The latest Boardroom Series event titled Hosting and Branding Yourself was held on April 26th at Exceed Network’s offices located at WeWork 5th Avenue. Hosted by Richard Sutton, CEO of LT Apparel, a successful children’s clothing company, the event was aimed at young entrepreneurs looking to get some advice and tips on self presentation. As someone whose business relies heavily on person to person interaction, Sutton was a great choice to lead this important topic.
‘When it comes to branding yourself’ said Sutton to the crowd of 50, ‘it’s the little things. The way you look, the way you dress, how you act and speak. These are the simple things that impact how others view you’. The aim of the event was spot on as the room was made up mostly of young professionals looking to get tips of how to be more presentable, how to make a lasting impression and how to make sure that they land a sale. ‘How we present ourselves is very important,’ Sutton continued. ‘A meeting can often be ruined if someone isn’t well presented, from a bad haircut to poor manners. It’s very easy to change the small things so there is no excuse not to look as good as you can or speak as clearly and nicely as possible’. Sutton then made sure that the audience understood that presentation extends to all parts of a person’s life, including the internet. ‘There are a lot of younger people who don’t think about the cause and effect of posting on social media. This, too, has an effect on how people think of you. Often we post without thinking of the consequences but the internet is vast and often permanent. You must be careful about your social media presence’.
To further this point, Sutton shared that, as a business person, ‘you are never off’. He was referring to the lighter side of business, the after hours meetings at dinners and events, where so much of modern business is conducted. Parties, social events and other occasions are certainly more fun than the typical boardroom meeting but they also present many potential pitfalls. ‘A lot of people think that just because you are sitting around a dinner table or are at a party, it means that you can care less about how you present yourself. You must always remember that you are at a business function first, a party second. Celebrate when you make the sale’.
One attendee- a financial planner- asked a question that stuck with Sutton even after the event; ‘If a person is talking to you socially but you want to talk business, how do you move the conversation toward business?’ The attendee then added that while people view him as a funny, nice guy, they don’t see him as a financial planner, they don’t think to take the conversation from funny to business. Sutton’s answer was direct. ‘You have to have an agenda. Simple as that. You have to know at what point it is appropriate to move the conversation from sociable to business’. This answer fits well with Sutton’s ethos of ‘never being off’.
Toward the end of the event, Sutton made a very stark point. He asked if people would purchase new clothing, perhaps a new suit and tie, for a job interview. The answer from the audience was overwhelmingly yes. Sutton followed this point by saying that everyone should approach a business meeting the same way. ‘If you know you have an important meeting, go out and buy some new clothes for it. Get a haircut, take your look seriously. Again, it’s the little things that go a long way, both positively and negatively’.
Sutton then shared some advice about talking in general. He said that despite the comfort many attendees have in doing business with people from the community or a friend of a friend, it is important to speak eloquently and to prepare for a meeting and treat that interaction with as much professionalism as if you were meeting them for the first time. Preparation includes talking points, researching whom you are meeting with and being aware of your audience, reading their reactions and pivoting. ‘If you have the chance to meet someone- a buyer, an executive, even if you want to buy a house, whatever you’re doing, how prepared you are will have a big impact on how successful you are. You can never over prepare’.
‘Good breeds good’ said Sutton at the end of the event. ‘When you are around good people and do good things, more good things will happen’. Sutton shared a story in which he was doing charity work during which time he met a man who was also working at the charity. Today, that man is a successful executive at Sutton’s company and they have prospered together. ‘This connection came about because of something good, a social and fulfilling situation that was executed well and turned out great for all parties involved. You never know what a situation will lead to so, again, it’s important to always be on’.
To learn more about Exceed Network’s Boardroom Series or other events, visit ExceedNetwork.org or visit our incubator at WeWork 5th Avenue.