Did you know that the #1 reason people don’t return to restaurants has nothing to do with the quality of the food or service? It’s the lack of cleanliness of the bathroom. This part of the customer experience speaks volumes about the overall integrity of the business even though it’s not directly related to the business of making and selling food.
What does your prospect or client see when they walk in your store or when you walk in to a meeting? How do you present your business with your nonverbal communication? What is it like to be on their side especially if they’ve never met me or know anything about me? “Do I look credible and professional?” “Is the environment where we meet representative of who I am or how I want to be perceived?”
Maybe they’ve seen pictures of your work or browsed your website so they are already forming an opinion about you and your work. But what kind of impression does a stranger get when they first meet you or walk into your store or office? Yes, they may love your work or product or service but if you’re presenting a vision of disorganization your credibility is on the line. The prospect’s impression of you is being formed at hyper speed during their interaction with you in your environment. We’ve all heard about the importance of making a good first impression but remember that applies to your surroundings as well.
How do you take an outsider’s view of yourself and your business? Go back to the beginning and ask yourself, “what service or product am I selling and to whom?”, “what is my mission?”, and most importantly, “who am I trying to attract?”. Here are a couple of steps to get you started:
- Look at yourself in the mirror and ask “would I hire this person?” Do you look like the kind of person who is in X business? I love the fact that I can work from home and wear pretty casual clothes when I’m on site organizing. However, office days are treated like client days so I’m not working in PJs with no makeup on. Presenting a good image, even if it’s just to you and the delivery person, sets the right mindset internally: I’m here to work and be successful!
- Next, look at your desk and work area. Would you be embarrassed if you had a client suddenly show up at your door for a meeting? If you saw Sara Blakely/ Martha Stewart/ Sheryl Sandberg with the same office set up would you think they were successful? Keep piles of papers to a minimum on your desk or use a vertical file to keep them in order yet accessible. Keep supplies in containers or in drawers to minimize the distractions on your desk. If it doesn’t serve to support your work, it shouldn’t be on your desk (I’m talking to you, clothing catalogs, makeup samples from your Birchbox, kids’ homework, bag of Fritos, etc.)
- Can you even find your phone/keys/files/emails when you need them? Designating a”home” for all of the work items that you use helps to know where they should be put so that you can find them anytime you need them. If something is “homeless” it can be anywhere in your office and who has time to look constantly? Nobody. Actually, Americans spend an average of 45 minutes a DAY looking for lost items. I’m sure there are a lot better ways to use YOUR time instead of looking for stuff.
- If you work in an office with other people or have a store, take a few minutes out of your day to walk out and then walk back in and just take in the environment with your eyes, ears, and nose. We get used to seeing things are certain way and are usually distracted that we don’t take time to absorb what someone might see their first time in your store. Scan from top to bottom. Are there dust bunnies or cobwebs anywhere? Is there a comfortable place to sit if someone has to wait? Is it obvious where to conduct business? What do guests hear when they come in? Does it smell pleasant? I even hate to mention it, but is the bathroom clean?
- Lastly, do you and your environment relate to the people your business is trying to attract? You and your office should LOOK the part. I’ve read that a lot of actors feel that doing period movies is easier because you have the costumes to help you assume the character. Your office and the way you present yourself are your set and costume. It’s just that the movie you’re making is your business.
Outer order leads to inner calm. If the space around you isn’t reflecting the high quality of your work, your business can’t help but suffer. We are all constantly being judged. How you handle the small things is a direct representation of how you will handle the large things. Your environment, even the bathroom or file drawer, should be the most positive reflection of you and your business. Don’t let a cluttered office be the reason for losing even one client or project.