Archive for the 'Business' Category

Business Dress on The Junior Apprentice

Last night we had the third installment of The Junior Apprentice, the spin off of Lord Sugar’s The Apprentice. The programme is identical to the main show except that the candidates are ages 16 or 17 and are competing not for a job with the business tycoon but for a business bursary. A lot of the hopefuls have had experience running their own businesses or being involved in some way with the art of making money.

Jordan - he of the shiny suit

However, I have been continually taken aback at the poor standards of dress that most of the candidates have. The first person to get fired was a boy called Jordan. He wore possibly the shiniest suit imaginable. Such suits only look good on Saturday night television and if your name is Graham Norton – for some reason, Graham seems to be the only person able to get away with such an outfit. However, Jordan’s suit was a business/lounge suit and this made it look very cheap indeed.

But for this blog I shall focus on the third episode of the series.

Zoë

There was one shot in the programme that showed Zoë, who clearly takes pride in her appearance (if a little too much), writing. As it was a close-up of her hand with a pen we could see her nails clearly. She was wearing nail polish but it had chipped and cracked and so it looked messy. If nail polish is going to be worn (whether in a business or social environment) then make sure it looks good and is perfect at all times. Regarding make-up, Zoë has a tendency to wear a bit too much (especially for a 16-year-old). She has pale skin and wears striking red lipstick, which set against her blonde hair does cause people to take note of her. In a throw-back to the 1980s, Zoë is clearly a big one for power-dressing, but more-often-than-not she just looks like she’s about to serve us drinks and tell us how to put on our life-vests.

Rhys

Last night’s fired hopeful was Rhys. From episode one he was wearing shirts with collars that were far too big for him, and probably would have been too big for Pavarotti. Although many people complain that they feel restricted when wearing a collar and tie, if you are measured properly by any half-decent men’s outfitters for shirts then this will never be a problem. Rhys also committed the crime of colour-on-colour (in the case of episode 3, black-on-black). He wore a black shirt and a black tie. Never do this! Black shirts look awful full stop; black ties should be reserved for funerals – but really one should never wear the same coloured shirt as the tie (i.e. a plain pink tie would look silly when against a pink shirt).

Tim

There are so many things that annoy me about this candidate’s dress. He has clearly never heard of a razor. Beards are fine, however, Tim’s facial hair is not quite a beard. I would suggest that business people are clean-shaven (unless they are opting for a proper beard). Designer stubble (as he had yesterday – he had given his facial hair a minor trim) is not suitable for the boardroom. Tim also seems not to have heard of a top-button. He is an advocate of the loose-tie-open-top-button look, which, again, should not be found in business. It looks sloppy and lazy (although some may say this is a reflection of the boy’s attitude to business). Last night we saw a close up (for some reason) of Tim’s shoes and socks. He had chosen to wear a pair of green striped socks. You may expect me to slate this choice, but I actually condone it. I am a big fan of colourful socks and I feel that if done tastefully, a man can say a lot his personality through his socks: they give one a chance to show a bit of personality. That said, I have seen all too often people wearing white socks with business suits, which is something that just isn’t done. Socks (if plain and traditional) should match the colour of the shoe or of the trouser.

Adam

Finally, a word about Adam, who also left Lord Sugar’s boardroom last night. His tie was dreadful. The knot was too big, but also too loose. He was trying to go for the big footballer knot, but even so, it should have been tighter. Being able to tie a good tie is a life skill that sadly many are lacking. He also needed to make sure the tie was pulled up to the very top of the shirt. As you can just about see from his publicity picture, you could drive a bus between the top of the tie and the top button of his shirt.

The English Manner offers training in business protocol, which includes dress & appearance. To find out more, please contact us.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Office Christmas Party: Use It! (Part 2)

sb10063164f-001Last week, I commented on how to use the office Christmas party to your advantage. This week, some more tips which will help you gain kudos with colleagues and your boss.

Enjoy the hospitality in moderation Hold your drink in your left hand to ensure that your right hand is free—and dry rather than cold and clammy—to shake hands.  This also keeps your right hand free for sampling the finger food as it is passed. Avoid the temptation to juggle a plate of food and a drink while standing. If holding a plate, lose the glass. Serve yourself moderate portions at a buffet—better to return for seconds than to heap your plate high with an unattractive mixture of everything in sight. When alcohol is being served, stay well under your limit. Gentlemen: don’t finish your second drink; ladies: don’t finish your first. Switch to mixers or juice.

