Space or No Space, Is That The Question?

I was flying back to Orlando a couple weeks back, and preparing for a big meeting. Crammed in my middle seat, I was tapping away on my presentation. I was adding a bit of content, but for the most part, I was diligently polishing the presentation. As I was flipping back and forth through the slides my seat mate, who had the aisle (lucky dog) asked what I was doing. As I aligned one of the graphic images to the same horizontal and vertical starting point as the previous slide so that the viewer would notice no “jump” between the slides, I explained I was getting ready for a big meeting, and making sure the presentation was done. He repeated the question, clarifying by asking what I had just done at that moment.

I stopped working and explained that I was going through the presentation, making sure that everything was lined up as perfectly as I could. I was checking fonts and sizes on each page to make sure they were the stylistically correct ones. I was making sure each of the colors on every slide was correct and from the color palette of our brand. I was making sure there were no errant periods at the end of sentences, incorrectly capitalized words, or double spacing. Of course the content of the presentation was critical, but how it looked mattered just as much. “Yes”, he said, “I do the exact same thing.”

“Oh”, thinking he must slide PowerPoint presentations for a living, “you are as picky about your presentations as I am?” “Nope.”, he replied, “I am not a ‘computer guy’. I am a mechanic.” He explained that he was a mechanic for Delta. Not an aircraft mechanic, but rather, held the less sexy job of maintaining ground equipment; jetways, ground air conditioners, tractors, etc. However, he pointed out, he did exactly the same thing as I was doing. He described how he made sure every electrical wire or hydraulic hose was placed with care, never crossing other lines unless intended to do so. He talked about making sure a line of screws or bolts were all lined up and oriented exactly the same, unless of course they required specific torque. Finally, he described how he would make sure every cover or piece of trim was cleaned and lined up as it should be; everything exactly back in its place. We chuckled … two persnickety perfectionists, just putting things “just so” when it really doesn’t matter. Or does it? As I thought further about that conversation, I realized just how proud he was of his work and the professionalism with which he performs his job. He realizes that how that job looks in the end, in addition to how well it performs, is a reflection on his personal brand. He obviously cares deeply about what his work says about his brand, as do I.

In my last few roles, I have been in charge of corporate brands. I was notorious for spotting minute details that didn’t align to the brand. Ask anyone I worked with … I could spot a shade or two off of Pantone 186 a mile away! I think people started to slightly tinker with RGB values, which were (204,0,0) and likely imbedded in my brain forever, just to see how good my skills were. If you slipped a space into the corporate name, where one obviously didn’t belong, I had to resist the urge to fly into a complete conniption. How simple can it get? There is no space! When an unlucky soul would say, “Jeez, it is just a space.”, I would take the opportunity to educate them. You may think it is just an errant space, but it is really so very much more. It says you are either too dense or care so little about what you do that you cannot get the most rudimentary brand element correct, the company name! It says you don’t take your job very seriously, or your responsibility to represent the company correctly. It says you care so little about your personal brand that it makes me wonder what, if any, level of passion you have for business. It says we should be wondering why you are working here.

It all may sound like much ado over a space, or other superfluous details, but it is really about passion for the work you do and the company you do it for. It is really about whether or not you are committed to excellence, and driving yourself forward. It is about whether or not you have that same drive and energy for elevating others around you. Space or no space isn’t really the question. It is the answer. It is your answer, and you give it through your actions.

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6 Responses to Space or No Space, Is That The Question?

  1. Red says:

    So I read your headline and first sentence…….he is going to rant about limited space on the plane, but no. Again you deliver words of wisdom as only you can. Bravo!

  2. 204 = CC0000. Or, as we usually tweaked it for you, CD00000.

    The irony of the color matching an error code for a broken server-client communication has never been lost on me, especially when it usually meant a crash on the server.

  3. patrickmaley says:

    How true! We would warn any potential vendors not to make one of two ‘death-knell’ mistakes (the dreaded space and the PMS 186 color) lest they be hanged in effigy (aka lose the business). Each vendor only received the ‘space warning’ once – a second infraction and they were out. It just demonstrates to anyone who sells for a living how important the details are when presenting yourself.
    The warnings became a habit…but your penchant for detail became ingrained in the team and we all internalized it. Even a color blind, ADD guy like myself developed some pretty strong habits…although I still can’t the tell the difference between 50 shades of red like you can.

    • jimhoefflin says:

      Right on! How can you expect to sell anything to anybody, when you simply don’t take the five seconds it takes to figure out exactly what the name of the company is?!?!? And during the sales process, you should be on your best behavior.

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