Guest Blog: Dressed to Kill…Not

Thursday January 18, 2007 | Filed under: Guest Blog

From Joe Haley, managing editor, Counselor magazine:

As the first ASI Show of the 2007 show season gets under way I am still amazed at the way some distributors dress. I just want to walk up to them, shake them and say, “Hey, your hotel room has a mirror. You really need to use it before you head out to the convention center."

Even in this day and age of corporate casual, we need to remember that we are what people perceive us to be. A former colleague of mine never wore a belt, his shirts were often ruffled and his shoes were scuffed and unpolished. So, I told him that whether it’s right or wrong, people will judge him based on his appearance.

Same goes for distributors walking the floor. It doesn’t matter if you are a small, startup company, or a Counselor Top 40 firm, if you’re not dressing the part, you’re sending out a message that you don’t care. You don’t care enough to present yourself and your company in the best possible light.

So imagine my surprise when yesterday morning I’m sitting in the last row of an overflow keynote session on the “10 Ways to Succeed,” presented by ASI President Tim Andrews, and I see a prominent executive from a large distributorship walk in looking like he just jogged over from the Peabody. He was wearing an oversized hoodie, ball cap and appeared to be sweating. I had to wonder: Why would this well-known distributor jeopardize his stature and reputation in the name of comfort? Perhaps he was out for a morning jog. If that’s the case, he should have ran like Forrest Gump and sped right passed the North Hall.

But as Tim began his session, it was as if this distributor was sent in to set up his first point: “Watch your brand – protect it and maintain it at all times.” And in this industry, your most important brand is you. So, before you come to the show floor, think about the way you want to present yourself, your brand. Can a supplier take you seriously if you’re wearing flip-flops? Will exposing your midsection send the wrong message about you and your company? Call me crazy, but I don’t think jeans, T-shirts, matching satin sweat suits or dirty sneakers should ever be worn to the show floor.

Yes there are some exceptions to the rule. (People in our editorial office think I’m a little stodgy because I refuse to wear jeans on casual Mondays). Wildly creative people are given a little extra rope when it comes to their eccentricities. Highly successful salespeople get away with a little more bling than the average Joe. The rest of us? We need to get our act together. Sure, Orlando is a vacation destination, but leave your cabana clothes in the closet until the show floor closes.

Or think about it this way: How many suppliers are dressed like distributors? When was the last time a supplier looked like he rolled out of bed and onto the show floor. Would you approach a booth if the exhibitor was dressed like you? Hardly.

And for those people who look in the mirror and still don’t see anything wrong with how you’re dressed, perhaps you’re a vampire.

What do you wear to shows – and why? Do you think that distributors should dress professionally on the show floor – and what does “professional dress” mean these days? Let me know your thoughts and post on the blog, or email me at

Signing off for now,

Buttoned-up Joe