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An Outfit's Worth a Thousand Words: What Your Uniform Says About You

[caption id="attachment_938" align="aligncenter" width="587"]What Your Clothes Say About You Image source: Wasabinights.com[/caption]   You shouldn't judge a book by its cover! I'm guessing that your parents must have taught you that lesson. It's generally good advice -- you should get to know people for who they are rather than making snap judgments based on their looks. Unfortunately, that's not how the world works. How you look and how you present yourself determines what people think about you in the first 30 seconds of an encounter. Sheila Coates, a branding specialist and founder of Be Your Own Brand, recently spoke to the women of The Story Exchange in New York to show just how important clothes can be in a first encounter.   Though, I'll let Coates speak for herself. She explained as part of her three-step process to creating to building a brand, "An entrepreneur’s personal and business brand/style should speak volumes without saying a word. If Lady Gaga defines herself as 'out of the box' then it makes sense to show up in a meat dress at the MTV awards. If she shows up looking like Nicole Kidman, then she’s not looking like the person she says she is. You can't say you’re “out of the box” and wear a traditional blue suit."   You can get a better sense of what she's talking about in this video:   http://youtu.be/CMW6PdLReBs   So, what can you take away from Coates' advice? Basically, you're sending out a bunch of messages with your business. Your billboards are a message, the way that your employees act is a message, your commercials are a message, and your company uniforms send out a message, too. You want to make sure that all of these messages sync up as much as possible. I mean, if you had a classy, romantic restaurant, you wouldn't advertise your establishment as some sort of sports bar, would you? You'd be sending out two completely different messages that would confuse customers and ultimately hinder business.   It's critically important to make sure that your company uniform matches the message that you're trying to send out. Probably the easiest way to achieve that goal is to come up with sample uniform ideas and run them by your friends or family members. Don't ask people, "Which one of these uniforms is best for the business?" Instead, you should show your family and friends a uniform option and ask them, "What does this uniform say about the person wearing it?"   [caption id="attachment_940" align="aligncenter" width="570"]What Your Clothes Say About You Image source: Ruelala.com[/caption]   That question will give you a much more genuine response. They might say that an embroidered polo is a tad formal while still being approachable, or that a customized v-neck t-shirt is hip and sexy. The important thing is to keep an open mind. Even if you present your friends with five different uniform options, it's entirely possible that every single one of those uniforms is sending the wrong message. Listen to your friends' feedback and tweak the uniform design until you finally come up with a message that fits your business. Once everything is synced up, your company uniforms will send out a clear, concise message to your customers that will, as Sheila Coates puts it, "speak volumes [about your business] without saying a word."  

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