Building an Image
What Is Your Face to the World?
It's tempting to lease the corner office in a prestigious
office tower and decorate it with designer furniture.
Don't do it! It won't make you any money. And when your
business is in a slow cycle with angry creditors calling,
you'll wonder, "Did I spend too much money on the
For most small businesses, in fact, you're much better
off just running your business out of your home. Unless
you are operating a retail store or expect clients to
regularly visit your office, your face to the world will
be your products, your services, your literature, and
your marketing. Running a business out of a home is increasingly
well accepted. Be sure your business room looks totally
business, and ideally arrange for a separate entrance.
Of course, you can always try to meet at the customer's
location or, for a really image-conscious customer, you
could even rent a meeting room.
How Does Your Business Sound?
How your office looks is irrelevant if your customers
are not going to see it. With most business being done
on the phone or on your customer's premises, what's more
important is how your business sounds.
Is your business phone always answered in the same professional
manner? Is there music or any other nonprofessional background
sound? What happens when your phone is unattended? Don't
keep to just an answering machine or voice mail; spend
a little more on a professional-sounding answering service.
Whatever you do, don't try to change your voice to make
it sound like there is more than one person in your office.
It's usually transparent and instantly destroys your credibility.
Project a Consistent "Look"
A little bit of effort in designing your "corporate
look" can go a long way in building your image. Use
the identical typeface for your company name (your logo)
on your letterhead, your faxes, your envelopes, your business
cards, your ads, your catalog, and your literature. If
you want to get fancy, you can add a piece of art or a
splash of color to your logo but it's not necessary. Observe
what other companies do or get a book showing award-winning
stationery designs. Get ideas but don't risk copyright
or trademark infringement by directly copying from others.
It's an Electronic Age
An e-mail address must be part of your business contact
options. Even if just a few of your customers want to
communicate with you by e-mail, the minor expense will
quickly pay for itself.
What about your own web site? An e-mail address is much
more important than having your own web site. But an address
on the World Wide Web will further add to the professional
image of your business.
It doesn't have to be fancy. The biggest gain for most
small businesses will generally just come from the fact
that they have a web address at all. The site itself could
be very simple. For most small businesses one page would
be fine, with a few nice photographs, clean graphic layout,
and some text about their business.
How About a New Name?
People judge your business by its name. If you just named
your business after your own name, potential customers
would think, "So what!" You'd better use a name
that implies what you do but don't fall into the trap
of generic names. For example, "My Furniture Store"
is not a good name but "Rebecca's Furniture"
(if your name is Rebecca) is fine.
The change of the name brings on another issue - trademarks.
A significant percentage of small businesses run into
trademark issues with their business name - especially
if it's a clever one. Ideally you should do a trademark
search and at the least make sure no business anywhere
near you is using the same or a highly similar name.
By Streetwise Business Tips