In an interview with authors William Doyle and William Perkins, a successful partner in a management consulting firm credits attention to detail for her success.
She says, “I believe that battles are won and lost in the last five percent of detail. Everybody gets the first 80%. Most people get the first 95%. What makes the difference is the people who get the last five percent.”
I can relate. One day, a colleague of mine and I were partnering up to pitch a major training program to the General Manager of one of the largest hotels in the Southeast. With over 900 employees, this was a big deal … for the GM and for us.
We put together our cost estimates, mapped out the series of classes we would offer, and projected the hotel’s return on the investment.
On a sunny summer day, my colleague and I walked into the GM’s office to make our presentation. The GM was a surly, ‘numbers kind of guy,’ focused keenly on our ROI projections and the metrics we would use to measure project success. With a furrowed brow, he put his hand on his chin and said, “There’s a lot of soft stuff in your proposal about training managers how to coach their staff and teaching staff to work as a team … what if we cut that out and focused on work flow, process streamlining, and maximizing efficiency?”
My brain started thinking about the edits we would need to make and how cutting out the content would reduce our time and therefore save on project cost. After all, he’s the customer, right? We need to deliver what he wants, right? Before I could open my mouth to ask specific questions about the modifications, my colleague said, “No, that’s not an option. This company was built as a family. The founder made it feel that way. He had a 5 star hotel that he was proud of and that was a place of dignity for the employees. I looked you all up and you are not a 5 star hotel anymore. You’re 3 stars. 3.5 at best. Your performance has steadily slipped since the founder passed, and it is because of the degrading trust within this organization. I ate at your restaurant last night and you could feel it in how the staff interacted. Efficiency, work flow and process streamlining are the byproduct of an environment where managers coach well and people work together towards a common goal. We cannot maximize the results of our training without the soft skills. If you take that out, we are not the people to deliver the program. We can’t be part of a company that doesn’t believe in teamwork and trust … that’s not how this empire was created. It would be disrespectful to the founder and to the legacy he created.”
Then, there was the dramatic pause. My mouth dropped open as I stared at my colleague. I could have killed him. This was too big of a project to be that forceful. Sure, I was impressed with the boldness he had shown, but a major contract was on the line.
The meeting didn’t last long after that.
Then, in the elevator on the way down, my colleague told me about some research he had done. He told me that the hotel is family owned. It was constructed by the father of the current owners. He built the hotel floor by floor on a cash-flow system, building a new floor only when he had the funds to pay cash for the work. An amazing man. In addition to showing wise restrain in his money management, he had quite a reputation in the community because of the commitment to his church, his generosity to local charities, and his way of treating employees like they were family. When my colleague ate in the restaurant the night before, his waitress talked about how this man gave her a chance when others wouldn’t because of her low education and her race.
We ended up getting the project, and the GM told us that the deciding factor was my colleague’s boldness … and because he had gone the extra mile in researching the history of the company. He new the importance of the family legacy, and that made all the difference.
That’s what I mean about that last five percent: attention to detail made a difference in the overall impression we left with that client.
Was it worth it? I think so. It’s that last five percent that separates the marginally successful people from those that will rise even higher.
When making an impression, go the extra mile by attending to the last 5%.