Blog entry

Professional Closet

What’s in your professional closet? Small businesses take on many shapes and forms across every industry. With that said, our work wardrobes may take on several different appearances. While being a small business owner allows for room to make decisions about your wardrobe without constraint, there are several things to keep in mind.

We unfortunately live in a world where first impressions mean a lot. Studies show people make their assessment of a person within the first few seconds of seeing them. Further, the amount of time that passes after those first seconds does not make a difference in the opinion formed. Before someone speaks for the first time, an impression has already been made about the persons expected personality, occupation and intelligence. Appearance, posture and clothing choice help determine the outcome of a first impression. Someone who presents themselves in a clean and tidy manner has a greater chance for people to relate to them in a positive manner after the first impression has been formed.

Before you go design a new professional wardrobe or keep wearing your weekend clothes, there are a couple questions to think about. What industry is your business a part of? What are your industry work attire standards? What type of business activities will you be doing?

Depending on your industry, your work wardrobe could be anything from a suit, to coveralls. Your line of work may decide the type of wardrobe you own before you can decide for yourself. For example, for a mechanic, coveralls are a much better option to protect yourself and your clothing than a suit. Further, your industry may specify the type of attire that is either required by professionals in the field or is the “status quo”. When starting out as a small business, your best bet is to dress professional and job appropriate. How you dress yourself for the job the customer is expecting you to perform, will help determine the confidence the customer has in your ability to perform the work.

Different types of business activity will require you to have different types of attire. If your business requires you to make cold calls to clients’ homes or other businesses, this provides a great opportunity to wear your logo and represent your company. You could easily wear a shirt and ball cap with your logo on it, paired with fresh jeans or dress pants. Remember that your outfit should be professional and clean. If you are a subcontractor, be mindful of the way the other employees dress while on the jobsite. In an office setting, this may mean having a pair of clean shoes. Meanwhile, on an outdoor jobsite, this may mean wearing long sleeves.

Your professional closet may contain items meant for more specific purposes than your everyday work. These could include attending networking events, attending events your business has contributed to, conducting presentations, or attending and presenting at a tradeshow. In any of the above situations, you and your business will be center of attention for at least a few minutes in several potential customers’ lives. At any of the events, it would be advisable to dress more professionally than during your regular business activities. Polish your shoes and iron out any wrinkles in your shirt or pants. A polished look puts you in the right place to make valuable first and lasting impressions on everyone you meet and see. Always remember that posture and appearance go hand-in-hand with your clothing choice when making a first impression.

For small businesses with employees, it may be a good idea to set guidelines or expectations for working attire. As employees are representatives of your company and brand, their first impressions on your customers count.

Do you allow open toed shoes, shorts, or ripped articles of clothing in the workplace? Do you want your employees to match with shirts that show your logo? Do you allow graphic t-shirts not displaying your logo at the workplace? Do you care if your employees wear jeans or dress pants? Does your business sell items of clothing that employees could show off by wearing?

When setting the clothing guidelines in any industry, always remember safety factors. Also, analyze the practicality and functionality of the wardrobe to make sure everything is affordable and comfortable for your employees. If you do require your employees to wear things that they would not wear anywhere else, such as shirts with logos or coveralls, you could win employer of the year for trying to provide the items at a discount or as part of their employment contract. Lastly, if you set guidelines, be sure to follow them yourself.

Overall, whatever your job may be, it is always wise to have a professional work wardrobe. While the goal to impress others may seem superficial, you only get one chance to make a lasting impression on everyone you meet. Make that first impression count by making sure your small business work closet is up to standards.

By Alexis Forseille

Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin

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About Community Futures

For over 25 years, we’ve been fostering entrepreneurship in rural BC. We offer small business loans, business counseling and specialized programs to help you start or grow a business, and to help communities become more resilient and dynamic.

266 Oliver Street
Williams Lake, BC
V2G 1M1

Phone: (250)392-3626
Toll free: (888)879-5399
Fax: (250)392-4813