Business Advice

Is your business old and dusty? Take this quiz to find out

Ian Whitworth /

disruption business quiz

Client Liaison. Source: YouTube.

There’s a phrase beloved by dads and people holding garage sales: ‘perfectly good’.

Perfectly good means an item that is no longer fit for normal human use — the microwave with only half the timer display working, out-of-date frozen curry, underpants with leg elastic that has stretched to the point where … never mind, don’t make me describe that point.

It’s underpinned by a belief that with a touch of some DIY fix-it magic, the item will be good for another decade of trusty service.

It’s easy to mock this ‘dadful’ mindset, yet on a personal level, it’s worthy. You probably know people who combine a public zeal for sustainability with chronic addiction to cheap-but-only-wear-once clothing that will be in landfill or strangling turtles in no time. Keeping things longer makes you a higher-quality person.

When old ‘n’ dirty blindness strikes

In your business, though, the perfectly-good mentality can send a crusty message. A tragic side-effect of the perfectly-good mindset is ‘old ‘n’ dirty blindness’. As a perfectly-good business owner, you still feel the same love for each asset as when it first came out of the box.

‘I just bought that thing a couple of years ago, it’s practically new,’ you think.

No, you didn’t. One business owner year is three normal human years, because your mind is tied up with cashflow worries and the time whizzes by at warp drive speed. Meanwhile, your business things get tired and mangy.

You can’t see the grime

Your signs are peeling. Your computers are slow and the keyboards oily. Desks bear orange testament to generations of microwaved laksa lunches. Your walls are smothered in corny office-humour printouts. These surroundings are not ideal for your staff, but they can deal with it.

But if that all that human debris is facing your clients, your business is in ol’ dirty mode.

There’s a reason commercial-grade carpets and furnishings exist. The general public are basically destructive and messy zoo animals. The $29 Eames replica chairs you buy for your new cafe* will look great until the end of the first month one, after which time they’ll be reduced to plastic shrapnel by SUV-sized prams and the bored munching of a thousand french bulldogs.

Even if you buy the heavy-duty stuff, it doesn’t last forever. One hotel I used to stay at a lot is rated as five stars, but the furniture and décor is decades old. You can feel the spirits of a thousand long-gone guests who sat in that chair before you, its surfaces laminated with countless strata of human residue. It’s really scungy and off-putting.

We moved to a 3.5-star place that was built last year. You get less bowing and scraping but it feels so fresh and clean.

When you’re at your business every day, the dirty bits are absolutely invisible to you, but to fresh customer eyes, ewww.

Flash! Aaa-argh! And other digital dirt

Crusty vibes don’t just come from physical dirt. There’s digital dirt — a convenient way to let people know your business is out of date without them seeing your premises.

Your website has Flash animations, or rather, a browser security warning where they used to be. The most recent item on your ‘news’ page is from 2014. You have three different Instagram accounts set up by long-gone employees, with account names with ugly underscores and ‘Pty Ltd’ or ‘LLC’.

And payment systems, my god. One business I know asks people to send in their credit card details by email. To their office network which runs on Windows XP. The Russian hackers will thank you for serving up this free-money buffet, it will save them lots of time.

It’s all about the walk-in

If you’re feeling your business is getting a little crusty, where do you start?

That’s easy. Start where the customer starts. It’s important to understand how perception theatre works.

Our business is in events and business theatre. We do product launches, awards nights, AGMs, conferences, that sort of thing. You want people to arrive and think: wow, this is going to be a great event. Because that perception becomes reality.

They make that call pretty much the moment they walk into the room. So you want them to walk in and see this.

Awards night for Wise Connections.

Rather than this. Because this says ‘uh oh, we have a long night of speeches ahead’.

You do that with the stage design, lights, music and media. But you don’t have an unlimited budget, so you arrange the cool stuff right where they’ll see it all the moment they walk in.

Anything on the back walls is a waste of money because nobody sees it until after their expectations are set in cement. It’s the same with real estate openings, restaurants and quality retail. What’s the first mental snapshot they take? Because that’s most of their impression formed right there.

Find someone you trust to come in, take the exact physical steps that your customers take when they arrive for the first time, and ask them for a brutally honest opinion. Does this feel like a place I want to spend my money? Or does it make me reach for the hand sanitiser?

Or, alternatively, take the quiz below.

Quiz: Is your business trapped in another era?

(‘Tick’ those that apply to you.)

  1. Fax number on your business cards.
  2. No mobile-friendly website.
  3. Filing cabinets of incoming and outgoing invoices.
  4. Signs with your logo and your web address (like people can’t work that out).
  5. Designated parking spaces for management.
  6. Cab vouchers.
  7. “Like Us On Facebook!” signs.
  8. Account managers send clients email ‘humour’.
  9. Fake plants.
  10. Casual Friday.
  11. Jars of sugary treats on the reception desk.
  12. Payments on Diners Club.
  13. Ties.

How many did you tick?

0

Maybe that’s too few. Loosen up, hipster.

1-3

No cause for immediate alarm, but be vigilant over the next few years.

4-8

Getting into the danger zone. Get in someone from the current decade to analyse your systems and decor before you end up here.

9-12

This motivational tape might have served you well back in the day, but it’s time to put it, and 90% of your assets, in the bin.

13

Client Liaison would like to discuss your office as a video clip location.

*Also, don’t open a cafe. That’s a whole article right there.

This article was first published on Motivation for Sceptics. Read the original article.

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Ian Whitworth

Ian Whitworth is a reformed branding and advertising creative director turned entrepreneur, who co-founded corporate audiovisual company Scene Change.

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