Deer In Headlines
Gery L. Deer
One of the reasons that many small and home-based business people are not taken as seriously by mainstream professionals is because they don’t take themselves seriously enough. Remember, you are no less important than any other business leader, no matter how large the company. But you have to believe it yourself before others will and show your confidence in your appearance and behavior.
Regardless of your workspace or the size of your business, your value is no less than that of someone working in a Fortune 100 company on the 26th floor of a skyscraper. But, how you are perceived by the outside world can make or break your livelihood. If, for example, you show up for a meeting with a new customer looking like you just rolled out of bed or stepped off the treadmill at the gym, people are less likely to give you the outward credibility you may be due.
Working from home has something of a stigma attached to it, put there by the mainstream professional world. Some business people believe that if you built your business from home, rather than tossing in thousands in overhead to have a posh office somewhere, you must be unprofessional and not be worth your weight. That, of course, is nonsense.
Unless you need retail space or a specific kind of work environment where people would be coming to you, build your business from home, have pride in what you do, and work your way up. Keep in mind that, at least for the last couple of hundred years, one of the most powerful people on earth has worked from home – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to be precise. But, with the exception of Thomas Jefferson, who is said to have met dignitaries in a bathrobe and slippers, most American presidents conduct themselves professionally and dress in contemporary business attire for their workday.
Unlike the concept of having a single kind of outfit when dressing for a job interview, work attire should become a staple of your wardrobe. Be consistent with what you wear so whenever you are out in a business-related situation you present an image of professionalism and you don’t look uncomfortable in the role.
We are talking more about basics here, not so much style. Style is a secondary level altogether and I am the last person to be able to offer that kind of advice. For men, you can’t go wrong with a navy blue business suit, white shirt and a tie. Ladies, keep it conservative. Knee-length skirt or slacks with a blazer, something along those lines.
You don’t need to shell out a lot of cash, either. Forget the $5,000 Armani suit. Local thrift stores hold a treasure trove of business attire, but it might take some legwork to find something modern and in the right size.
Professionals in the skilled trades like plumbers, electricians and contractors, aren’t immune to this problem, but full business dress might be overkill in most cases – except in specific circumstances. You will still want to put on a shirt and tie when attending important meetings or talking with finance or investment personnel.
It’s not just about clothing, however. The number one complaint I get about small business owners, particularly home-based professionals is a lack of punctuality. Nothing makes you look less professional than arriving late to an appointment, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve met with someone or when your presence is essential to the activity. And trust me when I say this, no one cares about your excuses.
My high school band director had a saying he used to drum into us on a daily basis, “To be early is to be on time; to be on time is to be late; and to be late is to be left behind.” What he meant was, be early to your appointments so you’re always prepared if you happen to have a delay or need to adjust for an unexpected change in the agenda. I recommend arriving at least 15 minutes early for any business appointment. Be brief, be bright, be consistent, be professional and you’ll find the success you are working toward.