The word “image? has gotten a bad rap in the past few years with such books as Dress of Success, and we often think of image as being what the stereotyped car salesmen try to have and chiropractors never do. The image we as Rolfers and Rolfing Movement Teachers project is what the public sees. We may think we are not projecting an image, but we are without owning it. We spend hours a day looking at bodies to discern what is occurring with our clients’ structure. As consumers our clients are exposed hours a day to businesses and professionals soliciting their business. In both cases, decisions are made on what is perceived. As Rolfers and Rolfing Movement Teachers, we are much more aware of why we make the decisions we do; as consumers we are not. So often the determining factor will be the imperceptible image of the product or service. Just think back to the last time you purchased a new product in the supermarket. What made you decide to choose the one you did over the others?
Yes, concern for image can be carried too far. But for the sake of argument and lack of attention in the past, grant me a little space to explore it with you.
The idea to write on image came from several Rolfers expressing an interest. As with so much else, the image we project starts with the image we have of ourselves. This aspect has always proved to be the most difficult for me to deal with. When I am tired or unenthusiastic about myself or the work, my practice reflects it. But what I have discovered is that if the image around my practice is a positive one, I can withdraw my energies and the momentum of the image of the practice carries me. With a little forethought, planning and work our image will be an enjoyable aspect of the practice.
Starting with your vision of Rolfing and your practice, you will develop it out of your image. For example, if you see Rolfing as an alternative to traditional health care services, you may see your practice as one of dealing with orthopedic conditions, particularly the ones that no one else can achieve results with through their work. Now you have defined the market. What do you want to do with this market? Do you wish to work exclusively from physician referrals? Do you want to do a lot of fix-it work? Once these and others questions are answered, you win know the particulars of your market. This may sound obvious, and it is, but we often do not think about the obvious. It is useless to develop an image for a market you do not wish to work with.
Now that you have the arena you wish to work in, is your mind set there? Can you see yourself working successfully with these clients? If not, first check to see if this is really where you wish to be. One way to know this is to ask, does the prospect of this clientele excite me? If it is where you wish to be, ask yourself what it would take for you to be there. For example, are there skills you need to learn first?
It should be noted, as often as we do not think out and plan our course, we underestimate our potential. You may have all the skill needed to achieve the goal of this clientele/image, but all that is lacking is the action. Often I see with myself and others believing that we cannot do it. I contend that is rarely true. Operating as if we are doing it frequently will achieve your goal. It is here that your image can aid you. If you start to put out in all the possible ways you are at the place to handle this level of work, it will come. I guarantee you will not receive more than you are capable of handling There will be times when you may question this, but it is true. The secret lies in what we all know: staying aware of the process as it occurs. It is just like having a client feel the new places of order as he/she feels all the things encouraging him back to the old place.
Once some comfort with the process f being this new image is attained, we can begin to refine it. The first place to start is with the public’s (or your new clientele’s) expectations. The office wage will vary greatly. A practice in a big city will be judged differently than one in a small, rural town. To better understand what is expected look around at other professionals. If you want to be viewed with the same esteem as an orthopedic surgeon, observe how these surgeons operate their practices. Certainly many of their behaviors you will not want to adopt. But realize there will be many qualities, such as having a professional office, which will further your goal.
Do all the professionals in your town have offices? Do some work out of their house? If so, what type of practice do they have? How do these people acquire clients? Is it all by referrals? Or do many rely on advertising or public relations? Is their one place in town that health care professionals are expected to work? Learn from others who have gone before you. This is not to say you must do it the way they did. Adapt what feels right and will serve you. With health care ping 10% of the U.S. GNP, you know much has been done to analyze the industry. Become cognizant of what the ?leaders” are doing, and then adjust.
One specific area of image is your letterhead or stationery. Realize that what you use for a logo, paper, typeface, and name will be what many will solely be evaluating you on to make their decisions. A little planning and investment here will pay off. When you write a physician or prospective clients, it will not only be what you say, but how it looks. It may be unfortunate that these superficial concerns matter; yet avoiding them will slow your success.
The attention you place on your letterhead should be carried into any other printed piece you produce. Flyers and brochures that interest a reader will invite a response. In such a visual culture, we are constantly deciding where we will put our attention. The unconscious association between an intriguing flyer and a response is frequently overlooked.
The space we work in bestows its effect on our practice. Beyond what the space does for you, what does it do for your clients? Just think how you would feel if you walked into an office that was someone’s living room (this is not to say you should not use a living room) and strewn over the couch are dirty clothes and old newspapers. Dishes from last night’s dinner are left to age along with an open bottle of wine. This scene certainly will not support an image of a professional practice. If you are unsure what will, ask friends and/or clients to evaluate your office. Again, check out other offices.
Along with the lay out of your office consider the operations of the office. How are the phones answered? Many businesses have felt the negative effect of someone not responding quickly or responding without enthusiasm to inquiries. Phone machines are fine, but use them. For some the only contact with your practice will be through the phone. Use them too your advantage; impart an attitude of joy.
Part II in the May-June issue will complete the discussion of image when we look at the personal aspect.Having Your Image Work for You