"Don't sweat the details" is great advice if you're auditioning for a deodorant commercial, but isn't as hot of a tip for running a business. Being detail oriented can help improve profits, and can translate into rave reviews from customers, creating a reputation for excellence.
In other words, there are a lot of reasons why you should want to learn how to become more detail oriented.
1. Being detail oriented can mean saving money.
It's true! Joseph Hoelscher, a managing attorney with Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda PLLC, in San Antonio, Texas, says that his law firm saved a substantial amount of money by centralizing their printing services.
“Our office is paperless, but hard copies are still required in many courts and clients like a tangible document," Hoelscher explains.
Every attorney's office had its own printer. Until one day, they didn't.
"We now direct all of our printing through a high-efficiency copier and printer with a much lower per page cost," Hoelscher says, and every lawyer has their own high-speed scanners.
It amounts to a savings of $1,000 a month on paper and ink jet cartridges. And his company is saving money by not having to hire anyone to come out to fix the occasional printer problem that would flare up.
“I also know we lost billable time while people were screwing around trying to fix printers or sync issues," he says.
Of course, it costs money to save money. The new scanners ranged from $200 to $500, for a total of $3,800. But it's an easy expense to justify considering it's saving the office $12,000 a year. (If you use a cash-back rewards credit card to buy office equipment, you may be able to save even more.)
2. Scrutinizing the details often means finding problems you didn't know existed.
Alexandra Marin is a co-founder and director of design at CodeCrew, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in email marketing for sustainability-driven businesses.
Marin has at least one meeting a week where she and others are asking questions like, “Are we getting the information we need from our clients on time? Are our employees doing something that isn't necessary? Can we as the management streamline our own processes and communication?"
Sometimes you need someone from the outside to really shake things up with just the smallest of changes.
—Russell Knight, attorney, Law Offices of Russell D. Knight
Some people may complain about having too many meetings, but some meetings are a vital way of managing all of the details that come everybody's way on an hourly basis.
Marin says that proactively focusing on details that might otherwise be missed, has “definitely saved us not just countless hours, but quite a lot of money due to decreasing wasted time via streamlining our processes."
3. Organizing details can help save time.
In fact, during one of those meetings, Marin's team came up with a time-saving idea they might never have come up with otherwise. The team has a lot of tasks that involve sifting through data and organizing it for reports to give to their clients. Employees often had to ask the management team to drop what they were doing to help them.
“We soon realized that creating a database of video tutorials solved all of their questions, and also gave them the ability to review them at any point in time," she says.
4. Hiring a consultant to help you master details may make you and your employees more efficient.
Sometimes details are tough to understand. Russell Knight's Naples, Florida-based firm Law Offices of Russell D. Knight uses practice management software, but for a long time, it was barely being used.
Knight knew he needed the software to help with issues like billing, scheduling and storing information in the cloud, but it didn't seem to be working well for his staff of four. Knight hired an independent consultant to show his office how to use it better.
He spent $1,200 for three hours of on-site training in the office, and it turned out to be money well spent.
“The productivity savings have been staggering," Knight says.
He estimates that he and his staff have saved an hour on administrative tasks, which gives them an extra hour to do extra work.
“Sometimes you need someone from the outside to really shake things up with just the smallest of changes," he says.
5. Learning your clients' details can help bring in more business.
Sometimes it's the details of your clients' business that you need to be worried about.
Lozelle Mathai is the CEO of Body of Accounting, an accounting firm that caters to the health and wellness industry in Newberg, Oregon.
Mathai says that she invests extra money for her two part-time employees and for herself to attend health and wellness industry conferences. She has been going to three or four conferences a year, spending around $3,000 between registration and travel. (Yet another example of how being detail oriented can also save you money: Using a credit card that offers travel rewards, which can help minimize the cost of those trips.)
The conferences have been well worth it for her company.
“This education allowed the firm to deeply understand the industry and the challenges the providers are facing," she says.
Mathai can now talk not only about accounting challenges in the healthcare industry, but her clients' challenges within their industry.
“As a business, we feel very well rounded," she says.
Attending conferences has helped her business gain new clients and have more engaging conversations with her current clients.
"These conferences bring in roughly three to four long-standing clients a year. They also gives me the education and platform to earn additional income, like speaking engagements," Mathai says.
So when people say, "Don't sweat the details," you might want to counter with, "The devil is in the details," an idiom that suggests if you aren't paying close attention to the little things, you might make a big mistake later.
After all, the real sweating begins when you make a business blunder due to fumbling those so-called "minor" details.
Read more articles organizational productivity.
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