People talk all the time about being ‘authentic’ in business. ‘Showing up as your true self’; ‘incorporating your personal values into your business ethics’ and ‘attracting the right kind of clients’ are the sort of buzzy phrases that are in widespread use.
As an image consultant I am fascinated by how our clothes (or as I like to think of them: ‘our packaging’), affects our mood, our confidence, our behaviour and of course how people react to us.
I’ve always thought of business owners as walking, talking websites.
When you launched your business did you build your homepage yourself, based on a drawing you sketched in your lunchbreak? Did you get one of your kids to take your profile photo? Unless your bestie is a graphic designer, I’m imagining it’s highly unlikely that you asked her to whip up a logo for you?
All of these (and lots of other) business set up activities take time and money, but it’s unusual for any entrepreneur to consider their personal brand. Did you ever stop to consider the look and feel of you as the key representative of your business?
What goes wrong?
When you are out and about – speaking, running workshops, being interviewed or even networking, people aren’t looking at your website, they are looking at you. They are listening to you and they are making judgements. Sometimes it is a conscious judgement, sometimes it is sub-conscious. When you look the way people expect someone who does your job to look, they will remember you. The right kind of people will warm to you, and want to know more.
When something jars in the way you present yourself, you will find it much harder to connect to your ideal clients. It’s not impossible, but it is likely to take longer and you will have to work harder at it.
Louise and Sue
In the last few weeks, two of the women I have worked with were showing up in business in the way they thought that they ‘should’ – that dreadful word.
One, let’s call her Louise, works in a corporate environment and the other, let’s call her Sue, is self-employed, runs a successful business and is often interviewed on TV as the expert in her field.
Both women were choosing to wear suits in neutral colours for their smart work attire. They felt that this is how their clients or the industry expected them to look and yet they both felt inauthentic and ordinary in these uber-smart outfits.
After a full image analysis what I uncovered was really exciting!
Firstly, what they have in common is that, in truth, the colours that love them back (i.e. their authentic colours) are light and vibrant ones. Not grey, navy or black.
For Louise, suits are definitely the order of the day for the work that she does but by adding some beautiful colours into her outfits and changing the style of her tops (and recycling the formal shirts she had been wearing) we brought a femininity and warmth into her look which truly reflects her personality.
Louise was worried that she wouldn’t be taken as seriously if she ditched the neutrals. In fact, she can look and feel like the best version of herself with more confidence and energy and stop quashing the assertive business woman inside of her.
Sue runs her own business and is in the media on a regular basis but she hadn’t quite made the connection between her business brand and her personal image. She thought, as so many women do, that being smart was the key to projecting the right image.
Her brand is young, fun and vibrant and her website reflects her business beautifully. Again, she felt that being on TV meant being suited and booted so that she looked as successful as her business is.
And, although she felt smart in these clothes, she didn’t feel particularly authentic in them. By incorporating softer textures, vibrant colours and more edgy shapes – which really suit her style – we made her look and feel true to herself, successful, in-line with her brand and ready for anything at the drop of a hat.
Your personal image is a reflection of who you are. If it isn’t in alignment with your values, your personality and your brand there is a danger of disconnect between you and your clients or your potential clients.
If you love being suited and booted and it makes you feel slick, sophisticated and in control by all means, stick with it.
But, if it makes you feel severe, dull and something inside you is crying out for more authenticity then ditch the suits and opt for something that truly loves you back. Below are some ideas for you to try, but remember you are an individual and the colours, shapes and styles will only work for you if they love you back.
For help in deciphering your true style click here.