First impressions are crucial. In the business world, they can make a world of difference in getting a promotion or being the perfect candidate in a job interview. In this post, we’ll highlight a few aspects — from good oral health to dressing for the job you want — that impact your career prospects.
Many different factors influence how successful your career is. Some are out of your hands, whereas others — like how you carry yourself as a professional — are entirely up to you. Granted, this is somewhat of a broad statement, but the reality is there are many things to consider when it comes to how other people perceive you.
Below we’ll discuss a few aspects of your appearance and self-maintenance that may be harming your career.
Dressing for the Job You Want
In the digital age, a large percentage of people opt for a freelance career and many SMEs and startups take a casual and less corporate approach to business. It’s safe to say that the stereotypical work clothes of a professional have changed. But, as a general rule of thumb, try aiming to dress slightly smarter than the employees of the business you want to join.
If the job you’re applying for is at a bespoke company where professional clothing is mandatory, your choice of interview attire is a no-brainer. For men, this could be a suit, shirt and tie, or a smart sweater. For women, it depends on your own style — some will prefer a dress whereas others feel more comfortable in a suit.
If the interview is with a startup, small business, or even a large organisation that prefers their employees to wear business-casual clothing, you have more options and room to incorporate some unique fashion choices. Tread lightly with this, as bright colours and flashy items can be distracting. If you want someone to focus on your attributes and skills as an industry professional, a flashy outfit isn’t helpful.
Good Oral Health
Although your physical appearance shouldn’t be a contributing factor when it comes to your career, good oral health and hygiene should be maintained with the correct care and attention. In an age where high-quality dentists and products are available to keep our teeth in good condition, failing to do so can project a lack of discipline or laziness.
Not to mention that damaged or decayed teeth is unsightly for customers and colleagues. If you happen to have an infection it can cause serious health problems and produce fierce bad breath. The latter is especially troublesome for your colleagues and genuinely impacts your success during interviews. Being memorable as the applicant with bad breath isn’t ideal when you want to be remembered for what you bring to their company.
If you’re someone who has missing teeth — whether removed by a dentist, knocked out, or fell out due to decay — there are several solutions that can return your smile to its former glory. If you’re looking for a long-term solution then your best bet is dental implants. This is where a metal root is fused with your jawbone and a prosthetic tooth is attached to the top. If you are self-conscious or suffer from a lack of confidence because of dental health, finding a solution that suits your needs and budget should be a top priority.
Don’t Neglect Personal Hygiene
Maintaining a good level of personal hygiene is not only important to stay healthy, but neglecting to do so demonstrates a lack of discipline and disregard for those around you. Being a bit smelly isn’t an acceptable reason for your employer to dismiss you, but it can significantly impact several aspects of your daily work life.
The importance of good personal hygiene during an interview cannot be stressed enough. There is a vast range of things that can impact your hygiene so it’s crucial to keep it under control. Whether you’re rushing to catch the tube and start to sweat, wake up late and don’t have time to shower or forget to clean the dirt from underneath your fingernails — your interviewer will notice and unfortunately, it will influence their opinion of you.
Everything about your appearance and hygiene gives an interviewer insight on how you perform at work and how well you’re prepared — choose an appropriate outfit, brush your teeth, and don’t forget to use deodorant.
You’ve got a brilliant business idea and you’re raring to get started. So, what’s next? Is there a typical time it takes to develop a business idea and launch it on the world? Is it possible to get your business running in less than a month?
In short, yes. Working from a focused action plan, ensuring you complete all the necessary activities, you can 100% become your own boss in less than a month. Here’s what you need to do.
Estimated time: 3 days
You can’t launch a business without first doing a bit of homework. Your first three days should be spent answering the following key questions:
You don’t need to spend money gathering these insights, much of it is available for free online (competitor websites, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, Reddit, Facebook) or simply by walking down your local high street, or talking to people. Gather as much insight as you can and get it all down. This will help you build an important picture and tell you if you should go ahead with your business idea.
Hopefully, you can now move forwards with confidence.
Estimated time: 3 days
The next stage is to work out what you’re going to need to get your business up and running. We’re talking the basics here. Given the timeframes, you’re going to need to scale down your ambitions and look to launch something that can be refined once you’re generating income.
Where are you going to run your business?
Running a business from home is clearly a cheaper and easier solution when you’re getting started. But, if you need to find premises, co-working spaces are growing in popularity across the UK.
What equipment are you going to need?
Having a decent computer or laptop is nigh-on essential these days, but, if you’re working from home, you’ll also want to spend money on creating a suitable office environment. Clean space, clean mind, and all that. The rest will clearly depend on the type of business you’re setting up. For example, a street food business will need cooking equipment, whilst a plumbing business will need a van.
What suppliers are you going to need?
Most businesses will need suppliers of some kind. That can include manufacturers, distributers, and importers. Even if you don’t sell anything physical, you’re still going to need to have in place service providers for things like IT, electricity, energy, and website hosting. And, don’t forget, insurance.
