Beyond the Build


4 Rules That Take You Back to the Future

A while back, when I was working on a project with the CEO of a $2 billion company, his favorite phrase was, “there’s only one opportunity to make a good first impression.” It stuck with me over the years, and I have since boiled the philosophy down to four basic rules that go a long way toward being successful:  

  1. Send thank you letters. Notice that I didn’t say “a thank you email or text.” An actual letter in the mail sends a solid message of gratitude, and stands out a zillion more times than electronic communication.
  2. Learn how to shake hands. Then, don’t neglect the conversation that follows. If you maintain eye contact and have a genuine interest in the other person, hopefully beyond a business transaction, a real relationship may follow.
  3. Be polite to wait staff. While you are at it, take the time to learn basic business etiquette for meals, and practice it religiously. The way you conduct yourself at the table says a lot about you.
  4. Pick up the phone. We are far too quick to fire off an email when a phone call would be more appropriate. Step away from the keyboard and make real contact.

Ascribing to these rules doesn’t guarantee success, but it will help you get off to a good start.

I am confident folks around here get tired of me constantly reinforcing these thoughts, but I’m convinced common habits of tried-and-true etiquette pay off regardless of whether one makes the sale or not. It’s “back to the future,” regardless of which year.

Just trying doing 1 or 2 to get started, and I believe over time you will be impressed with the results.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.