Many years ago, President Jimmy Carter upset men’s business fashion when he fancied himself as a “Peanut Farmer” and wore jeans in the White House. The fad took off! Ever since, it’s common to see CEOs and conference speakers wearing sport coats and jeans.  Fashion changed again when we decided we all wanted to look like our hi-tech heroes, the engineers who made our lives easier. The ties went bye-bye and the shirt tails came out. It’s kind of the norm now, actually. But is it time for this trend to end?

Today there is more concern over what the subject line should be on your promotional email than what to wear at a business meeting. Sure, if you send the wrong subject line folks won’t open it. And whatever works today is obsolete tomorrow. The idea seems to be to distinguish your email and use a subject word that captures people’s attention.  Your email must offer a good and effective first impression.

Well, how ’bout how you look? Don’t those same folks make the same snap judgements about you and what you’re offering based on their first impression? Of course they do! But what do they see? Do you look like you’re on your way to a ball game? Great, except that if what you’re selling is dependability, quality, and service-oriented, you just struck out.

You should look like what you’re selling because you are being judged – even before you open your mouth, or your sample case. They make an assumption about you in that first split-second. Then they try to justify that first impression every second, every minute and every hour thereafter. We like to say, “When the cement is wet, you can move it with a trowel. But when it’s dry, you need a jackhammer!” So why handicap yourself just to fit in and look “cool”? Do you want to make a statement? Or do you want to make a deposit? If you want to make a deposit, set the stage to give yourself every advantage you can right out of the gate.

How would you feel if your pilot was dressed like a baseball fan? What about your doctor? Your attorney? Your investment broker? Clothes speak volumes especially when you want something from someone else. Think of your apparel as the subject line in a sales email. Does it send the message you want? Does it give your prospect the confidence you want them to have?

Want to be different, stand out,  and get noticed today? Dress sharp! In today’s world, you’ll stand out!

At Barefoot Wines, everyone thought we were running around in cut-offs, sandals, and tee-shirts. Actually, we were dressed in business attire, except for Fridays, when we dressed business casual, not free dress. Were we old fashion stuff shirts? With a foot for a logo? Hardly! We were dressed to send a message to every supplier, every buyer, and every investor that walked in our door. That message was serious, dependable, and professional. And it worked! More than a few big chain buyers wandered into our offices unannounced. And more than a few suppliers extended us credit after a visit, and more than a few of our vendors took us seriously when they came to our offices.

We have a friend who always dresses in top style. He usually wears, yes, a tie. But he is the top sales manager in his industry, and he is respected by all the buyers and salespeople. When you see him, you think, “Now that’s somebody important. That’s somebody who has something to say.” And after all, isn’t that what you want your prospects, associates, and superiors to think of you? Isn’t it time to be different and dress for success?

Who Are We.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse in 1986, to the board room of E&J Gallo, where they successfully sold their brand in 2005. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful and help corporations achieve entrepreneurial cultures to engage and empower their people.

Currently they travel the world keynoting at universities, corporations, conferences and symposiums. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals; along with being FOX News Radio Network’s Workplace Culture Experts. They are also the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Award from the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradley University. Visit their popular brand building site at To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders