Paying Attention to Details

On another side of my class ring are the initials PATD for Pay Attention To Details. Throughout my life, I’ve seen the success that PATD can bring to a business. And I’ve seen the failure that can happen because of its neglect.

I’m sure you’ve probably heard the business parable: ‘if a broken window goes unfixed and then another breaks and, if it too goes unrepaired, soon people passing by will begin to conclude that no one associated with this business cares.' Yes, that’s an indicator that no one cares about the building and could very likely not care very much, if any, about the business being conducted from that building. And, with this mode of operation, the building will deteriorate all because no one paid attention to the details of repairing the window. And, when the building deteriorates, soon the business more than likely will as well. Why? It’s the public’s perception that if no one is paying attention to the upkeep of the building that houses the business, then it’s quite likely that no one is paying attention to providing excellent service to their customers. PATD is both a tangible and intangible act. Paying Attention To Details shows everyone that you have pride in who you are as well as your business.

After being in the auction business for some years, an elderly man who worked for me over a number of years gave me one of the best compliments I’ve ever be given. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know, I’ve been helping you at these auctions for a number of years, and I just realized why you are so successful. It’s because you pay attention to details.”

As I reflected on his words, I thanked my parents for drumming this concept into me and also my siblings in our childhood. We all were taught that either something was right or it wasn’t, and paying attention to details helped to ensure that things would be done correctly. Our family depended on the income we took in at our small post-war truck stop which provided us the income we needed to survive and accordingly every penny was important. As youngsters, we were instructed on how to make change correctly and how to write so others could read our writing easily on receipts. We quickly learned that a ‘t’ without a clearly written horizontal line at the top could be taken, and rightly so, to be an ‘l’; an un-dotted ‘i’ is actually an ‘l.' An improperly written number ‘1’ could be taken to be a ‘7’, or vice-versa. I can remember to this day the times my parents would make us re-write things, so they were written clearly; thus, easily read.

Paying attention to details, for us kids, also extended beyond the writing of numbers and letters. Paying attention to details also meant that you put the top back on the bottle of ketchup correctly and that you cleaned the tools you used on the farm prior to putting them away. And, you made sure that you put them back in the proper place so that when you or another wanted to find it to use, that it would be in its’ designated place. All this meant efficiency. It also meant courtesy and care for others who would be using those items after you were finished with them.

My parents used PATD consistently in our lives. To learn our spelling test words, we were required by them to write them each out 10 times with attention paid to our handwriting. When we showed our spelling test practice to our parents and, even if one word was illegible, we had to do the entire exercise over until we got it precise. Even punishments were learning opportunities in PATD. For minor infractions, my Dad would have me write out the multiplication table, from 1x1 up to 12x12.

Today, when I visit a business, one of the indicators for me of the business's quality of operations (and of their future success) is told by the condition of their restrooms. A clean, well-kept restroom says to me that people working here ‘care’; that they pay attention to details. A dirty restroom says to me that the employees of this business don’t have pride in what they do. They aren’t paying attention to one of the most important needs of their customers - and that is, the use of a clean restroom. When I walk into a dirty restroom, it speaks loudly that this company isn’t paying attention to details. And, I think it sends a further message. ‘If they don’t pay attention to the cleanliness of the restrooms, they very well may not be paying attention to the condition and/or the preparation of the food they are preparing for me to eat or for the product or service I am looking to buy from them.' Simply stated, I think we all want to do business at a place that cares about their customers, those businesses that pay attention to details.

In basketball, we often hear sports experts say that free throws win games. And, usually, a lot of praise is heaped on the player who makes a winning free throw at the end of a game. Yet statistically, the very first free throw in a basketball game counts just as much as the last one. It’s just as important that the player pays attention to the details of making the first shot, as well as all that follow. Truly, each free throw is important!

Paying Attention To Details is a powerful way to live. In business, it makes you more accurate and more efficient, and you will deliver an excellent product and/or service to your client, thus answering their needs and, in turn, makes your business very successful. And, the integrity, competence and caring you demonstrate turns one time customers into long term clients. Thus everybody wins!

Paying Attention To Details is also a concept that is important in everyday life. Looking someone in the eye and giving them your undivided attention when you talk with them; remembering to thank your significant other for that meal they made for you, or the wait staff who brought you your meal at a restaurant; hugging your family in the mornings (and evenings) telling them that you love them; hugging your friends and telling them how much you appreciate them – all these aspects of PATD demonstrates the love you feel.

When we pay attention to details, it says to our customers that we value them and care about them and to our family and friends that they are very important to us and that we love them.

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