Professional Appearance – Would you trust you?

By Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA

It’s Wednesday morning in Indianapolis.  I’m scheduled to teach an hour of continuing education today to a group of property and casualty agents on the issue of bail bonds. In preparation, I got up early showered and dressed in a pair of dark gray slacks, light pink shirt, dark pink tie with a light gray sport coat with light pink strips.   What can I say; I’m not afraid of pink.

At every bail association meeting I’ve attended through the years, the issue of professional dress is almost always mentioned.  When it comes to professional attire, the bail industry gets very low marks and it most likely has to do with the hours a bail agent keeps, all 24 of them.

One never knows when the bail line is going to ring and one has to head down to the jail to meet a client or post a bond.  Most people will not take the time to put on a nicer set of clothes before heading out.  More often than not, they go with what they have on, jeans, sweatshirt, warm-up suit, etc.  With this 24/7 lifestyle it’s easy to get away from the habit of dressing professionally.

We fifty-something’s still remember when you were expected to be at work on time, stay late if you had to and work the occasional weekend day.  We also remember the requirement or rather expectation, of having to wear a tie and jacket or a nice outfit for the ladies.  That was normal then, not so much today.

I’m one of the hold outs.  I’ve found through the years, I’m treated differently when I’m professionally dressed as opposed to when I’m outfitted in jeans and a golf shirt. People give you ten points for just wearing a tie.

I still cringe when I see members of our own staff setting out to visit agents sans a tie and jacket.  In their minds, they’re dressing equal to what the client would likely be wearing.  They may be right, but it doesn’t feel right to me.

Right or wrong this is the way society is going.  Even at the weekly lunch meeting of my men’s group, of fifty people present I may be one of three wearing a coat and tie. The majority of business travelers I see are in casual attire.

Whether you wear a coat and tie or not first impressions are very important, particularly in the case of transacting bail bonds.  The general public has a preconceived notion of the typical bail agent.  Their expectation of professionalism and appearance is low.

Clients are typically, family, friends or co-workers looking to post bond for someone. They want very much to trust the person with which they are giving money and signing a number of legal documents.   For good reason, it is important to present a professional appearance and convey trust and confidence.  Surprise them.

Give this some thought the next time you’re scheduled to meet with a client.  Think about how your client is receiving you and what your appearance conveys.  Will it be trust and confidence or hesitation and skepticism?  Would you do business with you based on your appearance?  Up your game and dress professionally, it matters.

Now, I have to give a lecture on bail bonds today fully aware it is possible to look good and still suck.  Here’s to not sucking.


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