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Small things can make a huge difference

I’m going to clean my office today and I’d like to share with you the reason why.

Things like clearing the recycling cardboard out of the office hallway, cleaning our offices, cleaning off our computer desktops and keeping our software up to date, properly greeting our coworkers, and washing the dishes are so insignificant and small…

Having your staff decide whether to leave or stay in your company, needing your team to come up with great ideas and solutions to big business problems, customers choosing to trust and increase their business with your company, caring for your coworkers, friends and family … these are the BIG things!

If we can’t take care of the small simple things how can we take care of the big ones in business?

I recently read a book called the “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. I referred to it in an earlier post on the Race To A Million website.  You can read it here.  In the book Mr. Gladwell tells a story about the New York subway system and a man who was charged with cleaning up the crime that had plagued New York’s transit authority for far too long.  He was facing the challenge of dramatically reducing what seemed to be an insurmountable number of major felonies and murders. He was almost dismissed over his decision as to how he was going to clean it up. He decided to focus on the smaller less significant crime of graffiti. He reasoned that if criminals saw that New York cared about something as simple as graffiti in a big way then it would make a large impact on the more significant crimes without having to do anything directly. Turns out, he was right.

Last night I read another great illustration of small things making a significant difference in a book by Sir Richard Branson. The book is aptly named “Business Stripped Bare” and in it Branson shares many great business insights.  Yesterday evening I read how the Virgin group of companies is concerned first and foremost about people, their staff and their customers and how the two are inseparable and so closely related. Virgin often considers and protects themselves from the potential to mechanize people and turn them into machines or at least into just another cog in the wheel. With all of their success, fast paced business environments, and expensive machinery (planes, trains, automobiles and even a “space ship”) one would think that they might have a tendency to dehumanize their staff and customers, at least a little.  But this is not the case. They go as far as actually humanizing, instead, their machinery.  Every car on every train, every plane, every vehicles in fact has a human name.  This make seem very funny but it is brilliant. Pure genius. Their level of attention and safety record has increased dramatically as a direct result.  People relate more to the machinery and take better care of it, they actually “relate” to it because it has a personal name.

This morning I had a great conversation with my business partner Dean. He told me a story of a recent disagreement between Richard Branson and Stephen Colbert where Mr. Branson ended up apologizing by naming one of his planes after Mr. Colbert.  Wow! What a great way to make a huge impression with something that is so insignificant.  Does it cost Branson anything to name a plane after someone. No, in fact it probably makes him money through the value of the publicity alone AND what a huge impact it can make on a person!

Taking care of the small things – the little details – makes all the difference in the world.

I’m going to clean my office and desk now.

What small thing can you do today to make a difference to someone else?

Cheers.

Peter Cameron-Inglis

P.S. If you’re looking for an inspirational idea of something small you can do today that has a potential big impact, check out our Thanks A Million cards.

Thanks a Million cards allow you to say ‘thanks’ – and pass it on! From person to person and place to place, each card’s progress is tracked online, taking with it a rich collection of inspirational stories of sincere gratitude. And who wouldn’t want to be a part of a journey like that? They’re definately one way I’m ‘paying it forward’ this holiday season.

You can read more about the Thanks A Million cards at http://www.racetoamillion.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/RTAM-release-thanks-a-million.pdf

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