In so much of our business, technicians dress like farmers and expect to be paid like corporate executives.
Here's the real deal: When you're in a service business, you need to look acceptable to the people who pay the bills. Which is to say, you need to look good to the person who signs the contract and signs the check. Part of your company's "branding" is how you appear to the client.
Given your role, no one really expects you and your staff to wear suits every day. The safest bet is the "business casual" look you see in almost all offices:
- Nice shirt or blouse. Prefer long sleeves and a collar for men. Sleeves can be rolled up.
- or Polo shirt / logo company shirt
- No jeans
- No t-shirts
- Work shoes (not athletic shoes or boots)
Personally, in a small business, I think that's all you need. People aren't stupid. They can see what the clients are wearing and be in line with that. You don't need to specify no tank tops, no sleeveless shirts, no see-through clothing, no bagged pants, no mini-skirts, no torn pants, etc.
When Does The Dress Code Apply?
In my opinion, you should just dress for work every day. That means the dress code applies all the time. To be honest, I don't know why this is even a topic of discussion among adults. You're at work and you go to people's offices. You're not pumping gas or waiting tables.
But some people want "Casual Friday" or other times when they do not need to follow the dress code. There's no harm in this. You just need to consider what you'll do if someone has to run out to a client office. Should everyone keep a fresh set of clothese in the office?
Decide what you want to do and write it down.
The other consideration here is WHO needs to dress according to the dress code? Many people never go to client offices. They are in your office all day, or working remote. This applies to office managers, bookkeepers, administrative assistants, etc. If you do not have clients coming to your office, do these folks need to "dress up" for work?
The funny thing is: I've never had to have this discussion with office folks (admins, etc.). They just dress business casual and that's it. Only technicians have ever made a big deal about how they're dressed. As with everything else, make a decision and write it down.
Tattoos, Piercings, and Body Art
I think I'm the only person in my companies who has served at the management level and not had tattoos or piercings. I talked to an employment attorney and he came up with a very reasonable guideline that keeps us inside the law. The key elements here are 1) The policy is justified as part of the company's image, and 2) The policy applies equally to everyone.
Have you ever gone into a book store or record shop (CD shop) and noticed their branding? In some places, it seems that two visible tattoos and three facial piercings are required for employment. In fact, that might be the case! At other places, the staff seem "clean cut" with no visible tattoos or piercings. Branding.
My daughter works for a big national office supply store. She has a tongue piercing. On the tongue, piercings close up real fast, so you can't really take the stud out for eight hours every day. So she got one that has clear ends and is quite unnoticeable. Staff with eyebrow piercings or nose piercings are asked to remove them while at work.
Here is our Tattoo, Branding and Piercing policy:
1. Employees must not have any indelible marks or figures (tattoos), or any branding that is visible on any exposed part of the body while wearing normal business attire and while working with KPEnterprises’ clients.
2. No piercings, other than those for earrings as described below, shall be made through the ear, nose, tongue, chin, eyebrow, or any other body part that would be visible while performing your normal duties and while working with KPEnterprises’ clients. Piercings in the ear shall not exceed two per ear lobe and shall be of reasonable size and in good taste.
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I don't think you need to worry too much about dress codes and appearances. But if you don't have some policy in place, you might find that you have a problem one day. There are two important keys to success. First, keep it as simple and common sense as possible. Second, frame the discussion of dress code around branding, not around personal freedom.
Your company has its own branding and style.
You have many rights and freedoms. There is no freedom from being discriminated against because of your dress and personal appearance. Clients will judge you based on the branding you put forward. You need to have reasonable policies in place to define and protect your brand.
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About this Series
SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.
Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at SmallBizThoughts.com.
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Next week's topic: Naming Your Processes and Procedures
by Karl W. Palachuk
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