Dress the Part

Recently I’ve had multiple conversations about how to dress for business. The days of wearing a suit to work everyday are gone for most professions. I’ve actually seen my dad’s work attire change drastically over the years from the suit, to the dress shirt & slacks, to wearing a company polo style shirt with khakis. Things have become more casual in the workforce overall.

An important decision about my wardrobe came when I presented to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) here in New Orleans two weeks ago. They asked me to discuss business-to-business marketing up on stage in front of 200+ people. As a presenter, I need to look the part and be professional. First thought, wear a suit, maybe without the tie. I checked in on the first day of the conference and checked out the room I was speaking in (good things too because it was much different that I expected) and saw everyone was wearing jeans and company shirts. If I wore a suit, I’d stick out like a sore thumb. I decided on wearing jeans and dressing it up with a button down shirt & sports coat – a good balance between this group’s blue-collar background and the professional presenter image I wanted to reflect.

Why am I talking about clothing anyway? It’s part of your personal brand and your company’s brand – its a uniform. In construction, it is par for the course that everyone in the field is wearing jeans, hard hat & steel toe boots. What about for your business development team? They have to be more versatile. You can not walk into the CEO of a hospital’s office wearing jeans & boots and expect him to take you serious and accept your dress as part of the industry. Remember the old adage, “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” It applies for business development too. Your jeans and tshirt may work if you’re building warehouses for mom & pop companies, but as you grow your company, you need to grow your wardrobe.