Yes, you read the title correctly, I'm saying sweat the small stuff, not DON'T sweat the small stuff. In this column, I want to talk about how little things can make a big difference. By focusing on the small stuff, not only will it improve your business, but it will make your lives easier. You will not be constantly faced with huge daunting tasks or attempting to make large changes in your business.
Let me give you a quick example from Rory Sutherland of Ted Talk fame. The Euro Train from London to Paris was faced with the challenge of making the trip better, thereby increasing their ridership and improving their brand. The big solution was to spend 6 billion and take several years to build new tracks that would reduce the time of the trip by 40 minutes. By contrast, his suggestion was to take a smaller view of the problem, hire supermodels (both men and women) to walk up and down the train and pass out free drinks. The passengers would ask for the trains to be slowed down. It makes for a funny story, but to me, the underlying suggestion is to look at your big problems and think of small things you can do right now to start fixing them. For his example, why not train your employees to have more empathy, allow them to be entertaining and be themselves, and live your "why" to the fullest. Southwest Airlines is a US market leader for a reason so why could it not work for a train?
But let's get back to our world here. How can you do this for your business? Focusing on seemingly small things and tasks can have a big impact on your company. We don't have to make wholesale changes or tackle massive projects to improve things, but we should look for small ways we can make immediate improvements and let them build up over time. So let's take a look at some specific examples.
Having a Plan
Yes this can be big, like completing a business plan which I am a huge advocate of, but in this context, it can also be small. Having a plan or stopping to think about something before moving forward can make a huge difference. One of the small things I like to do each day use 2 to 3 minutes in the morning and plan out the most important things I need to get done that day. This way when the normal daily rush of fires that need to be put out, people needing my attention, and my general knack for being drawn to shiny objects, it doesn't completely derail me. This can also be working on your standard operating procedures with your team so you have a plan to improve your daily workflow.
Like having a plan this can be a huge thing to tackle, especially if you are a more creative type who seems to gather things, have huge amounts of clutter, and enjoys the chaos. But to think small, it only takes a few minor adjustments to see big gains. Start small, with something like always putting your keys in the same place each time at home and work. Then you will never have to run around looking for your keys when you have to run out the door. Or how about staging everything you need to complete a job together in one single place and do that for the next few jobs you are going to get done that day. This allows you to focus on the job at hand and not run around looking for tools or supplies while you should be focusing on making the perfect product for your customer. Take this same organizational theory and pass it along to your customer. When they come into your place of business, do they get to walk through the samples, touch and feel things, and take a moment to get comfortable in a new environment. Or do they have to beg and plead to see some of your work and get jumped the second they walk in the door, or worse yet have to go find someone? Organize your showroom in a way that is inviting to those you hope will be writing you a check soon.
Improve your Digital Presence
The number one thing to do is to have a website. I don't care how technically challenged you are, having a site of your own is easy. Take the time to set it up with WordPress, Wix, Square Space, etc. It doesn't have to be a massive project, it only needs to be a nice clean space online that you can call your own. It needs to tell your story and give your potential customers a place to take the action you would like them to take. If you already have a website, make some updates to it, add some pictures to keep it fresh. Google looks at how often a website is updated so small changes make a big difference. Ditching AOL/Hotmail/Yahoo Emails addresses is the next step. Since you have a website it should be free to also have an email to go along with it. Which email would you open first if you were expecting an email from me firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com? To scale this back even smaller, how about spending 5 minutes to double-check the transactional emails your company is sending as a stock response. First and foremost are they grammatically correct with good spelling? Then, do they make sense and help your customer have a better experience; not just make you feel better about berating them with your rules and regulations
Excellent Customer Service
Finally, the biggest small change you can make that will give you huge rewards. Practice empathy! Having excellent customer service is the easiest thing to do, yet it seems it is the last thing we work on. We learn how to make products, we improve our shipping methods, we do team-building exercises, but when was the last time you sat down for a minute and thought all the way through your customer experience from start to finish. And, if this is a long process with lots of hoops, regulations, rules, etc. there is your first change. Make it easy for the right customer to do business with you. Don't give your current customers a reason to look for alternatives and if you wow them beyond that they will become your best sales representative and you don't even have to pay them a commission.
The point here is to encourage you to look at the fine details of what you do. Think about the "user" or customer experience. Put yourself in their shoes when it comes to all of the touchpoints they have with you and put your passion at the front of those interactions. This doesn’t mean you have to be a perfectionist and get paralysis by analysis, but instead, put forth your best effort and show your customer and other stakeholders that you do care. It means putting yourself in your customer's shoes. Make those small improvements every day and they will add up to greater success.