Monthly Archives: October 2012

Formal and Informal Business Lunch Etiquette

Entertaining clients, customers and business associates is an accepted practice in business life. By far the most common form of business entertainment is the business lunch, where men and women meet to discuss business problems over a meal.

Informal Luncheons Etiquette

The host usually has his secretary telephone his favorite restaurant or club to reserve a table for himself and his guest or guests. This can be done a day in advance or, if necessary, the same day.

Many executives prefer to entertain informally in their own small dining rooms, in which case their secretaries telephone the orders to a caterer and brew coffee in a kitchenette.

Inviting the Guests

Invitations for an informal luncheon are usually extended by telephone, either by the host or his secretary. On occasion, a written invitation to an informal lunch may be sent out, as, for example, the following one to an out-of-town business acquaintance:

Dear Hal:

We look forward with real pleasure to your visit here on April 7. If your plans permit, I would like you to have lunch with Cal Hodges, our new advertising manager, and myself that day.

I going to enjoy showing you through our new plant, and am anxious to tell you of some exciting plans for the future.


An invitation of this kind could be answered as follows:

  • Acceptance:

Dear Jim:

There is nothing I’d enjoy more than having lunch with you and Cal Hodges on April 7. Make whatever arrangements as to time and place that suit you best. I have heard a great deal of flattering comment on your new advertising manager, and look forward to meeting him.

J should arrive at your office about9:30 a.m. and after touring the plant would like to work out the details of our new contract. By the way, will you try to have the figures we discussed ready for me on the seventh?


  • Regrets:

Dear Jim:

Having lunch with you and your new advertising manager on April 7 is something I very much enjoy, as I’ve heard some fine reports on Cal Hodges. But I’m already committed to a luncheon meeting with the board of directors of Halsted, Inc. I plan to be at your office about 9:30 a.m. but will have to leave at 11:45.

However, if agreeable to you, I can stay over for another day. I am anxious to hear of your plans for the future, and feel that a talk with Hodges at this time would be to our mutual advantage. Would lunch on the eighth suit you?


Lunching in the Company Cafeteria

When time is limited, or the host’s office is in an isolated surburban area, guests may be entertained at lunch in the company cafeteria. The host should be certain that if there are procedures to be followed, such as obtaining guest tickets, he has it all taken care of beforehand. If the cafeteria affords a separate room, this would be the best place to meet, in which case the host should make a reservation if it’s required.

Introducing the Business Topic

When the guest at lunch is either a client or a customer, the host allows him to introduce the subject of business into the conversation. No matter how anxious the host is to talk about the signing of a contract, or prices, or deliveries, or any other matter, he should wait for his guest to bring it up. When the guest is neither a customer nor a client, the host may bring up at any time the topic of business he wishes to discuss. It is courteous, however, to wait until the main course has been eaten and dessert ordered.

How Long Should Lunch Last?

It is polite to allow the client or customer to decide how long the lunch is to last. Whether the guest is in a hurry or is willing to stretch the lunch hour to two or three, the host must accommodate himself with good grace.

A Formal Luncheon In a Private Room

The purpose of calling together a group of men for a luncheon of this kind is not only to entertain them elegantly but to provide a relaxed, secluded atmosphere in which to discuss matters of business. A private company dining room, a private room at a club, hotel, or restaurant makes a suitable setting for an occasion of this kind. ‘While the luncheon will not take all afternoon, it will be unhurried and free of interruptions, except for the serving of food and drink.

While there is a social element to this type of gathering, that is not the main purpose of the luncheon. Usually cocktails will be served, with tomato juice or soft drinks available for those who don’t drink alcoholic beverages. Very often the host will explain during cocktails why the luncheon meeting is being held and what he hopes to accomplish. He may sketch in the background of events leading up to this meeting and describe existing differences of opinion, or courses of action that have been considered.

Should Business Be Discussed During the Meal?

Conversation during the first part of the meal should be confined to small talk of one kind or another—vacations, trips, news of people and happenings, the theatre, art, whatever you think would interest the people you are lunching with. The host will usually introduce the subject of the meeting after the main course plates are removed and dessert is served.

When You Are the Host

While a luncheon meeting of this kind is a leisurely affair, bear in mind that your guests have other work to do. Don’t permit the cocktail hour to run on. Give everyone the opportunity to get a second drink, and then have the meal served.

Formal Luncheon Etiquette

Arranging a formal business luncheon is a task that usually fails to the lot of the host’s secretary. The following list of things to do in planning the event will prevent overlooking any of the important details.

1. Reserve a dining room. Your employer will probably tell you whether he prefers the company private dining room or a room in a hotel, restaurant, or club. Be sure the room is the right size for the number of people who will be present.

2. Plan the menu. If your employer has not expressed a preference for a certain dish, discuss with the company cook or chef, or the caterer, banquet manager, or maitre d’hotel the number of courses, whether the main course is to be meat or fish, what kind of salad dressing, and so on. Then submit the menu you decide on to your executive for his approval. As soon as you get it, call whoever has helped you plan the meal and either give him the changes that have been made in the menu or tell him it’s all right as it stands.

