5 Mistakes that DESTROY Business Relationships


5 Mistakes that DESTROY Business Relationships

For those of you who know me, you know business etiquette is my passion.  You know that Letitia Baldridge, the late American etiquette expert and public relations executive is one of my idols.  She published 20 books, appeared on the cover of TIME, and was a guest on Late Night with David Letterman.  She personally inspired me to develop my own executive presence, to follow the rules of decorum in business and in life.  Relationships are at the heart of who we are and what we do.  With that in mind, I share what I believe are the top five key killers of business relationships.

  1. Impolite emails or texts

This has happened to every single one of us.  And it’s literally one of the most frequent questions I get when doing a speaking engagement or conducting a workshop.  Co-workers, colleagues, potential clients, and everybody, we have all been offended by an email or text in our lives.  Why?  Because we are not face to face, we cannot hear the inflection of a voice or see the expressions on a face to interpret the emotions expressed in the communication.  Emails and texts can feel cold and impersonal.  They can seem direct and curt.  They offend us!  How best to combat anyone misinterpreting your messages which could cost you a business deal, client or sale?  Always use a salutation and yes, this includes the person’s name.  Good morning Bill, or Hello Sue.  And end with a salutation too.  Best wishes, Warm regards, Thank you.  And sign off with your name, just as you would do with a letter.  And cool it on using CAPITAL LETTERS.  Yes, it’s true. This is offensive and interpreted as yelling.  When texting, as text messages are meant to be short and sweet, use an emoji to confirm emotion.  You can also use names, including signing your own at the end of your text.  The most important thing we need to remember is to be aware.  Slow down on the send button.  Reread your text and emails.  If they seem too direct, or too harsh upon review, warm them up.  Building lasting quality relationships is the goal, both in business and life.  So slow down, reread, and commit to sending electronic communications that drive positive, successful results.  I promise quality engagement will follow.

  1. Lack of follow up

This is the number one killer in business.  The consequences of not following up or doing what you say you will do affect your credibility.  Credibility and trust are key to building relationships.  They affect your reputation.  And when I say follow up, I mean not in six months.  Speed affects credibility and trust.  Timeliness is an important factor here.  Because the longer you wait, the more awkward and uncomfortable you will feel when you make the call or send the email.  And this is doubled when you share unfavorable news.  Don’t procrastinate, don’t wait, follow up in a timely way and see how your reputation and credibility grow.  This will lead to more success.  Trust me.


  1. Not keeping promises

On the heels of lack of follow up let’s just pile on the next huge way to kill a business relationship…..not keeping promises.  The goal in building relationships in business and of course life is to build credibility and trust.  How in the world can we be successful if we don’t keep our promises?  The real, absolute unvarnished truth is we can’t.  It’s quite a simple thing, however, many of us fall short on this one.  And if you are one of them, change this bad habit immediately!    Do what you say you will do.  Do not over promise and under deliver.  Keep your promises.  And let’s be real, sometimes things do change, and we can’t fulfill what we said we would do.  We need to be open and honest and communicate.  People will understand and make accommodations.  But not following up, not keeping promises will kill your reputation and your business.  It just will.

  1. Missing a call or a meeting

Unless you have a personal or family emergency, missing a call or a meeting is not a good thing.  Business is lost and relationships are challenged when we don’t keep our promises and meet our obligations.  Set a reminder, review your calendar, keep an eye on the time, make sure you don’t miss!  You may cost yourself an important next step in building a relationship or even lose business over missing a scheduled meeting or call. And always, as a side note, be relentlessly prepared.  Every move counts.

  1. Discussing inappropriate conversation topics

And last, but certainly not least, I remember, as if it was yesterday, a meeting I attended in the city that never sleeps.  It was a big meeting, an important one for advancing a key strategy in our company’s goals for the year.   First, there was the meet and greet with our key executives and the CEO of the company in his stunning office at his corporate headquarters.  Then, we walked next door for lunch at a renowned spot on Wall Street.  Let’s just suffice it to say, the golden rule of “what not to discuss over lunch” was crushed.  It was uncomfortable and non-productive.  And the convo topic went on for Way. Too. Long.  Make sure you don’t make this same mistake.

Let’s review the topics to avoid in business:

  • Sex
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Weight and health
  • Personal finances

Now you have it!  Feel free to discuss sports, movies, books, vacations or anything not on the list above. Keep your personal stuff quiet.  And enjoy stimulating, relationship-building conversations about a wide variety of things, however, nothing controversial or off-putting.

Most importantly, when we commit a social faux pas in business, we rarely realize we have done so, because no one is going to tell you they were offended.  They will just stop doing business with you.  Or not do new business with you.  Or ghost you.

Here’s to you growing your brand, growing your customer and client base, building trust, and broadening and deepening your relationships for increased business success.  Cheers!

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Mary Williams

Mary is a business etiquette and protocol expert for executives and rising stars who want to unleash their best self and achieve their goals. A veteran of the C-Suite, Mary is a passionate advocate for utilizing the best skills in business etiquette and protocol to ensure meaningful actions for success in business and life. After more than a dozen years in her role as chief of staff, Mary launched her own dream business, Mary Williams, Your First Impression Authority. As a graduate of The American School of Protocol and a certified Business Coach, in addition to working at the highest levels of national and international organizations, Mary understands both the demands and the complexities of maneuvering effectively through business and life.   She is a regular presenter at university business schools, nonprofit organizations, trade association conferences, as well as corporate events. Her mission is to share all she has learned along the way, and in doing so provide effective business coaching to ultimately help people reach their true potential, utilizing distinct techniques and simple steps that guarantee success.

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