Adding the Five Percent

5_star_image_prefby James Hale,

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%.

Do You Want to Get Well?

by James Smith,

There’s a story about a man who had been sick for 38 years.  He would be taken to this pool that had healing properties.  Whenever the waters would stir, the first one to get down into the water would be healed from their ailments.  Understandably, a large number of sick people would gather by this pool and try to be the first to get in.  Being lame, there was no way that this man could get into the pool before others.

None of us are completely perfect.  We all have some type of ailment, whether physical or not.

Jesus comes by one day and sees the man.  The question he asks the man is profound.  Jesus looks at him, knowing he has been sick a very long time, and asks him, “Do you want to get well?”  (John 5)

Why do you think Jesus would ask this man if he wanted to get well?  Don’t sick people want to get well?  Isn’t the answer obvious?

I think the question “Do you want to get well?” is a question that must be asked and it must be answered by us all.  There are a lot of people in the world who are sick from a lot of different ailments.  Some ailments are physical, but others are emotional, spiritual, psychological, or physiological.  There are even some socio-economic ailments related to poverty or the cultures in which we belong.  Some people seem content to live life in continual sickness.  We’ll think, or even say, that we would like to change, but we seldom ever do.  Why?

So along comes Jesus, or someone else, into our lives and they see the sickness in which we live.  They see the scars and the hurt in our emotional or psychological lives.  They see our poor physical health from our poor habits connected to our diets or smoking or lifestyle choices.  The see the spiritual emptiness that characterizes our spiritual lives.  In some way, we are asked, “Do you want to get well?”

Do you want to change your health?  Do you want to change your relationships with those around you?  Do you want to change your family?  Do you want to change your marriage?  Do you want to change you economic situation?  Do you want to change your emotional or psychological condition?  Do you want to change your relationship with God?

The answer may never be expressed in words.  The answer is expressed in what you do and what you change.

Jesus asked the man at the pool, “Do you want to get well?”  On getting an affirmative answer, he told the man, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.”  For the first time in 38 years, the man got up and walked.

None of us are completely perfect.  We all have some type of ailment, whether physical or not.  Yet God wants us to be whole and well.  But we have to want it.  We have to want to get well.  We have to want to change.  We have to want to break our destructive habits, heal the hurts and scars, give up our laziness or crutches. We have to get up, pick up our mat and walk.  We will never do that unless we want to get well.

So, do you want to get well?  Are you willing to do whatever it takes?

— James Smith is the author of “The House That Richard Built” coming out in April 2012 at All Star Press.

The Ticking Clock

by James Smith,

Dark Bedroom ClockIn my bedroom is a clock.  It’s not digital, but it has the round face with the numbers 1 – 12 and a couple of hands that spin around it.  And it ticks!  We get so used to the clock that we typically don’t notice the ticking anymore.  Last night I noticed the ticking.  Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick….

Each of those ticks represent a second of my life.  Tick, tick, tick, tick…  They go by so fast.  A second may not seem like a long time but when you add several together you eventually have a minute.  Add a few more and you have an hour.  The hours turn into days, the days weeks, and the weeks years.  All made up of individual seconds.

As the seconds of my life were ticking off that clock, I thought about the fact that with each tick a second of time was gone forever.  Wow!  How precious each moment of our lives are when we hear the wheels of time rolling.

The question becomes, “How valuable do we see those ticks of life’s clock?” The answer is found in how we spend them, what we do with them.  For me, I want every second to count for something.  I want every tick of my life’s clock to be valuable in some way to someone.  Whether it’s God, my wife, my children, my church, my friends, my community, or myself, I want to use those valuable seconds to make me or others better.  It all comes down to how I choose to spend them.

My Bible says in the letter of James that our life is a “mist.”  It’s here today but tomorrow may be gone.  Several psalms compare life to grass of the field, here today but gone tomorrow.  We have no idea when our clocks are going to stop ticking, that makes every tick a gift from God – a gift to be treasured and used for something marvelous and wonderful.

Thoreau wrote in Walden, “I went to the woods to live deliberately; to drink deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”  Drink deep of this wonderful gift of life.  If you’re reading this today, God gave you a gift of another day in time.  What are you going to do with it?  How are you going to show your appreciation to Him for it?  Do you value the gift?  What are you going to spend your time doing today?

Watching TV?  Playing video games?  On Facebook?  Or maybe talking to God?  Spending time with people?  Reading God’s Message to you?  Serving the poor?  Making your community a better place?  Connecting with co-workers?  Loving your spouse and children?

There’s a million choices that we can make each day on how we’re going to spend the ticks on our clocks.  How are you going to spend yours today?  How valuable do you see them?  Are you going to make them matter?

Tick, tick, tick…


— written by James Smith