3. Send out the invitations. Invite the guests at least two weeks in advance of the luncheon date. Keep a list of those invited and check off the acceptances and regrets as they come in. (Type a list of the names and rule off “accepts” and “regrets” columns next to them.) When all the replies are in, let the cook or caterer or whoever will handle it know exactly how many will attend the luncheon. He may give you a deadline for this.

4. Order flowers. If the luncheon is to be a small one, order a center piece for the table. If there is to be more than one table, order as many arrangements as are necessary.

5. Plan the seating. Draw the tables as they will be set up for the luncheon. You will probably have to confer with your employer as to where to seat his guests. Buy place cards (of heavy stock in white or cream). Write, in ink, each guest’s last name and title, such as Dr. Johnson, Senator Grant, Mr. McElory. Either have the caterer’s or manager’s staff put the cards on the table (you’ll have to send the seating plan and cards) or go there yourself before the luncheon and place them.

A Last Minute Check

Someone—the host’s secretary, if she has arranged the luncheon—should check the room before the guests arrive, to be sure that everything is as it should be.

Sample Itinerary for Business Trips

 Courtesy and Trip Planning

Many American businessmen do a great deal of travelling as part of their job. Others travel only occasionally. In neither case is a business trip a spur-of-the-moment affair; it must be planned if it is to be successful.

The planner may be the businessman or businesswoman who will be the traveller  but very often t is a secretary or traffic manager who handles the details of planning It is in making arrangements for someone else that courtesy and etiquette come into play. That is why this article and also the next one (listed at the bottom of this article) are written for the person who plans a trip for another. But many of the hints and suggestions given here will be helpful to the person planning his own trip.

Basically, there are two kinds of travellers  One kind travels to see specific people and companies; he makes appointments, then lays out an itinerary that will get him to those appointments. The other kind of traveller  who is apt to spend more time on the road, is the area or territory traveller  He tends to plan his route first, then make appointments according to the route.

When you plan a trip, no matter how long or short, you can save the traveller’s time and temper if you get all necessary information before you try to get reservations. Have the traveller tell you the departure time, cities to be visited and when he must arrive there to keep any appointment he might have, length of stay at each place.

Learn the personal likes and dislikes of the traveller in regard to hotels, modes of travel, and so on.

Arranging an Itinerary

It is an absolute “must” that you set up a written itinerary, or trip plan. If you don’t you will find that information on train, plane and bus schedules will get lost in the shuffle.

Keeping Track of Itinerary Plans: Set up a work sheet with plenty of room for alternate methods of travel. Include the following columns:

  1. Date
  2. Destination
  3. Method of transportation (make this a wide column)
  4. Departure time
  5. Time of arrival

Start by noting the date and destination for the first lap of the trip. If for some reason the traveller does not give you instructions about the method of transportation he wants, get information on both plane and train accommodations. This will take a little more time than if you knew how he planned to travel, but it may save you both aggravation and time later, when you are making final arrangements. Don’t forget to get both arrival and departure times in every case.

Note: Also be sure to include which airport or rail-road station the plane or train leaves from (and arrives at) in your “method of transportation” column. The traveller will be quite unhappy waiting at East Terminal while his train pulls out of West Station.

Little Things Mean a Lot

Below are some points that may seem elementary but are easy to overlook in the task of getting information together. These are the “little things” that can make a business trip a pleasure instead of a chore.

  • Remember that there is a difference in time zones. Be sure that everyone concerned with the trip is talking about the same time.
  • Include in your list (if you know it) the amount of time that the traveller will need to get from the airport or railway station to his appointment. It is disconcerting for a traveller to reach his city of destination at 1:50 when he has an appointment on the other side of town for 2:00 o’clock.
  • Find out if he can have lunch or dinner en route. If not, allow time for him to eat before his appointment.

A Sample Itinerary

Now that you have planned the itinerary and made the necessary arrangements, type up the final itinerary in the form shown below:

 Extra copies of the itinerary should go to the traveller’s family and to co-workers who may need to know how to reach him.

How to Run and Manage a Coffee Shop that Makes Money

Are you gregarious, a good organizer, and in search of a business that will let you be your own boss? Then maybe you’d do well to consider running a coffee shop. If you like the life and manage your cafe efficiently, you can make enough to support yourself and your family. And you’ll have the additional satisfaction of providing an important service to your neighbours.

I’m serious. All successful coffee shops have one point in common: They fill the need for companionship which, in our mobile and impersonal society, too often goes unmet. People want to go to a place where they’re recognized and liked. The corner bar has served this purpose for years, and if you offer a similarly warm environment to a different clientele, you’re well on your way. . . as long as you observe certain rules.

Rules for a coffee shop? That’s right! Such an establishment is a business. . . admittedly an unusual one, but still a business and subject to the same laws as any other. The many cafes that don’t make it fail because their owners refuse to recognize this fact.

