The Small Blog

Sat, January 26, 2013 - 3:54:10

Operating Your Business in High Fashion

This week, the fashion world was buzzing about the latest trends to hit the runways at Paris Fashion week. Haute Couturiers, prized for their exquisite tailoring skills, know that the tiniest detail—a finish on a seam or a slight alteration to a cut, for example—can make all the difference. As The New York Times reports, now some the most successful designers are also using the exacting standards of the traditional couture atelier to be more self-critical and demanding in their craft, and in their business practice.

That’s a trend that fits hand-in-glove with our own business philosophy. By understanding how tiny details impact your business, you can take it to the next level, no matter what your industry.

Sweating the details with a couturier’s precision can revolutionize your business in a variety of ways:

It will make you more creative. As we like to say, you can make it big by thinking small. By focusing on little details, you open yourself up to small but powerful opportunities to innovate. Examine things carefully and ask yourself to think of one tiny change you could make to improve the things you use on a daily basis. Think of it like working a muscle: the more your challenge your mind, the more creative you can become.

It will make you a better problem solver. Thinking small can help you problem solve with ease. Many professionals assume that every big problem calls for a big-thinking solution. In fact, many times the simplest solution is the best one. As George Pólya, author of How to Solve It, wrote, “If you can’t solve a problem, there is an easier problem you can solve. Find it.”

It will make you more productive. Focusing on the details is a great way to help you achieve tasks more efficiently and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed or burning out. Instead of taking on the whole of a project, break it down into small steps. Then one by one, you’ll complete them, gaining momentum each time you mark off your checklist. 

Posted by Linda and Robin
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Thu, January 17, 2013 - 3:19:41

Small Tips for Big Growth

As you might have read in our book, THE POWER OF SMALL: Why Little Things Make All the Difference, many great businesses have made it big by thinking small. Whether they’ve come up with a breakthrough product by addressing one of life’s previously ignored little details, or they’ve built a small business one tiny step at a time, thinking small has been the key to establishing countless successful companies, including the one we started more than a decade ago.

But, as we read in the New York Times—and as we’ve heard from a number of our readers over the years—sometimes the next part is the hardest. We’re talking about growth. At first, you might think that in order to grow from a small to big business, you have to shed your small-thinking mentality, but you’d be wrong. Continuing to think small still lies at the heart of your best approach to moving upward.

Here are a few tips for growing the SMALL way, as well as some common pitfalls to avoid.

Celebrate your small wins. When you’re focused on the big end goal, it’s easy to forget how monumental your small accomplishments can be. Take time to recognize your little wins and if you have employees, don’t forget to recognize theirs as well. Doing so will keep everyone motivated.

Think of your small office space as “cozy.” We’ve all read real estate listings promoting a cozy apartment, when what they really mean is cramped. But, when you’re growing your business, embracing those “cozy” quarters can be a real cost saver. One of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen budding entrepreneurs make is upgrading their offices too quickly, moving into chic new spaces only to become over-stressed by the prospect of paying off high rent every month. Bottom line: don’t upsize until it’s absolutely necessary.

Shrink to grow. Jessica Johnson, owner of Johnson Security Bureau, tells the New York Times “One of the lessons I’ve learned this year is sometimes you can grow by subtraction.” In other words, sometimes the best way to grow your business is to look at it with micro-focus and eliminate the little things that aren’t working for you. Then you can continue to grow what works.

Posted by Linda and Robin
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Wed, January 09, 2013 - 11:34:47

Going on a Digital Diet Will Do You Good

If you’ve read our books, THE POWER OF NICE and THE POWER OF SMALL you know that we’ve long been proponents of unplugging from time to time. Whether you forego email for a day or two in order to strengthen your communication skills in other areas, or you close up your inbox as a way to de-stress on weekends, going on a little digital diet can do you a lot of good.

Here’s why:

It’s an easy way to make the “write” impression. With the prevalence of email and text messages, our real-life mailboxes have become receptacles for bills and catalogs. How surprising and delightful it is to receive a note written by someone you actually know! The power of a handwritten note, however, goes beyond the thank-you card or letter in the mail. Even something as little as a post-it can help you make it personal. As we read on the SmartBlog on Leadership, one manager’s effort to go the extra inch makes all the difference with her employees. Instead of simply issuing a paycheck, she writes a personal note on new employees’ first paychecks, wishing them, “Welcome to the team! Give your very best and you will be awesome here!” Similar efforts are a little way to show employees that you really care.

