"You never get a second chance to make a first
impression." On the surface, the saying fits neatly in
the “well. . . duh !" category. Everyone knows that!
The message below the surface is that managing first
impressions is a business philosophy adopted by the
If you are like me, and I get the impression you are,
we don't expect to get treated like royalty
everywhere we go. That's because places like the
doctor's office, the grocery store and the bank aren't
accustomed to royalty here in the U.S. We do expect
to be treated like a customer, however, and we are
often left feeling that the doctor's office, the grocery
store and the bank don't care much about how they
In the horse business, first impressions are important,
too. Customers and clients are lightning-like in their
judgment of you and your business. First impressions
are lasting impressions. As examples:
- "I don't like the angry tone of the person
answering the phone."
- She said, "I don’t know a thing about it,
you will have to call back later."
- "The lounge area reminds me of an old bus
- "His handshake is like grabbing a dead fish."
- "You just about have to beg for someone to
answer a question when you go there."
Why do first impressions stick in the mind of the
observer with such tenacity? Most likely, because we
humans operate more often at an instinctive level
than a rational level. In The New Yorker magazine of
May 29, 2000, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article
entitled "The New-Boy Network What Do Job
Interviews Really Tell Us?" about a study involving
first impressions with teachers. The finding was that
what we conclude after two seconds of a video clip
of a teacher is pretty much the same as we conclude
after twenty minutes or an entire semester.
Something happens with first impressions on a non-
thinking level that is intuitive and not readily
explainable. If you accept that idea, then keep
In your business, how are things in the first
- Do you have a Managing Director of
Impressions on the staff?
- Are the staff and owner dressed for the part?
- Does the barn and arena look appealing from first
sight at the road?
- Do your customers and clients look forward to, or
dread, calling your business?
Isn't it ironic that businesses spend thousands of
dollars on the latest industry technology, invest
thousands of dollars in record keeping systems
and squander thousands of dollars on advertising
when for just a few dollars more they can: plant
flowers at the building entrance, send a hand written
thank you note to someone for becoming a client and
acknowledge all customers with a bright smile?