Where is the gravitas?

An article to explore the deeper connection of image consultant’s work to the person and a (corporate) organization.

Leaving the luxury hotel industry as a Business Development Manager and going to explore
training and image consulting, startled a lot of people. Most people were thinking what the heck
will I do to be successful in my new venture. I was a sales person—neither a trainer nor an image
consultant! Not to mention, as a hotel sales executive I was not the best in uniform or even
mastered business etiquette. Picture this. Think of someone rushing to work with wet hair, black
stockings, a dark skirt suit, no make up and did I already mention wet hair. And because I was
rushing I had to wear my most comfortable sneakers with my suit. Yes, that was I! Then I would
pop in the daily early morning meeting with my department head and proudly report all about my
sales leads, sales activities and meetings with top management of my accounts. She would look at
me head to toe and end the visual examen by looking at my sneakers and blurt out – what is that?!
Totally ignoring my very productive report!

As a young person entering the work force, I was all about productivity. And yes I showed
how productive I was, I met my targets every month. My life influence was being raised in a
Catholic school where I learned simplicity. Then graduating from UP Diliman where nobody cared
about how you looked and your intelligence and grades just spoke for yourself. I never really
thought about the importance image in the workplace. So, I learned thru proper image and proper
business etiquette thru a lot of trial and error (A LOT of error! Can I exaggerate even more) thru
observation and on the job training.

I left the hotel industry to work in the family corporation (a training center) and I thought
would be great to shop for people and do make up for other people and earn money from it on the
side. I have met personal shoppers and I thought it would be great to be like them. Then I started
my research about this interest and thru this research, I found image consulting. Consequently, I
met Olen Lim. Olen is well known in the image consulting industry as she has facilitated numerous
programs for top corporations and is a media personality appearing in morning shows and the
news. It was the first time I met Olen and from the first telephone call we jived. She introduced me
to Academy of Image Mastery and London Image Institute and I instantly enrolled and finished the
course. As a young image consultant in a young image consulting industry in the Philippines (at that
time) and with only positive thinking, passion and energy and a few thousand bucks in my pocket I
jump-started my image consulting and training company. After a year, received my First Level
Certification.

So with my experience as a sales person, my energy and resilience to get accounts. I was
already conducting image training to various multinationals, government institutions and more. I
met a lot of people from all walks of life. I was facilitating programs “by the book” and how I
learned in training how to properly facilitate. I did it as a competency not from character.

So to show how I change from conducting the training and accepting jobs from mere
competency to character, I would like to share with you two people in this article that made an
impact. Two people whom I met that made me rethink my work as an image consultant beyond the
aspects of appearance, behavior and communication.

The first man, lets call him Jose. Jose is a public speaking guru and I met him for some
insight and advise. During this meeting, Jose asked me “what is your edge? You are not a model
or a beauty queen. All the image consultants look like image consultants”
. He said this to me
point blank, at 100% eye contact, without batting an eyelash.

The second client, lets call him Mark. Mark is the head of Human Resources in a law firm. After I enthusiastically showed the training plan of an image program designed for personnel of this law firm, he asked me “where is the gravitas?” I have translated his question into something like asking me “so how does this make sense in our world?”

So to try and answer Jose. As a MBA student and an entrepreneur, I see “my edge” as product differentiation. Accept, deny or refuse to accept that as image consultants – we are the product. The main product the customer are buying into are the consultant first, then the training program. So I thought hard and was thinking about it for a long time (years in fact), I thought what makes me different? And I think as an image consultant, this is what we should watch out for. In a training program where we all tackle the ABCs of image – what makes us different? In an industry where clients choose who to work with in the budgetary constraint they have and will still meet and match their demand – what makes us stand out? What makes us unique? What makes us inspiring and memorable? Just as we coach our participants and individual coaches, we ask them this – but have you asked yourself this?

Now to answer Mark. Where is the gravitas? Most people in the corporate world think image, the ABCs, personal style and wardrobe are important but are rather shallow compared to the technical skills and competencies they need to have in order to reach their KPIs (key performance indicators). What is the impact of the ABCs to them?

So I encourage fellow image professionals out there.  Rediscover. Re-examine your purpose, your vision.  Its not just about color, style, body shape, civility and etiquette. These are wonderful tools – yes! But we have to look for the gravitas – the bigger meaning of why we are in this industry of image consulting.

So now I realize, what makes me different is that I am neither a model nor a beauty queen. I am a working mother of three, with a rectangular shaped body, struggling to keep my body mass index below 25 and this is what makes me unique in image consulting. And as someone in the corporate world, I know how the effort of these entire concepts will mean and how difficult it would be to apply consistently.

And for the gravitas, not only do I relate it to the organization but to the value of image as it brings them more positivity in their personal and life career. And for the image professionals, where is the gravitas of our work? Is it only working as a training partner and charging a hefty fee for corporations and making sure we got our returns on our personal investment? I entered image consulting because I wanted to make a difference and empower persons so that they can be the happiest they can be. That sometimes if I know that an organization only has a few thousand pesos (and really does not have the budget) for the honorarium but would want to empower and uplift their hardworking people then I would do it.

My thoughts for accepting jobs? I would stay true to my passion and my vision as an image trainer/consultant.  Do I accept work with a small budget all the time and "dilute the industry"? NO WAY! I know when a company has the budget then I charge to the heavens.  But I see these jobs as opportunities in nation-building not just ME building.  I believe that to support a cause you don’t need to head a big philanthropy project or committee or event, it is in everyday living.

And so for an honorarium of less than the standard charge for a one-hour talk? It would be definitely all been spent for and I will not be able to return my personal investments in obtaining CEUs and certification.  But the investment? It will triple its return as we create bigger change in the lives of the people and spark inspiration and empowerment to make their family and lives happier. And, I think this is our edge. This is our gravitas.