Estimated time: 5 days
You can now start piecing together your business plan. This is a crucial document that will provide an overview of your business idea and vision, the research and planning you’ve done in the last week, before moving on to your financial models (pricing and legal structure etc) and marketing plans (more on that in a moment).
Whilst it’s easy to be overawed by this task, it’s important to note that your business plan is a working document; something that will evolve over time. Don’t worry about it being perfect at this stage.
What it should do, though, is give you an idea of the finances you’re going to need for launch and your day-to-day operations. Are you going to fund the business yourself? Through friends and family? Through the bank? Or, perhaps, through alternative funding routes such as crowdfunding? Whatever you do, don’t dive in until you’ve weighed up all the options.
Estimated time: 5 days
It’s important to leave some money left over for promoting your business. After all, you’re going to struggle to bring in money if people don’t know your business exists.
However, it’s definitely wise to keep your promotional expenditure to a modest level. It’s all too easy to flutter away your limited funds on ineffective tactics and strategies.
So, what are the things you should definitely have in place?
Your business name, logo, website and social media pages are all pretty much essential, and should cost little to set up, although, you might want to recruit a freelancer to help you on some aspects.
Once they’re in place you can start to think about your marketing tactics and draw out a plan. The research work you did right at the beginning should play a key role in shaping who, what and how you want to promote your business. Tried and tested cost-effective tactics include Google AdWords, Facebook ads, and email marketing – but there’s no harm in also printing some business cards.
Readying for launch
Estimated time: 3 days
Before you launch your business on the world there are a number of admin-based tasks you’ll need to do. These include:
That’s it! Well, at least these are the basics to getting your business launched. Clearly you could spend much longer planning and preparing your business, but then you might risk losing your momentum. Plus, the insights you’ll gather once you’re up and running are often the most
What makes an effective project team? That will be an effective project manager.
The definition of a project is that it is a temporary endeavour, undertaken to create a product, service or result. That is very different to managing day-to-day operations, and it requires a person with unique qualities and traits to see it through.
Many project managers are born into the role – they are natural leaders who have a knack for getting stuff done. For others, the role is taught over time, with years of learning and experience moulding them into the project managers of today. Whatever the case, it is vital for project managers to possess and/or develop the following 10 qualities and traits:
1. Leadership skills
There is more than one of these. Good project managers are effective communicators, are honest people and are great at building relationships. Loyalty, decisiveness and charisma are also key factors that make a strong leader.
Although it is sometimes listed as a leadership skill, the ability to motivate people is much more about psychology. It comes naturally to the best project managers who have an uncanny ability to motivate the seemingly unmotivated. However, there are a number of tools and techniques that project managers can adopt to assist them with motivating others, such as SMART goal setting, celebration of success and others.
An effective project manager never puts the team down. Criticism should be constructive and helpful. The approach to correcting individual wrongs should be a private one; good project managers never ‘tell off’ or belittle people in front of others. They command respect by showing it and help people flourish.
4. Organised and efficient
The best project managers have their project management process down to an artform. They have excellent organisational skills and know where to assign people to get the most out of them. They are able to find efficient solutions to complex issues and know when to cut their losses or abandon a fool’s errand.
5. Problem solver
A spanner can be thrown into the works on any project, and project managers make their name by solving these issues. The ability to solve problems effectively is very important because it enables the project manager to properly direct the team and remove potential obstacles to their performance.
Project managers exist to achieve the required deliverables by the scope of projects, so they should instinctively be results-driven. The most important thing for a project manager is to see a project through and deliver the required results. However, it is equally important for project managers not to be task-driven and obsessed with to-do lists, as this may never lead to the required results.
This is perhaps the most important quality of project managers. Their experience, knowledge and know-how has to be evident to the team for them to have any confidence in the project manager. However, it is not just a matter of confidence and trust, the project manager must actually know what they are doing, why, where, when and how.
There are a number of Project Management certifications that enable current and aspiring Project Managers to gain the relevant knowledge and skills required for effective project management. Project Managers need to be constantly refreshing their knowledge to ensure it is up-to-date and they remain knowledgeable.
Examples of popular project management certifications include: PRINCE2®, APM PFQ (Project Fundamentals Qualification), APM PMQ (Project Management Qualification), PMI CAPM® (Certified Associate in Project Management) and PMI PMP® (Project Management Professional).
Good project managers are not robots. Being empathetic, understanding and caring for the people in a team is a big part of motivating them. Often, it can be the case that some people in a team feel as though they are undervalued. Good project managers truly listen to their team members, are compassionate and if required take actions to change perceptions or provide the necessary support to individuals.
Competence in project management is a big word. Competent managers not just know what they are doing, but can effectively balance competing project constraints and skilfully manage any of the risks, issues and challenges that arise during the project lifecycle. Competent Project Managers never appear out of their depth or out of touch.
10. Calm under pressure
Project Management is often associated with high-pressure environments. Project Managers need to be able to stay calm under pressure and get through it. Many people panic in a high-pressure environment, but the best project managers thrive in them. They see through the pressure and deliver results by keeping calm.
