If you have been in the corporate world for more than five years you have heard of ‘Causal Friday’. And, over the past five years small businesses have been hearing about the need to develop a professional ‘Business Image’. So, what does Business Image mean and what does it have to do with Casual Friday?
Business Image is something every business needs to pay more attention to in this world of multiple levels of competition. Simply put, how you, or your employees, look, and act, is your business’ image.
If you want to know what your Business Image currently is, take a close look in the mirror just before you step out to go to work. What you see is your business image. Is it good or is it bad?
Gentlemen, if you have to coat and tie on you are heading in the right direction. Ladies, if you have the business suit on you are on track. IF you are going to meet a customer and you have on your sweat suit, you may want to think how this image will come across to your client. Now, if you were meeting them at the health club, then you might be dressed appropriately. But if you are meeting them at a restaurant or in the office, your business image will not be too good.
Writing it off that it is ‘Casual Friday’ will not repair the damage done to your business’ image. Causal Friday has become a cancer to a business’ image. But fortunately there is a cure…
Your employees play a big part of how your business is portrayed in the marketplace. What your customers see when they see your employees is your business’ image.
The adage of the ‘first Impression being the most important impression’ and ‘the taking a first step towards building a solid business relationship’ is as good today as when it was first mentioned many years ago. In today’s marketplace, Business Image is looked at very closely when it comes time to choose who someone is going to spend their money with, or do business. The first impression may become the last impression a potential customer may have of your business if you, your employees or business has a less than professional image.
Simply put, if you were looking for someone to service your business’ needs would you pick a business that takes a casual approach to their appearance or whose appearance does not reflect any level of professionalism.
What has taking place over the past five years is that Casual Friday has gotten totally out of hand. Look around you today and you will see the effects of an entire generation who is a product of the Casual Friday. Causal Friday is now Casual Everyday. The influx of the .COM’s in the 80’s where billionaires were made overnight substantiated that dressing to ‘not impress’ can be profitable. And the fashion industry dug in by creating an entire line of apparel making it acceptable in the workplace to look as if you just got out of bed.
What started as a way for the stuffy three piece suit executives to portray an image of being ‘one-of-you’ in an attempt to promote morale amongst the employee base has now become a game of ‘how casual can you go?’. In the beginning there were rules put in place that outlined what could and could not be worn on Casual Friday. But as is the case of today’s society the need to be different tested the rules. Again, not wanting to be the ‘bad guy’ the executives would lessen the rule to a point of not enforcing the dress codes to avoid a morale deflating conflict in the workplace.
Regrettably, the Causal Friday’ dress code also has produced a by-product of causal production. What was suppose to boost production by improving moral backfired to produce an attitude of ‘if I can dress casually, this most mean I can take a casual approach at doing the work I am paid to do’ amongst the employee base.
The causal dress of the last 25 years cannot be blamed entirely on the dismantling of large corporate workforces, but the massive layoffs in the late 90’s and early 2000’s is the result of lower than expected productivity. And, these layoffs filled the unemployment lines with thousands of men and women who never learned, or had to learn, to dress professionally.
As a result, these well trained executives, managers and production workers have been let loose into the small business world to dig-out a living. Small business owners who are wanting to capitalize on this large skilled workforce are now having to deal with the ‘business Image’ problem left behind by the companies that went under partly due to not having a good ‘business image’.
The casual image is still with us to day and there is a place for casual appearance in a business’ image, but there is a fine line that separates appropriate casual and sloppiness. Once that line is crossed the professional business image tanks. And nobody wants to do business with someone who appears to not think enough of themselves to dress appropriately.
Business Imagery is not limited to the small business. In today’s large corporations, dressing sloppy can effect productivity. Usually the large employee base of corporations has to work as a team to get the job done. When one, or more, of the employees dress extremely casual it sends a negative message to the rest of the team. The message sometimes is interpreted as being ‘not caring’ about the results the team is to achieve as a whole. This starts the disdain that results in hours of extra management of the situation.
There are simple solutions to maintaining a proper Business Image. Step one is to set an example and make looking in the mirror each morning part of your business day. If when you look into the mirror you do not see someone you would want to do business with, you better make a change. Step two is to clearly outline the business’ expectations of the image to be portrayed everyday. This can be done by establishing a dress code and sticking to it.
Over time, and with diligent management of the image you demand of yourself and employees, the professional business image will be what every customer and business client sees when they see you or your employees. It starts with you and ends with increase productively that lead to greater profits in your business.
Remember, the steps you take today to establish Business Image will help to keep you in business.
(Above is an excerpt from the soon to be published article from CS Duke)
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