We are all taught that first impressions are important; and that is because they are! When I train on this subject I talk about creating first and lasting impressions that differentiate you, because in a world where there is so much choice, it is fundamentally important that we create impressions that last, otherwise how will people remember you, what you do; and how you do it? Whether we are talking about the impressions we make face to face, over the telephone or via social media, in the new world of work, I think we all have to be aware of the impressions we make and whether or not they will last. But we also have to be aware of the impressions we make because regardless of who we are, people will form their opinions of us based on their own prejudice and bias. The more aware we are of how we do things (both personally and as a company) the better.

I was reminded of these considerations again this month, because I happened to go to two meetings in the same week with two competitive communications companies who made very different impressions on me. Interestingly, what I was most influenced by was the people. But perhaps that was tainted by the buildings and the vibe I got from walking in to the two companies, which begs the question – how much does our environment influence our mind sets?

The first company I went to was in a very industrial part of town, which I thought was a little incongruous for what they do. In fact, I even began to worry that I had Googled the  wrong company in preparation for the meeting. A prejudice perhaps, but the impression that I got from the surroundings, as I scoured the streets looking for their offices, was that everybody around there must be in the business of industrial manufacturing. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a very unfriendly lady at reception. I was then taken on what felt like a maze of long brown corridors, which took me right back to being marched to my principles’ office at a government high school in the old South Africa. By the time I was ushered into a large  office, which held all the tell-tale signs of being inhabited by a Baby Boomer I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, which may be why what unfolded was the most hostile meeting I have ever had in my life. I emerged from the cold clutches of the experience hoping that I would never be contacted by anybody from the establishment again.

Conversely, a few days later I set off in high spirits to a competitive company, with the same intention in my head and armed with the same marketing material freshly printed for the occasion.  Upon arrival at this company (which offers the same service) I was delighted by the decor of the beautiful old Johannesburg house they had converted in to offices, complete with big rooms, pressed ceilings and wooden floors. The receptionist was a young, vibey lady who immediately offered me coffee, which I drank as I entertained myself by looking at the eye-catching modern, South African, art all over the walls. I was almost disappointed to be shown to the boardroom (just off reception) because I was so enjoying taking in all the spunky furniture and sun-kissed gardens beckoning me through the french doors. I was met by two young women representing the company and what unfolded was two hours of excited chatter about how we could collaborate in to the future. The meeting was momentarily interrupted by the arrival of two spaniels (yes of the canine variety), the managing director’s ‘children’ who spend their days wagging their tails and spreading joy around the ‘office’. It was explained to me that they have a very avant garde policy on dogs, the celebration of birthdays and when and how you work; as long as your work is done. Funnily enough, this particular establishment does not have a talent retention problem. I bounced back to my car and couldn’t wait to send them the overviews of what we had talked about and thought I would recommend them in a heart beat if any of my clients needed their services.

The lesson here for any business (whether small and entrepreneurial or large with a specific reputation) is this: the world has changed and you need to do things differently. Have you ever thought about the impression you are creating in the following spaces?

  • Branding
  • Personal branding of employees (especially if they have their own social media profiles, which they probably have)
  • Organisational design, which includes your policy on things like birthdays and making employees feel like humans)
  • Marketing
  • Hiring of people (your people are so important in governing the impression that is created about your company)
  • Ensuring that you have the right people, in the right position, with the right talents, at the right time
  • The internal culture
  • Management of different generations (talent management)
  • Innovation, not just for your products and services, but your internal policies and procedures as well
  • Training and education
  • Work/ life integration and wellness programmes.

In the Shakespearean tragedy Othello, one of the characters says that ‘our minds are the gardens to which our souls are the gardeners‘.  I think this is so true. I think that when people are happy, comfortable, feel confident and relaxed they are productive. I could see that from the very different outcomes of the two meetings. As a service provider I can tell you I don’t particularly want to work with the first company, whereas I would be genuinely disappointed if I don’t get to work with the second. I cannot believe their clients feel any differently. In a world of choice, as a client or as an employee, which one would you choose?

So, what is your impression of TomorrowToday? You can comment on our website if you have never actually met us, or a more in-depth critique if you know us well, have worked with us, experienced our presentations or training, would be most welcome. Feedback, transparency, honesty and integrity are all qualities that mature companies will seek in the new world of work. I don’t mean companies that have been around a long time when I say ‘mature’, I mean emotionally mature companies with good leadership, companies that will survive the future.


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