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What about the little things?

We’ve all been told that it’s the little things that make a difference.
Sports coaches love this phrase. They tell their teams that it’s the little things, or the fundamentals, that win a game. In relationships it’s the little things that make people feel special. I’m thinking simple things like opening the door, giving flowers for no particular reason, or even just saying thank-you.

In business it’s the little things that keep customers. Part of a healthy B2B relationship is knowing the client’s needs. What market conditions are they facing? How are they challenged in running their business? What makes them successful? Knowing this level of detail is something we get by paying attention to the client. A little thing.

For B2C it can be about that little extra touch that keeps customers coming back again and again. Look at Chick-Fil-A and how their employees tell customers that it was “my pleasure” to serve you. Look at the return policy of Zappos and how it creates a no fear online buying experience.

Another business principal is to learn to say ‘no’. You can’t do it all. Focus on what’s most important.
Look at this quote from Steve Jobs “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on.  But that’s not what it means at all.  It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.  I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.  Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.” -Steve Jobs

Wait a minute. Doing the little things means saying “Yes”, even when it’s not the most immediate path to revenue or cost savings.

We’ve also been told to focus on tasks that are important but not urgent.
In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey classifies work tasks in quadrants of ‘important’ and ‘urgent’. Covey suggests that most people spend too much time focused on tasks that are both urgent and important. This creates an unbalanced and hectic life because it focuses more on emergencies and responding to the demands of others. Covey’s recommendation is to focus on tasks that are important but not urgent.  This enables one to complete tasks and to work in a non-emergency mode. The theory is that over time it creates less urgent tasks because the focus is on solving the truly important tasks.

So where do the little things stand on Covey’s quadrant?
Are the little things in the quadrant of “not important”? Are they “not urgent”? Or do they belong somewhere else?  If it’s the little things that make a difference then I’d say they are important, but not urgent. That puts them in Covey’s sweet spot quadrant of what we should be focused on completing.

What do you think? Are the little things that important? What are the little things for you?