By J.D Ndungu

As the world around us continues to grow increasingly more volatile and uncertain, for businesses, it has become difficult to figure out how to stay ahead of all the changes. It seems that as people, there is a popular belief that all a business needs is grand strategies & bold initiatives to dig it out of a hole and for some, that may work. Humanity loves grandeur, we praise Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg for the businesses they have built, we marvel at Mt. Kilimanjaro and applaud incredible services like M-Pesa on how they have impacted the way we interact with one another on a daily basis. The grand and bold get all the praise, but as any successful entrepreneur or seasoned leader knows, excellence is found in paying attention and nurturing the finer details.

Although Tesla, Facebook and Safaricom have visionary leadership, the companies have also developed teams that can focus their attention on the small things, the fine print, and the subtle nuances that collectively distinguishes the greatness of their companies from the rest. So what are some of the smaller things you should look at that could help future proof your business? 

Excellence in the little details

Here’s a conversation between our PPA executives and a guest had on the little things that can show excellence of both you as an individual and your organization as a whole.

The impact of a small change

A great example of the ripple effects a minor change can have is the latest Stanley cup craze. Stanley is a drinkware manufacturer that for the last 100 years has focused their efforts on producing bottles targeted at outdoorsmen and blue-collar workers. However, in 2020, the company made one simple change that rocketed the company to new heights. They introduced a new product into their product mix – the Quencher cup.

The aim was simple, Stanley for the first time in its 100-year history began to appeal a group that they had long since considered outside their target market; women. This may have seemed like a risky decision especially when their existing formula was working, as Stanley had an annual revenue of $70M. But clearly, this was a risk that paid off, with Stanley’s revenue growing 10x in a mere 5 years as they are now operating with an annual revenue of around $750M.

In collaboration with a group of women from The Buy Guide, the Quencher product was not only colourful (over 30 different colours and finishes), but the design made it a high-quality, aesthetically pleasing product for women. Their marketing approach was also simple, as they relied on a network of influencers to spread the word about the Quencher cup. The craze around the Quencher cup has exploded; the cup has become synonymous with success that Stanley now has various limited-edition collaborations that tend to sell out hours after their release. But the most crucial factor to Stanley was not to have a gimmicky product, but one that continued to meet their exacting standards of quality. The Quencher cup was put to the test in 2023 when a viral video showed that not only could the cup survive a car fire; but more impressively managed to keep the drink in it iced!

Stanley’s rave success over the past five years is a great case study about how excellence can be found in the minor details:

  1. Cutting costs is not the only way – For a company that operated for 100 years with steady revenues, their tends to be a lack of innovation and their choice in hiring their current CEO, who was previously the Chief Marketing Officer for Crocs, was a risk many companies may not make. Their choice of CEO played a significant role in some of the other choices that has led to their current success.
  2. Addressing your assumptions – Have you narrowed your focus too much on your target audience? What would it cost you to try collaborating with different audiences to see where your company/services/product could have value to the market?
  3. Your product quality will always matter – Unfortunately, many organizations will commit the major error of leaning into the gimmick of a new product/service and forget what people actually care about; am I getting my money’s worth. Had Stanley cup focused on the gimmick and forgotten their quality, they wouldn’t have been able to capitalize on the opportunity presented by the video. You can read more about the brilliance of this move here.

So what does this look like on a day-to-day scale?

As an individual/employee, the little details show up in your work ethic and the quality of the work that you produce consistently. As a business, the finer details show up everywhere:

  • In your operational processes,
  • How well trained your staff are on the expected working standards,
  • Your working environment, both physical and mental
  • Customer service experience for your staff and your customers etc…

All of the above and many other finer matters can be a reflection on whether you pay attention to the little things. So, if you are not doing that work as a business leader, who is? While the allure of grandeur may captivate attention, it is the attention to detail that ultimately distinguishes exceptional organisations from the rest. As an individual, it may be as little as the font; but as an organisation, it could be a range of areas and as simple as taking the feedback from an unlikely source.

By recognizing the significance of the small things and committing to excellence in every aspect of business operations, companies can not only survive but thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape. So, as you go forward in your professional life, embrace the finer details and commit to the ‘follow through’.

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