Why Business is Not About Quality

Perfection is a theological virtue and nothing to do with reality.  Yet, many business owners are plagued with perfection.  They call it quality and when quality is absolute, you are in trouble.

Quality and Quantity

Quantity is measurable and if it is relevant and measurable, you should measure it.  There may be cost implications but think of the advantages. You:

  • follow progress, so long as you interpret your figures
  • have evidence for potential customers to show they can trust you.
  • eliminate unproductive processes
  • show customers the progress you make with their contract

Quality is impossible to measure.  Every practice is open to improvement.  You sell the best there is but there is no guarantee it cannot be improved. Someone may find a better solution and topple your dominant position.

But a superior product is no guarantee of success.  The history of marketing is full of competition where a poor product won out over its superior.

Quality is important. No-one knowingly buys a poor product or service. Taken to extremes, quality is problematic because: 

  • It prevents marketing a good product or service, while you seek something better
  • Agonising over copy means you waste time for very little gain.
  • Launching early is a smart move, sometimes called Beta testing, where you do a pre-launch and test your offer before you refine it.
  • Marketing before you produce your offer is often wise.  You waste a lot of time perfecting something that doesn’t sell.

The Best Thing in the World

A well-known cartoon in marketing circles shows a row of pizza shops.  The first has a sign outside: “The best pizza in this district”, the next reads “The best pizza in this city”, the next “The best pizza in this country”, then “The best pizza in the world”.  The final shop has a long queue outside and the sign reads: “The best pizza on this block”.

Your thing may be the best in the world but that is no guarantee it sells.  There’s little advantage to the best in the world.  Why?  People do not always base their choice on quality.  They want to know whether they can trust you.  This is not about honesty so much as compatibility.  Can you work together? 

I’m not saying sell substandard goods.  Quality is important so long as you don’t take it to extremes.  Other things matter too when you make a sale.

The Best is the Enemy of the Good

When something is good enough, get it out there.  You don’t know how to make it better until you test it and get feedback.  All the improvements you make before you launch are tinkering with something you don’t even know sells.

The issue is not quality so much as confidence.  If you are confident in your ability, then you don’t worry about your capacity to improve with feedback. 

Receive complaints graciously and gratefully.  Reply as quickly as possible and thank the person who complained.  Explain the steps you intend and how long it will take to make them.  This is a new promise and the customer has grounds for complaint if you don’t meet your deadline.  So, keep channels of communication open. 

When someone makes an initial complaint they draw your attention to something that needs fixing.  If you vanish or avoid the issue you appear to be dishonest and create anxiety. 

They say the customer is always right.  However, customers can be unreasonable.  Don’t assume their expectations are realistic.  You may need a new deal but occasionally, a refund and removal from your list may be the best course of action.

Fixation on quality undermines your business.  It distracts from more important issues.  The final post for now about reasons for business failure is financial mismanagement.

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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