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Neels & Company - Strategic Business Communication
Trusted Advisor
Gretchen Neels
Gretchen Neels, President, Neels & Company

Dear Trusted Advisor

Someone is wearing cologne in my office that hits you as soon as you walk in the room—and by “room,” I mean an area that seats 40. Do I have to sniff them out, and how do I ask them to scale it down?
L. J., Boston, MA

Dear L. J.,

Yes, sniff out Pepé Le Pew – it shouldn’t be difficult. If it’s a peer, have a private conversation, and say that you are highly sensitive to his/her fragrance and ask if they would please not wear it to work. If it’s someone of a higher rank, I suggest you speak with HR. You can’t approach the CFO with, “Gee Maureen, that perfume you’re wearing really stinks up the place,” it just isn’t done.

Many people have allergic reactions to perfume, and certain scents can trigger migraines. Play it safe out there, readers, and go easy on the smelly stuff.



Sign up for your complimentary copy of E4, Effective Email & Electronic Etiquette, our new, no-nonsense guide to sending effective email messages, plus etiquette tips on cell phone and BlackBerry use.

The next few Core Skills Thursday programs will revolve around wardrobe. Listen to the live audio casts Appropriate Dress for Women on August 21st, Appropriate Dress for Men on September 11th and Special Occasion Dressing on September 25th. Click here to learn more.

Congratulations to my colleague, Ari Kaplan, who has just released his new book The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2008). It’s perfect for those looking to create a personal brand and develop business opportunities.


Meet The Parents

A sign in my office reads “Good Clothes Open All Doors.” It’s a quote from Thomas Fuller, a 17th century English clergyman and historian who also said, “A man’s best fortune, or his worst, is his wife,” but that’s for another newsletter. Today I want to examine how and why, now more than ever, your wardrobe can open doors for you.

We have but one chance to make a great first impression. When the economy is good, opportunities abound for capable professionals, often in spite of how little effort they allocate to personal grooming and appearance. However, with an economic downturn comes competition. You’ll want to set yourself apart from your peers and focus on projecting an image of competence, confidence and distinction. Do this by “dressing the part” and knowing your audience.

Think about the theatre for a moment—why do actors wear costumes? To immerse themselves in a particular role and project a character. Dress rehearsal is when actors are in full dress and make-up, one step away from show time. Consider this as you prepare for your next networking event, or meeting with a potential client—think about what “costume” will put you in the right mindset and convey the right message.

All things being equal, if a buyer meets two people at a networking event she feels has the talent, experience and skills to solve her problem, will she choose the one who looks comfortable and relaxed (khakis or jeans and a casual shirt) or the one who looks polished, successful, and ready for business (suit and dress shoes)? In today’s economy, I’ll put my money on the individual who is ready for business.

Knowing your audience is also key. Dressing for success means dressing a notch or two up from your client, audience member, or potential buyer, but not being over-dressed for the situation. When meeting people at an outdoor corporate event, for example, a suit would be too formal, but shorts and flip-flops would also be out of place. Meeting people in a high-tech environment in Silicon Valley is very different from visiting a manager of a Wall Street firm. Develop a “look” that you can fine-tune to fit the scene.

At Neels & Company, we are fond of saying that the magic is in the details. Accessorizing your business attire with well made, high quality accessories, shoes and jewelry is like putting a thick layer of cream cheese frosting on a deliciously dense carrot cake. Yummy. For readers who have no idea what we mean by this, please visit our website where we have shopping lists of must-have wardrobe basics for men and women.

Work your magic by dressing the part at your next occasion, giving yourself the advantage when it comes to generating business. These days, you can’t afford to rely solely on your good name and track record—you must leave a lasting impression on the people you meet so that when opportunity knocks, it does so on your door.

© 2008 Neels & Company - All Rights Reserved

We are the leading provider of soft skills training to professional services firms, covering all areas of business communication.

Neels & Company – Strategic Business Communication
P. O. Box 623, Boston, MA 02117
800-975-7031 ext. 701
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