Call me old fashioned, but I rarely leave home without making sure I look nice. Yes, there are those days when I'm not all gussied up, but I never leave home dressed in such a way I'd feel uncomfortable if I ran into customers or clients.
People make fun of me sometimes because of my focus on appearance. A lot of friends say, "It doesn't matter. No one cares." But people make assumptions about you and your abilities based on your appearance.
Since the 1990's there's been a shift in what's considered appropriate business attire. Leading experts proclaimed employees would be more productive if they dressed casually and comfortably at work. So companies started permitting team members to trade in business suits for a more casual wardrobe.
Today, the pendulum is beginning to swing back, however. Experts are finding casual attire often results in casual or sloppy performance. In fact, in a recent edition of The New York Enterprise Report, Guy Kawasaki said, "Likeability starts with a great smile, a great handshake and appropriate dress." Though they are duh'isms, many people don't do them. In fact, most people don't do them.
As a business owner, it's important to recognize that what you wear and how you look is an important element of your business brand. Whether you like it or not, people have a tendency to make immediate impressions of your professionalism from your appearance. Dressing professionally provides instant credibility and signals to clients, customers and colleagues that they're working with someone who takes the position seriously.
Think about the image you want your employees, customers and clients to have about your business. Are you dressing in a way that reflects that same image? As a business owner, you should develop a personal style that makes a statement about your business. You want to project confidence, credibility and character.
It's not only important for you to dress appropriately, but you also want to set a tone for your employees. After all, how can you expect your employees to dress professionally if you're dressing like a slob?
Here are some general guidelines that may help you establish a policy for your company.
- Never wear clothing that makes a political or cause-related statement, unless it is directly tied to your business. For example, don't wear political buttons or t-shirts with controversial material. While the great thing about this country is that we have the freedom to express our opinion, in business it is best not to alienate a customer or client. Unfortunately, many people make quick and unfair judgments about others based on their beliefs.
- Always dress in good taste. Not every business requires you to wear a suit everyday, but avoid pop-culture trendy attire. Clothing that is revealing or appears un-kept will not present the professional image your company needs.
- Overwhelming accessories such as heavy jewelry or cumbersome bags are not recommended. You want your customer or client to focus on you and not be distracted by Christmas tree ornament earnings or a disorganized, overflowing briefcase.
People do judge a book by its cover. Make sure your business book has a cover that makes it a best seller.