Start the New Year Right

It's a good idea to freshen up your office look and the start of a new year is a good time to do it. Changing your office environment can improve office morale, increase efficiency in many cases, and send a subtle message to both old and new clients that says volumes about you and your practice without ever saying a word.

We all know that first impressions count and you only get one first impression so here's some tips to apply starting now.

1. Clean out the clutter. The best thing, and the easiest thing, you can do to improve your workplace is to clean up the clutter. Throw it away or put it away. Somewhere under all those papers and files there's a desk and you might want to clean it too while you're at it. The rule of thumb is that you should never touch a piece of paper more than once and if you follow that rule you can prevent the clutter from stacking up in the future but for now, go through everything on your desk top and clear it out. Do something with it. Process it, file it, or read it and throw it away. New clients will be impressed and old clients will be amazed.

2. Now that your desk is cleared of the clutter, look it over. The second rule of thumb is that if there is anything on your desk that you don't use every day, then put it somewhere else. Sometimes too much "stuff" is what makes the clutter. Okay, now move around your office and ask yourself the same question about the furniture and furnishings. Sometimes less is more. Less furniture and furnishings can mean more space and room and that clear space can actually enhance your peace of mind.

3. Move the furniture. It's probably been sitting in the same spot for years and that spot is probably up against the wall. Think about the President's Oval Office. Nothing is up against the wall. The desk is set out. There's a sitting area in the middle of the room. There's room to walk around every piece of furniture in the room and you know what? The room actually looks bigger because of it. You can do the same thing for your own office too. You don't need new furniture and probably not even more furniture. You just need to have it in the right spots. Old spots can be a sign of a stagnating mind and maybe a stagnating business too.

4. Use comfortable and relaxing furniture for visitors. To help put clients at ease, always have a small table and a comfortable armchair in the room, maybe two. And they don't have to be leather covered with all those brass tacks down the edges and seams. Those pieces loudly say "I cost money and you're going to pay for sitting on me." That may not be the best message to send in a time of a bad economy.

5. Check your lighting. One of the easiest things you can do yourself to freshen up an office is to make sure your rooms are well lit. The rule of thumb is a minimum of 100 watts for every 50 feet. Quite often offices have too few lights or too low wattage in them. And an all too often overlooked item is the dirty light switch plate. They get dirty over time and if they can't be quickly and easily cleaned, get a screwdriver and some new ones and just replace them. It's dirt cheap to do and it gets rid of the dirt.

6. Get new art on the walls. A lot of offices have "the usual" sort of office art hung at the same height all around the place. Doing that can actually make the art less noticeable. Get out of the rut. First select art that your clients might like to look at, not just art that you want because you happen to be the one that likes it. Next, hang the art so it "fits" the room and the furniture in it. If you're a guy, you probably have no idea what I mean so go ask your wife. Or, you could ask an interior decorator to stop by (you might even have one for a client if you're lucky) and help you out with some ideas. Some furniture stores will even give you their decorator's time for free or if you buy a chair and some art to hang. It's well worth it and you don't have to spend a fortune.

The start of the year is a good time to freshen up the appearance of your office. While you're at it, take a look at your hourly rate too. It's a good idea to consider your numbers once a year too. But that's another story.