“How business owners are dressed has always made an impression on me when they’re pitching their business. You can be underdressed. You can never be overdressed. If you’re courteous enough to be on time and dress appropriately it will be noticed. It shows me that you respect me and take the meeting seriously. My philosophy is to always dress well, and be 30 minutes early rather than 30 seconds late.”
— Clive Butkow, venture capitalist, Grovest; former COO of Accenture.
Mention the word stylist and you immediately conjure images of high-end wardrobes, designer labels and Toy Poms in Gucci handbags.
Janine Starkey, founder of House of Janine, does all of these things (sans the Toy Pom), but her mission is so much greater. She’s determined to educate corporate South Africa on the importance of dressing for success, and with clients like Discovery, FNB, KPMG and PwC, she’s already making her mark.
“As a general rule, South African men are pretty confident,” says Starkey. “So confident that they don’t often worry about style and how they’re presenting themselves. On the one hand, it’s a great quality. You want to be confident. Success follows confidence. But first impressions are a real thing, and you can’t make a first impression twice.
How you dress is also a non-verbal cue for those around you. You can put a wealth of information into what you’ve worn to a meeting: How seriously you take the meeting, how much you respect the client or colleague you’re meeting with, even how seriously you take yourself and your own abilities.”
On this point Starkey will not waver. First impressions count. “There’s an example that always resonates with me,” she says.
“An investment consultant had contacted me and we’d agreed to a meeting at my home. He arrived in an old, unkempt, dirty car. That first impression was impossible to forget. Here was someone trying to convince me to give them my money, and yet he didn’t seem capable of growing his own wealth. More than that, he took no pride in appearances. It was very hard to take him seriously.” This is true of any meeting. How you project yourself is sub-consciously working on everyone in the room.
“We make assumptions and impressions all the time. You can either use this to your advantage or disadvantage. It’s up to you.”
If you want to show a strong, confident business person who knows what they’re talking about, step one is dressing the part. It sounds simple, yet so often this truth is forgotten or ignored.
“Whether it’s a client meeting, a pitch, an interview — you want to leave an impression. Will you be remembered? Evaluate yourself critically. What do you think people remember about their interactions with you?”
“You’re not just creating the right impression,” says Starkey. “How you dress can influence your own performance too. If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you operate at an optimal performance level,” she says, referring to House of Janine’s mantra, ‘look good, feel good, perform.’