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April 24, 2018

Small Business Advice:

Paying attention to details will pay off with improved business

"The devil is in the details." ~ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Jerry Osteryoung | 1/4/2013

It is vital to examine every part of your business with fresh eyes every day. When you become accustomed to your company’s environment, it is easy to overlook the small but important details. I think this is just how our brains operate. We do not really notice small changes that occur over time. However, your business could suffer if you do not see small problems developing. I once gave a seminar in Ecuador in a very poor area near Quito. Since I only had to teach two hours each day, I had time to get out and see this wonderful country. As I explored each day, I saw the most rampant poverty that I have ever seen. People were living in conditions I could not imagine my dog living in. However, as shocking as this was for me at the beginning, I eventually stopped seeing the poverty and the difficult lives these people were living. My brain just accepted these horrific conditions as the norm for this environment.

This kind of blindness can occur anywhere and under a variety of conditions, including at my laundromat. I am not very domesticated. I have not turned on my stove in two years, and I go to a laundromat to have my clothes washed and folded.

Every time I go, the laundromat’s parking lot is filthy and full of debris, and I am sure the owner has become so accustomed to these conditions that he does not really even see the mess. If he did, he would have the parking lot swept each morning and this would encourage more customers to use his services.

The other day I stopped at Bob Evans Restaurant for breakfast. As I sat at the counter, I looked through the opening into the kitchen and saw all the chefs wearing t-shirts stating the restaurant’s mission.

The restaurant obviously spent time and money on these shirts, but unfortunately, the aprons the chefs had to wear completely covered the mission statement. No one seemed to be aware of this detail.

Another restaurant is using yard signs to draw in customers. Over time, the signs have deteriorated from exposure to the elements, gotten bent and blown off. Needless to say, they were not sending a very good message.

We all know the devil is in the details. What makes it tricky is that you have to be able to see the details in order to make changes.

Just as in the examples here, it is easy for you to miss details that can have negative consequences for your business. To make sure you do not slip into this unawareness, you have to constantly jog your mind and try different things every day so you can see your surroundings with fresh eyes. Try taking a different route to work or wearing your watch on your other wrist every other day.

Now go out and make sure you have a method in place for keeping your mind fresh so you are able to see the details of your business.

You can do this!

Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at

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