Mingle and make polite conversation Use this opportunity to introduce yourself to senior managers and meet people from other departments.  Meet your colleagues’ spouses and partners (gay couples are treated exactly the same), and acknowledge that they have lives and interests of their own—they are not merely appendages to their partners.  Any question that might appear on a government form or mortgage application is to be avoided. Also to be avoided: “shop-talk” and office gossip. Holiday plans, children, common interests, current events are all simple openers that will not offend or embarrass. Best to skip politics and religion.

Thank your host and leave By the end time stated on the invitation, you should be finding your host to say thank you and taking your leave.

And finally… If you’ve followed these guidelines, a thank you note to the evening’s host will distinguish you in the workplace as a confident and knowledgeable employee with superlative social skills. And that’s where the 85% factor comes into play.

John Robertson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Office Christmas Party: Don’t Dread It – Use it! (Part 1)

200174759-001Fact: 85% of the reason for success in business is people skills, leaving only 15% riding on your business degree and years of experience. Using the office holiday party to showcase your people skills could be a better career move than that brilliant business plan you submitted last month.

Go! Although disguised as a social event, the office party is as much part of your job responsibilities as attending any other meeting called by your boss. Make no mistake: this is business, not pleasure. In the absence of a well-established and unavoidable previous engagement, consider attendance as mandatory.

Dress appropriately This is a business event; keep the business in your choice of what to wear. Dress at the upper end of what you consider business formal.  Easier for men who can wear a blue suit and either a conservative or festive tie. Women, keep it smart—not sexy.  No cleavage means no gossip behind your back or leering looks at work. Review with your spouse or guest what they will be wearing, also. It will reflect on YOU if your wife wears a revealing dress, or your husband’s idea of dressing up is wearing clean jeans.

There is no holiday magic behind the following key social skills that successful people use year ‘round, not just at the office party:

Greet your host when you arrive (by the way, “host” is a gender-neutral term). It is not acceptable to simply head for the bar and buffet and hope to catch up with your host later in the evening.  A well-organised party of over 50 guests should include a receiving line making it easy for the host to greet everyone on arrival.

Shake hands and remember that this is the only acceptable touching allowed at a business function. Avoid determined kissers by locking your elbow when shaking hands to enforce the distance. Handshakes are accompanied by direct eye contact (don’t be looking over their shoulder to see who else is there) and often include an introduction.

Introduce yourself and others When introducing yourself, use your first and last name; never call yourself “Mr. Wales” or “Mrs. Dixon” unless you are introducing yourself to a child. In a business environment, junior (or less important) people are introduced to senior (or more important) people. Don’t delude yourself that there is no ranking simply because it is a party. Introduce people by name, not by their position or relationship to you although you may usually explain the relationship. For example: “Ms Boss, may I introduce Julius Brown, my husband.” (It is up to your boss whether she will ask your husband to call her by her first name.)

Next week: the art of mingling and polite conversation, how to enjoy the hospitality in moderation, and the all-important thank you letter!

 

John Robertson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Top 5 Email Etiquette Faux Pas

E-mailMost of us will use email every day and this has led to a lapse in common sense and manners. Here are the top 5 faux pas when using email.

Hello! If you’ve never met the person you are emailing, starting the email with ‘Hello, Jack’ or ‘Hi Jill!’ is never acceptable and irritates more people than others may think

Spelling Emails are designed to be a quick way for us to communicate but that doesn’t mean that we are given an excuse to look ill-educated by sloppy spelling, especially when emailing clients or people who are not our friends or family (but you should practise using good spelling on them, too!)

Name-check When we see an email such as ‘alex.jones@…’ most of us will probably assume that Alex is a man. An increasing number of people are getting gender-confused on email. Always best to double-check. Telephone the company and ask before sending the email, or ask your colleagues who may have dealt with he/she before. Never start an email (or letter) with ‘Dear Jack Smith’. Find out the title in advance

Attachments ‘Please find attached’. If you say something is attached, make sure it is! Double-check everything before hitting the send button.

