It’s the Little Things

Regardless of what industry you are in, there are issues you face every day as a business owner that are bound to upset you. They may stem from customers, suppliers or partners, but often they have to do with employees. As leaders of businesses, particularly smaller businesses, we have to allocate our time and energy wisely. Accordingly, we often choose not to deal with confrontations, sometimes letting problems slide (besides, how many times can you tell the same person the same thing?). What we often don’t think about is the true cost of not addressing these issues — even the small ones.

Let’s look at an example. You instruct your employees to give their name when answering the phone. One of your employees (let’s call her Jane) consistently “forgets” to give her name. Since she generally does good work and you are sick and tired of reminding her of this simple rule, you once again “let it slide.” A large client who has experienced some annoying billing problems in the past calls about yet another billing error, and Jane, as usual, does not give her name when she answers. Jane politely tells the client that she will resolve the issue, but, consumed with other tasks, she forgets to follow through, and lo and behold, the client receives his statement with the same mistake. He calls you directly to complain, and you ask him which of your employees told him that the problem would be fixed. Naturally, he does not know. Despite the fact that you tell him that you will now resolve the problem personally, he is frustrated and decides to take his business elsewhere, where he doesn’t need to spend 30 minutes a month resolving the same problem twice.

Sound familiar? If so, the point is that you cannot let this kind of problem slide. When you do, you send your employee (or supplier, etc.) a message: that it is OK to make the same mistake over and over again, and that perfection, which is what your client pays for, is not mandatory.

Mistakes happen, and that is OK. What is not OK is when they happen over and over again and are tolerated. In those instances you must deal with them head-on and make sure everyone knows that they are to do the job right or they will not be doing it at all.