Boost Business Productivity, Forget Perfection

Increasingly today, we spend too much time trying to perfect business processes, instead of just operating a business. This drive for perfection can result in more harm than good. A decade ago, having a fancy website as part of the company’s tool kit was a prerogative of mostly large enterprises. Small businesses with tight budgets could rarely consider this prestigious investment. Instead, nimble niche players created sales through relationships and face to face connections.

The beauty industry: An object lesson in the futility of chasing perfection.

Increasingly today, we spend too much time trying to perfect business processes, instead of just operating a business. This drive for perfection can result in more harm than good.

A decade ago, having a fancy website as part of the company’s tool kit was a prerogative of mostly large enterprises. Small businesses with tight budgets could rarely consider this prestigious investment. Instead, nimble niche players created sales through relationships and face to face connections.

But that was then, and this is now. The affordability of websites today allows any business owner, big or small, to have an online presence. But for some reason, this has morphed into a myth among many business people that a fanciful and finished website is job one, something that must be perfected before they can go out and sell.

Consider this example: A business owner imports products from Europe and has been landing good contracts with corporate and government institutions. However, she has stopped selling because she’s launching a new website and has put all her other business development activities on hold while she fiddles with it. She wants it to be perfect.

Of course, websites have their uses. They offer important information and can create additional credibility for a business. But they don’t sell: Sales are made through relationships and people contact. That’s why large corporations still have strong sales forces.  So putting an entire business on hold while you try to perfect something of little importance doesn’t make sense.

This desire for perfection isn’t confined to marketing, however. I’m seeing it reflected in many other business processes today.

Instead of simply launching a prototype, software developers take forever trying to get their product to do everything for everybody. Other business owners tinker with pricing endlessly instead of simply setting one, seeing what the reaction is, and then adjusting if necessary. Even more spend far too much time trying to solve business problems before they happen, even though they don’t know what they might be.

This is the myth of perfection, that you have to get something perfect before you can take the next step. The truth is that, too often, this drive for perfection while seemingly laudable,  is really a stalling tactic, a way of putting off some task you find distasteful.

If the myth of perfection has taken over your business perhaps, your business resolution for 2011 should be to just get it done and move on.