July 22, 2014

Details: Your Pen


For many years I have been an advocate of choosing a personal writing instrument that fits with the image that I intend to convey. With this post I hope to win you over to this practice.

First impressions are incredibly important in business. What we wear, how we stand and sit, how we shake hands, how we pay attention, ask questions, take notes... these are more important to success than what we say because these visuals are remembered far longer than our words.

To walk into a business meeting without a pen is possibly forgivable on the grounds that you are simply absent minded, and that you left it at home. However, to brandish a cheap Bic in a business meeting is far worse. It is your public admission that you are unaware of the importance of a quality writing instrument.

It is said that, in California, we are what we drive. It is also said, more generally, that we are what we eat. But when it comes to who we are in a business meeting, we are judged, among other factors, by our pen.

Commandment #4 is "Write It Down" and it is inarguably true that business could not exist without the written word. Although in today's world the vast preponderance of written words are created using computers and smartphones, there are still moments when the written word must be achieved the old fashioned way...

When you pull out your pen to sign an agreement, to take notes in a business meeting, or to send a thank you note, it should be recognized as a milestone moment, and that attitude should be visibly demonstrated by using a pen worthy of the event.

In my early years I wrote with a Cross pen, but found them to be too light and skinny for my hand. My next step was to upgrade to Mont Blanc for a few years, but found them to be still to light, and they were mass marketed, like the Cross. Then Waterman became my choice for many years. Recently I selected the pen in the photo above. This is a custom piece, unlikely to be found across the table from me. It's crafted with real printed circuit boards, using a process that is kept secret, for now at least. It's heavy, a feature I like a lot, and it's fat, so it fills my hand well. The full shape is called a "cigar pen".  It uses a standard Parker refill.

More importantly, perhaps, than the message we give others when we display an exceptional instrument, is the message we give ourselves when we write in private. Important words flow more freely, clearly and with greater power from a first class pen.

I experimented with fountain pens for a brief period, and enjoyed the quality of the Pelikan line, but the solution is truly obsolete and messy. My chosen standard has always been ballpoint, with a medium point, using blue ink. I never use a pencil because they always produce an inconsistent line width, they are messy, and require maintenance.

There will be times when you can get by with just your pen, for example when you sign a legal agreement. However, a class-A pen requires a class-A notebook to complete the package. I use the unique Levenger Circa system in a leather binder. This allows me to keep my pen in the binder and not in a pocket. (Never clip your pen in your shirt or pants pocket. People who carry their pens in a leather binder Hire the people who clip their pens to their pockets.)  The binder has the space to carry your iPad, business cards, etc. I choose a binder with a zipper on 3 sides to keep my stuff secure and private.

In your next business meeting, pay attention to what people are using to take notes, for surely they will notice what you are using.

What impression do you want them to have?