Perception Matters

Perception matters, right?

Here’s something to think about if you’re a small business owner: Should you display the trappings of success (luxury car or SUV, expensive clothes, Rolex on your wrist, Montblanc pen, etc.) to your clients/customers so that they know you’re very good at what you do, and therefore, successful, or, always present a portrait of modesty and restraint (family sedan, business casual from Men’s Wearhouse,  basic watch, etc.) to your customers/clients so that they think you’re not making a bunch of money on them?

That’s a tough one, isn’t it?

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Perceptions Matter – Is this going to impress your customers? Or turn them off?

Okay, while you’re thinking about that angle, now do this: Substitute “your employees” for “clients/customers”.

Is the answer the same or different?

Yes, both variations of that question pose a dilemma for the small business owner.

Regarding clients/customers, most salespeople, or people who have jobs where there’s a large selling component to it, will come down solidly and unequivocally on the side of “Always look successful. If you look successful, people will have more confidence in you and be more likely to sign up with you, or engage your services.”.

On the other hand, many business owners, for different reasons, would not want their customers to see them piloting a new Mercedes-Benz s-Class or a new Cadillac Escalade. Chief among those reasons is the aforementioned, “If my customer sees me driving that car, he’s going to think I must be charging too much”. And then there’s also, the notion, “She’s going to think I’m imprudent and not careful with money if he sees me in a new ‘Benz”. And, “She’s probably thinking I’m showing off by driving this car”.

Just as importantly….

What message is received by your employees when they see you in an expensive new car? Do they resent you? Do they feel as if you’re made your money off the backs of your low-wage employees and there’s a lot of inequity at the company? Does it dredge up a lot of feelings about how badly the employees are treated, and how much the owners make by continuing to treat the employees badly?

Or, does it give them something to strive for?

Or, it’s possible you don’t really care what your employees think. Or, what your customers think, either.

However, perception matters. The question of appearance and the perceptions that result from what you show to the world is worth considering carefully, both for the sake of your revenues and in terms of employee morale. An error in judgment could cost you plenty.

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