Spring is here and people are strolling through the community.  As creatures of habit, it is common for business people to become accustomed to their surroundings.  So, although customers notice aesthetic differences, the same elements may go completely unnoticed by building owners or employees of a business.  It doesn’t really matter if the building was built 100 years ago or just ten years ago, buildings need maintenance and upkeep.  Even if you rent a facility, what you don’t see can hurt your business.  So, in the spirit of Spring Cleaning, we encourage you to do a walk through (or hire someone to do a walk through) and check out a few building elements while the weather is reasonable.
1.  Are the portions of your building that are supposed to be painted actually painted?-  Pealing or chipped paint can make a building look really bad very quickly.  A quick scrape and reapplication of paint can do wonders for your look.
2.  What does your roof look like?–  Spring showers can bring serious problems if your roof is in a state of disrepair.  When was the last time you had yours looked at?
3.  Are your mechanical systems (Heating, ventilation, air conditioning) in good repair?-  You don’t want to find out that you need to replace your AC unit in August.  Working with local HVAC providers, you can have a simple inspection done to determine your options before you lose your cool.
4.  Does your commercial building look like a commercial building is supposed to look?-  I know that sounds like a simple question, but there are standard elements to commercial buildings.  For years, people augmented elements to fit in with fads (shake shingle awnings or metal facades) or to become more “energy efficient” (covered windows or bricked in store fronts).  The fact is that if your building looks weird to a consumer, they are probably less likely to visit your business.  If your building does meet its original intended aesthetics, you may pick up more foot traffic.
5.  Have you been in all of your building spaces lately?- Closed off upper stories, basements or storage areas can become breeding grounds for hazards if they aren’t regularly checked.  When is the last time you walked through your whole facility?
6.  Check your building entrances.-  Your entrance is your first impression.  What impression does yours make?  We have plans to make some “fixes” to ours, because we recognize they are needed.
7.  What do your windows look like?– Are they dirty, cluttered or covered?  As people start to get out and enjoy the sun, the last thing we want to do is pull them into a dark and dank environment.
8.  What is your building envelope like?- When is the last time you walked around your building from top to bottom and made some notes about what you saw?  Have you asked your customers (or people who aren’t your customers) what their impressions of your business are based on its appearance alone?
9.  What do your surroundings look like?- Your sidewalks, your neighbor’s store front, flower gardens, benches, planters, lamp posts and more create a visual environment for your customers.  What message is your environment sending?  What can you do to improve your environment?
10.  What changes will you make, when will you make them and how will you budget for those changes?-Spotting problems doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have a plan to remedy the problem.  Give yourself a deadline to make improvements.  Reach out to other community experts to develop solutions to your building problems.  One of the wonderful things about being in a small town is that you have people willing and able to help make things better.  Take advantage of the resources around you.
On a yearly basis, Emporia Main Street works on a few community projects to help create a better looking and more functional Emporia.  We understand that people are busy and that budgets get tight, but a lot of the changes made can be fixed with some basic elbow grease and minimal expenditures.  Those that can’t be made with minimal expenditures often NEED to be made.  It doesn’t matter if you are in a 100 year old building with bad HVAC (customers like to stay cool in the summer) or a mall type environment with a bad roof (indoor waterfalls are not feng shui), your building can have an impact on your bottom line.

Get involved with your building environment and determine what changes YOU can make to improve your situation.  If you need assistance, please contact Emporia Main Street.  We may have financial programs, volunteers or contacts with local businesses that can help.
See this article and MUCH more in this week’s Emporia Main Street E-newsletter!