You know you’re great.  You know you’re the expert in your industry.  You know that you can do a good job and give value for money.  You also know that your staff are great at what they do.  You’ve made sure they have the right training and that they know their stuff.

So, your clients will think this too, right?

Well they might. But have you asked them?  Many of you will have client feedback forms or questionnaires – but do they ask this question:

‘What was your first impression of me (as a business owner) AND/OR my staff’ – if you have employees.

If at this stage you’re wondering why you would ask such a question read on.

Man wearing a suit and making a great first impression

The hard facts about first impressions

We form first impressions of someone within seconds of meeting them.  To expand on that, and as Psychology Today points out:

‘Humans are built to size each other up fast. Many factors influence our first impressions of each other. These include facial shape, vocal inflection, attractiveness, and general emotional state. As a result, it’s important to be aware of how we come across to others during a first meeting.  Then we can use impression management skills—modulating any irritating traits and accentuating our strengths—to ensure that people have a more favourable opinion of us.

We can adjust everything, from our clothing style and posture to the way we make conversation to better suit the person we’re trying to impress.’

In practical terms what all that means is this:

  • It takes a potential client or business referrer less than one second to make a whole range of subconscious judgements about you and/or your staff. In a Nano-second that person’s subconscious will decide whether they like, know or trust you enough to provide a service/buy a product from you.
  • It takes a further twenty-one meetings with that person to change their subconscious first impression of you.

Thus, it makes sense and saves a huge amount of time and energy to get it right the first time. 

So, if you’ve got chipped nails, a thread loose on your shirt, scuffed or dirty shoes and lipstick on your teeth (not all at the same time I hope!) it could lose you business.

Female in combat dress demonstrating that you are what you wear

You are what you wear

Deciding what to wear for the day and putting that outfit together could be THE most important business decision you make every day.  What message do you want to convey to the outside world?  What impression do you want to create in your clients mind?  What do you want them to think and say about you when you are not around?  Your clients are your best advertisers, so make sure what they say about you is positive. I’ll give you an example:

When I was still working as a solicitor, I once had a client who told me later that she liked me, because she loved my nail varnish.  Nothing to do with my level of expertise in law at all.  Proof right there that your image can be your key differentiator form your competitors.


Another way to think about what you wear is to see it as a uniform.  What does a uniform do?  Well, it lets everyone know what you do, your level of authority (think stripes in the army) and how they should react to you – ‘I feel safe because you’re a policeman’ for example.

When you get dressed think of what you wear as non-verbal communication to your potential clients.  What message do you want to convey?  Do you want to convey warmth and approachability? Quality and integrity?  Intelligence and authority?  You can do all this simply by choosing the right clothes.

You can even use different colours to influence those around you in different ways.  So, consider with care:

  • The message you wish to convey to the outside word and
  • How you’ll achieve that with your image and style

What you can do right now:

  • Conduct a personal image review with a personal stylist and get your image in line with your business and its core values.
  • Conduct a staff review and see if there is a training need around personal branding.
  • Review your dress code. Is it working for the business? And do your staff understand the parameters?
  • Get a full-length mirror and make sure you look at yourself before you go out – are you business ready?
  • De clutter your wardrobe!

I work with business owners and companies to make sure they get their first impression right for them and I can help with all the above.  This may involve a bit of tweaking or a full revamp. The overall effect is to ensure your first impression is positive and your clients are only saying good things about you!

To find out how I can help with employee workshops or individual image reviews call me on 07538 946 839 or email at