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Dress for the perception of success 17 Aug 2015

If you think your attire is not important in business, think again.

Perception, as they say, is everything. It’s also said that first impressions count.

So what’s the perception your clients — and potential clients — get from your dress sense, and what first impressions do you convey?

What you wear, as much as what you say, will convey your business as trustworthy, efficient and friendly, or dodgy, sloppy and surly.

If you’re a plumber, your clients are not going to expect you to arrive for work in a suit and tie. But they will expect you to be clean and tidy. That means you might need a second (or third) set of clean overalls if you’ve just finished a particularly messy job.

If you’re in the customer service business, such as sales or running a cafe, attire is even more important. Perceptions of your product and service will be determined as soon as a customer sets eyes on you. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself what impression your clothes convey.

Expect the same standards from your staff and those who represent you.

A friend once employed a sales representative who seemed fine in the interview. Later, clients complained that he always wore a crumpled suit and simply smelled bad. He didn’t last long with the firm because he was affecting not only sales, but also the image of the company.

Dress also for different situations and audiences.

Consider the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras (above), who might sometimes wear a suit and tie, but he went to the do-or-die meeting about the Greek bailout wearing no tie.

This was an important meeting, surely, and he was a head of state representing his country.

But he was also negotiating the economic future of his country, which he knew would bring even more austerity measures for an already stressed population.

He was not out to impress the other European leaders — he was making a statement to Greece. The statement was that he was also feeling the pain, and he wasn’t going to be so callous as to wear a flash suit and tie.

Remember also that fashions change, and people’s expectations change.

A suit and tie or conservative business skirt and blouse for professional business people might have been appropriate 10-15 years ago, but not necessarily now.

People are more accepting of casual attire, but they will still take note of untidy, dirty or inappropriate attire. If it’s casual, clean and tidy it will win the day.

If you’re in the trades or customer service, branded clothing is important, too.

Firstly, it’s another form of marketing, rather like sign writing on the company car or van. Secondly, it can resolve issues of staff dress.

One local cafe owner was having difficulty getting staff to wear appropriate clothing to work. They had branded T-shirts, but would often arrive at work in torn jeans and/or jandals.

The cafe solved the problem by providing trousers and skirts to match their tops, and implemented a dress code for footwear.

If you’re not sure what you should be wearing, ask a well-dressed friend or colleague for advice. Consider also going to a reputable clothing store and simply asking the sales staff. Look for someone experienced who might be close to your age.

Staff in the good stores are usually more than happy to help out.

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