By Mark Gray
It’s no secret we are a culture consumed by image. Consider the following: over his career, a good-looking man will make £100,000s more than his least-attractive counterpart.
It’s called the “beauty premium”: the idea that pretty people, whatever their aspirations, tend to do better in, well, almost everything. Handsome men earn, on average, 5 percent more than less-attractive men. They get more attention from teachers, bosses, and mentors; even babies stare longer at good-looking faces (and we stare longer at good-looking babies).
A couple of years ago, when the economy was thriving, we might have brushed off those statistics as superficial. But in 2011, when employers have more hiring options than ever, looking good is no longer something we can dismiss as frivolous or vain. When it comes to the workplace, its looks, not merit, that all too often rule. We spoke with former US model turned business financier, Dorian Black, on how his beauty has helped him rise up the corporate ladder.
Has anyone ever told you that you look like Robert Downey Jr.?
I have heard that. It depends on the day. When I am unshaven, I get Hugh Jackman.
Do you agree that being attractive has opened doors for you?
I believe attractiveness is more then just good looks; it’s an overall appeal. If one presents with confidence, his energy and passion will be evident and people will subconsciously gravitate toward him.
What role have your looks played in your quick rise up the corporate ladder?
My rise up the corporate ladder wasn’t due to good looks. So much of my business takes place overseas. Oftentimes I’m at my desk holding meetings via conference call so clients can’t even see what I look like. Still, I admit my looks can be an advantage when I eventually meet a client in person to close the deal.
Do you rely on your looks to close a deal?
No, it’s more accurate to say I rely on my polished presentation. I think a well-presented businessman is always going to come off as organized, successful, and driven. My looks are a small part of it. The confidence I exude plays a much larger role.
Do you believe you would have that same confidence if you were 5’ 6” tall and 200 pounds?
Confidence doesn’t depend on weight or height. I work with all facets of individuals, large and small, who know they are great and aren’t afraid to show it off.
Have you mastered the art of influencing people and getting them to like you?
Before every meeting, I do my research on the companies and the executives I will be in front of that day. Recently, I met with an oil tycoon from Texas. Through research, I discovered he enjoyed 18th century art that focused on polo championships. In the first hour of our meeting, most of our conversation was centered on his love; particular artists and styles. We eventually got to discussing business and within 15 minutes, he agreed to invest with my company.
So you influence people by pretending to have an appreciation for what they enjoy?
I strive to build a connection to their world. That allows them to trust me. Its not manipulation; its communication.
What do you do to maintain your looks?
I do 45 minutes of cardio every morning, followed by weight training in the afternoons and diligent boxing twice a week.
How important is diet?
I eat six small meals a day, with limited amount of sodium. And yes, I get one day off a week to eat what I like. But, I have found that lately, I prefer to eat healthy even on my days off.
How important are clothes?
Clothes are essential to the presentation. I wear labels but I never buy them unless they are on sale. Recently, I bought a Prada Suit that was 60% off. I advise guys to spend £250-£300 on a suit. Spend a bit more on the tie and shoes and wear a shirt that requires cufflinks.
What about the briefcase?
If you are going to splurge, splurge on a great briefcase. It may sound strange, but it is something that everyone notices. It is an accessory that spells out the type of client and employee you can and will be. I recently scored, finding a £1500 Zegna briefcase for 80% off – now that’s a bargain!
How important is it to be up on football and golf stats?
I have found discussing sports before a meeting is a cop-out. It’s too general. If you do the research on the executives you will be meeting with, then you can lead the conversation to more polished subject matters that they will be interested in.
Is there something else the well-groomed man should know if he wants to fit in with the white collar set?
My father always told me, “be willing to spend money to fly first class, because you never know who you will be sitting next to”. It could be your next boss or client.
Have your looks ever been a detriment in the board room?
No, but my youth has. Not everyone is willing to take a COO in his early 30s seriously. But, as long as I maintain my confidence, without going overboard and falling into cockiness, I’m usually able to convince them I’m the right man for the job.
What advice can you offer men on how to raise their attractiveness to get more attention on the job?
Eat well, exercise, and be the best you can be. The well groomed man is polished and exudes confidence. You will find that being attractive requires not just a good suit, but also a great attitude and a lot passion.