First impressions are so important when it comes to gaining the confidence of potential clients and associates. Despite the fact that they can be very misleading, we often make very quick judgments regarding an individual or company based on a first impression. Like it or not, these impressions are made before anything is even said or done and are typically strictly based on appearance. We have all done it and will continue to do it. Sometimes we're right, but often we can be very wrong.
Millions of dollars are spent every year to create a bigger and stronger first impression and even more money is being made. Big businesses have been using water wall fountains to impress and impact their customers and clients, and its been working, but before we go there, let's explore the importance of making a strong first impression for small businesses as well.
The idea of creating incorrect first impressions reminds me of a story I heard from a very successful entrepreneur. Darren was out for an evening walk and ice cream in the park with his family on a beautiful summer evening. As they strolled through a section of the city they seldom visited they passed by a small Porsche dealership. After strolling through the yard they found a sportster convertible that caught their attention. Darren entered the dealership in his casual shorts, t-shirt and sandals to inquire about the vehicle. There seemed to be only one person in the small showroom and he was deep in social conversation on the phone. With his feet up on the desk, a milkshake in one hand and phone in the other he kept on in conversation making casual glances over to Darren periodically.
Darren could hear the conversation and it was definitely not business and could have easily been ended to make a potential sale. After which seemed like forever Darren left in disgust, never to return. Darren recognized the casual glances from the sales person as he looked over his shoulder and 'eyed him up'. By all appearances, not only his dress, but the dress of his family outside the show room window would indicate that he was strictly a tire kicker, yet Darren could have easily paid cash for the car. What's the point? We need to be careful about what image we portray and judgments we make based on appearance.
I could take us in two directions with the analogy above. I think it is obvious the mistake that the salesman made, and detrimentally affected both Darren and the salesman. It challenged Darren to be on his guard as deals may be lost or not even come his way based on how people perceive him solely based on appearance. Most of us have heard at least a million times the importance of looking our best for an interview or important 'one shot' presentation. It's a no brainer. It is easy to think about when we apply these principles to our personal appearance, but how about the space in which you work?
Business author and consultant Michael Gerber summed it up best in his book "The E Myth Revised" , "A business that looks orderly says to your customer that your people know what they are doing. " The context in which Michael wrote these profound words is somewhat different, however the message applies very clearly to the impact of physical appearance in regards to business.
It is important that you make a strong statement to your potential customers that portrays the image you want them to have about you and your business. It is important to have the look and feel of your business space consistent with the image you want to portray. Despite the choice of décor I suggest that an indoor fountain or waterfall be something for you to consider. They really can make a bold statement and also bring an inviting calmness to the office atmosphere.
It can truly be a wonder how an indoor water feature can add to your image and the feel within the interior of your building. Interior wall water fountains within a building have been typically associated with very successful and prosperous businesses and people. In recent years it has become much more affordable and realistic for small businesses with a small decorating budget to give the appearance and image of the larger more established businesses. There is a definite allure with both the sights and sounds of moving water that can make a strong statement especially if it includes a company logo or incorporates a product display.
When Brent was remodeling his bar he was looking for a bold new look that set him apart from the other establishments on the block. After visiting a local spa for a gift for his wife his attention was drawn to the display case for the spa's merchandise and products. Within the product display was cascading water over the glass backdrop of the case. Then it hit him; cascading water on the glass backdrop behind the bar! What if there was water running down the back wall behind his merchandise (bottles and glasses) behind the bar? After developing the idea even further he had his logo engraved in the glass. What a transformation of a rather typical bar. Along with the water feature Brent also included some colored accent lighting that truly makes the wall come to life. And really that's what moving water does to a display. It creates movement and emotion. It draws attention and gets noticed.
Give yourself permission to let your imagination run a little wild. Regardless of your business you could likely create an impression with water that will create a unique feel to you and your business. Whether it is a very elegant, classy, wall mounted unit, a product display case, or a small unit on a desk top, indoor water fountains are a unique feature inviting or drawing curious people in. They can also be simply a means to bring peace in a rather stressful environment like a funeral home or dentist office.
Consider the possibilities and options, but regardless, make sure you portray the image you want your clients, employees and potential customers to see. What is the décor and feel of your building telling the people that visit your business? Does the look and feel of the physical building accurately give the impression that you are operating a vibrant, up-to-date, effective business that is riding the cutting edge? It's often the small details and small things in life that can tip the scales in your favor over and above your competition. Don't let your competitor get the advantage because you weren't thinking about your first impression. And maybe you can think outside the box like Brent and make a real splash with your new look.
An indoor water fountain etched with your company logo might just be the splash of distinction you've been looking for.
