It was a sunny autumn afternoon in beautiful Gramercy Park, New York City. I was enjoying a moment’s rest on the sofa while reading Bloomberg Businessweek, to which I'd received a complimentary subscription for having completed my MBA. I'd always been fascinated with business and with the idea of starting my own company - it was only a question of what that business would be.
My background is in marketing communications, public relations, and branding for the luxury sector. I left my job working on the Product and Technology Communications team at Mercedes-Benz's corporate headquarters to study marketing and design at the Parsons School of Design. My colleagues thought that I was crazy to leave, since Mercedes is a remarkable company that values employees and invests in their professional development.
One colleague of mine gave me a memorable farewell card as a send-off. The card bore a vintage image of a woman at the bow of a sailboat, about to dive into the deep blue sea. I don’t recall exactly what the card said, but it was along the lines of, “Be courageous and dive deep into possibility.” The card resonated with me since I love the sea and since I was taking a leap of faith to follow my dreams.
It wasn’t until years later, after Parsons, after Voss water, and after Business School Lausanne - that I found myself on that sofa in Gramercy Park, flipping through Businessweek. And there it was: Etiquette School for Dummies! Actually, it was a three-page article bearing that title and describing the current need on the market for business etiquette training. The article contrasted Lee Iacocca, the polished "business magnate of yesteryear," with the hoodie-wearing Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. I was captivated by the article, knowing that etiquette was a field where I could make a difference, applying my talents towards making the world a better place. I loved the idea that good behavior is good business.
The need to embrace civility in the workplace would become the cornerstone of my business. The concept of principled profitability inspired me: In the words of Dov Seidman, "our behavior is our greatest source of competitive advantage." I knew that I could help people "out-behave" the competition.
What percentage of business is lost to bad behavior? How many times have we shaken someone’s hand and found that he or she didn't make direct eye contact? How did that subtle behavior make us feel, and what do such subtleties communicate about who people are? The fact is, trust can be lost or gained on the basis of such interactions. I knew that I could help people be their best and do my part to bring the human element back to business. Isn’t it amazing that eighty-five percent of our job success is directly related to our people skills?
Reading the magazine article, I noticed that The Protocol School of Washington was featured. Within minutes I was on the phone to sign up for their next Corporate Etiquette and International Protocol Consultant course. The course was starting in two days, but the school graciously made an exception for me so that I could participate as a last-minute addition to the class.
Pamela Eyring, the School's President, taught my class. “This course is going to change your life,” she told us on our first day. She was right. It set me on my path to helping make the world a better place through business etiquette training.
Shortly after the course ended, I launched Gramercy Protocol and have spent the last several years building my business. Gramercy is derived from the French words, “grand merci,” meaning “with gratitude" - and the need to do things with gratitude is a value that drives my business. My logo features a key, to inspire people to unlock their potential.
I have had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s most respected brands, such as Daimler and Louis Vuitton, as well as prestigious universities. I have trained executives in areas such as: networking, presentation and public speaking, media training, personal brand image, dining etiquette, and international protocol.
My customized training programs focus on enhancing interpersonal communication skills while underscoring the importance of civility. I encourage my clients to take the time to connect with their customers and colleagues on a more human level - above and beyond electronic media.
I have also been fortunate to be featured on television and radio as a commentator on various etiquette topics. Inside Edition, Fox 5 News, WCBS-TV, NY1 Money Matters, and VoiceAmerica Business Network are among the platforms on which I've appeared. Just like the woman at the bow of the sailboat on that card, I took the leap, and dove deep. I am grateful that I have found my niche.
Lena Koropey is a 2010 Graduate of Train to be a Corporate Etiquette and International Protocol Consultant course | www.gramercyprotocol.com