Almost every printing company has this sign on its wall: "Why is there never enough time to do it right, and always enough time to do it over?"
This ironic, even cynical statement can be applied to almost any business, large or small. In some industries, up to two-thirds of working hours are spent on correcting mistakes. In a small business, wasted hours and materials can easily make the difference between success and failure.
Yet almost all mistakes can be prevented. The secret to preventing mistakes is in being careful.
Carefulness usually takes a little longer. Note this: a "little" longer. Being careful does not mean doubling the time it takes to do something. It means twelve minutes instead of ten, or seven hours instead of six and a half.
Two simple actions will eliminate almost all mistakes made in your business:
1) Pay attention. When your mind is elsewhere, mistakes happen. If you get interrupted, stop what you are doing, handle the interruption, then get your mind back onto what you are doing. If you start daydreaming, it is time to take a break. Go take a short walk, get a glass of water, and come back when you can concentrate.
2) Check your work. This unbelievably effective procedure is overlooked by almost everyone, every day. Small business owners particularly are so full of self-confidence that they just assume they have done something correctly. Maybe nine times out of ten they have. Then the mistake in the tenth time costs them all the profit from the first nine.
Every action in a business deserves carefulness. Misspellings in emails and on websites project an image of ignorance and lack of quality. Incorrect invoices don't get paid. Unswept floors and dirty windows can repel customers, especially the ones you want most: the wealthy, well-bred ones.
Then there are the products or services your business sells. A nick here, a scratch there, a form not filled out correctly or completely, a missed spot in the painting, little mistakes that could have been prevented by being more careful, will make a customer look elsewhere the next time he needs that product or service.
As a small business owner, the burden is on you to insist that both you and your staff follow a firm policy of carefulness. When an error is made, figure out how carefulness could have prevented it, and make sure everyone knows, so it doesn't happen again. This doesn't mean to make someone feel bad for making a mistake; it means to make them feel better and more capable in the future. Probably all they have to do is slow down and be more careful. Don't worry: as they get more experienced, the speed will return, but without the mistakes.
Above all, do not, repeat do not, let mistakes go by with a careless phrase like "Don't worry about it. Mistakes happen." If you don't do something about it, the same mistakes will continue to happen.
Carefulness results in higher quality at lower cost. It is worth your investment.
Don Dewsnap is the author of Small Business Magic, published by Oak Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the principles of quality necessary to business success, applying to all aspects of business from production to sales. The principles of quality are not well known, and almost never applied to their full potential.