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Mitch Anthony's Intuitive Advisor

The Practice Doctor is IN

Making Your Office Space Work for You and Your Clients

by Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH
Practice Management Consultant

Al Depman photoPeggy Fisher, a CFP in Torrance, CA, has been doing an image revision. As with anything Peggy undertakes, it's a thoroughly thought-out process. Naturally, this is why she's so successful. She reached out to me recently and wanted to know, "When was the last time you walked into an office (any office for any reason) and were impressed? And what was it that impressed you?"

Our conversation drifted into the question: "What makes a good professional office environment these days?" This is a time of morphing office space—from working out of one's home, to deconstructed former cubicles into open areas to encourage better collaboration to coffee house-like meeting spaces. However, the one constant in all this is the professional office where the advisor, the office manager, and other team members can close the door and be alone to hold private client/team conversations.

The kind of office I enjoy (and am impressed with) is one that can be explored a bit if I'm left alone in it or that can stimulate opening conversation with my host. It's welcoming and professional but also includes personal items, whether on the wall or on a bookcase. An interesting, eclectic set of books is a winner for my taste. Photos of family or pets or other treasured people arrayed strategically are eye-catching—and remind me that whoever I'm visiting has a balanced life. The professional designation—hard earned—should be framed and prominent. If there are pictures—photos or paintings—on the wall, they should be interesting, not just stereotypical scenery. I'm not wowed by giving prominence to ostentatious, glitzy awards. No cable TV constantly running.

Be sure the computer isn't intrusive—and as wireless as possible. There ought to be separate space for intimate discussions. For formal presentations and group meetings, a conference room apart from the office should be available. Subdued background music of your choice works well. A color scheme reflecting warmth and confidence sets the tone of the office.

It should ultimately say, "Peggy is an interesting person and a professional. I'm at home here."

Other best practice commentaries include the following:

  • Plants or flowers add color and life to an office. They also help clean the air, and according to one study, improve visitors' moods. Someone in the home or office ought to have a green thumb for this to be sustainable, however. There's nothing worse than looking at wilted plants or shriveled up flower arrangements.
  • Tissues should be readily available. Emotions can necessitate their use as readily as the sniffles. Having a small vial of hand sanitizer isn't a bad idea either.
  • Faith-based materials can play a part in your office décor—this will allow the topic of faith to come up, which may be comforting to some clients. Of course, you'll need to decide whether or not including these materials is off-putting to other clients, and thus not appropriate.
  • Kid's artwork is always a winner—parental pride is universal.
  • Sports memorabilia is another fun discussion topic. The marlin-on-the-wall might lead to some fishing stories, or an autographed baseball, football, or basketball can drive a fun, level-setting conversation. Beware of golf stories that go on too long.
  • Avoid clutter. Get rid of pens that don't work anymore. Don't bring in CDs and books you never use at work. Do something about those piles of papers that cover your table and floor. Keep a single file cabinet for your office for the important stuff and relegate the rest to files located elsewhere.
  • Lots of Post-Its™ make the place look extremely unprofessional and chaotic. Go digital where possible.
  • If you don't have a room with a view, be generous with lighting. Have the place cleaned and keep it fresh. Light colors may give the illusion of space. Coordinate colors to show that you care, and give the space a professional appearance.
  • The choice of your desk matters. Consider a glass desk as it doesn't seem to take up space the way wood desks do. However, it is very important that you invest in good, ergonomic office furniture for your workspace to look sleek and professional.
  • Give your office a view from the perspective of those who are disabled, elderly, or otherwise having trouble with mobility.
  • Finally, while there should be no constantly prattling TV, it's great to have a large screen available to project computer presentation material for visitors, prospects, and clients you are meeting with individually or as a couple.

Peggy took all of this into consideration as she put the final touches on her new office. She added one item I hadn't considered. "Crystals," Peggy said. "Strategically located crystals. Very calming."

If you have other insights into office design, let me know and I'll share them (

The Doctor is OUT

© 2015 Al Depman

Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH, a.k.a. "The Practice Doctor", is's Business Practice Consultant, and contributor to "The Wall Street Journal." He is the creator of "The Practice Management Assessment" tool, the key component of The Business Practice Check-Up™, has authored numerous articles in professional publications on practice management, and is the author of the book, How to Build Your Financial Advisory Business and Sell It at a Profit, available from McGraw Hill. Al combined his Liberal Arts studies with 10 years of management experience with McDonald's Corporation to enter the financial services world 25 years ago. Since then, Al has evolved from an MDRT-level sales rep into a full-time consultant specializing in helping others engineer their business practices to the next level. Contact him at

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