I have visited many reception areas of professional service firms, had close interaction with hundred and hundreds of accountants, and am constantly exchanging business cards. At these times, being a reporter, I am always observing. I also more often than I would expect notice something that bothers me.

For example, some reception areas only have brochures and newsletters from the firm, and no publications of the industry that it serves. I have also been to reception areas where you know the person is relieving the regular receptionist and telegraphs they don’t want to be there and isn’t going to help you. 

When meeting a number of managing partners at conferences and asking them to tell me about their firm, I simply get the name of the firm and the city where it’s headquartered.

As for a business card faux pas, one of my favorites are those cards which have limited contact information and no Web site address for the firm or tagline to describe what’s special about the firm. I also hate business cards which have a glossy finishes on both sides so you can’t write on them. If you meet someone and want to remember something about them, don’t you write that piece of information on the business card that you were given?

I am a firm believer in developing written best practices even for non-substantive aspects of a professional service firm, and making sure those in a firm that need to adopt those best practices have easy access to them. These best practices aren’t hard to develop, and rarely need updating. A simple search on the Internet is sometimes all you need to develop them.

I did a search with regard to the reception areas, and found at the Ingenuity Marketing Group Web site some great information in its Free Tool section (ingenuitymarketing.com/freetools.html). There is a write-up on what type of publications should be in a reception area, and one on receptionist’s best practices. There are a number of others, short and to the point, such as what constitutes a good elevator speech and, my favorite, rating your networking skills, which is simply determined by answering eight questions. 

Human nature being what it is, we start judging right away on initial impressions. Adopting best practices with regard to the initial points of contact will only ensure a greater chance of comfort and receptiveness to what your firm offers.

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