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Published:October 25th, 2006 07:26 EST
It Takes More Than Clothes To Make The Man

It Takes More Than Clothes To Make The Man

By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)

One morning while having breakfast in a local restaurant, a close friend and realtor, Eddie Callender, Jr., related an interesting conversation he had while showing a home to a businessman and his wife. The conversation is significant because it reinforces basic business principles.

The gentleman who was looking at the home sells expensive suits to a very exclusive clientele. As you might expect, he was dressed accordingly. Eddie, on the other hand, chose some time ago to work comfortably (except for certain occasions requiring coat and tie) in Wranglers, a nice shirt, a Stetson and boots. He found their contrast in apparel rather interesting and humorously commented on it. The businessman replied, I would buy from you not because of the way you dress, but simply because I trust you. " He added that, in the south Texas heat, Eddie`s attire is becoming somewhat the norm for businessmen.

For two reasons, the conversation stimulated my thinking. First of all, I tend to subscribe to the old dress-for-success philosophy. I look like Howdy Doody in jeans and boots. The incident reminded me, however, that our dress code should often be determined relative to our associations. Secondly, as one whose presentations stress the importance of large trust accounts and impeccable integrity, I found the man`s statement to be a practical confirmation of their importance.

As a reader, you possibly have strong opinions about what works for you in business attire. That`s fine. Or you may have no opinion at all on the subject. This article, however, is about the far more important matter of trust and how it can be established.

One of the things I failed to tell you about the preceding conversation is something that led up to it. Eddie asked the prospect if he was a city councilman. Or, maybe a lawyer. The man said he was neither. Why would you think that? " he asked. The answer had to do with his attire and his fluency of speech. The questions, though, had to do with making the other person feel important. It`s an approach that`s guaranteed to build trust.

John Dewey, one of America`s foremost philosophers, said that the deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important. " Though our other basic needs of food, water, sleep and sex are generally met, this one goes unfulfilled. Therefore, if in what we do and say we sincerely make others feel important, we will in turn be making invaluable deposits in our trust account.

Integrity is also an invaluable deposit. It does a great deal of damage to our reputation and to that of our business when we gain people`s trust by making them feel important, only to betray it by failing to deliver. It, then, becomes apparent that we merely flattered them. The businessman knew my friend would do what he said he`d do, when he said he`d do it, how he said he`d do it. That`s integrity.


Clothing decisions may be relative. However, somewhat like a good haircut, there is nothing relative about integrity. We either have it or we don`t, and others can readily tell which is the case. If we don`t have it, others will avoid us like they would a lousy barber.

BARBER-OSOPHY: To gain and keep the trust of others, give at least as much attention to who you are as to how you look.

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