The first rule for successful operation is that you, the owner-manager, must like people. Sounds elementary, but I know of two places that foundered because the proprietors thought only of money and didn’t try to make their customers feel welcome. . . which should have been their main concern.

The second rule is that you should find out whether you really like running a coffee shop before you make a large investment of time and money. One establishment I’m familiar with was sold by its previous owner because he wasn’t sufficiently businesslike to keep the place going, and because his efficient wife felt demeaned by working behind the counter.

Moral: Anyone who plans to open his own cafe should first get at least a couple of months’ experience working for someone else. If you’re already handling n full-time job, try a weekend or night shift. Keep your eyes open while you’re on duty and form your own opinions about kitchen layout, menus, ordering, and other potential problem areas. If, after a couple of months as a part-time employee, you still like the business well enough to tackle it on your own – – – then, and only then, is the time to move onto the next step.

And that next step is mainly just thinking. . – about the type of coffee shop you’d like to run. You’re going to have to spend a lot of hours there—especially at first—you know, so you’ll want to make absolutely certain your place is exactly what you want.

An essential part of this brainwork should concern theme. . . the idea or concept that will set yow cafe off from the hot dog stand down the street. Your menu, decor, and music must blend to set a mood. When a patron steps through the door he should get an impression of unity, a feeling that everything has always been just as it is. All successful coffee shops have this quality – . – plastic imitations do not.

Your own ethnic background—Spanish, Greek, Italian, or whatever—can give you the central idea you need, or you can build yow establishment’s atmosphere around one of your own interests. A lover of classical music, for instance, could call his place Beethoven’s Last, hang pictures of composers on the walls, provide constant classical music on a good stereo with the record jackets prominently displayed, post recital notices on the bulletin board, make scores available, run special programs of live chamber music, feature European specialties on the menu.. . and so forth.

Other musical motifs could be country and western, English, Irish, Spanish, hard rock, or modern. . . anything that’s not too esoteric for your area. In a large population center there are sure to be enough people who share your taste. The only “must” is that you follow your central ideas closely. Give your customers credit for being able to spot a phony!

With your theme in hand, it’s time to start looking for a location. This is the most important decision that still remains to be made. Your coffee shop must be within a densely populated part of the city (or possibly in a rural area where there’s already a demand for this type of gathering place). Remember that people won’t make a long trip to visit you until you’re established, and your first regular customers will be walk-ins. . . so select your neighborhood carefully. Areas near colleges and universities, and other spots where there are large numbers of single adults, are the prime locations. Your choice of theme will influence your choice of location:

Beethoven’s Last, for instance, would do well near a music school, opera house, or symphony hall.

Check any general area you like for possible competitors. If there’s a well cafe nearby, can you live off its overflow, or will you attract a different type of clientele?

If you seem to have a clear shot in your chosen neighbourhood  check with local realtors for a building. It’s wise to set up in an area of small shops and plenty of foot traffic. . – or, if you expect your customers to be driving, make sure that parking is no problem. Also, be certain your place is easy to find. One of the best ways to fail is to locate on an obscure side street. A busy corner would be ideal.

Eventually, your search will narrow down to a couple of buildings. Best of all would be a former restaurant or coffee shop (which would already have gas, electricity, and officially approved restrooms). That last point is important, by the way:

Before you sign any lease, make sure the Health Department will OK the johns! Plumbers are expensive, as we all know from Watergate, and if you have to bring in utilities and install toilets the costs can be astronomical.

Ask the realtor a lot of questions. Find out why your predecessor left the building. Check out the landlord and your future neighbours  Try to get a renewal provision on the lease so your rent won’t be bumped up substantially the second year.

In particular, be sure to get down in writing all the duties of each party to the agreement. Don’t try to rely on a verbal understanding, since the human memory can be conveniently weak at times.

A word about the law: Good relations with the Health Department and the police are a must, and both can tip you off to possible problems in advance, if you ask. (Remember, the person who gives you advice feels a sense of involvement and identification with your business.)

Try to visit the local cops before you open. Let them know you aren’t going to stand for any drinking or dealing on the premises, and ask them for suggestions. If your neighbourhood has a beat patrolman, it pays to be pleasant to him.

OK. You have your building. Now you can start turning the bare interior into the warm, inviting spot you see in your mind’s eye.

The kitchen is the heart of an efficient operation. It should be set up so that one person can both prepare food and do cleanup work in slack periods, but two or more can work at night when you’re crowded.

What kitchen equipment you need varies with your menu. As a coffee shop employee you will have formed a definite idea of the necessities. Accumulate your supply gradually, if you can, in the three to six months after choosing a theme and before opening. Be careful not to overbuy! You can add additional stock once you’re in full operation.

The company that supplies your coffee will usually provide burners free. . . so if you serve only sandwiches, soups, coffee, and pastries you won’t have to buy a stove. You should, however, have two refrigerators just in case one breaks down.

Used equipment is, of course, much less expensive than new. A small ad in the local newspapers may locate everything you need. . – maybe even a refrigerator or other major item free for the hauling.

