A Guest Columnist!
Son Ben, a sophomore at Loras College in Dubuque is a guest columnist. Enjoy!
I’ve been hearing about it for years. It all started in sixth grade, when my math teacher mentioned that he enjoyed reading my dad’s column and that I should make a guest appearance. That day, I went home and promised my dad I would guest write a column for him. We both thought it was a great idea, and I went off to figure out what I should write about.
I remember all the ideas I initially wrote down as a sixth grader: I could write about guitar lessons, or AAU basketball, or my math teacher who inspired me to write the column. After a substantial brainstorming effort, I felt unsatisfied with the topics I’d come up with. So I put off this grand task, knowing that one day, at the right time, the right topic would finally come to mind.
Skip ahead a few years. Every Christmas, in order to simplify the gift-giving process in our family, we draw the name of one member of our family that we are then responsible for giving gifts to. This past Christmas, I drew my dad’s name, and I knew it was the time to make good on my promise. I still hadn’t decided what to write about, but regardless, it was time to fulfill the pledge I had made years ago.
Eight years later, I realized that the best thing to write about was the fulfillment of a gift that should’ve been given long ago. The column, I realized, would write itself, the fruition of a promise.
As small business owners and managers, details are unbelievably important (I’m not a small business owner, I just had to somehow incorporate the signature segue my dad loves to use). In fact, it’s the primary weapon that separates small businesses from chains, or good business owners from great.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching the sitcom The Office almost four times all the way through on Netflix, it’s that the only reason Dunder Mifflin, the mid-range paper supply company the show is based around, stays afloat among the big chain competitors is its commitment to personal service. Now that might be looking far too deep for small business strategies ingrained within a show where an employee fakes a fire alarm causing another employee to have a heart attack, but the real-world application holds true.
For instance, in looking for off-campus houses to live in next year at Loras, it was the small details that separated the seemingly shady landlord from the trustworthy one. It was a text, call, or email a day or two later or a week down the road to gauge my thoughts on the house, or the commitment to an informational tour rather than a tour dependent on me asking questions.
It’s like calling back to a joke you made on the first date while you’re on the third date. It’s the little details that show the people you care about, your customers, that they are cared for and valued. Remaining faithful in small matters shows customers that you can remain faithful in the big picture.
The promise that I made my dad eight years ago is now complete. I hope this stirs up some sort of memory or recollection of a promise you made to an old friend or client years ago, about going out to lunch some time or get together. Maybe you made the promise in sixth grade, or maybe you made it yesterday, but just remember that getting the small details right and valuing your commitments will make people value theirs in return.