to save the relationship.

    1. Excellent point Cady! That’s what makes online communication such an important skill. No one can see your facial expressions. One off-handed comment can offend a multitude of people in one swift stroke.

  22. Hi Sherryl, I would agree with your sentiments too, just as all other replies indicate. I was pondering this same thing just the other day. “Like” and “Trust” are two key ingredients before a purchase is made, but I was wondering which is more important.

    Some very well known bloggers at times vent off their frustrations and really cut to it too, regardless there is no doubt they will stand on many people’s toes in the process well and truly. But yet they make a ton of sales – in part because folks are drawn to this sort of communication – folks seem to thrive on seeing others getting a “boot in the teeth”.

    But yes – there is one person I used to purchase from regularly because he knows his stuff and I trusted him for that. But he had a real go at me not long ago and as such I now dislike him, even though I do still trust him. I will NEVER purchase from him again (and I imagine a lot of others will not either because this all happened on a very popular internet marketing forum), so that indeed has proved your theory to me well and truly!

    Thanks kindly for your insightful post, Sherryl!

  23. Sherryl,

    You raise excellent points that every on-line business owner should read and follow. I would add strictly business twitter accounts. It’s clear that many people are into social media for business purposes or to maintain an on line presence. It’s a bit of a put off though when someone’s tweets are only promoting their business, especially if they don’t retweet or respond to others. Thanks for sharing.

    All the best,
    Christian Paulsen recently posted..3 Leadership Lessons from the GipperMy Profile

    1. That’s a good point Chris. When you only tweet about your own business, it does come across as self-promotion. I tend to follow people who tweet posts from other bloggers that they find interesting. As far as “strictly business”, it’s good to show your personality but at the same time, I find reading about what someone had for breakfast to be a total waste of my time. 🙂

  24. Sherryl:

    I can really relate to your discussion about shopping at certain stores. I drive right past one hardware store to get to another one. The level of service is so different. I always recommend the hardware store to others.


    1. Thanks for the comment Rob. Our websites and blogs are our virtual storefronts. I try to always keep that in mind. I want people to recommend my blog (by tweeting and sharing my posts), the same way you recommend your favorite hardware store.

  25. Good points Sherryl. I especially have a hard time with those who spam, and those who don’t return contacts. Online there is no reason to be brusqe or arrogant. No, those e-mails asking for support CANNOT wait, and if you sold something it would be a good idea to remember that the sale is not final until the customer is satisfied.

    I’m very informal as you probably realized by now, HOWEVER, that is what I want as far as THIS aspect of myself goes online. My business interactions and behind the scenes work is very different, and it is important for people to remember the kind of appearance they want to project as that will dictate what they present. I want people to see the light and humorous writer who can make their content personable so that’s how I gear my appearance. It’s true, but it’s not everything. I could be deadly serious and clinically factual and play professional to the hilt, but that’s been done endlessly and I find it disconcerting when people fall asleep reading my material.

    In real life I’m a grumpy old man who sits on the porch in his rocking chair with a bucket of rocks and slingshot and takes pot shots as all the schoolkids walk past;)

    1. Paul, excellent point about keeping in mind the appearance that you want to project. You always project yourself as a professional (even when you’re conjuring up images of Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.)

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