by Chris Long
We all have stereotypes about what we expect the typical startup office to look like, from extravagantly fanciful notions of trampolines and fridges stocked with energy drinks and employees wandering around in jeans, t-shirts, and flip-flops, to the opposite extreme of a lone dreamer with a big idea frantically typing on their laptop in a coffee shop. But when it’s time to try to get funding for your business, you need to be prepared to present a polished and professional image to investors.
Here are some tips that will help ensure that your office is both organized and easy on the eyes.
1. Keep It Professional in the Office
It’s easy to get personal and business materials mixed together, especially in those first hectic days when you are putting together a new business. You’re up late at night, barely sleeping and surrounded by piles of documents. But the first step to organizing your office is to make sure that you eliminate everything nonessential, like that permission sheet for your kid’s field trip, or those directions you printed out from Google maps or coupons for $5 off from the local restaurant. Put all that stuff in a box and get that box out of your office!
2. Prioritize Materials You Use Daily
Once you’ve managed to separate those personal materials from the ones you use daily for your business, the next step is to organize your business items. The key here is to develop a system for keeping the things you actually use closest at hand, while filing away less important documents or supplies for when you might need them later. This means everything from not having tons of pens and paperclips all over your desk to not having old permit applications and loan documents on top of the papers you are actually using today. Consider color-coding documents by type or priority level to keep them straight and make sure you have designated spaces for each one.
3. Create More Space
Another issue that can pop up in the office area is overcrowding, from overstuffed bookshelves and file drawers to too many piles of boxes. The first step is to get rid of anything you don’t use regularly. Do you have more chairs than you need? Do you have boxes that you haven’t opened in weeks? Put these in storage. Also, try to create more floor-space by using hanging sturdy shelves or small cabinets on your walls. You can also create a more modern and comfortable look by using modular bookshelves that can easily be rearranged instead of those tall heavy ones that loom over you as you are working.
4. Use Color to Lighten the Mood
We all know how depressing it can be to stare at blank, beige walls for eight or nine hours a day, just counting the hours, minutes, and even seconds until we can finally go home. Use color to make your office a more inviting environment, especially warm tones like gold or peach that will put visitors in a positive frame of mind. Similarly, you can use colorful furniture instead of the typical dull black or steely gray. Even simple touches like adding a brightly striped area rug or a few wall-hangings can make the office feel more cheerful and like a place that people will want to be.
5. Give a Personal Touch
Although it is important not to have extraneous papers hanging around, you can still give your office a more personalized and individual feel by adding your favorite art and personal photographs to the walls and desk and shelf space. Whether this means pictures from your last family vacation or that hiking trip you took to Peru or prints by your favorite photographer, it will help create a connection between you and your visitors, letting them feel that they know a little more about you than just that you are hoping they will invest in your business. That could make all the difference when they are trying to decide whether to trust you and your ideas.
What makes you feel comfortable in an office? Do you prefer a more formal or informal environment? What are some good ideas for making an office feel welcoming to guests?
Chris Long has been a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago area since 2000. Chris is also a contributor to Home Depot’s Home Decorators.com website. He often writes on office decor topics of interest to small businesses, ranging from advice on computer desks to furnishing a home office.