Ignoring emails If you get an email from a legitimate person, it’s common courtesy (although not common enough) to acknowledge it. Even if you’re the busiest person in the world, send back a response reassuring the sender you’ve got the email but will deal with it at a later date. This will save them worrying that their email is broken

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Letters of the Law

A question I often get asked is whether a thank you letter is stuffy and unnecessary in our new, liberal modern age. My answer is always, most definitely, no. There will never be a time when a thank you letter of any sort is no longer needed…at least, I certainly hope not.

writing-fountain-pen-400As a child, my parents would tell me that if I didn’t send thank you letters then people would not want to give me a present next time. Whilst this parental hyperbole is not strictly true, they do perhaps have a point. A thank you letter is a gesture that you are actually grateful with the present you have just received. Simply saying thanks on the day is just not enough. They have gone out of their way to buy you a present, so a quick (doesn’t have to be lengthy) note to say thank you is hardly laborious. I do know someone who does her thank you letters by telephone. If you do choose to do it this way (which is better than nothing) make it a decent length call: first to say thank you but then ask about their family/life etc.

Thank you letters should also be sent after you have received any form of hospitality, and preferably the very next day.  Emails are acceptable if you really cannot bear to write, but be clear that text messages are no way to communicate your thanks.

The same basic principle applies in the heady world of business. The rule used to be that if you received a letter today, a reply would be sent tomorrow or at least the day after that.  Even in these times of budgetary and manpower constraints, some form of acknowledgement should be given. It tells the sender that you have successfully received their correspondence and you are dealing with it. Even the new-age email has the function for a ‘read receipt’ to be sent back to the sender.

Not many people bother to respond to business letters (or emails) anymore, which is quite frankly wrong. One of the golden rules of manners is to make people feel valued and appreciated. A letter saying ‘thank you for your letter dated X, which we received today/yesterday…. we will get back to you shortly’ will do. “But that costs money!” I hear you cry. If the sender has included their email address on their letter, then a similar electronic letter can be sent.

Whilst we’re on the subject of business correspondence, we should remind ourselves how to open and close a formal letter. If I were writing to someone I did not know (and by that I mean them as a person, as well as their name) then I would open my letter with ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ (or even both – ‘Dear Sir or Madam’). I would then close it with ‘Yours faithfully’. On the other hand, if I were writing to someone to whom I knew their name, then I would start it with, ‘Dear Mr. Smith’ and close it ‘Yours sincerely’. These are simple rules that once learned should never be forgotten.

It is never acceptable to start a letter to a client with “Hi William”, as my bank once did. They won’t be doing that again.  Nor do I favour “Dear William Hanson” which appears more and more frequently and suggests mailmerge has been used.

In any event, remember that if someone has made an effort to write or email you, it takes very little time, money or energy to respond and you never know what dividends it will pay later.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

What to Wear When Working

There has been much talk in the media recently about dress codes during office hours, particularly for ladies: are such stringent dress codes old fashioned and patronising? Or do our clothes say more about us than we may think?

An increasing number of international businesses are sending employees on courses to learn basic business etiquette and presentation skills.  The media has made much of this in recent days, highlighting the importance of dress for women in particular, and when interviewed on BBC Radio 2, columnist Amanda Platell remarked that she writes her newspaper column from her home in full business dress and lipstick to give her the appropriate ‘corporate’ persona.

windows_macWhat we wear, and how we wear it, can speak volumes. It is important to get the right look for the right occasion. Look at the advertisements for Apple computers, where they use anthropomorphise Apple and Windows computers. The former, whose machines are sleek, all in one and appeal mainly to a younger, more creative market, use a hip, young, trendy man, whereas the Windows character is a suited, balding man with a slight paunch. The juxtaposition instantly conveys two very different images.

Having said that, we would not advocate that for work you based your style on the Apple man. It’s about getting a middle ground. A suit is timeless and can be worn by any generation. In business it is much better to dress more conservatively than you may do in your own time.

For the ladies, too much make up can allude to a lack of confidence – less is always more; skirts up to the nostrils are never appropriate: ideally, the hem should be just below the knee.

The English Manner are running a course on contemporary business skills in March, where dress-codes, presentation and much more will be covered. For more information, please click here.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner


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