Tom Peters once said that if he flips down the tray on an aircraft and they haven’t bothered to wipe away the coffee and food stains, he wonders how much they care about the maintenance of the rest of the aircraft. What is the impression prospective customers get when they come through your shop’s front door? Does it make them wonder about the quality of your work?

I raise this because I’ve seen some pretty disorganized and untidy shops that could do with a good clean. I’m aware that it’s often said that creative people are by nature untidy. But this always sounds like a lame excuse for laziness to me and, worse than than that, it misses the point that it could give potential customers a bad impression.

For example, here’s a story I told in my book about visiting a sign ink manufacturer in Toronto, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business: “A receptionist showed me into a conference room, pointed to one of six chairs, and asked me to wait while she rounded up the people with whom I was scheduled to meet. I thanked her but then selected one of the other chairs—the one with the fewest ink and greasy food stains imbedded in the fabric seat.

The conference room resembled a poorly-maintained storeroom. Filing boxes, some spewing their contents onto the floor, appeared to have been carelessly dropped along one wall. Three or four coffee cups containing cold, partially-drunk coffee shared the table with a scattering of paperwork, colour charts, a stapler, a three-hole punch, and a selection of pens. Three of the six recessed ceiling lamps were not working, leaving the remaining three too produce what amounted to an inappropriately subdued lighting better suited to a theatre than a conference room.”

I was there to do business but the meeting and the quality of their product didn’t do anything to change my poor initial impression. We didn’t do any business together.

Just know that if your shop is a janitor-free zone, it’s likely costing you business.