There are ten days remaining in 2010. What will you do with them?
With any luck, these next two weeks will allow you a little extra breathing room in your consulting business, and it is the perfect time to actively prepare your business for your best year yet -- recession notwithstanding!
In the next ten days I'm going to post a daily activity to help reorient and recharge your business for a profitable New Year, and I invite you to not just follow along, but take action.
Upgrade Your Appearance
As time slips by for busy professionals like yourself, it is easy to fall behind in appearances. Astonishingly, most small business professionals fail to recognize that a healthy-looking and well-put-together presentation is a tremendous business advantage.
Take a little time before the end of the year to upgrade yourself. This can mean any number of things, and there is no way a blog post like this can pinpoint what you need to get your image and "personal brand" optimized. Areas where you can explore reasonable, achievable upgrades that won't break the bank include:
• Wardobe. Jackets feeling a little tight? Clothes not hanging just right anymore? So fine, maybe your body has changed shape a little in the four years (fourteen?) since you bought that suit. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but do take action. Retailor your professional wardrobe so everything hangs right, and if needed, get a few new essential pieces so you can make the best impression at client meetings. This is also a great time to send any backlog of mending and pressing to your dry cleaners to get fixed up. And don't neglect your shoes -- whether they just need a good shine, or it's time to get a few new pairs, do what it takes. Clueless about fashion and what will look good on you? Engage the services of a personal shopping consultant at your local mall or department store -- it is often complimentary -- or bring a savvy friend who will give you honest feedback.
• Business Props. Take a hard look at your briefcase. Your laptop. Purse or wallet. Writing pens. Phone? Maybe even your car? What are the "business props" that you carry around and show up at meetings and client sites with? If your briefcase is a beater, your wallet is overstuffed with receipts, and your car is filthy, it's time to do something. What do these objects say about you? You don't need to run out and buy a new car or laptop, but it is important to realize how these objects are symbols of yourself. Make sure they look clean and presentable, and as high end as the bill rate you're asking for. Carry good pens. Use good technology, especially if your expertise is all about IT. And as for the car, you never know when a client meeting is going to turn into a lunch, and you could be tapped to drive. You don't need to drive a new BMW to make a good impression -- just be sure your vehicle is neat and presentable, and that paperwork from other clients is not strewn about amongst the fast food wrappers.
• Smile. Great teeth = great trust. It might sound shallow, but the cosmetics of a great smile makes a big difference in how people feel about you on a gut level. Whether you’re due for just a simple cleaning and whitening, or it is finally time to consider some natural looking cosmetic work, the ROI on a visit to the smile doctor to brighten up your grin cannot be denied.
• Hair (if applicable!). There's something that happens to a person who no longer works 9-5 in the corporate environment. Free from the corporate handbooks and the daily scrutiny of colleagues, entrepreneurs and consultants often begin to feel that their professionalism and skills speak for themselves, and that the need for modern grooming no longer applies to them. At consultant networking parties, I've seen eyebrows that a sparrow could nest in, and hairstyles perfectly preserved from 1978. This sort of "individualism" can go a long way, so long as the work is virtual, but once live meetings come into play, your personal grooming is going to be in the spotlight. Get a professional, modern update to your hair. Bonus points if you don't go to the same hair cutter or barber who's been taking care of you for the last twenty years without changing a thing. Remember, this blog post is about an upgrade.
• Fitness. You don't have to start training for a triathlon or lose thirty pounds to get some immediate benefits from exercise. Sometimes, a slight increase from your ordinary activity level, such as adding a weight training session twice a week, can do wonders to lift your posture, increase your energy level, and make your clothes fit a little neater. I'm not proposing any kind of extreme makeover here -- just pull yourself away from your computer cave a few times a week and get in some walking or stairclimbing, or find a group fitness class or yoga studio that you like enough to stick with.
Whatever upgrading your appearance means to you, a few small changes can make a big difference in preparing yourself for a profitable 2011 in your consulting business. I hope these tips give you not just something to think about, but tasks to take real action on.
Stay tuned for the next nine days as I offer more ideas to prepare yourself for an awesome new year, and leave a comment if you think of other ways consultants like yourself need to upgrade their appearance in front of clients.
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