How about your cafe’s public area? Coffee shops are so infinitely flexible that almost any arrangement will serve, as long as live entertainment can be seen from all parts of the room. Tables should be small, and will harmonize with your theme if you cover their tops with pictures or sketches and then people-proof them with coverings of transparent fiberglass. Their lower pads should be painted an inconspicuous color. Try to place your tables in rows that point toward the kitchen so that your waitresses can get in and out easily.

Around the tables you’ll need chairs. . . fifty or more, depending on the size of your room. So many, purchased new or even used from a supplier, can be a great expense. . . but an ad asking for free chairs and a swing through your area’s garage sales should do the job.

You’re going to have to move your establishment’s seating a lot every time you sweep the place, so “light but sturdy” is the word. If the chairs you find are made of wood check them for loose parts, glue them carefully, and sand them well. Then rent a sprayer and paint the whole batch at once.

Benches placed around the wall are excellent for handling overflow crowds at peak periods, and are out of the way the rest of the time. Build them yourself or look for old church pews at a wrecker’s warehouse.

How much money does it take to open a coffee house?

That depends, to a large extent, on you. The New Unicorn—the San Francisco establishment you see in the illustrations—was set up for less than $1,000.. . but the owner did most of the work himself and bought all his equipment used, If you have to hire professionals to fix up your building, you may need upwards of $3,000 to open its doors. If This sounds expensive, remember that—on top of fixtures and stock—you’ll have the costs of repainting and installing water, gas and electricity. The lease, the state and federal taxes and the deposits for phone and utilities wilt also eat up a lot of cash . . . so it’s wise to have a cushion.

Remember, too, that it takes time to build up a clientele (and that also means money). You can try to stretch your start-up bankroll by keeping your daytime job and operating your new coffee shop only at night in the beginning. . . but you’ll really feel the strain if you do. A couple can manage such an arrangement much better than a single person.

The best method of weathering your cafe’s early period is to have enough money on hand to run The place for the first couple of months after you open. Keep the costs down .. . but don’t try to save by letting your bookkeeper go. He’s the only person who can tell you how you’re really doing.

“Light and clean” is the rule for the toilets. Your whole establishment should be well kept, of course, but the restrooms must be spotless. Nothing turns people off faster than dirty johns. Make it a policy to check them every hour. Paint the walls of these rooms a light color: That will make them easier to clean. . . and let you collect a number of interesting graffiti in no time at all.

With the physical part of your operation in hand, you can start thinking about the entertainment. People will leave the tube only if you can offer them something better. . . and although records and tapes appropriate to your theme are adequate during the day, only live attractions will draw well at night.

Vary your programs as much as you can, while frying to remain true to your theme. For example, Beethoven’s Last could appropriately offer opera, Lieder, classical guitar, chamber music, or traditional English folk songs. . . but should still try to work in an occasional ethnic night— flamenco, fado, or Greek—to add a change of pace. A regularly posted weekly schedule is a must, to help your customers plan ahead.

Notices at the local schools, music stores, and conservatories will help you find performers at the outset, and the musicians’ grapevine will do the rest once you’re in operation. Set aside one afternoon or evening for auditions, get the best people you can, and pay them what they’re worth. You won’t regret it. Nothing clears out a place of entertainment faster than a lack of talent.

When you’re just beginning, of course, you’ll probably be strapped for money. Tell the musicians what you can afford to pay and why it’s not more. If they draw well, increase their rate . . . if not, get someone else.

A tip to remember when you hire musicians: A single is always preferable to a group, because the costs of the act are lower. Further, you should have a spare who can come in on short notice if a scheduled entertainer fails to show.

Coffee shops that can’t afford live music every night can schedule other events. Poetry readings, funky old movies, radical theater, or puppet shows can all attract audiences.

at varying costs to you.

Whatever entertainment you offer, the rule is “Keep it short”. Run a twenty- to thirty-minute set and break for a record. This period gives your customers time to talk, order, visit the John, etc., and the result is a quieter house during the performances. Also, try to set up the coffee shop tights so that they can be turned down for the show and raised for intermissions.

Now we come to an area that can break you: employees. At first you won’t be able to afford many, but at least two are a definite necessity. The first—a bookkeeper—is a must so you’ll know where you stand, and so you won’t have trouble later with the IRS and local tax agencies. Hire one before you start and he or she will save you more than his/her salary the first year.

Your second employee should be a five-nights-a-week cleanup man. You Just won’t have time to scrub the place down every morning and still do all the ordering of supplies and other work your coffee shop will require. Two nights a week, however, you should handle the cleanup detail yourself. This gives your helper a five-day week and lets you see what the place looks like after a full evening.

Later on, once your business merits them, you can hire waitresses. Until you reach this point, however, you should arrive at your place about ten in the morning to do the ordering and get the food ready to serve at lunch. If you open at11:30for the lunch trade, you’ll have a busy period until about2:00. In the stack time until5:00or so you can get caught up on paperwork, take deliveries, and audition new talent. Then you’ll have a busy period that will slack off about6:00and build after7:00to closing.

