Making a Good First Impression

By John Forshee RVED Extension Director Community Development Agent

The old saying, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression,” remains so true today and is relevant for our personal lives, our homes, our businesses, and our communities.

I recently had the opportunity to go through a training on the First Impressions programs that your K-State Research and Extension program offers to local communities. I have worked with the program in one of our communities and we are currently in the process for a second community. However, I had never had the opportunity to complete one of the community assessment sheets as I did in this training. Wow, what an eye-opener this process is.

As our small, rural communities face population declines, we must fi nd ways to make ourselves appealing as a place to live, work, and raise families. So where does it start?

Our fi rst, fi rst impression is at our town entrances. Do we have a good “Welcome to” sign that is well lit, well maintained, and attractive or is it broken down and overgrown with weeds? On our mock session, one thing that grabbed my attention in the town we were in was immediately preceding the nicely done welcome sign was an abandoned trailer house with boarded up windows and thistles and cheat grass for landscaping. Which one of those do you suppose formed my “first impression?”

Property owners at the edge of town, it is your responsibility to help us put our best foot forward. Do we do that? For some the answer is yes and in some cases, not so much.

When coming through a town where I don’t live, what are two stops I am likely to make? The gas station and a someplace to eat! So what do those folks have to say about your town? Do they tell a story about a great place to live and work? In most cases I doubt it. While traveling this week, I stopped for that bathroom break.

I always try to buy something to say thanks for providing the facilities and so I stood at the counter while the young clerk fi nished reading the text message and her only communication with me was, “this it?” I found a semi-clean bathroom, a some-what cold drink from the cooler, and an unfriendly clerk. What is my first impression of that town? You guessed it, “Don’t need to ever stop and spend money here again!

It trickles down everywhere. As I write this, I know I need to get out front at my offi ce and clean up the fl ower beds from winter. I know the second that I hear the front door, I need to jump up from my chair and greet whomever has just walked in. I know that after each of my extension programs, I need to personally thank each person that took the time to come out to learn the latest we are offering.

What is it that you need to do as a city employee, as a city council member, as a county commissioner, as a business owner, or simply as a homeowner to help make our best “First Impression?” Make your mental list and start today!

If your community is interested in conducting a “First Impressions” program, please give me a call. Simply contact any of our four extension offi ces and they will transfer the call to me. Together, we can a good “First Impressions” in the River Valley District area.

Belleville Chamber and Main Street invited a First Impressions visit several years ago. Find more information about the program here