Why nothing is beyond measure

You’ll hear the phrase ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’. Ignore it. Sweat the small stuff for all you’re worth, for therein lies the key to success in business. Blogger Stuart Pearcey explains the thinking behind the bold statement.

As well as ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’, you’ve also no doubt heard that the devil is in the detail. He (or she) almost certainly is, and you ignore those details at your peril.

Take the example of the man who, in checking his investments, found that somewhere a figure of £33,330 had somehow become £3,330 through a simple clerical error. Failure to add in just one keystroke had cost him £30,000. It didn’t in the end, because he was able to straighten it out which a few phone calls and other evidence. But what if he hadn’t spotted it…?

It’s the same reason that so many job adverts call for people who have good attention to detail under pressure. You’d think that would be an asset, and perhaps it is, but read between the lines. The potential employer is going to put you under pressure, and woe betide you if you make a mistake.

Examples of the devil’s hands in details that could stop your business being profitable are everywhere.

  • Are you using conventional light bulbs when you could switch to LED’s, at a fraction of the cost? Are lights left burning when there’s no-one at work? Whatever for?
  • Are you employing agency staff on a permanent basis, rather than bringing them in house? Don’t say it’s cheaper until you’ve looked; the agency is making a profit too, remember.
  • Are you paying the most competitive price for your energy? Your phone system? Your IT? Are the prices rising faster than inflation? When did you last look?
  • Are you employing someone just to manage employee expenses on a full-time basis, when you could switch to an expense management app, and have the employee do something that earns money, rather than spends it?
  • Are you too comfortable with your suppliers? Is there an opportunity to renegotiate costs – or prices with customers, for that matter.

These are all things that, because they’re not part of the mainstream of your business activity, could be overlooked. The phrase ‘we’ve always done it that way’ springs to mind and is no excuse for not re-visiting these areas.

Encourage employees to get involved in saving money for you. Get them to offer suggestions for cost savings. They’re closer to the ‘sharp end’ than you, and therefore better placed to see where money is being wasted. Split the savings with them, so there’s a financial incentive for you to promote the idea, and the same thing for them because they’ll get money for coming up with the ideas.

Controlling the small stuff by putting costs under the microscope is an exercise that your business should be involved in or a regular basis. Do it yourself and encourage others to do it too. After all, the success of the business is in the interests of everyone, especially the employees.

And if a further example were needed, let’s go back to that icon of literature Charles Dickens, and his character Micawber, who says: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

The currency might be unfamiliar to some, but essential it’s saying that if annual income is just a little less than expenditure, ruin awaits; a little more, and everything is fine.

The difference is a small detail indeed, but, as far as business is concerned, it’s some small stuff that most definitely should be sweated…


Picture: Evgeny Ustyuzhanin | Dreamstime