Making a Great First Impression

Most people will judge you within the first few seconds of meeting you and their opinion will most likely never change.

By Jim Callahan.

I was in a client store recently and saw a familiar, middle-aged cashier behind the counter that recently began paying a little extra attention to her work appearance. Dressed in the normal company uniform, she had her hair and nails done professionally and spent a little extra time on her makeup. It was a noticeable difference.

I told her she was raising the bar on the company uniform and she was quick to inform me that she had attended a jewelry party earlier in the day and didn’t have time to change. But she also confided that she had received many compliments from her regular customers and it was obvious, from the way she carried herself, that she was riding a wave of self-confidence on that sunny Atlanta afternoon.

 A few days later I was back in the store and the difference in her presence and demeanor was absolutely striking. She had removed the makeup and jewelry and reverted back to the everyday cashier I had remembered. Gone was her confident demeanor. Despite the compliments and praise that came with putting her best foot forward, she lacked the drive and commitment to sustain change. I noticed and, more importantly, the customers noticed.

I must admit, after witnessing the positive change in her appearance and attitude after the jewelry party, I wondered why someone wouldn’t take the extra steps to sustain such good feelings.

Fairly or unfairly, questions have since ruminated through my mind regarding her dedication to her job. After all, while you might not agree with those thoughts, it is important that you know how management sometimes thinks. We put on a show for the customers. Actors always look their best on screen and the convenience store is our theater.

quiktrip employeeFocus on Improving
As we start the New Year, it’s a good time to reexamine our commitment to our brand image and the employees that represent us every day. Do not contemplate improving your appearance simply to make your customers happier. Instead, work on improving your appearance for yourself—so you feel genuinely proud of the image you are projecting. When you’re proud of your image, everyone else will be too.

In his 1970s book, “Dress for Success,” author John Molloy made three key points that apply to the retail industry.

• It’s been proven that people who dress well are treated with respect.  Given the choice between a well-dressed applicant and one in sloppy attire, an employer will choose the better dressed one hands down.
• Dressing above the level of the job you hold presents and portrays you as a valuable commodity to management, even one the company is fortunate to have.
• Dressing for success presents your true potential. It’s putting your best foot forward and gives you a definite competitive edge when decisions have to be made.

For convenience stores, these points all lead to one thing: presenting yourself to your customers with pride. Acting like a professional is not just for those looking for their next step up the ladder, but also for those who strive to be better.

Many years ago, as a young junior convenience store manager, my supervisor took me to task because my shoes were not always brightly shined. This, he said, had a negative effect on my overall presentation. I’ve never forgotten the advice and I have always tried hard not forget the small things. As we welcome in 2014, I urge you to write down your goals and the steps you will take to complete them. Remember that even the smallest details will determine your ultimate success. Take pride in your presentation and your customers will reward you with their business, but more importantly, with their respect.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on He can be reached at (678)485-4773 or via e-mail at


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