In the competitive world of insurance especially being in a small town, Phil struggled with ideas to keep his small brokerage on the forefront of potential clients minds. His office front was in a high traffic area in a fairly busy street, but despite the traffic volume of people walking by the store there were not enough people coming to purchase their policies and he knew he needed to make some changes. The idea crossed his mind to hire some kid to wander around with a message board or even a mascot costume promoting his business, but he knew that the real money was in the larger clients that would be repulsed by a big animal promoting his insurance brokerage.
As per his usual Fridays after work he left the office 45 minutes early to meet Tom for a beer to welcome in the weekend. Tom also operated a successful small business, a beauty salon 2 doors down. The gentlemen formed this Friday afternoon habit several years ago and both found it refreshing to sit back, unwind and discuss the issues they faced in business with another business owner. Despite the fact that they worked in very different industries they realized that principles and issues they discussed related to both businesses.
As Phil turned the corner to pull up to their usual watering hole he met the detour sign forcing him to continue on. A water main break flooded Oak street. He cursed under his breath as he contemplated his options, then the cell rang. Tom was a few blocks further and was questioning if they should forfeit their weekly gathering this time. "Come on", was how Phil responded, "a beer is a beer, we can sit in different chairs and still have a good time. Let's try something new." This seemed like a role reversal for an insurance guy to suggest something new to an owner of a beauty salon, but Tom responded favorably and indicated there was a pub 3 blocks ahead to the left.
The place had a sophisticated air to it. It was classy and inviting and really gave a much better first impression than their usual stop. It was only after Phil was well into the first drink that it hit him. "That's it!" "What's it?" was all Tom said in response to the odd phrase after several moments of silence. "Do you think it cost a fortune?" Tom was still completely lost and Phil quickly shared his thought. Behind the bar was an impressive mirrored glass wall waterfall backdrop behind the bottles and glasses sporting the logo of the drinking establishment. After a short discussion with the owner, Phil was convinced that a similar attention getter would be perfect and what he was looking for.
Well, first he needed a logo. He didn't really have a logo or image that separated him from the rest and he knew if he was going to spend the money on a custom wall mounted waterfall fountain featuring his company he needed a logo that matched the backdrop. He 'freelanced' the project through a fantastic online service, Elance, a play on words with the term free lance. This online service allows business owners like Phil to outsource the skills of professionals around the globe for almost any business task or project. The face lift on the logo cost half of what he was expecting.
His new look really took shape with the slate waterfall with copper trim mounted on the wall along side his entrance. A fresh coat of paint along with the new feature definitely gave him a distinct look. The sounds of cascading water through the open door also helped to grab people's attention.
It was surprising, yet not really. After 2 months with the new look, sales were up. Not a lot, but 2% can be substantial for a smaller business. The idea of the water feature incorporating his logo definitely had an impact. It was appealing to the right crowd. It definitely gave him a different image to potential clients, an image of a sophisticated brokerage that dealt with upper end business clients. It grabbed the attention of an owner of several vehicle dealerships. He had been shopping around for a new carrier and he definitely walked into Phil's office confident that this place was a thriving, progressive brokerage that would do a great job. The entrance definitely impressed him and Phil lived up to his expectations. It would have been a shame that just 2 months earlier he would have disregarded the office because of the 'drab' entrance.
"It's going to work and it will be done next Thursday." Tom said as he took his third sip. "It'll be hot." After seeing the face lift that Phil did with a few thousand dollars Tom did some exploring and discovered that it would be possible to incorporate flowing water with a product display for his salon products. He had already incorporated several smaller desk top water fountains at a number of the beauty stations in the salon. They added a relaxing ambiance to the salon and the response from clients was noticeable.
It was rather remarkable. Through their experience they realized that the little things in business can make a difference. Customers and clients do judge your company or business based on your physical presence. In the case of Phil, he was now seen as a bigger player because he looked like a bigger player, simply because he incorporated a display that resembled the look of the larger big players in the industry. He now understood the importance in creating a logo and look that portrayed what you as a business really are. The image must reflect the level of service you provide.
Secondly it reminded them both that it is important not to disregard the smaller details of the business. It is important to keep an open mind to new ideas, to think outside the box. They had both heard the importance of branding and a business image many times before, but only now had they really closely examined their situation. The bar owner put the bug in their ear after he shared how economical a custom wall water fountain can really be.
Thirdly it helped flip a switch in their brain. They both noticed a change in how they entered their businesses in the morning. They felt inspired and were challenged to live up to and run a business that fit their new look and image. The motivation and challenge brought life and felt good. They wanted to live up to the image that their business was now projecting.
"Just think," Tom said as he handed his credit card to the bartender to close the tab, "it all started with a little water on the street." The truth was it simply took some water on the street, to force them into a new pub which planted some new ideas that were definitely paying off. "Let's just call it water under the bridge," Phil replied as the started for the door. And that is almost what it was. It opened their minds to have water running at the door, to bring people in the door and that worked just fine for both of them.