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John Daly

Relationships

John Daly: Why Image Building Is So Important for You

I am hard at work on my next book, which is entitled 73 Skills for a Happy, Successful Life (AKA “How to Live the Good Life”). I thought I’d share a portion of the book on building an image because this is such a critical skill that too many overlook.

When I opened my first business in 1976, I recall that I was broke but had an idea I was sure could work. I wanted to open a business that would do events only. Yes, we would do décor, catering and entertainment but focus on events only.

I borrowed $500 from a dear friend who had a great deal of faith in me. I took $250 of that loan and went out and purchased two very expensive outfits. I treated those two outfits like they were gold, because they were. They were my first key to success.

I drove an old, battered Ford van. It still worked fine and was all I could afford. To not embarrass myself in front of clients, I would get ready to go visit my top-of-the-line wealthy prospects in one of my outfits and drive my old van near to the meeting site. Then, I would park two blocks away and walk to the actual meeting location.

I did not want anyone seeing what I was driving, but I did want them to see that I could afford expensive clothing, which in my mind made me look successful. Because I felt like I looked successful, I acted the part and had an air of confidence about me.

Don’t confuse that look with arrogance. I walked into an appointment, and it worked. Wealthy people can smell money and see when you are wearing it. My outfits and attitude gave them enough confidence in me to give me their business.

Soon I had photographs of events I’d produced for the best names in Los Angeles to add to my “package.”

This was my first experience with building a positive identity. I later got a wonderful piece of advice from the same friend who had given me the loan (which I paid back quickly after winning contracts) when I became more successful.

The advice? Be careful of the car you drive when you meet with clients. Clients don’t want to see you drive up to their homes in an expensive car, because the first thing they will think is “Am I paying for that car?” Buy a Bentley, but keep it in the garage for the weekends and not for days that you are working. Keep your image classic rather than ostentatious.

Depending on where you are going you will want to be flexible with your image and make sure you are wearing something that will make you fit in, not stand out.

For example, I had a meeting with corporate executives at Gap headquarters. I was dressed to the “nines” with suit, tie, nice shoes and belt. Upon entering, I noticed corporate team members were dressed in business casual attire.

Then it hit me! I was overdressed and off-brand! I immediately ran to the restroom, took off my coat and tie, opened my shirt collar and ruffled my hair a bit. I then threw my jacket over my shoulder, added a bit of swagger to my walk when I entered the marketing department, and went in to meet the execs. I fit right in.

The last thing I wanted to do was not understand their branding and not fit into their environment. I was twice the age of almost everyone working at Gap, so I needed to display that “I may be old but I do have style and can help.”

By the way, I got Gap as a client, and we worked together for many years.

People are most confident speaking with those with whom they can relate. The first way they will know that is by the way you look. Some people may take issue with this because they don’t feel they are being themselves if they dress a certain way. I have even had people comment that they feel it is dishonest. However, I think it is plain smart.

So, if you are in business, starting a new business, or planning to make your next career move, think about the importance of building your image.

— John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for good manners and job search success. Click to learn more about The Key Class, or to buy the book.  Follow John on Facebook and Twitter @johnjdalyjr. Do you have an etiquette question? ASK John at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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