My guest in this episode is Htet Yie who is the Founder of Brand You - the first Image training company in Myanmar.
Htet Yie talks about starting her career in Sales before going on to study at the Academy of Image Mastery in Singapore which led to her starting her own business in Yangon.
In the following conversation Htet Yie explains what Image Consulting is and the importance of developing your personal brand. The first part is spoken in English and the second is in Burmese.
➤ Can you tell me, when you meet somebody new either in Yangon or outside and they ask you, ‘What do you do?’ How do you reply?
Okay I am an Image Consultant, so I do image and brand consulting now.
➤ When you say that to people what response do you usually get?
Five years ago when I started, they were like ‘Okay what is it?’
➤ Yeah because even I don’t know what it is.
Right so the first one or two years it was a bit awkward because when I talked to them about my career they were very interested and thinking like is it anything relating to photography or something like that.
➤ Or fashion? Because if you tell me, ‘image consultant’ I think you’re gonna fix my wardrobe. Like you’re gonna tell me what to wear…
That’s part of it, yes. We take care of our clients’ personal image, professional image, social image, digital image and things like that. So how is your appearance in meetings or job interviews or public relations or media presence, things like that. So we take care of your appearance, behavior, communication, what knowledge you have to portray, what kind of personality you show to people around you. That’s what we are interested in.
Be original, show off your style, and tell your story.
➤ Really exciting! So what is the difference between image consultant and for example PR?
Oh PR is one part of image consulting. PR is the way you show yourself to the public, right? Or the way you show your company, the way you portray your presence in public so it’s one type of image consulting.
➤ Okay cool and you said you do image consulting for meetings and in person so it’s not just online. It’s also offline, right?
Both. We are interested in both. We are interested in how you wear what you wear, how you walk, your body language or your facial expressions, how your confidence is, what color you wear, things like that. What color you wear on TV or on camera…
➤ That’s a huge field! Well I can’t wait to get some insight from you so first can I ask, ‘How did you start your career? How did you get into image consulting?’
Before this my profession was sales and marketing so I was working in Singapore as a regional service manager and then I got married and had a child and quit my career to take care of my son.
When I wanted to go back to work after one year I didn’t really want to go back as an employee. I wanted to start my own business, I wanted to try new things. At that time, one of my friends was an image consultant. She’s from Thailand, I met her and I really liked her confidence because I was not that confident at the time. So I wasn’t really interested in, like, how you dress or how you present yourself, I wasn’t really interested in that. But the way she spoke or portrayed herself was very interesting so I was like, ‘Okay I’m attending this course,’ not with the intention of starting a career.
So I took a diploma in image consulting from Singapore Academy of Image Mastery and then I took a diploma in image consulting from the London Image Institute – they were offering the courses in Singapore. So I took certification diplomas and then I went back to Myanmar then I thought, ‘Okay I should try because there’s no one doing that,’ right? And nobody had heard of it yet.
➤ So this was five years ago?
Yes 2015. Yeah so I was exploring, I was curious, ‘Should I start on my own?’ And along the way it was really great because I helped a lot of people: women and men professionals – they got results from this you know – business owners.
I met a lot of people and changed the way they think. It’s not just the look, you always have to go inside-out. So I really love this career and I’m happy that I started it.
➤ Wow yeah, I can understand. So I see that it’s a combination of business coaching and social media consulting and fashion design, right? It’s a combination of everything, [NLP] and even dating – because there’s a lot of dating coaches and they teach you how to gain confidence in yourself. So that’s where it all starts, correct?
I don’t know about dating coaching because I have never tried [laughs] but yes if you are a human being, the way you present is very important even to yourself, how you present to yourself. What is your self-image saying to you? It’s really important because it’s in everything, in your relationships, in your work or in society.
If you can show who you are in a very confident way or in a very pleasant way then people automatically like you. So it’s just easier for you to create what you want, whether in business or in personal goals like dating or getting a job or you know creating a good first impression.
