For the fun of it Featured

6:38am EDT January 31, 2003
The grand opening of the new Route 19 office of Citizens National Bank of Evans City in Cranberry Township last fall wasn't your typical ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Not out of place, a harpist played softly to entertain guests, and there were lots of suits and cocktail dresses. Shrimp and croissant sandwiches graced the buffet. Guests received tasteful pewter coasters as a memento of the occasion.

But there were surprises, too. Bartenders in black ties served beverages from behind the teller windows. A magician amused visitors with card tricks and skillful sleight of hand that you wouldn't want to see at a bank during business hours.

A Big Boy statue left behind by the restaurant that once resided on the site proudly hoisted a giant double cheeseburger above its shiny black pompadour and stood in one alcove. Guests posed beside it for Polaroid photographs.

Some offices sported red chairs, a color not associated with great financial performance but downright striking against the bank's dominant blue and pale gray color scheme. Chairman Buzz Irvine gave a short address devoid of the usual pomp and gassiness often part and parcel of these kinds of events.

The red chairs, the Big Boy statue, the magician and the rest of what I really wouldn't have expected to see at a bank are symbols that probably say more about Citizens National than I can grasp or explain in this small space. I think a bit of what they say is that this is an enterprise where the owners take their business and their customers very seriously but take themselves a bit less so.

It's important to them that their customers and their employees feel relaxed and see that they have a sense of humor and, perhaps, some humanity. And that it isn't only about making money.

I believe in symbolism and its ability to communicate in subtle but powerful ways. The parking lots, receptionists, artwork and even the plants in businesses I visit often give me insight about them before I speak with the company owners.

I'd say it's worth the energy to figure out what your company's symbols are and what they're saying to your customers and employees. Maybe they say that you truly intend to serve the best hamburger in town.

On the other hand, you might be telling the world you're just another hot dog.