By Rich Lindblom, YSN

Here’s a fact about the owner of one of the world’s most successful appliance and electronics stores, which I know is true because I’ve been told the same basic story by both former employees and sales reps who called on his company.

Every morning, as he walked from his enormous parking lot to the front doors of his equally enormous store, this owner of a business that does an estimated half-a-billion dollars in sales annually would stop and pick up any trash he happened to find along the way. Now here’s a guy with somewhere around a thousand people on his payroll, including folks who are specifically paid to clean the store and the grounds (which would include the parking lot). Yet every single morning he’d bend down and pick up any litter. 

Can the same thing be said about you?

When small things or small problems are ignored, they have a tendency to become big things and even bigger problems.  A good owner, a good manager and a good leader will always address those little things while they are still little. 

Think of your business as if it were your front lawn. One day as you are walking up the sidewalk to your house, you notice a big yellow dandelion smack dab in the middle of your otherwise pristine turf.  But you’re in a hurry and have a lot of things on your mind, so instead of picking that single dandelion, you ignore it.  A week later, you look out and now your previously beautiful lawn is full of weeds. 

Well, I’ve got some bad news for you — the exact same thing can happen with your business.  When an owner starts overlooking the small details because they are too focused on the big picture, two things begin to happen:

  1. When you stop paying attention to all the details things start to fall through the cracks, and sooner or later those things will end up costing your company money. 
  2. When employees see an owner that doesn’t care, they stop caring as well. And guess what?  Employees who stop caring also end up costing your company money.

And please, don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that you should be micro-managing every aspect of your business.  What I am saying is that when you see something, no matter how small it is, you need to address it.  I don’t care if you do it yourself or delegate someone else to do it; the key is to not ignore it and address the issue instead.

Let’s try a real-life work example, something that I’d be willing to bet has happened in your company at some point in the past. It’s your service tech Jimmy. He used to always show up for work five to ten minutes before his assigned start time (like he is supposed to, by the way).  Well, as time goes on Jimmy stops showing up early and instead, he starts showing up right at his start time, but you don’t say anything about it because he’s a nice guy. Next thing you know, instead of being five to ten minutes early every day, now Jimmy is showing up ten, twenty or maybe even thirty minutes late every day. It’s like he’s become his own boss and is setting his own hours. Of course, now your other tech Bobby sees that Jimmy strolls in late every day and knowing that the boss doesn’t care, Bobby figures he might as well get an extra fifteen minutes of sleep every morning too. I think you get the idea.

So, my question is, what type of owner are you? The kind that picks up litter every morning or the kind that ignores the trash and simply steps over it?

Rich Lindblom is a former principal of Advanced Maytag Home Appliance Center in Schaumburg, Ill., and member of the Maytag Leadership Council. He recently sold the 65-year-old family business and retired after four decades in independent retail. Got something on your mind? You can reach Rich at egvrich@gmail.com