Making Money The ‘Proper’ Way

By Sara Hazelwood, San Jose Business Journal – 12/01/1998 – 12:00am


Silicon Valley may lead the way in jobs and money, but some say it could use training in manners and etiquette. And those who make their money teaching this once-basic skill are finding business is booming as everyone scrambles to learn their p’s and ‘s. And baby boomers–who once rejected such things–are contributing to the resurgence.

“There is a renaissance going on,” said Sue Fox, founder of Etiquette Survival of Los Gatos. “People are well-educated, but they want that little bit of edge that goes with etiquette.”

Ms. Fox started her business in 1994 after working in sales and marketing at Apple Computer Inc. for 10 years. During her years in the corporate world, she realized many people lacked proper social and dining skills and decided to start a business to teach people etiquette.

She leased a downtown Saratoga space and began teaching courses in grooming, comportment and self-esteem to teens and children. She soon noticed that the parents were asking just as many questions as their kids, and realized there was a demand for adult etiquette training.

Ms. Fox put an ad in Metro newspaper for an etiquette lesson at a restaurant in Saratoga and was stunned by the response–40 people signed up for the continental dining experience. Soon after, she started
contacting corporate human resource departments and now business is booming.

“It is a sensitive topic, it’s difficult to go to individuals and say, `Gee, it would be nice if you went to an etiquette course.’ However, the norm is to offer it to new employees or as a team builder,” Ms. Fox said. Although some people think of manners as snobbery, etiquette rules actually were instituted so people would feel comfortable.

Her workshops can be custom designed, but there are three basic formats:

• The basic dining and social etiquette class is held in a restaurant.

• Boardroom Savvy includes the proper use of the telephone, small talk, and traveling dos and don’ts.

• Business and Social Entertaining includes both Boardroom Savvy and dining skills.

Business has grown so much; Ms. Fox’s phones are ringing off the hook, she said. In fact, she has experienced major growing pains and recently hired two new consultants.

For Liz Quinn, a human resource generalist at Adobe Systems Inc., the seminars were a real confidence builder. Although Adobe was not a corporate sponsor, many employees have found the seminars helpful. “It allows you to be prepared for anything,” she said of the two seminars she attended. One was a formal dinner and the other a family-style affair, both at restaurants.

At one of the seminars, a gentleman began eating before others, soaked up his meal with bread and practically licked his plate. “We thought he was a plant,” Ms. Quinn said.

The classes are of great benefit to those companies with a sales force, client interaction or even for high-level executives, she said.

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