I'll let you in on a little secret. Unpacking from last week’s Cabinets & Closets Expo in New Jersey, I came to the realization that I left all my makeup and hair tools in my hotel room back east. As any woman will tell you this is a major pain in the, well you know where. Not to mention that I had a very important event to attend in less than 10 hours. Suffering from jet lag and promising myself all would be well in the morning, I went to bed and slept the annoyance off. While dressing the next day and rummaging through my vanity for any semblance of a topical rescue for my pale complexion and droopy eyes, I resigned myself to the image that stared back at me from the mirror, grabbed a coffee and headed for the door.

Our good friend Neil Balter was the keynote speaker at this early morning event and I promised him that we would be there to support him and his lovely wife Lynn. My vanity faded as I listened to him speak with soulful devotion to finding answers for those living with Autism. I have heard Neil speak many times before, but couldn’t be more proud of my friend this particular day, and I was so glad I decided to cut my trip a day short to be in attendance. The whole experience stayed with me, obviously even as I write.

What does this have in common with closets you must certainly be asking yourself by now. Just about everything.

Consider for a moment the whole of the experience of your customers when they are dealing with your company. Admittedly, they walk through your door because of your location, advertising, or a good word of mouth. Your company probably does quite well at putting on a pretty face through your web site, showroom displays, literature or ads. Although image is an important lure, it is also window dressing. What will really count toward a successful long run in business is the culture of your company and the experiences that it creates for others, including its employees.

Attributes such knowledge and creativity, reliability and accountability, value and innovation, mutual respect and fairness, among others, are the attributes that drive business forward and keeps it thriving. These are conditions we can control. We cannot control outside circumstances, like an economy that nosedives or back seat competitor who takes up residence down the block and keeps a bird’s eye view on your business, while using designs and under-cutting your price. Window dressing (or lack of in this competitor’s case) can only bring you (or them) so far.

It's the experience that your current employees and potential customers have with you that counts and lasts. At the Autism breakfast, it was not the fancy table settings or menu that impressed me, but the cause, passion and manner in which the material was presented that made the difference. I believe this to be true in just about all things.

So consider your customer's experience, and that of your staff. They are absolutely reciprocal and equally important. Your company culture matters and speaks volumes in your book of longevity. If your employees or your customers are only minimally experiencing belief or interest in your company’s culture, business becomes a very short story.

Although there are plusses (and cheerful minuses) in admitting, Charles and I have longevity, in business and in our relationships, and that has not happened by accident. It comes by way of the culture in which we subscribe to in running our business and our lives. In my monthly column for CLOSETS Magazine, I will be diving under the face of business and offering best practices which have proven themselves time and time again. I will discuss topics ranging from startup conceptualization, and business confidence, to customer & employee satisfaction, common pitfalls in decision making, project implementation and many other topics of interest directed at not only the fledgling, but also to the more “seasoned” of companies, so be sure to follow along.

You have heard the phrases, “everyone loves a pretty face” and "it is what is on the inside that counts”. A truly successful business is built on pillars of both.

To your success!