6 ways to create a professional first impression

What’s the first impression you provide visitors when they come to your shop, office or other business premises? Is it an impression of professionalism and organisation? Is it a first impression that matches the image you’re trying to create for your business?

Let me give you an example. Recently I visited a professional services firm for a meeting. The image this business would want to portray to target customers is one of professionalism and integrity. They would want customers to know they were walking into a business that cared about the needs of clients.

Unfortunately, the surroundings didn’t match this image. An old, cluttered building, poor signage, lack of uniform and a way-too-colourful paint scheme meant the first impression for me was of a business that was stuck in the 1980s. It wasn’t surprising to hear, therefore, that the business was struggling. It had been a successful business in the past but was now finding it difficult to attract new customers. While I’m sure there were many reasons for the downturn in fortunes, the first impression this business was providing customers was a key issue.

So, if you own or manage a business, what are the key areas you should look at when trying to improve your first impression?

Think of your target customer

Your first impression should match your business and the target customer you’re trying to attract. For example, a clothing store in a posh shopping district will want to create a different first impression to a shop that sells discounted lines. Put yourself in your target customer’s shoes and identify the first impression they would want and expect.


It might seem commonsense, but one key focus is to ensure any area where a customer will step foot is tidy and organised. This is just as relevant in service industries as it is for retail. As well as providing a professional first impression, a clean and uncluttered area is also safer.

Check your signage

Take a look at your signage, inside and out, from a visitor’s perspective. Are the signs consistent with your brand? Are they large enough to see, particularly for passing traffic? Do directional signs actually make sense? Are all your signs clean and in good condition?

Clothes maketh the man… And woman too!

If you have a uniform, make it consistent and attach your logo. If you don’t have a uniform, have a required dress code that matches your business. Even a dress code of black pants and a black shirt is better than letting staff wear whatever they want. Just as importantly, make sure everyone knows the importance of being neatly groomed.

Don’t forget the car

If you have a company car with signage, take care of it. I’m not advocating that your car needs to be a top of the range BMW (in some instances this can actually portray the wrong image) but make sure you keep it clean, reasonably up to date and well cared for. If you can only afford a bomb and don’t have time to keep it clean, don’t put company signage on it.

Fresh eyes

When you see your business virtually every day it can be difficult to notice problem areas. That’s why it can be a good idea to occasionally get someone who’s not familiar with your business to take a critical look at the focus areas mentioned above. They’ll probably see issues that you walk past every day.

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