As small business owners, the mobile phone is one of our most important tools. So important, that we may forget that \u201canywhere and everywhere\u201d is not our office. And as your business grows, it\u2019s not just your own behavior with a cell phone you have to think about. You also have to make sure your employees exhibit professionalism, stay safe and present a positive public image of your business while using mobile devices. We tapped into the expertise of Judi Hembrough, small business marketing director of Plantronics, for tips along with other advice of my own. \u00a0So, hit the pause button for a few minutes to review our 10 rules of mobile etiquette for small businesses: 1. Move 10 feet away if you must take a call. If you must take a call when you are face-to-face with someone, first excuse yourself politely with a brief explanation as to why the call is especially urgent and can\u2019t wait. Then, move to a location where you can respect the personal space of others. Some recommend that you move at least 10 feet away from others. Ideally, though, you should avoid interrupting a face-to-face conversation to take a cell phone call. Interrupting the party you are with sends a message that he or she is less important than the caller. 2. Avoid checking that smartphone in meetings. This applies to visually checking for text messages, emails and missed calls, or listening to voicemails. \u00a0At best it signals that you are distracted and not giving your full attention to the meeting. \u00a0At worst it says you find the people in the meeting to be boring or unimportant. \u00a0If you are expecting a call from the White House at any moment \u2014 then yes, I can accept you glancing at your phone. \u00a0Short of rare circumstances like that, don\u2019t even take your mobile phone out during meetings. 3. Return calls within 24 hours. Returning calls promptly demonstrates professionalism and respect. \u00a0If you will be in all-day meetings or on vacation where you can\u2019t return calls in a timely manner, update your phone message temporarily. Just remember to revert back upon your return.\u00a0 You\u2019ll sound totally out of it with a message that says you\u2019ll be unavailable \u2026 until a week ago. Increasingly I hear voice mail messages that request that instead of leaving a voicemail, callers send a text or an email. This is a controversial practice. \u00a0It may turn off some callers, especially prospective or existing clients. \u00a0To decide if it\u2019s appropriate: Consider the employee\u2019s role. Most business owners I know want those in sales to be as available as possible, not hard to reach. On the other hand, for a software developer who works 90% of the time in his workspace coding, such a message may be no big deal. Consider what\u2019s standard in your industry.\u00a0 In tech businesses and online businesses, using email is far more prevalent than using the phone. 4. Know where NOT to talk. \u00a0Just in case you want to provide a refresher for your team about where it\u2019s NOT acceptable to talk, let\u2019s go down the list: Libraries, museums and places of worship: Shhhh\u2026 is the rule here. No talking, period. Restaurants: avoid it.\u00a0 Even though there is noise in restaurants, a phone conversation stands out and disturbs others. In some restaurants you may be asked to leave \u2013 not to mention getting dirty looks from other patrons.\u00a0Coffee shops, on the other hand, are noisier and more casual, and calls tend to be more acceptable in the hubbub. Meetings, conferences and events: \u00a0Make it become second nature to turn off cell phones upon entering. Set a good example. If you do this in internal meetings in your company, your staff will get used to doing it in all meetings and events. Finally, please remember not to talk in places that involve running water and flushing. 'Nuff said. 5. Speak softly and carry a big stick. This one is for people who talk loudly on their cell phones. Oops, I mean, that you should avoid talking loudly on your cell phone. How many times have you been subjected to someone nearly shouting to overcome a bad connection? Don\u2019t be that person. And now ... a word about using the speakerphone mode of your phone. All right, I get that you may be tired of holding your phone up to your ear. But the answer is not to use your phone\u2019s (or tablet\u2019s!) speakerphone mode in an open office or public place. Get a headset. Then you can carry on a long call without your arm or ear going numb, and with less disturbance to others. 6. Ditch that wild ringtone. While I am somewhat joking about this one, you might want to pick discreet ring tones versus that acid-rock ringtone you uploaded to your phone. If a phone rings while you are in an important meeting, and you forgot to shut it off, you don\u2019t want to regret your ringtone on top of annoying everyone. 7. Avoid speaking about private matters in public places. \u00a0We business owners may know this, but do our employees and independent contractors? \u00a0Judging from how many times have I've overheard conversations in coffee shops discussing performance appraisals or confidential business deals, I\u2019d say many teams need a refresher. Mobile phones fool us -- we forget and start behaving as if it\u2019s just us and the person we\u2019re talking with.\u00a0 As Judi Hembrough of\u00a0Plantronics\u00a0says, \u201cGet out of your own \u2018privacy bubble\u2019 and pay attention to your surrounding environment.\u201d \u00a0Imagine what the party on the other end might think should they realize you've been discussing their sensitive matters, in a restaurant. 8. Plan ahead for good reception.\u00a0In preparation for a taking or making a call outside the office, make sure you can get good cell phone coverage in that area. Nothing disrupts your ability to create rapport on an important business call more than when you keep hearing, \u201cCould you repeat that? You broke up there.\u201d \u00a0If reception is an issue on your end, offer to find a place with better reception and call back as soon as possible. 9. Keep your mind on your driving! \u00a0You realize that texting and even speaking on a call while operating a motor vehicle is a risky thing \u2013 but do all of your staff members know it\u2019s an important issue to your company? \u00a0Every year people die in vehicle accidents involving mobile devices. You endanger colleagues who are in the car with you, too -- \u00a0the ultimate breach of etiquette. That\u2019s why talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving is banned in 10 states, and texting while driving is banned in 39 states here in the U.S. More and more companies are adopting a strict \u201cno talking or texting while driving\u201d policy while on company business. If you decide to make it your policy, Distracted.gov has a sample employee policy that you can download. (Download .doc policy here.) 10. Secure your mobile device with a locking password. While this may seem to fall outside of basic courtesy, think about all of the information available via your phone, much of it private and referencing others. \u00a0In a Honey Stick project last year involving 50 intentionally \u201clost\u201d cell phones, nearly every phone\u2019s private information was accessed by the person who found it \u2014 whether with innocent intent or not. \u00a0Lose your phone, and it\u2019s like revealing all your company information and personal information to boot. Feel free to share some of your stories below in the comments regarding how to maintain polite behavior when using a cell phone in public or in the office. Photo credits via Shutterstock: Rude, Loud,\u00a0Texting.