Four etiquette skills every PHC business owner should master

I collect old books; specifically “primers.” A primer is a basic, introductory book on any given topic. I’ve come to the conclusion that basic principles work—in relationships; in physical fitness and sports; in personal development and spirituality; in any industry; and certainly in your business. I’m always on the lookout for the few little things that make all the difference in any course of study. 

I just love the beautifully drawn charts and illustrations in these elementary manuals. CAD drawings and 3D printing have superseded this art form. So I add to my collection in an effort to preserve the unique and bygone style. 

As a business expert, I love simple books because I focus on simple systems. What few things, if implemented, would bring the greatest results? That’s what I learn from these primers, and that’s what I implement with my clients. I was inspired by my books to share a few simple skills that can enhance your life, dear PHC business owner. 

How to shake hands

Stand about an arm’s length from the person whom you wish to meet. Extend your hand, fingers long, so that you can clasp the whole of the other person’s hand. Don’t just squeeze their fingers. Engage the handshake with a firm clasp. No limp “dead fish” hand holding. And don’t crush their hand. Hold their full hand for one count and a single “pump,” using your elbow, not your wrist. At the same time, smile and look them in the eye. Say politely, “Nice to meet you.” 

As a service person, you may want to offer your business card. Then, if the person you are meeting wants to shake hands, they will offer theirs. Follow their lead. If they don’t offer their hand, then just smile and establish friendly eye contact. Or if they offer their left hand, well, maybe there is some injury to the right hand, or they have a different hand shaking idea in mind. This isn’t a contest; it's just a way to acknowledge someone and start a friendly encounter. 

How to answer the phone

Answer the phone with a formal company greeting, and identify yourself. “Thank you for calling Action Plumbing and Heating. This is Ellen. How may I be of service?” Always smile when talking on the phone, as it adds a pleasant tone to your voice. In the PHC industry, the caller is often frustrated by an emergency. Listen to them voice their request or concern. Respond empathetically and positively. “Oh, dear. I’m sorry you’ve been inconvenienced. The good news is you’ve called the right place! May I ask you a few questions so we can best help you?” 

Be friendly and efficient. Don’t interrupt. Follow a good procedure for getting the caller’s information and enter it directly into your customer management software. You’ll need to use a headset to do this without harming your neck. I don’t know why so many customer service representatives fight the headset. Your body, and your customers, are well served when you wear the proper phone gear. 

If you must place the caller on hold, say, “May I place you on hold briefly while I ________?” Then wait for permission. If they say, “Yes,” then say, “Thank you! I’ll be back on the line in a few moments.” When you pick up the caller from holding, say, “Thank you for waiting. Here’s what we can do…” Never just say, “Hold please,” and place someone on hold. 

How to stand and deliver

I’m proud to be part of the Zoom Drain Franchise team. At our company, we started a practice where we read sections of the operations manual aloud, standing up. This does a few cool things for us. First, reading aloud helps us gauge the literacy level of each technician. Our promise is to help them develop personally and professionally as members of our team. We will offer training on any skillset that helps our team members succeed. Second, we know that the manuals are getting read, and that’s the first step in getting them “In.” Third, we can work on standing properly. This is an important skill when talking to customers, as well as delivering a eulogy, making a speech or meeting a head of state. 

We call this practice Stand and Deliver. To Stand and Deliver, you must stand on your feet, equally balanced. Hands out of pockets. You can hold on to what you are reading, but you may not hold or lean onto anything else. Stack your bones, nice and tall, head up, so you are balanced on the earth. Once you pay attention to this, you will notice how few people are comfortable just standing. Don’t let that be you. It is a success skill to know how to Stand and Deliver. 

How to behave at the dinner table 

I copied these from "The Manual of Social and Business Form," by Thomas E. Hill, published in 1884. While some of these “rules” are humorously archaic, they do represent good advice when dining with others. 


  • Do not play with the table utensils or crumble the bread.
  • Do not put your elbows on the table, or sit too far back, or lounge.
  • Do not talk loud or boisterously.
  • Never, if possible, cough or sneeze at the table.
  • Do not open the mouth while chewing, but keep the lips closed. It is not necessary to show people how you masticate your food.
  • Never indicate that you notice anything unpleasant in the food.
  • The fork is used to convey the food to the mouth, except when a spoon is necessary for liquids. Raw oysters are eaten with a fork.
  • Never allow butter, soup or other food to remain on your whiskers.
  • Never, when serving others, overload the plate nor force upon them delicacies which they decline.
  • Never make a great display when removing hair, insects or other disagreeable things from your food. Place them quietly under the edge of your plate.
  • Use a napkin only for your mouth. Never use it for your nose, face or forehead. 

These basic skills will help you get along well with others, and be more successful. 

Ellen Rohr provides “in the trenches” insight that business owners can relate to. Comments? Questions? A different view? Reach her at (417) 753-1111 or You can also join the Bare Bones Biz community, at, for fee tips, problem-solving webinars, money-making tools and lots of love.

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