Sunday, August 16, 2009

You Are What You Look Like - Small Business

You may have holes in your shoes,
but don't let the people out front know it.
Shine the tops.

—Earl Hines (musician)

I happened to be in the city recently and stumbled upon a store that supplies business clothing for men and women. Times have certainly changed since the only uniform shops sold blue workman's pants, overalls and steel-cap boots.

This store was quite interesting to me, they had a great range, classic pieces, that would be well received in business or smart dressing after work. Great because the items were all priced to the market and no more and in many cases cheaper than the department store Usual Suspects charge. The department stores of course, don't always have stock that is quite right for the business environment.

And I got to thinking about corporate dress and how that has improved over time, and what the situation is in small business.

Quite different.

There are so many areas that small business struggles with compared to corporate businesses. In corporations, systems (good or otherwise) are a standard part of doing business. Not so in small business.

Struggling with running a business without beginning with a good system in place, means that there is always going to be stress related directly to that lack of a systemic approach, and managing the inevitable crises that happen, in addition to the day-to-day stuff that has to happen. The stress plays out for the owner of the business, the staff of the business, and commonly, the customers of the business. Many times it affects the financial wellbeing of the business too.

Attending to planning and strategic issues is often regarded as "not important" as the customer complaining on the phone. There can be a disconnect with what's vital in the business, for it's long term health - and the actually petty but urgent "must fix this now" stuff. Stuff that exists very often, because there are no good systems to deal with it!

Dress for business is an area that gets less attention than most. And yet that whole way that we present our business - our printed material, our online presence, how we answer the phone and how we dress - all communicate with our customers what we think of our business and them and what we think of ourselves.

Really, it is time for small business to lift it's game and start presenting to the world as a business - not like amateurs playing at running a business.

Stand up and be counted as serious contenders.

How do you approach dress in your business? Your feedback is most appreciated.

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