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In July 2015, Dan Richards shared information on appropriate dress for client and prospect meetings. He stated that "what you wear will not only affect the way you are perceived by others, but also the way you think about yourself."
Earlier in my career, I was in the fashion industry and am still a certified image consultant. I wholeheartedly agree with Dan.
Although personal appearance is what is most often thought of when discussing first impressions, how your office looks matters just as much.
I visit many advisor offices each year and have put together a checklist and guide for evaluating and improving office appearance.
Someone who has worked in your office for some time has likely become immune to the surroundings, so ask someone who is new to the office to go through the following checklist. If this is not possible, ask a spouse or someone who has a discerning eye.
Things to look out for:
- dirty windows
- dirty, broken or bent window blinds
- dying plants – there are terrific fake plants available
- piles of paperwork
- smudged desktops or mirrors
- post-it notes around computer and/or along reception area counter ledges
- crooked pictures
- crumbs, lint or stains on carpet
- beat up furniture
- dirty or torn chairs
- too many trinkets or knickknacks
- coffee cups with rings on the inside
- old candy – especially if it is stuck together or discolored
- outdated magazines
- handwritten, torn or outdated signage
- smells (food, cleaning products)
- noise – don’t forget about the hold music and other noise associated with the office – when are the gardeners and garbage trucks on site?
- old whiteboard – can no longer be cleaned, dried out pens
- what is playing on the television -- not market update news I hope
- dirty, dark, smelly bathroom (see below)
- garbage cans – overflowing, food, ugly plastic bag liners (full of air)
- writing pads that have scraps of paper at the top where sheets were not torn off cleanly
- pens with another company’s logo
- landscaping (this may or may not be something you have control over)
To be relatable, consider what awards are in your office. Do you have a plaque that states you are the top salesperson for 2014? How does that appear to a client or prospective client? It may be better to showcase an award that states you reached a high level of client service satisfaction or quality of advice.
To make your office more inviting to clients and prospects, consider:
- a digital photo frame featuring client events
- a clock facing the clients
- artwork that is not "industrial" looking
- a nice desk lamp and floor lamp
- a prominent logo – let prospects know they’re in the right location
- a frame at the receptions desk with the prospect's name in it welcoming them to your office
- family photos (including pets) and objects that reflect hobbies or travel
- double copies of illustrations, two notepads (when both parties to the relationship are in attendance)
If you have a say in how your bathroom is appointed, consider the following list:
- good quality toilet tissue and hand towels
- clean mirrors
- fixtures and locks that work
- replace missing tiles
- good lighting
- attractive decorations
- air freshener with a mild fragrance
Most of us work with elderly clients. Many of them have special needs. One way to make them feel welcome is to have chairs with a higher seat, sturdy legs and arms they can use to help themselves out of the chair. Consider such seating in your office, reception area and conference room. Be cautious about rugs. They can be tripping hazards.
If you don't have the skills to evaluate your work space, ask one of your friends or clients who are always well put together to give you feedback. Alternatively, utilize the services of an interior designer. You may have one in your client base.
As Dan Richards mentioned, being relatable is important for growing and maintaining a successful practice.
Conducting an annual evaluation of your surroundings should be an ongoing part of doing business.
For the past 18 years, Teresa Riccobuono has been a professional organizer, business consultant and practice-management specialist to the financial services industry, helping advisors bridge the gap between their existing and their ideal financial planning practice. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area but works with advisors across the country. She is a member of the board of directors of the East Bay Chapter of the Financial Planning Association and is currently the co-chair of the Public Relations committee. She can be reached at [email protected].
Read more articles by Teresa Riccobuono