The Devil’s in the Details

I heard of the English proverb “the devil’s in the details” in a presentation delivered by my friend Peng Gao when he talked about project management. It was about two years ago. I didn’t realize how wise the proverb is. It was recently that I pick up the term and see how the details make so big difference.

When Wendy and I were shopping at B&Q in Pudong, we discussed about why most dominators on the consumer markets are foreigner companies. For example, B&Q in decoration materials, IKEA in furniture, Carrefour in retails, and KFC in fast food business.

There are many promising local companies in every single business listed above, but generally speaking, they are less attractive than the leader. Why? What is the difference?

It is not culture issue. Taiwan/Hongkong companies seems domanating the entertainment business. I always buy book at Schorlar. They have a store in Metro City. It is owned by Taiwanese. I go to excercise in Physical (also in Metro City). I guess it was a Hong-kong based company (may be wrong). I go to Chatea 一茶一坐 for lunch (38 RMB for business suite) – Taiwan company. I have my hair cut in a very small hair salon downstairs – even it was opened by a Taiwan business man. I have alternatives. For example, Da Niang Dobbling (大娘水饺), or any other salon, I just wanted to go there for better service. Why?

The devil’s in the Details

Today, I read an article (Chinese) talked about details. It is very reasonable. Many leading companies are paying attention to small things which makes big difference.

I was surveyed by a lady when I shopped in IKEA yesterday. I was not surprised and I won’t be surprised if a shop I don’t like never survey me in my whole life. :-D

Devils are in the details is in my mind when I look at those leading companies again. I can always find BIG difference in many aspects between the stores. I didn’t notice that before. The differences are all in the details…

8 thoughts on “The Devil’s in the Details

  1. Sorry for nitpicking, I think it should be “the devil’s in the details”

    I travel frequently for business to China and I tend to agree with you. What is feel is that for many Chinese companies they lack proper and well thought out organisation wide system and, process and control. Not just IT systems but a corporate culture of doing business effectively.

    On the bright side, there are also companies in China understanding and trying to implement this. This is also another area where experience is now being gained. In time, 5-10 years I am confident that there will be Chinese “Ikea”s, “Sony”s and “KFC”s :)

  2. Michael’s observation in the last paragraph is clearly on the mark. Companies like HuaLian have improved a great deal in the last few years, & look likely to do even better going forward.

    Do you & your close friends buy shares in listed Chinese companies as a long-term investment (as opposed to trading or speculation), Jian Shuo? Well-managed companies may be relatively few, but if they can be identified, this will be an area worth looking into.

  3. I changed the wording to “the devil’s in the details” per michael’s suggestion. Thanks. It is true that many companies are improving. It is benifitial for me personally, to begin to notice the details. After effort is put to details, customer experience changes greatly.

  4. This may also apply to majority of Chinese restraurants in the States. People here associate Chinese foods to cheap greasy fast food and take-outs, partly because of the lousy interior design, food is only part of reasons why people want to eat out, they also want a nice atmosphere and presentation, at least, clean carpet.

  5. i do agree with all of you, but i guess that the root lies in the thinking mode, local people is used to doing something in a complicated mood which are related with many considerations, such as social status, their mood, family situations, they just don’t know business is business, i think they would do anything in a mood-related way, not a logical and rational way. this is my observation.

  6. Read a magazine article today by Jimmy Lai, the publisher of a popular but highly controversial HK-based publication called Next Magazine. Mr. Lai is a highly successful businessman and a self-made man. He got his start in textile and was one of the brain child behind the HK retailer Giordano in its early days.

    Anyway, Lai writes a piece in the magazine each week that talk about his past and the secret to his success. Today, there was a quote about how his real job as a top manager is to solve problems. He thrives on changes. While at Giordano, he strived for constant change to make things better — be it the use of a different type of fiber, changing the production processes, importing new technology, expanding the distribution network, etc etc. The key to success is constant innovation. If there is nothing more to change, then he’d have nothing to do.

    In some of the old articles, I remember he said he like to give retail customers only a small selection of colors each season/sales cycle. If he makes the clothes in all different colors all the time, then customers don’t get the thrill of seeing new things.

    I don’t know if you have Giordano in Shanghai, but it is definitely worth visiting to see some of the system that Lai has put in place — much of it is still at work!

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