We all have our own tastes, styles, and preferences when it comes to how we dress, style our hair, even what we drive, and one of the great things about running a business from the comfort of home is that we can be exactly who we are with no need to impress anyone.

Like you, I have personal preferences. I love the fact that I can work in my PJ’s during the early hours of the day while I coach overseas clients, and comfortable gym clothes or shorts and a T-shirt during the day.

It’s great that working from home gives us this freedom to dress as we choose, but it’s also important to recognize that this is where it stays – at home.

When you’re out in the community or meeting with clients or prospects, put your personal preferences aside and shift your thinking to image management.

Whether it’s fair or not, the image is critical. How someone perceives you is going to determine whether they will do business with you.

Psychologists have learned that most people will form an impression of you in the first four minutes and that 80 percent of that impression is based on nonverbal data.

What you say has very little impact compared to your visual appearance.

Just like changing packaging for a product can mean the difference between boom or bust, the same can be applied to your physical packaging.

When I met my accountant for the first time, I was stunned. He came out of his office in his socks, his shirt was hanging out of his pants, and he had no tie. His hair was disheveled, and he looked like he had just wrestled a bear.

The first thing that may come to mind is he was having an afternoon cavort with his assistant, but he had a glass window on one side of his office and several support staff surrounding his workspace, so I gathered this was his customary work attire.

Most of what he said to me traveled in one ear and out the other because I was too busy trying to tame the battle going on in my head …

“If he cares that little about his appearance and is that sloppy in his own business, why would he be any different with my finances?”

“Laurie, your colleague recommended him and said he did good work, that’s got to count for something.”

This internal battle dominated our meeting and I left with a pit in my stomach.

In the months that followed, I stayed on top of him like a wild dog on a slab of meat. I didn’t trust his judgment or quality of work. I watched every entry he made like a hawk and double-checked everything he did.

I eventually brought the relationship to an end and transferred my business to another accountant.

Maybe it was shallow and terribly unfair, but the fact remains – appearance does have a major impact on business relationships.

I couldn’t get past my first impression or the subsequent impressions as I continued to visit his office, and if I didn’t call and ask for something, or put a deadline on it, I don’t know if it would have been done.

His poor professional image translated to substandard performance and unfortunately, the two are often connected, and that’s where our perceptions and judgments come into play.

An eternal truth in business is, you will succeed based on what is, not on what it should be.

Physical appearance and its impact on business success has been tested and measured and you can try it out for yourself to demonstrate.

One day, dress casual for meeting prospects and arrive in your aging pick-up truck. The next day, wear a business suit and complement it with accessories like a good quality pen, briefcase, and your newer model car.

You’ll notice a remarkable difference in the results you produce.

You’ll also notice that you’re treated with more respect, courtesy and receive much better service and response than you are when dressed in your “at home” business clothes.

The importance of personal packaging is a fact of business life. It may seem unfair or superficial, but the fact remains – to resist, deny, or ignore it would be disastrous to your success.

Take a few moments to reflect on how you’re presenting yourself to the world. Is there room for improvement? If so, make a change and test it. I’m certain you’ll be impressed by the results.

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