WHEN TO WEAR A SUIT AND TIE - A TWO PART SERIES
By Ron Pestone PART 1
If you are building a company, sooner or later you will have to make the decision; do I leave my work boots and jeans home when trying to close a contract or put on a suit and tie to make it happen as a businessman.
I like so many others have experienced this dilemma. Starting my career in the field I had a natural distrust for guys who showed up on the job looking like they stepped out of a fashion magazine. We called them, “the suits” and if you worked in the field the unspoken law was, tell them nothing or at worse as little as possible. The foreman will do any talking that needs to be done. Smile, appear to be helpful but just give them the cook’s tour.
Besides, I just didn’t want to dress up like a penguin. They could either take me as I was or they could take a long walk down a short pier. This was coming from a guy who really wanted to make it. Not the brightest position to take or to put it where it really belongs, not the sharpest tool in the shed. It’s hard for me to understand today how a guy who wanted to make it and knew dressing as a businessman would only help insisted on fighting it.
Before I tell my story I invite anybody who has suffered this dilemma to share it on www.elmpost.com . It will make great reading, generate some laughter and maybe help somebody else suffering from this dilemma. So feel free to share your experience with us.
The one area of the business I cannot speak on is contracting with the homeowner. My whole career has been commercial and industrial most of which was public works projects. Hi-rise apartments buildings and hotels for developers as well as schools, sewerage treatments plants, transportation, etc. So I really do not know what works best when entering a contract with a homeowner. If you show up in a suit and tie is it too much? Are you seen as a slick salesman? If you show up in work boot and jeans does that make the right impression or perhaps the middle ground, pressed slacks and dress shirt without a tie?
I guess showing up looking like you slept on a park bench the previous night slurping a beer you might have a problem. But that is just a guess since I haven’t worked that part of the business. I leave that to others who know and maybe they will share their experiences here.
But I have done lots of commercial and industrial work and I can tell you this, when you are trying to close a deal dressing the part can only help you. It will sure as hell never hurt you. Now I do not mean you show up in a tux or even a three piece suit but a nice suit or dress pants and a sports jacket go a long way.
Owners are concerned about two things when they sign a contractor up. One, does he know his trade. And two, is he a good enough businessman to handle the sums of money I am going to give him as his work progresses? Does he know how to run his business?
Usually a little informal discussion about the project and how you intend to progress the work take care of the first one. It takes between 2 and 5 minutes of discussion for an individual to make the judgment that you know what you are talking about or you are way over your head.
Now the second concern that is the hard one to get over when signing your first contract with a new client. While you’re sitting there giving your pitch he is most probably thinking will this guy be able to successfully finish the contract I am giving him? Is he going to pay all his labor, taxes, vendors and suppliers what is rightfully due them? Is this a problem guy?
It doesn’t matter if the contract is in the thousands, tens of thousands or millions. If it’s bonded or unbounded. No one wants a bucket of trouble. Forget the price you are willing to take the job for. It doesn’t matter how much he is saving if he has to spend the next couple of years in the courts fixing the mess you made. Or maybe even worse trying to get the bonding company to step up to the plate.
To spend a fortune in time and money because he saved some real dollars signing a guy who turned out to be a dud is every General Contractors and owners nightmare. Nobody and I mean nobody wants that.
Now I understand being a sharp dresser is not a guarantee for anything. In fact some of the sharpest dressers in business are little more than thieves. While Wall Street has many fine people it also has its share of sharp dressers who would pull the gold filling out of your teeth just for the exercise. Mind you their brokers not dentist. But that is a different story. We are talking about the impression you make and when it’s time to put on the robes. If nothing else is true first impressions count and you really want it to be a good one if your intention is to bring the bacon home.
While most people are not elated sitting with someone in a shark skinned suit and enough gold on that he is glittering they are just as miserable sitting with a slob who looks like he just crawled out of a sewer. Neither will be getting a contract and at best they will become a punch line.
Continued in Part 2