Have you seen Duck Dynasty? The heavily-scripted reality TV show’s third season premieres tonight on A&E. I hadn’t seen it until last night, when I watched a few back episodes to see what all the fuss was about. I was surprised. I’d brought some serious snobbery to my viewing session and figured that a bunch of dirty, crass rednecks wouldn’t have anything new to offer. I was wrong.
Duck Dynasty features the Robertson’s, a redneck Louisiana family who owns a very successful business that sells duck calls. The men in the family sport long, ZZTop-style beards and look as if they haven’t bathed in quite some time. The women are much classier… but they cook and eat squirrels (especially squirrel brains, which’ll make ya smarter, according to the family matriarch, Miss Kay).
The business, Duck Commander, has turned the family into millionaires. So they must be doing something right. But to look at them, you might not think that “etiquette” is top of mind. A closer look, however, reveals plenty of business etiquette lessons we can all learn from this quirky, rough-around-the-edges family.
When you’re client’s a redneck, you can be a redneck… but you should still wear a jacket.
Willie Robertson, CEO of Duck Commander, knows how to entertain his clients. He feeds them BBQ, takes them duck hunting and even races camo-painted limos with them. Willie knows that it’s important to show people hospitality, and to focus on their interests. His clients own sporting good stores and sell hunting equipment, so they’re not usually the buttoned-down Wall Street type. He gets away with acting like a redneck because his clients are rednecks (or at least good ‘ol boys, which is almost the same thing).
But even though Willie sports his at least one camo-print accessory at all times (and usually a bandana headband), he does wear a jacket when he visits a client. It’s a white, Don Johnson-style dinner jacket from the 80’s, but it’s a nod to tradition and the seriousness of a business meeting.
When entertaining clients, think about their interests and plan accordingly. And never show up for a business meeting without dressing properly.
Give ‘em presents.
It’s good business etiquette to give your prospective client a gift. Willie give Clint Bowyer (a race car driver that visits) a special duck call with Clint’s car number engraved on it. It’s a much better gift than a couple dead squirrels.
Give your clients presents. Good ones, like samurai swords or duck calls.
Focus on clients during meetings, not your electronics.
Willie and his dad, Phil don’t text on their phones and play on their iPads while in meetings (at least not that we’ve seen). Does Willie even own an iPad?
This is one really refreshing aspect to the whole Innocent Redneck from the South facade of Duck Dynasty. Playing with (or being terribly important) on your electronic devices while meeting with a client is bad form, and one business etiquette rule that is widely overlooked. If you’re at lunch with a client, you shouldn’t answer your phone (or text on it). You shouldn’t have your iPad out, unless you’re showing your client some data or taking notes about what he’s saying.
And though they’re often overlooked as being important people in your business, the same goes for your employees. They deserve to be treated with the same respect as your clients. Give them your full attention in meetings or while interacting with them during the work day. Absently nodding and texting on your phone while an employee is talking to you is just rude.
Thank Your Employees Publicly.
We know that it’s good business etiquette to thank clients, but good business etiquette applies to interactions with employees, too. When Willie gets a huge order from a client, he busts into the warehouse and starts trying to motivate the guys to get off their butts and make some duck calls. Bossing around a redneck never works very well. Willie comes back to throw a tantrum and kick a chair across the room (also not a great tactic when dealing with rednecks, who just look passively at him through their mangy hair while he yells and screams). Willie’s wife Korie and mother Kay finally intervene and get the guys moving, and they bring in temporary workers to get the order ready.
At the end of the day, the women bring in lots of food and Willie stands up to thank everyone for their hard work. His little speech about the “family at Duck Commander” is important. Sure, the guys were just doing their jobs (something that doesn’t often happen, apparently). And they’re presumably getting paid for it. But a simple thank-you goes a long way.
Don’t forget to thank your employees. They’re the people who keep your business going and allow you to occasionally leave the office to bust up beaver dams or haul in catfish.
Own a helicopter.
The last rule of business etiquette to take away from Duck Dynasty is this: own a helicopter and use it often. Because you look cool when you have a helicopter. And you can give clients a lift home or to the swamp, which is always a polite gesture.