15876033 - the great falls in paterson, new jersey

Newark Airport or the Garden State?

Whenever I meet someone from New Jersey, I like to ask, “What the biggest misconception that people have about the state of New Jersey?”  Their typical response is, “Newark does not represent our state.”

It’s unfortunate that for many people flying into Newark Liberty airport, the industrial complex surrounding the airfield is the first impression they have of the Garden State.  It’s a shame because New Jersey is a beautiful state with stunningly picturesque landscapes.  Would you have guessed that the image above is from Paterson, New Jersey?

When my wife Amy came to visit me for the first time when I was a new advisor at a large firm, she made two comments that stuck with me.  First, she said, “Wow, this place looks like it’s the storage area for the whole office.”  When I asked what she meant, she explained that the first thing she saw was a row of filing cabinets, then papers stacked everywhere, then someone’s lunch wrapper.  When she walked into my office, she saw nothing on the walls except for a phone list that I had taped up there.

It was her second comment that really drove home the point: “If I had a couple of million dollars to invest, I’m not sure that I would feel comfortable investing it here.”  I had no idea that my office was my personal version of Newark airport – completely misrepresenting my value.

Details matter.  What kind of first impression does your office make?

To improve your first impression, decide on the statement you want to make.  A common piece of advice for making a good first impression is to smile.  Does your office represent a smile? Other words you may want to invoke include friendly, clean, and serious.

Once you know what you want your office to say, take the time to can test it.  The easiest way to do this is to ask for help from others.  Ask a trusted friend (or client) to visit your office and share their impressions.  Do they feel what you want them to feel? What do they experience that you weren’t expecting?

Another approach is to find a model. Look for images of other offices that match your desired look and feel.  You can Google images using keywords like “office design” or “advisor office.”  Once you’ve decided on the look you want, save that image and use it as an ongoing benchmark.

Lastly, start right away.  As you know, you never get a second chance to make that great first impression.

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