Productivity devices aren’t always productive. Did you know almost half of Americans sleep with their mobile phones right beside them? Well, even though we’ve been guilty of this on occasion ourselves, research has shown that smartphones do not make good bedfellows: their glowing screens have been linked to insomnia and 60% of people admit to hearing “phantom” vibrations. Now, some companies are taking note. The Wall Street Journal reports that a number of companies are enacting policies that mandate employees take time away from their work email and company phones in the evenings and on weekends. The result? Employees report feeling more refreshed when they come to work and more productive throughout the day.

Some messages get lost in digital translation. Email, text, and messaging services are often the most convenient ways to communicate with your friends and coworkers, but they’re not always the most appropriate. Many times, your tone can get lost in translation when your message is typed and not spoken. So, make sure to read your email aloud and carefully consider the content before you press “send.” If it sounds harsh or if the topic is sensitive, consider delivering the news in person or over the phone instead.

Posted by Linda and Robin
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Fri, December 21, 2012 - 5:23:11

Believe in the Power of Small

How many of you intend to make a big New Year’s Resolution for 2013? (How many of you have already resigned to giving up on it?) The truth is: setting a huge goal can be daunting. And what’s worse, it can make you feel like giving up before you’ve begun. Clearly, bigger isn’t better. And there’s magic in the Power of Small.

As we ring in the New Year, we encourage you to make a Small Year’s Resolution instead.  For example, instead of vowing to lose 25 pounds, why not make your goal on a week by week basis, aiming to reduce just a half pound down as you go? Little by little, you’ll slowly make progress and before you know it, you’ll have reached your big goal without even thinking about it.

It’s just one of the many ways in which harnessing the power of small can help you transform your life in 2013. The more you take time to notice the little things, the more you will discover that SMALL works in amazing and unexpected ways, in all aspects of life. So before you discount the Power of Small consider some other unusual ways in which it works every day:

Simply wearing red can make you feel more attractive. In a study for the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Andrew Elliot, Tobias Greitemeyer and Adam Pazda found that women were more likely to choose a red shirt over a green shirt when they were planning to meet with an attractive man. Conversely, they were expecting to meet an unattractive man, they were more likely to choose green.

It really is your right side. A study by Kyle Jasmin and Daniel Casasanto in The Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, found that real and fictitious words typed primarily on the right side of a keyboard are interpreted more positively than those typed on the left.

Posted by Linda and Robin
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Thu, December 13, 2012 - 11:28:57

Shaking Up Your Routine Can Spice Up Your Marriage

Conventional wisdom says: “marriage takes work.” But, what if we told you that there’s another ingredient to a long, lasting, and happy marriage—one that’s a lot more fun. According to new research, happy relationships need the element of surprise.

The researchers who conducted the 15-year study recently highlighted in the New York Times, found that simply doing a new little activity with your spouse can have a positive effect on your mood. As the Times reports:

Surprise is a potent force. When something novel occurs, we tend to pay attention, to appreciate the experience or circumstance, and to remember it. We are less likely to take our marriage for granted when it continues to deliver strong emotional reactions in us. Also, uncertainty sometimes enhances the pleasure of positive events.

That’s why scientists theorize that newly empty-nesters experience the same “happiness bump” as newlyweds. Once again, they begin to learn new things about one another. And those surprises can reignite the thrill of love once more.

But, even if the kids are still at home, you can still experience the benefits of novelty. Simple activities like visiting a place you’ve never been, going out dancing, playing a new sport together can have the same effects. And science proves it. As the Times explains, a well-known study by Arthur Aaron found that   the couples who engaged in the exciting new activities together reported greater satisfaction in their marriage than those who engaged in pleasant or familiar ones.

In other words: don’t get stuck in a rut! While there is certainly comfort in a familiar routine, a good marriage can get even better when you inject it with a little something new together. So, what better excuse to get small and get going? You and your spouse just might surprise each other when you break out of your routine.

Posted by Linda and Robin
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