Article featured in the October 2008 edition of the Australian Business Solutions magazine.
Author: Nicola Barnard
Firstly decide, as a business owner, why an image change is needed. Is it because the wrong market is being attracted? Is it because the business focus has changed and therefore the ‘Brand’ has changed? Or is the current image dated? When considering a change of business image, determine what the desired image is to be. Find adjectives to describe the business that would be desirable for people to use when talking about it. ‘Professional’ is a given, but what about ‘traditional’ or ‘innovative’? ‘fun’ or ‘friendly’? Ask the opinion of colleagues and clients to see if how they describe and perceive the business is actually what it is and what is wanted. As ‘you’ are an important part of the business, start with ‘you’, and then look at the tools and environment.
To change the perception of being too conservative or old-fashioned to contemporary and innovative:
YOU: Update the hair style to ‘current’ yet ‘professional’- a hairdresser can help. Stick to quality fabrics like wool for your clothing basics. Choose a light accent colour. Lighter generally means ‘approachable’ yet ‘less influential’ so wear with a darker colour on the bottom. If you wear a suit then keep the deeper colour but choose a jacket style that is less traditional, such as one without lapels. Alternatively, wear a traditional style in a lighter colour like grey or beige, to literally ‘lighten you’ the look. Obviously, use of colour requires some finesse so get feedback from someone with colour awareness or see an Image Consultant to help get it right.
TOOLS: Learn to use a modern PDA, telephone, and audio-visual tools with relaxed efficiency. Do not be caught with a DIY logo or business card. Logo and stationary design changes as technology advances. These days a great job can be done very affordably, so give that job to the graphic design professionals. Ensure that the website has the same brand look and feel as the stationary – it is well worth it. More and more people these days will check out the website before they call.
To change the image from being too flighty to more trusted and respected:
YOU: If there is no professional ‘uniform’ for your team, get one. A good quality uniform gives the impression you are there for the long term. Quality means using wool fabrics as they wear well, plus having them well made with finished stitching and button holes. If you are a sole operator, wear a suit. Darker colours like navy and charcoal are traditionally trusted and respected colours. Even if you work in a more casual environment, a jacket will add substance and influence. Collared shirts and long sleeves are a must for influential business.
TOOLS: Make sure stationary and all business tools are branded and of excellent quality. That also goes for your signage and decor. Use heavier paper stock for your business cards and letterhead. Around 300gsm is a good ‘firm’ stock for cards. If a client sees that you have put effort into the details then they will get the impression that you will put effort into them and their needs. Get yourself a quality metal pen with some ‘weight’. It will give your signatures ‘weight’. Don’t underestimate the power of your tools to communicate something about you.