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How Entrepreneurs Can Make A Better First Impression

They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that's never more true than when you're trying to get a new business off the ground. You're acting as the face of your company, trying to sell an idea to potential investors, bring in new clients and possibly recruit staff. It's a critical time to be taken seriously and to get people's attention so that you have the chance to articulate your vision for the company. People form unconscious judgements of you right from the very first moment, and once those impressions are formed, it's incredibly hard work to change them. It's all to do with the way the human brain works - a phenomenon called unconscious bias. Our brains like to take shortcuts to help deal with the large amounts of new information we have to take in on a daily basis. That means they try to categorize people based on past information. So every person that you meet in the line of business will be forming an idea about you based on your words, actions, mannerisms and body language. This is why aiming to create a first impression that is professional, competent and business-like is something you should strive for. So, how do you give yourself and your business the best possible chance of success?

Focus On Confidence

Generating an impression of confidence is hugely important for entrepreneurs. You're selling who you are as a person as much as the vision for your business when you first start pitching to investors and looking for funding. When you have a small startup, you essentially are the business to all intents and purposes - so you need to behave like a leader from the start, and someone who believes in themselves and what they are selling. Open body language and an upright posture are useful tools to communicate that you have confidence in your own ideas. And if you don't feel confident? Fake it til you make it. The more you act with confidence, the more you will begin to feel it. And when you feel confident, it's easier to meet new people and project your ideas. Knowing your business proposition and the data behind it inside out will help you to feel sure of what you have to offer. And if you need to remind yourself of your unique skills, then try keeping a list of positive comments you receive on your phone to sneak a look at when you need a boost!

Dress To Impress

While you want to be judged on the quality of your ideas and not the way you look, it's unavoidable that you need to dress the part when it comes to big meetings with potential clients and the like. It's a form of basic respect to yourself and others to adhere to business dress for big meetings. That means erring on the conservative side - neat tailoring and longer length cuts in clothes and maintaining good grooming. Neat hair, well trimmed facial hair or a close shave and  subtle makeup as well as some popular but classic glasses frames can go a long way. If we don't look well groomed, the risk is that people translate it as careless and signalling a  lack of attention to detail, and they may wonder if this translates across to the quality of your work. Try developing a work capsule wardrobe that means you look smart without having to put lots of thought into it every morning. You can then focus on the tasks at hand knowing you look good.


Put In The Detail

How you treat people is also how you form a great impression. Make the effort to greet people properly and remember their names - it's these details that make you appear present and engaged, which makes you a great ambassador for your business. Pay attention to your handshake too- it should be firm, relatively quick and balanced. Try to maintain eye contact while you shake hands as well - all these small things add up to a great impression for people meeting you and hearing about your business for the first time.

Learn Active Listening

One great skill that you can carry through to all areas of your working life is active listening. It's such a simple thing to learn, and yet you'd be surprised at the huge impact it can have. The goal is to demonstrate that you're paying attention when someone is talking to you. It means maintaining eye contact while they are speaking, nodding and making occasional small comments (such as 'yes' or 'go on') to prompt them, asking open- ended questions, repeating back small key details to show that you're taking it in, and not getting distracted while they're talking to you. The benefits of this approach are huge. Not only does it make you appear confident enough to take on board another person's view, it also makes you seem engaged and passionate with the subject at hand, and willing to learn and encounter other viewpoints. It also helps you to establish and maintain strong working relationships. Listening may seem like a small thing, but actually it's quite fundamental to the way that we interact.

Plan Your Time

A calm, organized approach to your time is also an important part of ensuring that contacts form a strong first impression of you. After all, it's hard to look in control and fully competent if you’re late and flustered! Planning ahead and good time management are key skills to master early one, ones that will stand you in good stead in a lot of different areas of running your business. Always allow extra time for travel so that delays along the way have some buffer and don’t make you late - this is especially important for big events such as client pitch meetings or presenting to angel investors. Secondly, use your calendar to schedule in buffer time both before and after key meetings. This allows you time to be properly prepared rather than coming into the meeting empty-handed, and booking time afterwards means that you can get a head start on any actions and processing what comes out of the meeting while it's still fresh in your mind, rather than waiting until later when the details are hazier. This approach will make you feel much more on top of things, and when you feel like that you’re naturally more confident.

Be Authentic Above All

Authenticity is the key value that people search for these days, so it's something that every aspiring entrepreneur must strive for in themselves and in their business. What it boils down to really is having a very clear understanding of vision and values - on a personal level and for your company. Your personal values and the ones that you want for your company must align as well. For each action you take, simply ask yourself if it aligns to these key values, and if it doesn’t, it's time to question why you’re doing it. If you act in accordance with principles that you believe in, everything resonates much more -  and people you deal with in business will be able to see that. Authenticity is a hard thing to put your finger on, but we definitely know when someone we’re dealing with embodies it. And even if we don’t entirely agree with them, we tend to respect what they are doing, which is exactly what you want to achieve as a business leader.

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