This is the fourth in a series of special posts for Global Entrepreneurship Week (#GEW). Read the previous posts on getting media coverage, making investor presentations and avoiding common communications miscues. I penned this guest post for the PlotLines blog a while back, but I'm reposting it here as a helpful reminder to entrepreneurs.

A Cautionary Tale

A co-worker poked his head in the door of my office the other day.

“There’s a woman on the phone for you from the Pick-Your-Favorite-Charity and she sounds kind of mad.”

I recognized the organization’s name – it’s a big one – and I knew they weren’t a client. What could she be mad about? Had I missed an email or voicemail?

I took a deep breath, put a smile on my face and picked up the phone.

“Hello! This is Margot. How can I help you?”

Turns out this was a phone solicitation. She was asking me to support her charity with a financial donation. And, as my co-worker noted, she did sound pissed. You can imagine the feeling this gave me about the organization she was representing.

I politely explained that we support the same cause she does by donating to our local comprehensive cancer center, UNC Lineberger. I thanked her for doing good work for a great cause and wished her a good day. Still sounding pissed, she said goodbye.

Even if you’re not running a fund-raising campaign, there’s a lesson here for anyone who ever gets on the phone.

Before you pick up the phone – whether you’re making a call or taking one – stop, breathe and put a smile on your face. And that’s true whether you’re making a bank of calls or just a handful. It really does affect the way you sound.

I was reminded of this lesson earlier in the week, when I was in the middle of a brain-draining project and decided to take a call from a friend. Helen is one of the nicest, most upbeat people I know and I wanted to get a lift from hearing her voice. But right after I said, “Hello,” the jig was up. “Oh, Margot. Are you having a bad day?”

Since I’d forgotten my own advice, she could tell by the tone of my voice that I wasn’t my usual upbeat self. And I felt bad about that. On top of sounding a little snarkly with a friend, I wasted precious minutes of our time explaining what was going on. Sigh.

While I feel crapSmile Phone 225x300 A Cautionary Tale: Don’t Forget to Smilepy enough about doing this to a friend, think about if it’d been a client or prospect. It would be the charity call all over again. So I’m going back to the trick that helped me originally learn this lesson:

That’s right. A sticky note on the handset. Hey, whatever works.

So this week as you take and make calls, remember that the way you sound sets a tone for the entire conversation – and informs how the person on the other end perceives you and your organization.

Looking for more advice on start-ups and entrepreneurship? Check out our sister site, This week there's even more targeted tips and actionable ideas on pre-launch planning, doing better customer research and more.