In last week’s weekly Road to Independence blog, I discussed the steps I take in the initial moments when meeting with a prospective client. Since you only have one chance to make a good first impression, allow me to digress a bit and talk about the office itself. What should you display and how should it be displayed? Remember the subliminal messages theatres used with popcorn and Coke ads? Those messages were only quick flashes, almost undetectable to the naked eye, designed to make us "want what they were selling."

My hypothesis is very similar, in that, we want to create an environment which "speaks" to the client. In all fairness, it's impractical to think that I can describe it with enough precision to convey exactly what I've done. Therefore, if you'll cut me a little slack, I'll try my best to paint the picture.

The principal behind this is to let your office decor convey certain key elements of you and your practice.  For instance, when managing money, I place a great deal of emphasis on portfolio risk. Hence, I have an 8X11 framed chart sitting on a side table with a graph showing the return needed to break even after a loss of a given percent. Next to the chart is a projector which allows me to project documents from my laptop onto the wall. The last item on the table is a 5X7 frame with the "Five Major Responsibilities of a Fiduciary."

On the opposite wall is another side table with several items, including a 19" flat screen TV, a 5X7 framed mission statement, and two recent "art projects." Well, they're not really art projects per se. Rather, they are an illustrative model of a three-dimensional portfolio diversification process. It's made of clay and contains many different colors.

On the back wall next to the credenza is a two-foot wide, five-foot tall bookcase. On the very top is an 8X11 frame with a graph of the past 110 years of the Dow, including various significant events. Also on the top is an SIPC plaque. On the credenza is my laptop and a 19" monitor. Above the credenza are six framed certificates with my various credentials.

I believe you should have as many "conversation pieces" as feasible without being tacky. That's just my opinion as I'm not suggesting this is the only way to go. I just believe when an individual walks out of your office, if they've seen something which is unique, they will remember you. My 3-D model meets this goal nicely.

Have a great week!