This is a brutal schedule for one person. I know, because I ran a cafe this way all one summer. Nevertheless, these are what your hours will be until your gross is high enough to let you hire more help. You’ll get tired and bored with the menial labor.. . but stay cheerful and remember that to run the place efficiently in the future you must be able to do each of your employees’ jobs well.

When business does pick up, you can have a day man and one waitress to run the place during the afternoon, and several waitresses and a kitchen helper at night. The people who serve your customers must be spotless, gregarious, and dependable. Check them carefully and replace any that aren’t first rate.

You may find it hard to discharge the help that doesn’t work out, but remember that your first duty is to your customers and your long-term employees. If you go out of business, everyone loses. Remember, too, that only faithful, experienced helpers make it possible for you to leave your coffee shop for any extended period of time. Weed so the flowers may grow!

One of the best ways to form a loyal, efficient staff is to pay the going rate. Let your employees know what you’re making and give them a share of the rewards of good business. But don’t let your profits be eaten up in salaries, especially during those first critical months: Once your business slacks off each night, let your help go on home and finish up yourself.

So far, I’ve said nothing about the items that pay the freight in a coffee shop: the food and drink you offer. The appeal of this fare starts with the printed menu itself, which should reflect your theme. Beethoven’s Last, for instance, might offer various traditional coffees and dishes named after composers. If your decor allows, you can also post daily specials on a wall blackboard to help your patrons make a decision at the counter.

The specialties you serve should be part traditional and part a unique reflection of your tastes. Coffee, tea, Italian sodas, and cider are all top sellers and should be available in several varieties. My favorite coffee shop—The New Unicorn at Hayes and Ashbury inSan Francisco—offers ten types of tea, several coffees, eight sodas, and a special spiced cider. Whipped cream, rum and vanilla extracts, and a selection of spices will let you add variety without a huge inventory.

Soup—especially homemade—served with a slice of buttered bread is both easily prepared and a popular item. More extensive hot dishes require a stove with a ventilated hood, which could cost more than you’re likely to take in. Most cafes, therefore, are better advised to make sandwiches and cheeseboards the backbone of their menus. Salami, corned beef, tuna, and cheeses are standards. . . and the raw ingredients are easy to store, prepare, and serve.

Pastries and cakes—if you can get good ones—are also profitable items for a coffee shop to handle.

Supermarket-quality goods, however, won’t do. This is true of all your offerings: People won’t buy more than a cup of coffee if they can get the same sandwiches, cake, etc., in a store. In food, as in entertainment, search out the special and charge a fair price for it if you want a successful operation.

The rates you list on your menu depend on the prices of your raw materials, which vary regionally and seasonally. You may also want to check what your competition is charging. Just be certain not to underprice! All your costs must be covered or you’ll soon be out of business.

The effort and energy you expend setting up your cafe, of course, is wasted if potential customers don’t know you’re there. . . so start your publicity campaign with a good location and a big sign. If you set up near a school, run off some circulars and post them on campus. Perhaps you can think up an effective stunt to let people know your coffee. house is open.

When you do start attracting business, move around among your guests and ask them what they like and dislike about the new establishment. You’ll get lots of free advice, some of it quite useful. The old saying is perfectly true: Your best advertisement is a satisfied customer.

That, in fact, is the secret of coffee shop management: You can be as independent as you like in the running of your place if you just make your customers feel welcome. If you and your employees treat the chance drop-in as a guest, he’s yours for as long as you’re open. When he’s asked about your cafe, he won’t say, “I’ve been there”. . – he’ll say, “I go there.” Once you reach this point you’re set up for good as your own boss in surroundings designed to your own taste. What better way is there to earn your daily bread?

How to Answer the Phone Calls As a Secretary

Telephone Etiquette for Secretaries

The manners which you as a secretary display in handling phone calls are actually an important form of public relations. The courteous secretary whose voice has a smile in it and who sounds genuinely interested in what the caller has to say enhances both her executive’s personal image and the company’s image. However mysterious it seems, phone wires carry accurate reflections of your personality and your emotions. The listener knows instantly—no mailer how you try to hide the fact—whether you are sincere or are masking irritation; whether you really want to help him, or find the whole problem boring.

Answering the Phone

Answer promptly when the phone rings. Give your employer’s name, followed by your own. For in stance, “Mr. Weaver’s office—Miss Martin speaking.” If the caller is another secretary, saying Mr. Baker of the Corrugated Carton Corporation is calling your employer, say to her, “One moment, please,” and then inform your employer of the call. By the time your employer picks up the phone, Mr. Baker should be on the line.

Screening Phone Calls

The whole point in having a secretary answer phone calls is to save her employer time, possible embarrassment or annoyance, and involvement in unnecessary detail. He doesn’t expect you to put every call through to him, but when you do announce a call he would much prefer that you tell him who is calling him and why, rather than saying “There’s a call for you on extension 21.”

