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Judging a book by its cover

This article is culled from The Saipan Tribune

By Rik and Janel Villegas

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” is an adage that stresses the importance of looking sharp so that people won't think you're dull. The saying also holds true for places and things, such as buildings.

Early one Saturday morning we drove our son, Daniel, to PauPau Beach to meet with some other teenagers so they could go on a hike. As we was leaving, we looked at what used to be the vibrant La Fiesta Mall and reminisced the times my family and we would go there to eat at Tony Roma's, visit stores, and listen to the musical group that provided live entertainment on weekends. Some will remember that La Fiesta used to be the only place on Saipan where kids and adults could play in the snow and have a snowball fight because snow was flown in from Japan once a year. It was once a lively shopping mall that entertained tourists and locals, but the rapidly deteriorating façade has masked any history of life that once existed.

Do people judge a building, a city, or a community by its external appearance? You bet they do, and some will not walk through the external façade to taste the food in a restaurant or shop at a store because of what they see.

It also can have the same affect for your employees going to work everyday. Rik was once recruited to be the president of an organization with almost 200 people. Morale was low among people, and it did not help that the interior and exterior of the buildings were worn and weathered. Some of the florescent lights did not work, water pressure was poor, and some toilets did not flush. Besides being an OSHA concern, it was a physical and emotional concern for everyone there.

Before making any management changes, the first order of business was to make some quick equipment changes by replacing the water pump and buying some ballasts and fluorescent tubes so that there was proper lighting. It noticeably made a difference in the physical surroundings and definitely made a difference psychologically so that other more positive changes could take place.

As we headed home from PauPau Beach, we noticed that the CHC hospital had a fresh coat of paint on what used to be a deteriorating façade. What a difference it made from the peeling paint and weathered look that it once had. We also noticed the well-manicured lawns, immaculate buildings, and cleanliness of McDonald's and the Coca-Cola bottling plant on Middle Road. However, these examples were contrasted with the hodgepodge buildings and chaotic look of the buildings just across the street from them.

It's not enough to have just a few buildings that look good, when we have a plethora of buildings, vacant lots, and beaches that are littered with trash, rundown, falling apart, and just an eye sore for tourists and those who care on the island. Beautify Saipan has made a big step to cleaning up the mess of others; however, when those others dispose of their trash faster than concerned people can pick up after them, it becomes frustrating. Taking care of the symptom doesn't cure the cause.

If you're a business owner, take a walk outside and look at your building, as a customer would see it. Is it inviting? Would you recommend people to visit your place based on the way it looks on the outside? If you have a lawn and shrubs, are they cut and manicured, or are they overgrown and out of control?

Now step inside and ask yourself if your place is organized, clean, and designed so customers can find things easily. Do you have placards and directions that are easy to read and understand? If you cater to tourists, are they written in a language that your customers can easily read?

Next, take a look at your staff and ask yourself the following questions: Are they neatly dressed and well groomed? Do they have friendly body language, and welcome each person that enters your building? If they smoke or chew, do you require them to do it only on breaks and not in the presence of customers?

As an aside, did you know that Walt Disney was a chain smoker, and died of lung cancer at an early age; yet he never allowed workers to smoke in front of guests at Disney Land because he knew it created a negative image. In other words, if you are the boss, don't take executive privileges just because you are the boss, but consider the views, feelings, and values of your customers before you light up.

Like it or not, people do “judge a book by its cover,” and the look of you building and employees will make a difference whether a person becomes a customer, or just someone who passes you by.