Small Business Success Tips - Carefulness
By Don Dewsnap
Almost every printing company has this sign on its wall: "Why is there never enough
time to do it right, and always enough time to do it over?"
This ironic, even cynical statement can be applied to almost any business, large or
small. In some industries, up to two-thirds of working hours are spent on correcting
mistakes. In a small business, wasted hours and materials can easily make the difference
between success and failure.
Yet almost all mistakes can be prevented. The secret to preventing mistakes is in being careful.
Carefulness usually takes a little longer. Note this: a "little" longer. Being careful
does not mean doubling the time it takes to do something. It means twelve minutes instead
of ten, or seven hours instead of six and a half.
Two simple actions will eliminate almost all mistakes made in your business:
1. Pay attention. When your mind is elsewhere, mistakes happen. If you get interrupted,
stop what you are doing, handle the interruption, then get your mind back onto what you
are doing. If you start daydreaming, it is time to take a break. Go take a short walk, get
a glass of water, and come back when you can concentrate.
2. Check your work. This unbelievably effective procedure is overlooked by almost
everyone, every day. Small business owners particularly are so full of self-confidence
that they just assume they have done something correctly. Maybe nine times out of ten they
have. Then the mistake in the tenth time costs them all the profit from the first nine.
Every action in a business deserves carefulness. Misspellings in emails and on websites
project an image of ignorance and lack of quality. Incorrect invoices don't get paid.
Unswept floors and dirty windows can repel customers, especially the ones you want most:
the wealthy, well-bred ones.
Then there are the products or services your business sells. A nick here, a scratch
there, a form not filled out correctly or completely, a missed spot in the painting,
little mistakes that could have been prevented by being more careful, will make a customer
look elsewhere the next time he needs that product or service.
As a small business owner, the burden is on you to insist that both you and your staff
follow a firm policy of carefulness. When an error is made, figure out how carefulness
could have prevented it, and make sure everyone knows, so it doesn't happen again. This
doesn't mean to make someone feel bad for making a mistake; it means to make them feel
better and more capable in the future. Probably all they have to do is slow down and be
more careful. Don't worry: as they get more experienced, the speed will return, but
without the mistakes.
Above all, do not, repeat do not, let mistakes go by with a careless phrase like "Don't
worry about it. Mistakes happen." If you don't do something about it, the same mistakes
will continue to happen.
Carefulness results in higher quality at lower cost. It is worth your investment.
Don Dewsnap is the author of
Small Business Magic, published by Oak
Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the principles of quality necessary to
business success, applying to all aspects of business from production to sales. The
principles of quality are not well known, and almost never applied to their full potential.