My handbag lost me a business contract – Do handbags matter?

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National Handbag Day – 10th October 2019

As it’s National Handbag Day tomorrow (who knew such a thing existed!!), we couldn’t help but share Clare’s her rather unusual experience of how her handbag played such a big role in losing a business contract.


My handbag lost me a business contract – Do handbags matter?

My handbag lost me a potential business contract. Strange, or is it? Maybe you have had a similar experience. Clare explains…

I wonder how many of us reading this right now, have been in the situation where you have been judged on the first impressions made by your choice of clothes and accessories? I certainly have, and not always to good effect.

Let me take you back to a recent hot summer day, when I was pondering what to wear to a business meeting with a potential new and lucrative client. The wardrobe doors are thrown open and I am staring into the space waiting for an outfit to jump out at me. The considerations running through my mind were to be formal but not too formal, smart but cool, feminine and business-like. I’d not met the client before and I’d not visited the site before. The organisation was in a formal educational setting, although all students and most staff were away and the site would be quiet. I used to work in that environment myself many years ago and know that the summer holiday period tend to be relaxed and informal. Maybe you can see my dilemma in choosing my level of ‘dress to impress’.

I selected my best summer floral work dress, a pair of matching wedge sandals and a couple of pieces of my favourite sliver jewellery. I picked a smart (or so I thought) summer oilcloth handbag that would hold my best notebook, pens and contract documents and off I went.

The meeting went well. A professional discussion took place with the HR Director regarding project details, contract arrangements and ideas for implementation. I was articulate, knowledgeable, flexible, warm and pleased with the options and ideas we explored. Happy days.

Twenty four hours later I received an initially exciting email from the client that began with confirmation of suitability to deliver, the positive working relationship that had been established, arrangements, T&Cs and a start date. Followed by a ‘but’…

“But we didn’t like your handbag and we are concerned that you are not the right fit for us.”

So, what did my handbag choice say about me? To be honest, I’ve got no idea! I was so shocked at the comment that it didn’t occur to me to ask for further feedback. I was so indignant that I had been judged on handbag impressions, that I declined the contract there and then on the basis that our values were probably not very well aligned (professional competency being less important than handbag choice) and that such handbag snobbery probably didn’t bode well for a successful working relationship going forward.

What did I learn? To choose my handbags more carefully in situations where it might matter (if such a thing can be predicted) and consider what my choice might portray.

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