As a small business owner, you most likely need to keep overheads down – which often means working from home. But home offices (or desks in a spare bedroom for many) raise a conundrum for owners – where to meet clients.
Your local cafe may seem like an obvious choice, but here are five good reasons to re-think that.
It’s not always a great first impression
Cafes by their very nature are casual – but not terribly professional. Clients are usually unwilling to give a business a second chance if they make a bad first impression, and many are also put off if your business does not have a local address. Meeting in a cafe doesn’t exactly scream ‘confidence’ – it says this person likes a flat white and a chat. By meeting in a public space you will always project a low-key vibe which is not great if you want to be seen as professional (no matter how tasty the muffins are). You need to consider your brand and whether you want people to see you as credible or casual.
Confidentiality is an issue
Meeting in public places inevitably means that others can easily overhear your conversation, and that can be a big issue. This is particularly so if your business involves the discussion of personal information or money. For instance, a client is unlikely to be willing to divulge their finances to an accountant over a latte with 10 other people in the vicinity. That will cause them discomfort and an unwillingness to do business with you.
The noise factor
In a cafe you have absolutely no control over the environment – the music could be intolerably loud (or perhaps even intolerable), there could be small children running amok and the staff could be rude. What’s worse, the coffee could be terrible. Meeting in a place where it is too loud to hear yourself think let alone hear what your client is saying is less than ideal.
You can’t put on a show
Cafes are all about squeezing in as many customers as possible to maximise their revenue – they are small businesses too! Which means you’ll have limited room to show clients any documents you have prepared or portfolios they need to peruse. And live presentations? Forget it.
The awkward moments
Eating and drinking with people you don’t know well can be super awkward. What happens if you’ve skipped breakfast and you desperately need a toastie and a chocolate milk, but their tastes swerve more towards the highbrow end of the menu and they order scallops and a French muscat. But what if your conversation and business chats trail off well before the food arrives, and getting small talk from your client is like the proverbial blood from a stone? And then there’s the obvious question – who pays? So many pitfalls, so little time to climb out of them.
While cafes may seem a low-cost and convenient solution, there are many other alternatives for small business owners to project a more professional image.