➤ Just to be clear, I’ve never tried a dating coach either but I’m just thinking about [the ones from the] movies and no matter what it is you want to achieve in the external world, you have to start with internal self confidence and self efficacy, right? So I understand that’s what you’re saying.
That’s true, that’s true.
➤ Okay can you tell me a couple of the most common challenges that you see people facing? Like your clients that come to you, what are the most common problems they’re trying to fix?
I think I have quite a wide range of clients so actually everyone is different but if I can sum up then for men, they are more interested in like, authority and productivity and power. They want to have more authority in business.
➤ Can you give me a couple of quick tips? What do you say to these men?
At first with everyone I need to know who they really are, okay? If they are introverted and very shy, I cannot tell them to record a video and show it on social media, right?
➤ Right, that’s a good point. So what do you say to those guys who are really introverted and really shy but they want to succeed in business?
Usually I ask them one-to-one. I don’t send them to groups and make a speech and things like that. I ask them to a one on one meeting and then they really have to change how they look, the body language and how they dress, you know.
There are colors that make you more powerful – actually for both men and women – like dark blue. You know black is too serious, so I don’t really recommend black but like, you know, dark blue and gray things like that. They make you more professional, more powerful and more serious.
On the other hand the lighter colors you know make you more pleasant, you know, or approachable so it depends on the client’s personality as well. If you are a serious person you cannot wear very serious colors because nobody comes near you anymore.
So it depends on the personality. And some of my clients don’t like to wear professional clothes. They don’t like to wear suits and ties so I have to like, twist them – there are a lot of twists. We have to know the theories, like, in clothing or the way you walk or the way you speak, there are a lot of theories but how you use it or when to use it depends on the personality, right? So it’s very personalized.
➤ You said, ‘The way you speak.’ What tips do you give to men, what mistakes do you see that men make? Also are you talking mostly about burmese clients?
I have both. Maybe like 70 percent are burmese clients and I also have international clients. There are a lot of NGOs I have been training and giving consulting to here in Myanmar.
➤ Okay and is it mostly Asians or Europeans?
Both. Europeans as well.
➤ Okay well, what differences do you see in terms of the challenges that they face?
I think for the asian men it’s more about clothing. I have to change a lot of their appearance and how they walk, you know?
➤ Yes! Body language.
Because they always walk very.. how can I say it? It’s not very open. I have to teach them open gestures.
➤ Yes! Why is that?
I think it’s culture. It’s not only for men but with women also.
➤ If you show confidence they feel like they’re being too dominating, right?
Yes, because our culture here is a bit, you know, soft and we love to be likable. The body language and gestures, they are the main ones and facial expressions of course, so I have to teach them on that.
➤ Okay then does that mean for a Burmese businessman to succeed he has to go against the culture?
No, I don’t think so but of course I think if he wants to show his power or authority and as I said it depends on the personality too, it’s not a hundred percent rule for everyone – but if you have the soft personality and if you want to show authority you can use [these techniques] to show you’re being strong or authoritative or decisive. And if your personality is too strong [that’s another issue].
I have a client who came back from the US and he was there for 20 years and then he came back to Myanmar. He’s a Myanmar national but his personality totally changed. He appeared too strong, he appeared too authoritative, so I have to tone him down. It’s an art, right? It’s very difficult to say, ‘This is a role. You have to do this.’
➤ So do you think it’s a bad idea to be too American, too decisive in Myanmar?
It depends on what you are doing. I think if you are working in the international community, very open, very educated and they are willing to be open, then I think it doesn’t matter. But if you are working in a community with a very traditional mindset or a bit closed, then you have to be adjustable, I think. Be flexible.
So it’s not just appearance. The way you communicate is very important. Communication and voice tone. And your behavior, how you understand the culture. It’s very important, I think everywhere, not just in Myanmar.
➤ Yeah, there’s the small cultural details in Myanmar but overall I think generally humans are all the same. So it’s about if somebody says something and you disagree, how do you disagree, right? That’s always a problem.
I think for me, it’s respect.