The switchboard operator’s somewhat brusque “Who’s calling, please?” is not smooth or polite enough for use by the secretary. But even this brusqueness is preferable to the rude “Who is this?” that some secretaries use to find out who is calling.

You should politely ask, “May I tell Mr. Allen who is calling?” Or “May I ask who is calling?” If you don’t recognize the name of the caller, you can say, “May I ask what you wish to speak to Mr. Allen about?” Or, “May I know the reason for your call?”

When the Caller Won’t Give His Name

Most callers will volunteer their names as well as the reason for their call, because they realize the secretary is under orders to find these things out. Every so often, however, someone will insist on withholding this information. You can handle such callers in two ways. You can say, “I’m sorry, but Mr. Allen is not available at the moment. Would you mind calling back?” Or you can simply tell him that you are not permitted to put through a call without first finding out who is calling. If he still insists, suggest that he write for an appointment.

When someone telephones you to arrange an appointment with your executive, you must find out as much as you can about the man and his business before you set it up. No reasonable person expects a secretary to give him part of a busy executive’s day with out proof that he has a valid reason for requesting it.

Taking Messages

When your employer is not at his desk when a call comes in, you can take the message for later delivery, If he is at a company meeting and the call is important, type out a brief message, bring it in to him and wait for him to tell you whether he will leave the meeting to take the call or would rather call back

A pre-printed message form like the following (on colored paper so it won’t be overlooked) is handy.

Offer to Help

When your employer is not available, offer to help the caller in any way that you can. He may only want to check on something you can verify for him. However, be wary of giving out confidential information over the phone unless you are sure about who is on the other end of the wire. An unscrupulous competitor may not be above describing himself as an employee of the company and asking questions about confidential matters.

Handling Complaint Calls

A complaint call isn’t necessarily a crank or a nuisance call. An individual can have a perfectly sound reason for complaining. Poor handling of phone calls from people who have a complaint is bad public relations, because it leaves customers or clients with an impression of having been treated rudely. This can prompt them to call the president or some other company officer with a complaint of rudeness on the part of an employee added to the original complaint.

Never interrupt a complaining caller and don’t give in to the urge to be defensive because he is complaining. Don’t bluster or argue with him. Instead, listen sympathetically and reassure the caller you will help in whatever way you can. Take down notes of what he has to tell you, being sure to get such details as names or invoice numbers right. If you can’t answer the problem yourself, tell the caller what you plan to do and why. Be clear and concise. If you have to investigate before you can give the caller a reply, tell him so. But try to give him a specific time for your return call— say tomorrow morning or in an hour. Be sure to make that call, even if someone else takes over the problem. You can explain to the client or customer that the matter is now out of your hands but that someone else (whom you should name if possible) will handle

If you must put someone else on the line after listening to the caller’s story, don’t just hand the phone over to a fellow employee. Fill him in first, as much as you are able to. This will save the complainant the additional aggravation of having to tell his story all over again.

At the conclusion of your conversation thank the caller for taking the trouble to phone and inform you of the problem.

Transferring Calls

It’s annoying—even infuriating—to phone an organization and have whoever answers the phone listen for a second or two, then interrupt in order to transfer the call to some one else. One businessman was transferred in this way three different times, ending up, much to his annoyance, with the first person be had talked to. Even the most reasonable caller Is bound to feel a little annoyed at being shunted from one person to another—none of whom seem to listen to him.

The polite thing to do is to listen to what the caller has to say and then decide who is the right person to handle the call if you are not. Ask permission of the caller to make the transfer. For instance, after listening to a caller, you might say, “I think Mr. Jones in our advertising department will be able to answer your questions. May I transfer you to him?” Or, “May I transfer you to our Billing Department? I believe Miss Carter, our head bookkeeper, can help you.” Or you can ask the caller to hold the line while you make sure the person to whom you plan to transfer the call is actually the right one. If this will take time, offer to call back as soon as you find out who should handle the call. Nothing so annoys a caller as to be transferred from one department to another, each time having to repeat his story.

When you do have occasion to transfer a call, don’t jiggle the plunger rapidly to attract the operator’s attention. Too rapid a movement of the plunger can fail to light up the light on the switchboard. Depress the plunger slowly and rhythmically and when the operator answers say, politely, “Please give this call to Miss Helen Smith in Accounting.”

Wrong Numbers

When you receive a call that isn’t meant for you, be polite to the person calling. Showing your annoyance is rude and uncalled for; the person making the call has as much right to be annoyed as you have.

Instead of a harsh, “What number do you want?” or “Who do you want?” say, “This is Eldorado 9-9999” or “I believe you want Miss Helen Smith in Accounting. I am Miss Betty Smith in Advertising. I will have the call transferred.”

When you get the operator, don’t scold her for giving the call to you; the caller can hear this. Just tell her who the call is for.

When you make a call and find you have a wrong number, don’t vent your annoyance on the answering party, who has been inconvenienced as much as you have. When you suspect you have a wrong number, ask “Is this Eldorado 9-9999?” Or “Is this the Latham Company?” When the answer is no, say, “I’m sorry, I have the wrong number,” and hang up.

