You have heard that first impressions last and that they matter. One can adjudge you professional or not in the few instances they interact with you or your company. For most small enterprises especially, impressions aren’t things they care too much about. They are busy seeking looking for money to do business, and orders etc. Well, it might be that the reason your business struggles with tying down opportunities is because you are projecting the wrong impressions out there. The company and the owner at this stage are inseparable and whatever impressions they project must only be those that reinforce the business image.
- The Entrepreneur
- Dressing: Now, image starts here. How you dress up goes a long way in convincing a financier, potential buyer, or credit seller that you mean business. If you are within your business it’s okay to dress in the right attire for the job, otherwise, you dress smartly in branded or business wear official or business causal. Just don’t be too casual and care free about it. Same way dont over kill it
- Diary/Note Book: You will occasionally need to put your thoughts (or other peoples) down as you talk to people or as they randomly come. It’s just not very nice to go to meetings without a notebook and a pen. Looks very street
- Business cards: In this day, it is good to have business cards. Simple nice eye-catching ones. It is also important to know who and how to give them out. Otherwise you will be wasting them
- Email Addresses: It’s the digital age, please get a decent e-mail address with which you can communicate. You will need to send quotations, invoices, profiles etc. With smart phones, appointments are easy to schedule with email/phone calendars? It will help avoid clashing schedules, and can also remind you of upcoming commitments. You do need a good email for that though. While at it, please have a good signature for your email. Don’t just send a flat e-mail. Let it inform and sell you
2. The Enteprise
- Dressing: Do you and your staff dress up in a specific way, maybe uniforms, branded wear, safety clothing etc. It looks funny if I come to your production areas and I find one guy in slippers, another in old dirty T-shirt and another in a worn out overall for a different company. Safety boots, eye protectors, nose masks and most importantly coats and head covers for your visitors
- Amenities: Visitors will come to your place and may ask to use their bathrooms. What surprise awaits them? Is it even clean, has some necessary paper, water, soap etc? If they visit your restroom and walk out very fast and quickly have to finish the meeting and go, guess just what happened? How do you even have people work in such environments?
- Courtesy tea: You can choose to save money by not providing some courtesy tea to your visitors and staff. But how much saving are you really doing? Would things be different in case you provided tea, drinking water etc?
- Website: In this day, people expect you have a functioning website. I hear of your name or I touch your card I immediately want to google your name or that of your company. Please satisfy my curiosity. It’s frustrating to find some high potential biz without a website or having a one page that says nothing other than the mission vision and message from the chair.
- Pitch Document: You have your business plan and strategy and that is alright. But do you have a pitch document? It must be clear on the what, why, how, how much, and when? Sometimes you talk to financiers and potential investors/partners and they still can’t figure you out.
- Prototype: So you make goods and services? Let’s see it. In fact, produce the best possible master piece which you can use for display or demonstration. Someone once said, “in God we trust but everyone else show proof”
- Customer Contact: It’s nice to give internships and we all encourage it. But please don’t throw them immediately to the reception desk or customer care. Nothing is more frustrating than finding that the first person you meet not only can’t help you but also don’t even know who can. You end up thinking you are speaking different language.
- Visitors Book: Occasionally, important people will visit your establishment, it is always nice if they leave their thoughts in writing. You will look back in future and smile.
- Internal Environment: Ever been to a factory and you are confronted with scary amount of gunny bags and empty sacks, containers, scrap metals, broken down machinery and equipment all in the shop floor lying all over. You may not be ready for Kaizen principles, but you can just make things look orderly. Don’t keep anything you don’t use. If you have to keep it then keep it away. Not a nice sight to see rats racing on the floor
- External Environment: You have a good establishment, keep it clean, if you are lucky to have a compound of your own keep it well-manicured. Exposed wire, spilling water etc? come on. Check the surrounding environment too. When sewerage systems are spilling about or landfills forming do something. Otherwise bad image for you and a health risk for everyone. Is your premise branded and well addressed?
Now you will realize some aspects are just minimum standards of professionalism. But also other issues might be questions of Occupational Safety Health