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Attention to Detail

You have no doubt heard the phrase, “The devil is in the details,” meaning that sometimes a thing can appear pretty simple until you get down to the nuts and bolts of actually doing it.

What you may not know is that the widely-used quote is a variation on an earlier one: “God is in the details.” In other words, doing those little things right can have large and meaningful rewards.

(By the way, the “devil” quote is attributed to author Gustave Flaubert, and the “God” quote to architect Mies van der Rohe. Now you’re all set for the next trivia night at your local tavern.)

So which is correct? My answer, based on a few decades of looking after the details of countless projects large and small: both. Nothing pleases a client more than the discovery that you’ve attended to little things they hadn’t even thought of. And nothing will make a project go south faster than failure to catch those details before a client does.

If you think back over the times in your own life when you had a less than satisfactory experience as a customer, I’d be willing to bet that most of them started with something small that snowballed into a much greater issue. The perception that a company is not paying attention to the little stuff leads to a loss of trust, and from there nothing good can happen.

In our business – and in yours, too, I’ll bet – attention to detail takes many forms. The first one that jumps to mind is the workmanship itself, but that’s really just the beginning. Did we do what we said we would, when we said we would? Broken promises are the worst kind of detail-oriented failure. Did our personnel on a project represent us well in their appearance and their conduct? If not, you can bet the client noticed.

And detail for us goes well beyond the actual jobsite. In our work there’s an unending stream of processes and procedures involving multiple parties. Our job is to see that it’s all executed in a timely fashion, and to take as much of that burden off the client’s plate as possible. The more we can smooth a client’s path to getting back in business, the happier everyone will be with the outcome.

And when that outcome is reached, we need to ask both ourselves and the client: How did we do? What could we have done better? Getting the details right is a moving target, so we need to work constantly towards getting better.

Ask your clients. Ask your team. Learn, implement and repeat. Take care of the little things and (most of) the big things will take care of themselves.

Mike Popowski is President of PBI Restorations. Reach him at