From the February 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Business is about relationships, and relationships always begin with introductions. The formal introduction may be your first impression on potential clients or business partners, so make sure your manners are up to snuff.

The old social rules about gender and age don't apply in today's business world, says Dorothea Johnson, the founder and director of The Protocol School of Washington in Washington, DC, which offers etiquette training.

Rank is rated highest in business introductions -- present the "less important" person to the "more important" one. A key exception is in the case of clients; they're treated as more important than someone in your firm, regardless of rank, Johnson says. If you're unsure, be guided by the respective agendas of the people being introduced; treat the person with the most to gain from the contact as the "junior" person in the introduction.

Along with names, your introduction should include a brief bit of information about each individual, perhaps giving a title or recent business accomplishment. Don't mention personal issues, don't try to be humorous and never poke fun at an unusual name.

What about introducing yourself? "Never break in on two people, especially if they're in deep conversation," says Johnson. But for groups of three people or more, simply wait for a lull in their conversation, ask them if you can join in, introduce yourself and shake hands all around. "It forces everybody else to shake hands and say their name," says Johnson.

Between The Lines

Tips for spotting resume red flags.

The resume looks great, but can you believe everything you read? In today's tight labor market, it's tempting to take your applicants' resumes at face value--especially if you're desperate to fill a position--but that's a huge mistake, which could cost you dearly down the road.

Although nothing can replace thorough background checks on prospective employees, there are ways to spot inaccurate resume information. Wayne D. Ford, author of How to Spot a Phony Resume (Management Advantage), offers these examples of clues you might find in resume entries that should alert you to a potential problem:

  • Positions that aren't supported by qualifications elsewhere on the resume. In most cases, senior managers have education and experience forming the foundations for their positions.
  • A list of references from or positions at companies that have gone out of business. Be suspicious of impressive information that can't be verified.
  • Job titles that don't make sense in the context of the organization. Question someone who was "director of personnel" for a five-employee company or "vice president of production" for a service organization that doesn't manufacture anything.

That one of these red flags is in a resume doesn't necessarily mean it's a lie, Ford says. But it does mean you should investigate thoroughly.

Charity Cases

What to do when you can't--or don't want to--give.

One of your customers has just asked you to contribute cash, goods or services to their pet cause. How do you decline their request without hurting your relationship?

Sandy Campbell routinely deals with requests for cash, books, tapes and even no-charge speaking engagements at her seminar and speaking business, Winning Within Inc., in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida.

Sometimes Campbell cites company policy. For example, she has a policy of giving only one no-charge speech per month, and she has a limited budget for charitable donations.

Other times Campbell has to say no on principle. "You have to be upfront with people," she says. "I think they respect you for standing up for your beliefs."

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 12 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

Contact Sources

The Protocol School of Washington, (703) 821-5613, http://www.psow.com

Winning Within Inc., (727) 596-2673, sandycam@gate.net