Just how important are the details?  Well, perhaps it’s better to ask “how important is being better than your competition?”

The details are the competitive advantage.  Buyers have the right to expect excellence.  Excellence simply must reflect, as part of its definition, an unwavering commitment to getting the details right.

Let me illustrate this with a story about mustard (yes, mustard).  Up to the 1940’s, Major League Baseball ballpark experiences had always been only slight variations of each other – all had games and hot dogs, but the creativity was pretty limited over the then 70+ year history of the game.  Then came Bill Veeck, and nothing would ever be the same.

Veeck bought the Cleveland Indians in 1947 and set out to entirely change the fan experience.  He also intended to win more games and fill more seats.  In fact, he led the Indians to their first (and only) World Series championship in 1948 and set an all-time Major League Baseball attendance record in the process (an attendance increase in just one year of an astounding 72%!)  There were many reasons, but the details of the fan experience played a major part.

This insatiable innovator set out to create the most extraordinary fan experience possible.  He was famous for grandstanding with outlandish promotions that turned the conservative world of baseball on its ear.  However, the painstaking research and preparation he insisted upon really helped to create the right environment for magic to happen.

Veeck personally evaluated every detail, including the choice of mustard for the hot dogs, ensuring that it was consistent with the pallets of the local fan base.  It just wouldn’t do to throw out the conventional yellow bottle we all know so well.  He knew that getting people to the ballpark was a local/regional thing – the Northern Ohio fan was his market, not the average supermarket customer anywhere buying normal old French’s.

I believe this story reflects a parallel with our business lives.  Following the lead of great innovators can help us focus our efforts and remind us of what is truly important.  Also, while Bill Veeck was a true maverick and a very controversial figure, the success of his team on the field was unmistakable.  I can’t help but believe that his attention to detail had a lot of influence on the team’s success – certainly a lot more than just having crazy promotions.  He insisted on as much focus on detail with his player decisions as he did with the mustard.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves how we might tailor our approach to our own customers in order to ensure we are focusing on the details that matter most.  Customers don’t all need the same solution, but each of them definitely needs something specific.  We had better be thinking about what “mustard” our customer really likes and make sure to serve it every time, on time and under budget.  If we don’t, our competition surely will.

Here’s to paying attention, reading the tea leaves, and taking nothing for granted.

Thanks for sharing time with me; as always, I welcome your feedback.  Please feel free to pass this message along to others who may find value.

Reference: Bill Veeck – Baseball’s Greatest Maverick by Paul Dickson


Jeff Black
Partner, McDermott & Bull Executive Search

Cell: (714) 356-1949
Office: (949) 529-2672
2 Venture, Suite 100
Irvine, CA 92618


I believe creating relationships that truly fit makes a big difference in the world