Dress for the Meeting

Dress for the Meeting

In 2006, I had the pleasure of being invited by a FTSE company to travel to the Indy 500 in Daytona, Florida as part of a team that was pitching NASCAR and Mike Skinner on being sponsored. At the time I was split living between Hermosa Beach (CA) and Playa Flamingo (CR), so while my professionalism exceeded my clients’ expectations, there was some concern that my garb had become somewhat chillaxed.

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 Fast forward to the Daytona 500. We had what are called ‘Hot Passes’, which are basically for VIP’s and not available for sale. Before the race you are allowed on the raceway (no cars duh) and during the race you are allowed in pit row; so close that when they changed the tires on a car I got splashed with oil! Basically, you can do anything and everything except drive the cars. Honestly, the best experience I have ever had at an auto race, bar none.

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Our meeting was scheduled for early afternoon with the France family, Mike Skinner and our team. Oh and the lawyers naturally, because God forbid one has a meeting without lawyers. It was a hot day and so I dressed in a casual shirt and jeans. Our team met up, and the rest of our guys/gal were dressed in suits. One must have some background here. The company to whom I was consulting was British, and the executive were all English. If you ever go to the City (Financial district of London), don’t wear anything less than a suit with tie. Pink shirts are welcome. English men love to wear pink dress shirts.

So, one of our team remarked, ‘Patrick, you’re not going into the meeting like that are you?’

I said you bet I am. This is my outfit that day.

Patrick Smyth Daytona 500

And so, we entered the meeting in a trailer inside the racing circle, a hair from the pits. The NASCAR guys were all dressed casually, and our team looked way out of place. One of our guys began the pitch, and was interrupted by Bill France, Jr. who looked at me at me and said, ‘Bitter End Yacht Club?’

Bitter End Yacht Club?

I immediately remember that the casual shirt had the Bitter End Yacht Club logo on it, and replied ‘yes, I was there this past New Year’s.’

He asked, ‘Did you go to Foxy’s for the celebrations?’

‘Yes sir!’ I replied. You see, these places are in the British Virgin Island and only accessible by boat, and you either have to be (a) super rich to have a boat or (b) know someone who is. I was neither. A few of us barebacked a catamaran for a couple of weeks and sailed the bathtub. It really wasn’t that expensive when we costed it out and divided by four.

Mr. France continued and asked me to resume the pitch and he centered on me for the rest of the meeting, asking questions and commenting. Afterwards, he pulled me aside and we spoke about boating and my experiences in the Islands in general. It was wonderful conversation, albeit it short.

In our post meeting, I had to explain what had happened, and none were too pleased that I had become the center of the discussions. After all, I was merely a consultant. 

Dress for the occasion

It’s important to look sharp for meetings, but it’s more important to dress for the occasion. That seems obvious. But is it? Would you dress in a suit and tie to meet Mark Zuckerberg? Probably not. Would you wear flip flops to meet Warren Buffet? Yea, not a good plan.

So when choosing your outfit, don’t just look at the venue, but do some research into the individuals who will be there, their background, and the industry you want to pitch. 

One word of caution. Flip flops and sports jackets never work together as an ensemble.