Written by & under Facilities.

Looks Matter!

officedoorThis is a tough time for the economy and parents are often looking for ways to trim expenses… sometimes that may mean cutting the lessons and classes that support your business.What can you do to retain and add clients, because you “stand out from the crowd?”

Let’s think for a moment about how studio appearance affects perception. It’s important that your business is “inviting” to students and parents. They are, after all, your clients and keeping them happy is part of your success story.

These ideas come from the variety of work environments I’ve personally experienced… “cube land” in a large corporation, workspace in a small company with open cubes, large classroom teaching, group lessons and private lessons. I hope the diversity I survived helps you gain some insight.

Think about all those other business you visit. What makes one place feel “warm and comfortable” while another feels cold and unwelcoming? Here are some thoughts to help you assess that “unspoken quality” that makes people comfortable.

Entryway and Waiting Area

Signage: How do you feel about a business with lighted signs that are “over the top” or look ratty, perhaps have burnt out letters? Have you ever had problems finding a business because signs are small or hidden?

WaitingRoomVisual: Are walls stark or decorated? Plants? Other “warming items”? A good mix of light and dark colors, texture variety?

Aesthetics: Is the entry cluttered, open space or “just right”?

Wasted Space: How about reception — is there an unused receptionist desk, serving no purpose?

Seating: Is it comfortable? New or worn? Enough for those wanting to sit?

Reading materials: Current or old (a 2001 Reader’s Digest just doesn’t cut it)? A variety of topics? Think of those hair places where the magazines are limited to Hollywood glam publications. A cross-section of news, sports and topical for your business might better serve to be welcoming.

Lighting quality: Is it warm & inviting or cold? Compact fluorescent lamps put off a better quality of light than overhead fluorescent light fixtures and will save money on utilities in the long run.

Lighting amount: It’s common to over-light spaces with overhead fluorescents. The typical office environment has about 200% of the light amount needed for work. It can be a distraction and cause visual fatigue.

Temperature and Air Quality: Those offices where the entry is cold have people “tucked into themselves” and time seems to pass slowly. Too warm isn’t good either. Neither are drafts of heat or cold. Is seating away from the outside doorway to minimize “temperature shock?” Is there a ceiling fan (on low) to keep air circulating rather than stale?

Accessory Areas

Restrooms: Are they clean, well kept, and well lit? Soap and other supplies kept stocked?hallway

Hallways: Are they wide enough to let people pass without bumping?

Cleanliness: Is there hand sanitizer available?

Other Accessory Areas

For this category, check out gyms, etc.

Dressing areas: Is there a way to address privacy in any way? Kids can, of course, be self conscious about their bodies.

Lockers/storage: Are they kept clean and sanitary?

Studio and/or Business areas

“Feel”: Is work/meeting (for your studio, teaching) space cluttered? So sparse as to be uninviting?

Temperature: Is it appropriate for the usage? Think of that freezing doctor’s room, right? In your studio, if activity involves movement (dancing, martial arts), a cooler temperature is right. For stationary activities (music lessons?), a bit cooler is good. Stuffy is not ideal – moving air helps small rooms feel better.

Sound decisions: Hard surfaces reflect sound. So do flat areas at right angles. High ceilings make for lots of echo (and could make spoken instructions harder to understand).

Light: Blinding light gives headaches, dim light produces eyestrain. Overlighting is not uncommon in dance studios. Is there a way to soften it? Filters? Turning off half the bulbs?lamp1

Space to move in small areas: Ah, those tiny corporate conference rooms with room for a table, three chairs and a phone — but everybody has to be seated before the door closes! Personally, I find it better to teach music lessons where I can make eye contact with the student rather than being “frozen in a chair beside them.” That means having enough room to comfortably get in front of them and sometimes “dance around” a bit to illustrate points.

The right space: Cavernous conference rooms for a meeting also feel, well, hollow! For small studio classes, a huge space can make students feel isolated. If you can manage to add movable partitions, customizing the space for class size makes for a more inviting feeling. Instead of feeling “all alone,” students will feel they are getting personalized attention.

These are just a few ideas to jumpstart your studio’s image. Give it a bit of thought, perhaps add it to your planning for the future. Changes can be implemented in stages to spread out impact on your budget. The important thing is to consider how visual environment affects your customers’ perceptions.

On the one hand, this isn’t something that’s mandatory. On the other, would students and parents who feel welcome be more likely to keep coming back for lessons/classes, and to refer the studio to friends?