Calls for Visitors in Your Executive’s Office

When a phone call for a visitor comes in, ask the caller if you may take a message. If so, type it on a sheet of paper and hand it to the visitor as he leaves. However, if the person making the call says he or she must speak to the visitor at once, go into the office, catch your executive’s eye, apologize for the interruption, and tell the guest the name of the person who wants to speak to him. He can either take the call there or ask you to tell the caller that he will call back.

If there are several people in your executive’s office, hand the individual being called a typed message that there is a phone call for him and the question: “Would you like to take the call on my phone?” The visitor can then leave the conference room and take his call without disturbing everyone else.

Holding the Line

When your phone has no “hold” button and you have asked a caller to hold the line until your executive can get back to his desk, be discreet in your remarks while the caller is holding on. Everything you say will be picked up by the phone.

When You Have More than One Phone Line

If your employer is talking to someone on one line and a call for him comes in on another, explain that your employer already has a call and ask the second caller if he will wait. If you consider the second call more important than the first, type on a slip of paper the name of the caller and the fact that he is holding the other line and place it before your employer.

Don’t put the second call on hold and just leave it there. Keep the waiting caller informed. You can say “Mr. Allen is still on the other wire, but he’s just about finished with the call.” Or you may want to suggest that Mr. Allen return his call, if the conversation is still going on.

When you have more than two telephone lines, don’t let more than one individual wait. Tell any other callers that you will have to ask your employer to call them back.

It is discourteous to keep a caller waiting unnecessarily. As soon as your employer’s line is free, put the waiting call through; don’t make the caller wait while you file a few papers or ask your employer a question in between calls.

Placing Calls

When your executive asks you to place a call for him, you should do it immediately. Dawdling is discourteous, and, in a business office, can have serious consequences. When you are given an unfamiliar number, repeat it to be sure you have it right.

When you reach the secretary of the man you are calling say, “Is Mr. Cartwright there? Mr. Weaver of the Everight Agency is calling.” Then put your employer on the line, for the person making the call should never keep the answering party waiting for him.

Personal Phone Calls

If your company permits employees to make and receive personal phone calls, try not to take advantage of this freedom. Tell your friends frankly that they should phone you at work only when it is urgent that they do so. When you do make or get a personal call keep it brief; the office isn’t the place for long conversations about little things, interspersed with giggling. Other people don’t find it entertaining, and may even be embarrassed to listen to your personal conversations with friends, Also, no one who wants to ask you a business question should have to wait while you carry on a personal conversation over the phone.

Try to avoid accepting a personal call while you are in your executive’s office. If possible, leave word with whoever answers your phone when you’re not there that you will return any calls that come in for you. If there is no one else who answers your phone and a call does come for you, tell the caller that you are busy and will call back.

When Personal Calls Are Forbidden

Many companies, particularly large ones, frown on personal telephone calls and request their employees not to make them. The feeling is that personal telephone calls disrupt office routine and add unnecessary expense to the overhead.

When personal calls are not allowed, a pay phone is usually provided for emergency and other important calls. Anyone who uses a business phone to make personal calls where they are forbidden is guilty of the worst kind of rudeness—the kind that implies rules are only for those stupid enough to abide by them.

How to Write a Memo at a Business Office

The memorandum, or memo, is used in business offices as a means of internal communication for two reasons. First, it s as a written record; it prevents misunderstandings, and it saves the receiver from relying on memory or checking back on what was said or meant. Second, a memo can be sent to someone without interrupting him with a phone call or personal visit.

The memorandum and the Note

Memos and notes are fairly distinct in some companies, while in others there is little or no distinction. Where a distinction is made, a memorandum is more formal. It is usually typed in a certain format and size, and is intended to be filed. A note in this case is simply a handwritten message of no permanent value—arrangements for luncheon, reminders of an appointment, notice that a phone call came in, and the like. If standardized paper is used for notes, it is often a small message form on which standard information or queries can be checked off (“Called,” “Will call again,” “Please call him,” “Please see me,” and so on). Some executives use note paper with an identifying phrase such as “From the desk of John Jones” printed on it.

Most of the material in this section pertains to memos, since they are somewhat standardized in many companies.

The Memorandum Format

There is no one way to write or arrange memos, but within any one company there should be consistency. Without it, there is likely to be confusion. A memo format is also a work saver; a secretary can type a memo more easily from notes when she is familiar with a definite style, and even writing up a memo is both quicker and easier when there is a format to follow.

The memo sample below shows a typical memorandum format.

September 10, 20_

TO: James R. Jameson, Personnel Department

FR: Alex Cooper, Methods and Systems Department


This will show you the style we follow in writing memorandums for interoffice use. The style is designed for speed both in typing and in reading. Memos are typed on 6 x 9¼” paper, punched for insertion into binders.

The best reference line is one that conveys the essence of the memo, yet is brief. This helps the receiver when he reads the memo, when he files it, and when he has occasion to find it again.

