Look better, feel better, do better

It’s what on inside that counts—but appearances sure make a difference. I learned this the hard way several years ago. Okay, it could’ve been worse, but my ego took a hit: Before releasing my first hardcover business book, my agent suggested I get a makeover.

After the initial sting (was there something wrong with the way I looked?!), I went to see a stylist. I was shocked when he suggested I upgrade my perfectly-professional-but-generic suits to designers like Armani. How could I justify that expense? But he made the case that owning even 3 designer suits would serve me better that 15 lower priced ones. Taking a pure leap of faith, I went for it.

To my genuine surprise, upgrading my wardrobe transformed my business. In those elegant threads, I had a whole new presence. Whether walking onto a stage to give a speech, or into a client meeting to close a deal, I was stunned at the attention and respect I seemed to command before I had even opened my mouth. When we look better, we feel better, and carry ourselves better. The suit—and the confidence and energy it gave me—projected a powerful message, Here’s a competent, successful person you can trust.

The results were tangible. My revenue tripled in a matter of a few years. I attracted bigger deals. I won more successful clients. The Armani and Chanel investment paid for itself many, many times over.

Wardrobe isn’t the only tool in our arsenal of making a good impression. Both being organized and looking organized can impact our professional success. My clients view their organizational tools and systems as confidence building “battle gear.” Trial lawyers who appear in court with elegant, high-end binders containing all their case material arranged within perfectly labelled tabs make a tremendous impression on the judge, opposing lawyer and jury. There are accountants who, organized binders in hand, have intimidated auditors with their preparedness; I’ve even heard of the right organizational tools shortening audit times because the accountant looks so in control.

As professionals in the knowledge economy, we’re responsible for synthesizing and referencing a massive amount of information. Our clients, bosses and colleagues are relying on us to take care of them. When our knowledge is contained in beautiful, visibly organized materials, it projects to everyone in the room “I have you”, “I’ve got this.” Nothing feels better than when a client or boss trusts us, and nothing feels worse than being second-guessed.

For better or for worse, presentation matters. And sometimes, in suits, binders, and life, spending a little extra on the “Armani” option pays big dividends.