Hidden Opportunities & Sweating the Small Stuff

small-door-1130644_640In June of 2012, a group of volunteers gathered at Placer High School in Auburn, California. They had assembled to repaint the school’s weight room, a facility that hadn’t received any TLC in decades. But as they began the process of emptying the room and prepping the walls, they made an incredible discovery.

Situated on one of the interior walls was a small screen door. Barely big enough to crawl through, the door sported a padlock and peeking through the screen revealed only darkness. Several alumni were familiar with this door – it had been there for as long as any of them could remember – but no one had any idea where it led or what was inside. Curiosity got the better of the group and the decision was quickly made to remove the lock and find out.

The exploration reveled a make-shift bomb shelter dating back to the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the midst of nuclear tension between the USA and the USSR, similar shelters had been funded by the Civil Defense Department. The nuclear fallout never came and they were mostly dismantled to make way for more pressing needs. This one, however, was still fully stocked. There was medicine, food rations, paper supplies, and even bagged water. All was perfectly preserved, having been forgotten by those who created it.

Day after day, people walked by that door, never realizing what waited on the other side.

It seems amazing that something like this could go undiscovered for so long. Yet every day, we walk by corners of our own homes and workplaces without giving them a second thought. Who knows what we’d find if we’d just take the initiative to look?

Think about your daily routine. As you make your way from the car into your office, what areas lie just outside of observation? What would you see if you approached from a different direction or used another entrance? What aspects of your business’ appearance go ignored simply because they aren’t part of your typical route? Sometimes things go unnoticed despite being right under our noses.

I once visited the men’s room of a bank branch and found the sink faucet handle laying to the side. There was no way for me to turn on the water and wash my hands. I mentioned it to the manager and she thanked me for bringing it to her attention. She said “We’re all women working here, so we never go into that restroom. Guess we ought to check it out once in a while” Who knows how long that faucet had been broken?

Customer service author/consultant Dennis Snow says “everything speaks.” In a time when just about every business struggles to differentiate themselves form the competition, it’s often the details that make the biggest difference. Those who choose to excel at the little things are the ones who win. It pays to look at things from a different perspective once in a while.

There may not be a hidden room waiting to be discovered in your building; but I bet there are areas that you haven’t given any thought to in quite a while. Identifying them, and addressing them, could be just enough to lift you above the competition in your customer’s mind. Perhaps it’s time to do a little exploring.

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