Supply has copies of this sample memorandum available now, if you would like to order them for the people in your department.

Typewrite (Print) a Memo

Since the memo is almost always filed, it should be typewritten. Typing a memo provides it with two important qualities:

1. It gives the memo the needed formality and clarity. For ex ample, if the memo is one that gives the recipient instructions on how to perform a certain task or assigns a task to him, it should be typed. This gives it authority and avoids misunderstandings.

2. Typing gives the memo permanence. Typewritten documents do not fade or smudge the way handwritten ones do.

Write a Note Longhand

Because notes do not usually have to be filed and generally refer to an immediate, transitory situation, they are usually written in longhand. This saves time, and since notes are generally more personal than memos the reader will value the personal touch of your handwriting on the note.

Routing Memos

A memo containing subject matter that is pertinent to more than one individual is often routed, instead of sending a separate copy to each.

When routing is necessary, certain problems of etiquette and office management arise. Should they be distributed alphabetically? By rank? By convenience of location? By job priority? There is no definite answer to these problems. A great deal depends on the individual needs of your organization. The four basic routing methods are discussed below.

1. Alphabetical routing. This method has two basic advantages. First, it is easy to do. The person sending the memo does not have to search through office, building, or state location files. He doesn’t have to find out individual ranks within the firm. There is no need to find out who has to see the memo first. All he has to do is decide who should see it and then arrange their names alphabetically in the “TO” notation of the memo. The second advantage is that alphabetical routing makes no rank distinction. No one in the office can have his feelings hurt because he thinks that John Doe in the next office is “a privileged character.” This seems a small advantage, but it is often necessary so that harmony can be maintained in the office.

The disadvantages of alphabetical routing are two. First, no allowance is made for location; if the memo is passed along strictly by alphabet it may have to follow a tortuous path. Also, alphabetical routing makes no distinction of job priority. The person who should see the memo first may see it last.

2. Routing according to location. The main advantage of routing according to location is that it saves time. A memo can be sent to all the recipients in one location and then sent to another location for distribution there. This is a logical system that is best used when the memo is general and gives no specific job assignments or instructions.

Locational routing has two major drawbacks. Here, as in alphabetic routing, no attention is given to job priority. Also, routing according to location may involve more work than alphabetical routing. The person sending the memo has to find out where each of the recipients is located, if he doesn’t know, and then he has to route the memo accordingly.

3. Routing according to rank. Routing according to rank, from top to bottom, is fairly easy to do. All that is necessary is a list of company employees and their respective ranks in the organization.

The faults of this system are that it makes no job priority distinction, and pays no attention to location. A better way to keep executives informed and to show deference to the executive position is discussed below in the section called “Informational routing.”

4. Routing by job priority. The advantage here is that the person who must act on the memo’s contents first sees it first. There are no delays in following the directions in the memo.

The disadvantage of this system is that no attention is paid to the location of the recipients.

Routing by job priority is one of the best routing methods possible when it is combined with informational routing (see discussion of informational routing below). This combination not only allows the person who has to act first to see the memo first, but allows executives to keep in touch with company operations as well.

As you can see, the four basic routing techniques all have their advantages and disadvantages. What is an advantage for one firm may be a disadvantage for another. The most important thing for you to do is to choose one method, flexible to your needs, and stick to it.

Informational Routing

Occasionally, memos must be routed to certain executives who are not directly affected by their contents. This is called informational routing. The name of each executive who is indirectly affected is included in the heading of the memo, often with the letters “FYI” (meaning “for your information”) next to his name.

September 28, 20_

TO: John Adams, Personnel

Philip U. Olsen, Production

James R. President, FYI

TM. Treasurer, FYI

How to Send Memos through Appropriate Channels

A basic rule in business etiquette demands that you never go over the head of your immediate supervisor without his knowledge and consent. This means you should direct a memo to a higher executive only if your superior knows about it and approves of your action. If you have any doubt, it is best to direct the memo to your supervisor and let him convey the information to the higher party.

How to Reply to Memos

Some memos are sent with no expectation of a reply. A memorandum intended only to convey information would be an example. Included would be memos intended primarily for someone else but routed to you (or a copy sent) to keep you in formed. A memo setting forth a policy or announcing an activity or forthcoming event doesn’t usually require a reply unless your compliance or participation must be made known.

When a memo does call for an answer, remember that it is a business communication and deserves prompt attention. Where a brief reply is in order—”yes,” “no,” or “will do,” for instance— then a verbal answer, especially by telephone, is often used, unless the matter is not important enough to merit interrupting the other person’s day with a call. A method used in many companies for brief, non-urgent answers is to write the reply on the memo itself and return it to the sender. This method does not interrupt him, gives him a written answer, and results in just one paper to file if he wants to keep it. If a speedy reply is needed, however, the telephone is best.

With any but the simplest reply it is best to give it in writing in the form of an answering memo. A memo is also used to confirm an answer that was first given orally because of urgency. A memo of reply should be typed on the same size paper as the original, for purposes of filing.