Nobody is born an expert, though some people may demonstrate some or all of the above qualities and traits intuitively. You may develop these qualities by continuously learning and practising them. There are a number of resources available for studying them, however, practical application of the learning is your key to success.
PRINCE2® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved. | CAPM®, PMI® and PMP® are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. | APM is a trademark of the Association for Project Management.
While House of Fraser flirted with a total collapse, several town centres were preparing for large empty spaces to be left by the 169-year-old department store. House of Fraser took its website offline on Wednesday 15th August 2018 after their warehouse operator XPO Logistics stopped processing orders because they were owed £30million. This meant cancelling all online orders and refunding customers who were unsurprisingly left feeling less than satisfied; not a great time for them to be reversing sales.
But, how did that happen? How can powerful retail chains such as House of Fraser, Woolworths and BHS, who had built up stability and reputation for over a century, fall from such grace? Why couldn’t they move with the times?
By exploring several possibilities, we have identified three reasons for the near collapse of House of Fraser and extrapolated learning points for smaller retailers to ensure they too don’t fall foul of the same fate.
Why Did HoF Fail While Rivals Maintained Success?
There’s no doubt the department store model still works so why did House of Fraser fail to thrive? Richard Hyman, who has analysed the retail industry for 35 years, predicted a year in advance that 2018 would bring retail distress, particularly for companies that don’t understand their core customer. Could that be it?
Speaking of the HoF situation, he outlined the key sticking points for the department store were: lack of investment, declining relevance with shoppers, a lack of brand differentiation and a failure to focus on the store's core customer. By stocking a whopping 677 third-party brands, House of Fraser’s own identity became lost along with its relevance in the marketplace. Mr Hyman indicated that almost all of their successful multi-brand stockist competitors had, in addition to the external brands they carried, a strong private or own-brand label which he describes as ‘enormously valuable’ when it comes to differentiating a brand. He said, “House of Fraser doesn't have anything that nobody else has got,”; the first important takeaway for other retailers.
Furthermore, they faced fierce competition online where customers can find the same or similar items for a better price with other retailers. This is the second key insight for businesses to acknowledge.
The bottom line is retail brands need a dominating difference to thrive and safeguard their survival by ensuring that consumers come to them for their products first. In comparison, Amazon has become the biggest convenience store, Primark is a high street footfall magnet due to its low prices, John Lewis creates a trustful reputation through first-rate service, and Selfridges offers a unique shopping environment.
Aaron Shields is a strategy director at Fitch, a leading brand and retail consultancy. He commented on those stores saying, “Having a look at this list, it’s easy to see that Fraser’s house of brands approach needs a refreshed retail proposition to survive.”
At this point we would ask an independent retailer, what sets you apart? Do you carry lines that no-one else in your area does? If not, then do you have a price advantage? You must ensure that you provide your consumers with a reason to keep choosing you.
Fixing the Revolving C-Suite
Richard Lim, Chief Executive at consultancy firm Retail Economics, says most department stores are incredibly expensive to operate, especially so over the last few years due to rising business rates and rents, as well as the National Living Wage.
For House of Fraser, however, its main problems haven’t actually been attributed to staff pay but how several of their management, executive and senior marketing positions have changed, resulting in a lack of consistency for the brand. This is the third thing smaller retailers should be aware of.
Due to their leadership insecurity, House of Fraser’s sales productivity was weak. Management were focused on a settling their core team at a time when their core team should have been addressing issues 1 and 2.
While independent retailers may not have to grapple with a board of executives and multiple department heads, their core team is just as important. Building trust around a brand and relationships with customers often relies on patrons making regular contact with the same employees.
Time spent curating the right team will pay dividends in the long term as, for independent retailers, too much hiring and firing could be of detriment to sales. It’s not best use of the owner’s time and could damage the long-term brand message which would be inconsistent under a number of consecutive staffs.
Other Solutions for Small Retailers
We know that to survive in a difficult and overcrowded market, retailers need to build their brand by understanding exactly who their customer is and enhance that relationship but there are other ways to work smart and aid your cash flow while you are establishing those things.
Small retailers can struggle with recording a high volume of transactions in real time and that can cause an admin headache with a ripple effect but nowadays there are solutions available to relieve owners of unnecessary data entry. However, organised figures are more than just business eutopia.
If a retail business is struggling financially, up to date figures and organised admin will alleviate the burden accompanied with turning the business around. Being organised and efficient with general administration while armed with financial foresight will mean the business can easily apply for financial assistance which could prevent it struggling into a place of no return.
With up-to-date figures, a business consultant can make recommendations to owners and advise on any planned investment or expansion. In particular, they can focus on whether the business can afford to make an expansion in the market or adopt another financial strategy.
Another piece of guidance that advisors might give to independent retailers is get rid of, or make better use of, unneeded basements and top floors to reduce the rents paid to landlords. Additionally, marketing plans and annual goals can help to keep an indy on track.
This article was written by Cottons Chartered Accountants London. With their base in Shoreditch Cottons specialise in working with independent brands and retailers installing admin solutions to cut back on bookkeeping time and, by preparing useful end of year and management accounts.