Many of us are still old enough to recall the days when pulling up outside a client’s office building in an ultra-cool, gasoline-addicted, snarling motor car was halfway towards impressing them that you and your company had to be the bee’s knees as top in your industry.
Nowadays turning up to a client’s office in an expensive gas-guzzler can have precisely the opposite effect, making socially conscientious clients look at you like you just crawled out of a drain for being so selfish and thoughtless to the planet.
Then there’s the envy/jealousy/spiteful factor, of course
A few years ago I turned up to a client’s office in a brand new car – not flashy, but just nice. The client looked out of the window as I locked it up and said, “nice car. We must be paying you too much.” He said it with a frosty smile, but I knew it irked him.
Had the same happened in North America where I believe that people can be envious without being jealous, the client’s reaction more likely would have been, “nice car. It’s good to see your business is doing well.”
So be warned if your business is in the UK… leave the vintage Bugatti at home and take the gardener’s pickup instead.
So what does your mode of transport say?
RollsRoyce or Bentley
Over-the-hill film stars (rented) and fat middle-Eastern aristocrats (owned and driven at blinding speeds, especially if a super-charged Bentley). Considered in good taste, if hysterically eccentric, only when a pre-1960 model.
British soccer player, US rapper, minor Arabian prince, Kardashian. These cars look like large skateboards with speeds approaching Mach 1 and cockpits that only accommodate the shortest of hair extensions, thereby rendering them unsuitable for most female stars (although Kim K’s getting pretty good at squeezing in).
Moderately successful business people in North America, flamboyantly successful executives in the UK. Most Germans and other western Europeans use Mercedes as taxis and think the British are nuts to treat them with such reverence. Be warned when doing business in continental Europe; you may think it’s a new colleague waving hello to you, but it’s probably some jerk hailing a cab.
Discreet class and good taste. Audi has always tended to have a neutral socio-economic profile, unlike BMW (flashy and nouveau-riche), Volvo (very boring), Skoda (cheap and nasty), Volkswagen (slightly boring), Ford (snake-oil salesman), etc. Audi’s image has remained neutral despite being the preferred choice of wheels for several members of the British royal family, which says a lot for their star power.
Large SUVs/ 4WDs / 4x4s
Ruthless, wealthy owner of a fast-food chain, slightly dubious real estate agent, ageing sportsman or a nervous, 5’2″ mom peering over the steering wheel taking two small children to nursery school. About as eco-friendly as a neutron bomb, so a no-no if you sell solar roof panels or aromatherapy oils.
Known in the US as “mini-vans” these seat up to 7 or 8 people and suggest that you’re a minor film or rock star (if the windows are blacked out) jumped-up taxi driver (depending on which door you get out of), or parent of a large family (be sure to wipe the baby vomit off your business suit before leaving the vehicle).
You’d really have the gall to turn up to a meeting in a four-wheeled chamber pot that even Noddy and Big Ears wouldn’t be seen dead in? Useful if your client’s office is deep downtown because you can park it alongside the garbage cans. If you must drive one, make sure your business suit has decent sized pockets so you can hide the beastly thing in there with your keys and phone.
Convertible sports car
Pretty cool if you’re young and either a) male and/or b) have a very short hairstyle. Not cool for elegantly dressed women (hair and makeup turn into slime above 30 mph and you end up with your skirt around your neck when exiting and entering) or middle-men trying to prove they’re not suffering from the male menopause.
Depends. Turning up to a meeting on a retro Vespa scooter is quite cool if you’re in one of the woo-woo industries, but if your client is in a macho business s/he’ll think you’re a nerd. A Honda Goldwing or big Harley gives your image a lot of grunt but remember that most “Easy Rider” bike enthusiasts are over 60 with tattoos everywhere and gray ponytails hanging down to their ankles. Be sure that matches your business brand.
15 or 20 years ago, turning up to a business meeting in an expensive suit with bicycle clips and a helmet would make you seem a prize goofball. Today it’s seen as eco-friendly and money-saving, a fact which has not been lost on politicians and industry leaders who make sure the paparazzi get good shots of them pedalling to Buckingham Palace or down Wall Street. But get real. Going to work or a client meeting on your bike in the rain sucks. Never mind being on-trend; ride the subway.
My fantasy… so probably arriving at a meeting on one of these says idiot overweight nutcase freelance business writer. The heck with it; I want a Segway even though I would be certain to fall flat on my face within the first 30 yards. Meanwhile I’ll just stick to my (slightly boring) Volkswagen.
What do you think your wheels say about you and your business?