"Partner love at first bite." That's how I describe first meeting Robin Koval.

When I decided to start my own agency over a decade ago, I knew I needed a great partner to make it work. But after interviewing several well-qualified and talented candidates, I still hadn't met the right person. A friend and mutual client sensed my frustration and recommended I meet Robin. Luckily, I took his advice and arranged for us to meet at one of my local coffee shops.

When I arrived, I found Robin already seated with a muffin sliced in two. The first words out of her mouth were: "Hi, I'm Robin Koval. It's great to meet you. I ordered a bran muffin, and it was huge, so I thought we might share it. Of course, if you want your own muffin, or a different kind, I'll just save this for later." For me, the deal was sealed then and there.

As I share in our book, The Power of Small, that was one of those small DNA moments that make all the difference. Robin's simple gesture revealed more than a resume or references ever could. By sharing that muffin, she demonstrated that she was collaborative, willing to take the lead, and most importantly, that she was frugal! We've been partners ever since.

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but "sweating the small stuff" is actually a recipe for success. In fact, it can be one of best weapons in your business arsenal.

From energizing your workforce to making a good impression at an interview, the real secret to getting ahead is to refocus your attention on the little things in life:

  • Pay attention to them, and you'll be on the right road to success.
  • Disregard them, and you can undermine your most important relationships, miss the little clues that will solve your biggest problems, or sabotage a multimillion-dollar project.

In short: shrink your outlook to broaden your horizons.

At The Kaplan Thaler Group, SMALL is the way we work; it's how we've built our business. It helps us to retain top talent, be more creative, develop more ideas for our clients, and execute them flawlessly.

Take, for example, the Aflac duck. This idea was hatched by listening to a small, seemingly inconsequential comment made by Dan Amos, Aflac's CEO, at the end of our first meeting. After sharing reams of research and facts about Aflac's policies and benefits, the CEO made a casual, off-hand remark that he just wanted people to remember the name of his company. And that's when everything clicked.

Just by engaging in one moment of small talk, we knew everything we needed to know. Our charge was to make Aflac a household name. Now, 10 years later, we're proud to say the Aflac Duck is one of America's most beloved and successful icons.

So remember, big success is often achieved by the little things in life—simply going the extra inch, taking baby steps, making small talk, and watching your cues and clues, like body language or the tone of a person's voice. It might seem obvious, but most of us gloss over these things and fail to see their importance.

Here are just a few SMALL things you can do to make a big difference in your professional life:

  • Become a mini-tasker: Instead of making a list of big, difficult-to-achieve goals, create an action list and re-envision those goals into "mini-tasks" you can actually accomplish on a day-to-day basis. "Mini-tasks"—successfully completed—can lead to the corner office.
  • Add a minute: When you've completed a task, a memo, a quarterly budget—anything that you're just glad to be done with—stop and tell yourself you still have one minute left. Spend just those 60 seconds rereading a troublesome paragraph, or adding up the numbers again.
  • Embrace "stranger danger": Make small talk with a total stranger. Standing in line at the supermarket or job fair? Take off your Bluetooth, take out your headphones, and talk to the person in line next to you. You'll be surprised what opportunities come your way as a result.
  • Be four again: Ask small questions. Don't be afraid to ask why... and, more importantly, why not. A truly smart person knows what they don't know... and goes about educating themselves.

SMALL is also the perfect approach for these challenging times. In today's world, we're faced with such overwhelming challenges that we often feel stuck and don't even know where to start. But we can all tap into the unbelievable power we have within to "get going" and make a huge difference in our lives and the lives of others—just by starting SMALL.

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Linda Kaplan Thaler is founder, CEO, and chief creative officer of The Kaplan Thaler Group, an advertising and entertainment company. She is coauthor of THE POWER OF NICE and THE POWER OF SMALL (www.ThePowerofSmallBook.com).