A smile and a handshake is very important, but only part of the verbal and non-verbal communication volley. The office appearance holds many non-verbal branding messages. What does your environment communicate on your behalf?
Cues in the environment communicate professionalism (sincerity, conscientiousness, commitment, attentiveness–or the lack thereof) more loudly than the framed mission statement, fancy business cards, and name-dropping.
It is the little things that catch the eye of potential customers. It could be the intricate skillet-sized lacey cobweb the draws attention to itself each time the A/C kicks on or the door is opened? Maybe your thumb-tacked yellowing philodendron (three-loops around the office perimeter) has taken on the appearance of a cruel experiment in water deprivation? Perhaps your customer hears you finishing up your phone call and they reach for the mint in the empty candy dish after coming from a “bloomin onion” at the Outback? Everything you can do to make your guests and potential clients feel cared for and considered will enhance their overall experience and leave them with a good impression of their time spent with your organization.
The human eye is often drawn first to the odd/unusual, the out-of-place, and mismatched environmental landscape. Does your office practice file management or pile management? These oddities cause our minds to begin evaluating and critiquing the responsible owner of the environment–which leads to perceptions and assumptions about personal character, work ethic, and trustworthiness.
Consciously or unconsciously, these environmental branding messages speak on your behalf to potential clients. Even tools and tool use methods speak on behalf about your ability to handle the scope and scale of a potential clients business. Are you using tools and systems that communicate you are capable of meeting customer requirements who work in high-tech business transactions?
Before finalizing your budget requirements, make sure to scrutinize your office and professional environments. Better yet, ask someone who doesn’t work in your environment to visit your office and share their impression of what the office “says” to a new visitor. Evaluate the potential return on investment by de-cluttering, organizing, modernizing, and upgrading your environment. Before you make investments in an office environment make-over, I suggest you visit your competition (or have someone else visit competitor environments). With a few changes here and there you can improve your brand messaging!