The power of first impressions

The power of first impressions

If you've made the life-changing decision to switch careers and start a new business, you have already proved that you are a person who is not afraid of taking risks and making a jump into the unknown. For some people, a career change is given a little push: being laid off, for example, or following a spouse to a new country or city due to their own job.

Whatever the reasons for switching careers midstream, starting your own business is for many people a long-standing dream, one that means taking up what you have always wanted to do, following your passion and being your own boss.

That's the marvelous part: the flip-side is the tremendous amount of hard work that must be invested into starting a new business. Being an entrepreneur means coming up with a great, unique idea, start-up capital and heaps of planning, from a long-term business plan to a realistic budget.

Another must-have for anyone starting a new business is an office. In addition to being the place where you will be spending much of your time in the future - your new 'home away from home' if you like - this is also the public face of a business, the place where potential clients are welcomed and hopefully converted into customers; the overall look of such a space is crucial to your business' success.

In business, first impressions count, so a professional and stylish office is vital, not only for maintaining existing clients, but also in convincing potential ones that your business is a serious enterprise.

The most productive offices balance home comforts with a professional business image - all within your own tight budget.

How to decorate a professional office

Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time visitor: what does your office say about your business? Does it exude professionalism or merely evoke a sense of chaos?

The colors of an office should reflect the type of work the business does: in general, neutral colors are best suited for more conservative professions, such as financial companies or law firms, while brighter tones are a definite possibility for more creative offices, eg, a design firm or a copy-writing business.

Even more creative companies shouldn't take it too far, however, and sleek lines and basic colors will show you are professional.

How to furnish a professional office

It may come as a surprise to hear that there are almost as many trends and fashions in the world of commercial office furniture as there is in home furnishings: on the other hand, office furnishing should be flexible and not require a technology degree to install them.

Work within your budget, but avoid buying too cheaply: high quality office furnishing provides durability and generally a more timeless design that won't look out-of-date in a year or two.

Ensure that you invest in tough and hard-wearing shelves or a filing cabinet: nothing is more off-putting than stepping into an office filled with piles of paperwork, so look around for an attractive, contemporary filing system that works for you.

Invest in some greenery. Pot plants cost very little and make a real difference to both office ambiance and air quality.

When buying chairs and desks, don't neglect ergonomics. The right office furniture should increase employee productivity and provide health benefits, both for the company director and other members of staff. That cut-price chair wasn't such a bargain if the person sitting in it takes sick leave due to back pain six months down the line.

Contemporary furnishings suggest creativity - this is a key component in such a company office: black sofas look imposing in any office space, and are both classic and modern. Remember that you will sometimes have to put in long hours at the office, so it's important to have furnishings where you can relax.

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