In an attempt to help people reduce stress, anxiety and deal with life, Richard Carlson, Ph.D. wrote the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. In a postscript he adds, “…and it’s all small stuff.”

The book teaches us simple ways to prevent the little things from taking over our lives. The paradox is, of course, that it’s the little things we can control that matter. Life is made up of little things. It is very rare that great success comes by doing something extraordinary at a given moment in time. True success consists of being great in the little things over a period of time.

Recently, one of my daughters had major surgery. My wife and I traveled to her home to help take care of her and her family as she recovered. I knew my wife would be doing most of the nurturing and care giving so, seeing as how they were in need of new carpet and to keep from going crazy just sitting around, I offered to install it.

I don’t know what I was thinking. In the old days, I could have installed what she needed, with a helper, in one day. But, since I rarely do it anymore and my body is not what used to be, it took an entire week. I’m still sore, having quickly been reminded what a physical job flooring installation is and why there are so few flooring mechanics still installing in their sixties.

Funny how it’s the little things that really catch your eye. My dad was a great teacher of installation, demanding we be excellent in the little things. When I pulled up the old carpet, I noticed immediately how poorly the tackless strip was installed.

My dad would have required me to completely redo the tackless installation. The strip was placed two or three times further from the walls than it should have been. It did not follow the contour of the walls and in many places, especially around doorjambs, there was only one nail holding a piece in place. In some areas where wood nails would have been required, concrete nails were used. Ironically, it would have required no extra time or work to have put down the tackless strip properly. In addition, it was obvious that the floor had not been swept well before the strip and cushion were installed.

There were many other little things the original installer failed to do as well, solidifying my impression that he was sloppy and had no interest in achieving excellence. I’m glad he was not the surgeon who operated on my daughter.

A great flooring installer would pay attention to the little things: assuring that the substrate the new floor will go over does not have a moisture problem; using the right installation method for each product (i.e., power stretching) and end use; cleaning the substrate over which the new floor will go; cleaning up after he’s completed the job; being courteous and respectful to the customer; wiping his feet before he enters her home; being dressed and groomed like a professional; and giving appreciation to the customer for the work and the opportunity to serve her.

Great flooring installers pay attention to the little things. My list is short; the list of an excellent flooring mechanic would be much longer. If you install as well as sell floor coverings, what’s on your list?

It is not the striving for great things that make us most effective, it is the doing of the little things, the everyday things, better and better. Excellent salespeople strive daily to perfect their selling skills by doing the little things better and better. They work to control their attitude so that the customer is always greeted with a smile; to refine the questions they ask so that the customer is engaged and feels their sincerity; to build stronger relationships with customers and stay in touch better and more often; to improve their awareness to know when their approach is not working and so then change it.

I could go on and on. If you are a salesperson, on what little things should you be working?  What’s on your list?

Vincent Van Gogh said “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”When working with store owners and managers of great retail stores, I find these words to be so true. Greatness at retail comes with a focus on the details, the little things with huge consequences. I have a list of over one hundred best practices for business excellence. If you would like a copy, email me at

That’s my list. What’s on your list?

Achieving true excellence in business may seem like a big, audacious goal, but it’s actually simple: do the little things well – not simply “well enough” – and sooner than later you will find yourself standing out from the crowd.