Sweat the Small Stuff

After spending a fairly awful 6 days in hospital after having serious complications arising from appendicitis, watching the nurses and teams do an impossible job it reminded me how important it is to sweat the small stuff. Because of bullshit, aggregation led policies, it was clear the small stuff was compounding the bigger stuff at the bottom. It was so incredibly obvious not only to me but to several other chaps in my room how the smallest changes at the output level would lead to beds being available at the input level. It was also clear that the pathetic blame culture and poisonous insurance companies have done the NHS the most terrible disservice. ‘where there’s a blame’ fear was so incredibly obvious in my short spell in hospital, common sense, experience and logic was now no skill to be used to expedite the process of getting the ‘product’ through in an effective way. I digress…

We’re taught in well-being fields not to sweat the small stuff, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and I agree, for your own health, worrying whether you’ve left the washing out really isn’t that big a deal. However, in business, I believe it’s essential. Your customers are looking for any excuse not to buy from you, to find the chink in your armour. The tiniest thing can be the make or break to the deal. You’ve all done it, you’ve all been in a restaurant and spotted the lipstick on the glass, the crack in the plate, the dirty tablecloth. We are conditioned to expect excellence and quality, we know what’s right and what’s wrong. We can tolerate a level of tardiness but to the expense of an unlikely return visit or purchase.

‘We just made the wrong choice today’

As humans we’re good at giving our attention to the big picture stuff, it’s fun, it’s creative and challenges our brains. We get plaudits for making change happen, we are seen as thought leaders. Big things are visible to the people you want to impress.

It’s the small stuff that makes the big stuff happen, sorting the small stuff gives a clear desk and allows you to focus on what grand plan you’re going to conquer next. Even just tying up all the loose ends, tidying the mess, filing the papers, sending the emails gives an enormous sense of satisfaction and a very clear head to take on your next challenge. As a business owner, I’m conscious I don’t step back enough and look at my companies from a visitor/customer perspective anywhere near enough, I’m too engrossed in the big challenges and the steering of the ship, but I’m trying, and after my hospital visit I will be trying a whole lot more. Is our digital presence everything it can be? No, it’s not, but we’re sorting it. Are we telling the very best story we can? No, but we’re on it. Are we getting all the recommendations we can? Are we asking ALL our happy clients to give us a lovely review and some content to use in our own marketing? No, we’re not. But, we will be. Have we organised a night out for the team recently? It’s in hand. Happy team, happy clients, 5-star reviews, excellent digital presence = Better Business… Simple.

Take a look at your competitors first, see if you can spot all their flaws, write them down. If you can visit them, do so. If you can buy one of their products, buy one. Experience the alternative to you. Once you’re satisfied you know how it should be done, take a look at yourself, are you the best choice for the customers wanting your product or service? Write all the small, silly, obvious bits down, allocate them as pebbles, rocks and boulders (a fairly well-known business tactic) pebbles are the tiny things leading to boulders, the big stuff. What can you do in a few hours that will reduce your list dramatically? You’ll be very surprised at how many pebbles you can lose in a few hours.

If you’ve ever read Stephen Coveys 7 habits of highly effective people or listened to any business coach tell you the story of the jar filled with rocks, then small stones, then sand then the water you may be sceptical about this approach, these are the doyens of the business world. Sorry but I disagree in parts, especially in the field of marketing and brand building. It’s the tiny things that people pick up on, that they talk about, that they tell their friends about. A website that doesn’t give timely content, an e-commerce site that isn’t responsive, a shop that has price tags missing, a restaurant with a menu that never changes, a poor review, a disgruntled member of staff, a showroom with staff that don’t attend to your requirements… the list goes on. These are all triggers that don’t match your customer’s expectations. If you don’t deliver at least on par, then your competitors will.

So, just for a few hours this week, take a look at your business from an outsiders perspective, look around your office/shop/showroom, read your reviews, take your customers journey, benchmark your business against your nearest 3 competitors. How do you stack up? You might be surprised or at least it will confirm your fears.

But one thing to avoid, if at all possible, is going into hospital. That’s really, really not recommended.

Simon



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