➤ ‘Respect’, that’s a good word. But then also I find that if you’re a leader you should be able to make decisions, you should be able to speak clearly. And I find that in Burmese language if you speak in short words and short sentences, they think it’s rude. Tell me if I’m correct.
Whereas in English I speak in short sentences, that’s clear. That’s speaking clearly. But in Burmese, you have to add extra words and you have to add extra sounds, otherwise it’s rude.
Pleasantries, right? Yeah possible. But for me, I think what is more important is the voice tone because even if you’re talking with pleasantries and you add a lot of words but your voice tone is rude then you are rude, right? And how can I say? – the older generation, they like it.
➤ They love it! They love long words and extra words and details! Okay before we move on and can you tell me what about the european clients or the non-burmese clients? What do you see in them when they come to you?
They are very open and they know what they want. The challenge is cultural because they don’t understand how our people think. So in leadership and in decision making they’re confused. So I have to help them with communication mostly.
➤ Excellent! Okay let’s move on to women. What challenges do women face?
I think self-image and confidence. Everybody’s different and I have more woman clients. It depends on their age and their profession. Some women in leadership positions, they want to look like a leader, act like a leader, like men too, right, so they want to know how to speak in public or do digital social media, print [media] that’s what the professional women want.
I have a lot of clients who are business owners and they have to lead male clients. So it’s very important to show kindness and compassion like a woman and at the same time you also have to show leadership and it’s quite challenging.
➤ Yes because you want to be feminine but also you want their respect.
Yes and along the line, we have to you know adjust here and there so that they are seen as a good leader and at the same time they are also an attractive woman maybe.
➤ So what kind of advice do you give? I know it’s a long process and everybody’s different but do you have any common pieces of advice that you share?
First, it’s the way they look. Men or women, the way they look is the most important.
➤ Why is that?
What you’re wearing is part of the first impression, right? And appearance for a woman is more complicated than men.
➤ Because women are judged more on their appearance, right?
Definitely, yes. So what you wear, the type of clothing. And then the grooming – how is your grooming? And then how is your hair? The hair is the most important for women.
➤ What are some of the decisions you have to make with the hair?
It’s mostly changing the style so that it can match their profession you know? Because if you are too girly and your profession doesn’t allow that, there can be problems. And if you want to dye your hair and your profession doesn’t allow you. Or it’s your profession and you have to dye your hair because you’re in a fashion industry and you don’t want to dye it… there are a lot of issues with only with the hair.
And then – the same as men – the way they walk, their facial expression and then make up. Some women don’t like to wear makeup and today you cannot not wear makeup.
If you are working at home, you don’t meet with anybody, you only work alone then it may be possible. But if you go in public, especially if you are in a leadership position then I think you need a presence. You need a professional presence. And if your skin is really good and everything is fine then okay, but mostly it’s not like that, right?
So people will look at you and judge you in that. It’s not about wearing makeup to be beautiful and feminine and attractive, it’s not like that. It’s wearing makeup to be more presentable.
➤ To manage other people’s judgments. It’s about you controlling their judgment, right?
That’s true. We want to change the perception in their mind.
➤ Yeah it’s about you influencing them.
Do you have a problem of convincing a client or a potential client that they need image consulting? Do you have people who don’t know that they need your help?
I think I’m lucky with that. I don’t need to influence clients. They come to me because they need it but maybe the way they have to change themselves or their behavior or their attitudes, that I might need to influence them or [persuade] them to change. But not the whole package because they know that they need it.
➤ That’s very interesting because if you know that you have a problem that’s already really good. That’s a first step because I think the majority of people walking around this planet don’t know what problem they have, right? We don’t know. So people that come to you, if they already know they have a problem then that makes your job easier.
I think that’s also because I’m a writer too. So I write a lot, in journals, in magazines. I published a book and then I have quite a lot of social media presence and tv and radio presence so they are familiar with this already because I have been educating them for five years.
➤ Excellent! That’s such an important point. So that means you only attract people that want your services. You don’t need to sell.