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It’s the Small Things

Center for Professional Dev at Boise State University, Photo by Arlie Sommer

I’m not a handyman. As a matter of fact, when I walk into a store like Home Depot, I feel a sense of dread, a sense of almost defeat if I am honest. The rows and rows of tools for contractors and do-it-yourselfers is overwhelming to me. However, with the help of things like YouTube and step by step tricks, my anxiety about fixing problems in my home is slowly subsiding.  As a homeowner I recently came to the realization that putting up with small problems around the house ultimately led to larger, more time consuming and often more expensive problems that needed to be fixed.

My experience as an executive coach and leader has shown me that the same is true in most businesses.  Small problems, not bad enough to do something about by themselves, begin to add up and eventually take a considerable amount of time and expense. A friend of mine shared what a successful businessman (and multi-millionaire) told him, “It is so much easier to make the money than it is to keep it.”  Where are small problems in your business? In the times we find ourselves in, one of the first places a business leader can look is at those small problems within the company.   Is it possible that by first looking at the small problems, you can create momentum to help you navigate this new sense of normal that many are facing?  Do you have small problems in any of these areas?

  • Your cash flow (late fees, missed discounts, poor purchasing habits, high credit card interest, collection problems, incorrect invoicing, poor pricing policies)
  • Your production (product defects, late deliveries, mediocre service, wasted or obsolete inventory)
  • Your processes (redundancy, re-work, unnecessary activities, workarounds)
  • Your relationships (interpersonal conflict, communication breakdowns, neglect, damage control with bruised egos, turf protecting)
  • Your customers (too many small problems to discuss, statistics show that in most business only 4% of dissatisfied customers complain, the other 96% just go away)
  • Your networking (superficial, self-centered, disorganized, poorly executed, lack of follow up)
  • Your planning (lack of focus, emphasizing the wrong things, failure to execute on strategy, obsolete tactics, lack of systems, quickly abandoned)
  • Your marketing/advertising budget (frequency, mediums, styles, messages)

I have never worked with a leader, organization or business that has taken the time to identify those small problems that haven’t improved their bottom-line results in significant ways.   In almost every case, the small problems didn’t seem that bad until they took the time to take a full inventory of all the possible places that money, energy, and focus may be stealing from their success.

What about your business?  Have you identified those small problems?  Where are the new opportunities to better utilize your resources for greater results?  With money, production, processes, people, or planning?  How well are you executing on strategic clarity to produce powerful results? It starts with identifying those small problems and committing to fix them.  And for the record, my wife is much better at identifying and fixing those small problems in our home and honestly, I am ok with that, she likes Home Depot, I like Guitar Center.

Paul Bentley
Boise State Center for Professional Development