Etiquette When on Business Trips
To some business people, etiquette might seem to be a simple case of using your common sense and showing good manners but to conduct yourself correctly, you need to be watchful and mindful in all that you do as a lack of regard towards business etiquette can ruin business relationships and in worse case scenarios, it can actually mean the difference between obtaining thousands of pounds worth of business or your company being overlooked entirely.
Whilst you may have demonstrated good manners and professional business etiquette within the confines of your own office complex, going on a business trip only heightens the need for awareness. Remember, when you go on a business trip, you’re representing the company you work for and whilst the trips can sometimes be an interesting (even exciting) diversion from the humdrum of the usual 9 to 5 routine, the unfamiliarity of new people and new places can often cause you to, unwittingly, lower your guard.
Therefore, business etiquette is crucial if the trip is to be successful. Here are some useful tips to help you maintain a professional air.
Dress Appropriately At All TimesBusiness trips can often be a combination of work with the occasional bit of ‘pleasure and leisure’ thrown in. You might find yourself in a boardroom of directors in the morning, followed by an afternoon on the golf course and attending a lavish ball in the evening. Therefore, in addition to making sure you have the full lowdown on the trip’s itinerary, make sure that you pack the appropriate clothes to accompany each part of the itinerary.
That doesn’t necessarily mean being ‘suited and booted’ at all times but your attire should acknowledge the fact that you are on a business trip, whether you’re flying to a meeting abroad, playing golf with business guests or attending a magnificent ball. Remember, all elements of a business trip will have some connection, however tenuous, to the business at hand.
Even on the golf course, business is likely to be discussed to some degree at some point and you’re always going to be meeting new people, many of whom may have a direct or indirect bearing on the success of your business trip so when choosing clothing for each occasion, bear that in mind as first impressions really do count.
Be Preferably Early & Never Late At All TimesEven for something as relatively informal as a casual business lunch – always try to get there 5 or 10 minutes early. It will not only allow you to familiarise yourself with the surroundings and to find out those all important things like where and how to order lunch and where the bathroom is, it will allow you time to compose yourself in readiness to greet your guests.
Never be late, however. This is extremely important as some business people are often very busy indeed and although you might have perceived the lunch to be more of a casual, social situation with a bit of business thrown in, your guests might be extremely busy and may only have half an hour to spare so being late can throw things off course and ruin a business relationship as well as showing a total disregard towards accepted business etiquette. Of course, being late might sometimes be unavoidable but if that’s the case, make sure you let your other guests know immediately.
Maintain a Professional Manner & Watch Your ‘Ps and Qs’One of the biggest mistakes that are often made when it comes to business etiquette is when people let down their guard at the more social events. Whilst you may be used to adopting a professional business-like manner in the boardroom, many people find that they switch off at things like golf afternoons or at a dinner dance. Therefore, although it’s right and proper to be friendly, don’t become overfamiliar with people you hardly know.
Things like telling risqué jokes, using bad language or suffering from ‘loose lips’ syndrome when you’ve had one too many alcoholic drinks can often ruin all of the hard work you’ve put in previously. As long as you remember that you’re representing the company from the moment you head off on the trip to the moment you get back to the office, this should stand you in good stead when it comes to proper etiquette..
Remember, you’re still on your company’s time on a business trip. That means that your duties and responsibilities are to your employer. Even when you have time off, it can be a risky strategy to forget this and to be found in places where, perhaps, you should not be found. For example, going to a lap dancing club of an evening isn’t a great idea, neither is propping up the hotel bar until 2am when you have an important meeting the next day.
You’re never quite certain who you might bump into on a business trip nor where or when and in what circumstances and you’d be surprised how news of any misdemeanours or inappropriate behaviour can get back to the office seemingly at the speed of light so it's important that you conduct yourself correctly at all times.
There are other articles contained on this website which go into more depth about certain specifics surrounding business etiquette such as the correct way to conduct yourself at a business lunch to the numerous differences surrounding acceptable business etiquette abroad when you’re travelling on business overseas where good manners and etiquette can often be perceived very differently. Improper business etiquette abroad has been responsible for losing some companies huge amounts of money in lost business.
Therefore, it cannot emphasised highly enough that in addition to good behaviour and manners you should approach any business trip by doing your homework first and finding out what’s on the agenda and then ensure that you’re familiar with what you need to do (and not do) to enhance both your own and your company’s reputation.