Do you sweat the small stuff?

I have never been a detail person. I am able to see the big picture with ease. But many of my customers want to come in close, squinting, to find the smallest flaw.

I guess it’s to be expected because they are the ones who are paying for the job.

Over the years, I have slowly modified my approach to detail work. First I had to learn patience. That was the hardest part since I tend to lose interest in a project once I have gotten past the excitement of the planning and designing and have arrived at the point where you just have to make it. By then, I am already thinking about the next project and the newest idea is breathing down my neck.

That is a dangerous point because it draws focus away from the job at hand at precisely the point where it needs the most attention. The small details can make or break a project, especially in the eyes of the client, so it is necessary to stay focused and make sure that all of the small stuff has been addressed.

Some shops have a detailer, a guy who has nothing but patience and can deal with traveling 20 miles to a job site to touch up the tinniest flaw. But for most small shops, that is a luxury that cannot be afforded and the job falls to whoever is available at the moment.

How do you handle the details?



  • Jim ODonnell says:

    I am a one man shop so all of the detailing falls on me.
    I have the same problem you do, once the planning and bidding is done, the excitment is gone and I’m ready to move on to the next project.

  • Gene Kelly says:

    I have always been able to see the big picture, that is knowing where a project will end up, but I prefer the details. If the details are taken care of in the beginning and middle of the project then the details will essentially be taken care of by the end of the project.

  • I find that if you don’t baby sit the details it will cost you in customer relations. If you miss one, the customer will be looking twice as hard for the next one. If you miss two, they will loose confidence in your ability to finish the job correctly.Loss of confidence will lead to them feeling that they can “remind” you of the other details that you missed, even if they were never discussed, taking advantage of the fact that you are now embarrassed and willing to do things to help the customer get confidence back. It’s like dominoes, once one is tipped over, it starts a chain reaction that is difficult to stop.
    Take the time to write the details down. If you think about it, the extra details are usually tied to something the customer wants and is almost emotionally involved in it. Sometimes they’re actually offended that you simply forgot an item.
    Every time you give your customer an excuse to look over your shoulder you empower them to make judgement calls about your process. This makes finishing a job easily nearly impossible.

  • Jim Allen says:

    I am also a one man shop. Details are important to me as well as the customer. If I do a period piece, I want it to be true to it’s period so I have to pay attention. In addition, I always seem to think of my customer as I am doing the job as to how important the job is to them, how they plan to use/display, or for public works, its meaning for the public. This gives me the incentive to do the job required.The next job may already be in the shop, but it only gets attention with respect to it’s promised delivery until it becomes the primary job. Then it gets my full attention.

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