Importance of a Professional Image
Professionalism is something every business must present to customers, vendors, and competition. Many people view professionalism as something that individuals should practice. However, the concept stretches to all aspects of business. A successful business integrates professionalism into all aspects of its operations, advertising, and customer relations.
In order to understand the true importance of professionalism, the first step is to understand what it means. One good definition goes something like this. Professionalism is adhering to a set of values which include meeting professional obligations, conducting oneself according to formal and informal codes of conduct, and meeting the expectations of everyone with whom we come into contact as part of our business role.
Professionalism is showing the respect you have for your customers and vendors in every aspect of your business. A wealth of behaviors helps show this respect, like punctuality, confidentiality, circumspection, focus, and active listening. Other behaviors show lack of respect, like gossiping, too much informality, arrogance, and not listening.
How do you apply this to your business?
First, work on individual behavior. While professionalism must work at all levels of the business, it starts with each individual from the business owners to the newest employees.
Expectations are the first step in integrating professionalism into the business. This means setting an expected dress code in the workplace and adhering to it at all times. It means creating expectations on how employees should treat customers, vendors, and even the competition. It means having clear expectations on conduct and service which all managers and employees must meet.
The business and its management must clearly communicate all expected behaviors to employees and provide training as appropriate. Training in customer service is one example. It is important to provide effective training on how to treat customers under different circumstances. Any new employee should have to complete training within a short time of joining the company.
Once the company sets expectations and provides training, follow-up is just as important. Managers must have the power to address any issues before they become problems. It never hurts to remind people of expectations occasionally.
Individual behavior is only one aspect of professionalism in business.
The other aspects of professionalism are just as important to the entire package. How the company presents itself through written, spoken, and visual communications are just as important.
The company needs to have clear expectations on written communications. All written communications, from emails to formal letters, should be free of grammar and spelling errors for a start. It should also use professional language and address the subject concisely. Internal communications are just as important as external ones. For example, sending spam emails to everyone in the company is a sure way to show unprofessionalism. Doing it to vendors is even worse.
Visual communications may be a bit of surprise. But, your company must show professionalism in everything. The company’s logo should be distinctive but professional. Business cards and stationery must extend that image of professionalism. Creating these professional looking materials however can be expensive especially for businesses operating on a large scale. There are ways to offset these costs without suffering loss of quality. One way to do this is to design and make your own business cards. This does not mean that you actually print your own cards but that you provide the design and any logos for your own business cards. This not only lowers your cost but also allows for greater consistency in that you can use the same logos as is used for other company materials.
Spoken communications are just as important. Gossiping and poor attempts at humor are not a good idea with either internal or external communications. Customers do not need to hear about another customer’s personal life.
Bringing the entire package together is the final step.
All of these aspects can bring together your company’s professional image. When a company offers a professional image to the world, it draws customers and vendors to them. Their competition respects them. They become a force in the marketplace.
Letting any part of this package slip can bring the business crashing down. Bad customer service will keep customers away. Arrogant, unprofessional employees can make vendors unhappy. Any unprofessional behavior gives your competition the opportunity to make their business more successful while your business fails.