Do you care how your business looks?

It’s a simple question, but you need to be able to answer it. 

I would bet my trousers there's not a business out there that would answer it with a “no”.

If there is, I suspect they don’t own a mirror.

There’s another question you may find harder to answer.

How do you think your business looks to the outside world?

By which I mean customers, potential customers, even competitors – anyone who isn't on the inside.  If you’re a small business, that probably means everyone but you. 

All of us take our eye off the ball. At some point we get so busy working in the business that we neglect working on the business.

Failing to step back and think about how it looks to everyone else is a very big part of that.

The outlook is cloudy…

Even when we do stop to take a good look, our vision can be clouded. 

It’s a well-known quirk of being human that we assume everyone sees things the way we do (check it out - it’s called projection bias - fascinating and not a little thought-provoking). Just look online if you need reminding how ugly and intolerant our behaviour can be when faced with other opinions - like those festering arguments on forums, blogs, and even Amazon reviews, where it's a pretty safe bet there'd be a breach of the peace if the protagonists ever met (who’d have thought online ordering could cause so much anger...).

Funnily enough, it works both ways – research has shown that we worry needlessly when we walk into a room full of strangers, convinced that the first thing they’ll notice is the odd socks we pulled on as we rushed out the door. Seemingly they don’t.  So hooray, projection bias can work for us too, although it's still a good idea to check your teeth for spinach before that big meeting.

What should worry us is the stuff they do notice that didn’t even occur to us.

It’s amazing how oblivious we are to the blindingly obvious.

Ever had one of those light bulb moments in your own home when you suddenly “see” something that’s been in plain view (think mouldy shower curtain, heap of unsorted paperwork, peeling paint, cracked crockery, overgrown garden….) but has actually been like that for 6 months, a year, maybe more?

You walk past it every day but don’t actually wake up to it until there’s a catalyst - like the realisation that Aunty Mabel’s yearly visit is next week.

Over time, it’s slowly moved into your blind spot.

I can see clearly now…

When you eventually do see it, it’s like a veil has lifted – you’re aghast, and you wonder how many visitors clocked it but were too polite to say (just imagine the conversation in the car as they drive away). The problem is that you’ve been looking but not seeing.

But, of course, it’s all too easy to see it when you’re the visitor.

And your business is no different. They see what you don’t.  And without realising it, we go months or even years with those blinkers on – until customer feedback or falling sales force us to confront the fact that we have a problem.

By then it can be very difficult to reverse the damage.

Don’t find yourself in that place.

See you next week, when we’ll be talking about the best way to get free upgrades for hotels and travel!