The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ok to be nice in business

Goshen (New York), June 30 (Reuters): Business etiquette coach Barbara Pachter likes to tell the story of a financial executive who, dining with a potential client, licked his knife clean at the end of the meal.

“It was a $30-million lick,” she said at a recent etiquette seminar in Goshen, New York, referring to the value of the deal the executive lost by offending the potential customer.

Businesses are turning to etiquette training to boost their bottomline, according to the coaches who train employees on everything from shaking hands to buttering bread.

Simply put, better-behaved employees are more valuable than brutish oafs, they say.

“Etiquette is saying that it’s really ok to be nice,” said Peter Post, great-grandson of etiquette’s grand dame Emily Post and himself a writer and lecturer on business etiquette.

“We’ve heard over and over from corporations who have employees with all these skills but can’t let them take a client out to lunch,” Post said. “I get calls every week.”

In New York, employees of Elant Inc, which runs health and housing facilities for the elderly, have been studying etiquette since the company decided to slash its advertising budget and send staff into the community to drum up business through word of mouth.

Employees soon complained they were uncomfortable networking and socialising, so the company turned to an etiquette coach. They recently attended a day-long seminar to hear Pachter answer an array of etiquette questions:

What accessories do people notice first' Watches and pens.

Where should empty foil butter wrappers go' Fold the foil wrappers in half and place them under the bread plate.

How does one eat spaghetti at a business dinner' Don’t even touch spaghetti; it’s too messy.

Jan Davis, new to Elant management, found herself practicing her handshake with some tips from the coach.

“If I asked my mother where she learned manners from, it was probably from Sunday dinner, and I don’t think you find that today,” said Susan Schulmerich, an Elant vice-president. “In many ways, we’re missing a lot in our informal society and loss of tradition.”

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