I love the movie “The Natural,” starring Robert Redford as the mythical baseball player, Roy Hobbs. It’s one of those movies – you know, the one that you just have to stop and watch when you’re channel surfing. It never gets old. It has one of my favorite scenes of dialogue from any movie:
Coach (after saying if he could win the pennant, he’d quit and buy a farm): “My mama wanted me to be a farmer.”
Roy: “My dad wanted me to be a baseball player.”
Coach: “Well, you’re better than anyone I ever had. And, you’re the best goddamn hitter I ever saw. Suit up.”
The other thing I marvel at in the movie is how all of the fans dressed to attend the games. Suits. Dresses. Fancy hats. Wool slacks. Dress shirts. Leather shoes. The fans weren’t even the center of attention, yet they still commanded respect, simply because of how they chose to present themselves in public. To me, the same principle applies in business, in school, and in every day life — dress to impress.
I have built and led a company, Equity Risk Partners, for the past 16 years. It has been, as my Dad likes to say, “modestly successful.” The success, in part, comes from how we present ourselves as a firm to our clients and partners. Business under the leadership of Michael Marcon is a business of trust. We do not sell a tangible product. We sell credibility. We sell responsiveness. We sell trust. I believe potential clients are more inclined to buy from a firm that presents itself professionally rather than one that presents itself casually. I absolutely love it when I wear a suit to visit a client that has a casual dress code because I see it as a sign of respect. They inevitably comment, “You didn’t put on a suit for us, did you?” How great is it to be able to respond, “Yes, I did”? The underlying message to the client is, “You are that important!”
At Equity Risk, we support a business casual dress code (believe it or not, I am hip to what all the kids are doing these days). I have even gone so far as to allow jeans on Fridays. But, we also have a few “World According to Michael Marcon” rules (if you cannot figure that one out by now…) that we all follow:
- Business attire for all client, prospect, and partner meetings. If the meeting is in our office on a Friday, jeans are banished.
- Button down collars have buttons for a reason.
- Shine your shoes (FYI to the guys: GQ says shined shoes are the first thing a woman notices about a man. How’s that for incentive?)
- Don’t unbutton your collar and loosen your tie in the office. If your collar is too tight, get a shirt that fits.
- If you are playing golf, wear a golf shirt. If you are coming to the office, don’t.
The absolute best part of the Equity Risk dress code? You don’t look like everybody else.
Michael C. Marcon is the founder of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.