The little things are really the big things.

I was thinking the other day about how those little things in life tend to be the big things you remember. It’s particularly noticeable in my business– I’ve had many clients tell me how much they appreciate some seemingly insignificant thing I did for them.

As an example, a while ago I worked with a woman who needed a corporate intranet. I was doing the programming work and had set up her user account to show her how to use the system. She went through it with me (via phone) and then took a week off to get married. While she was gone, I logged into the system and updated her username to reflect her new last name. When she returned from her honeymoon, she was pleasantly surprised to find that her information had been updated (and you know how newlyweds can be). She called me and told me how much she appreciated that gesture, and that thirty seconds of my time has since translated into all kinds of additional projects (and thus income for my company).

Consider how little things enrich our experiences in so many areas:

  • The waiter who brings a refill, without being asked, just as you’re finishing the first glass.
  • The checker who actually makes eye contact while handing you the receipt and saying “Thank you”.
  • The smile or nod from a stranger as you pass them on the sidewalk.
  • The bank teller who flips through the stack of twenties and hands you a nice crisp bill instead of the dog-eared one on top of the pile.
  • The driver who sees you on your bike and stops to let you cross the intersection, even though they have the right of way.
  • The person who holds the door for you at the post office because your arms are full of packages.
  • The e-mail or phone message from someone you’ve contacted, telling you they got the message. Even if they can’t do anything about it right away.
  • The person with a huge cart in the checkout line who notices you only have two items and lets you cut in front.
  • In a way it’s fun to spend a few minutes here and a few minutes there doing little things for my clients and friends and family. Sometimes they don’t notice, other times they may but don’t say anything, but many times they comment about how nice it was that I was thinking of them.

    If I was a corporate guru (which I’m not) with one piece of advice about how to succeed as a small business, it would be that the little things make a world of difference– for good or bad. Leverage that tiny amount of effort into a positive relationship with a customer (or a friend) that lasts years.