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February 21, 2011 / Steve Hennigs

Getting beyond “Good Enough”


Why good enough, is not good enough

Although I have only been working in sales for three short years, something has become very apparent to me.  Consumers who expect and demand more get more.  In the same light, companies that go the extra mile will always sell more.  In a sense both these groups are not allowing good enough to be just that, good enough.  I am accustomed to the world of business to business sales where negotiation between consumer of a product or service and the provider of said product or service is a bit more common than in the world of business to consumer sales.  That being said, I have to believe that the same principles apply; refuse to settle for just “good enough” and you will prosper.

While these may not be groundbreaking thoughts there are some underlying points that deserve further exploration.  I would like to approach this by look at both sides of the equation.

Consumers

  • How do we, as consumers, go beyond being satisfied with products or services that are just good enough and begin to expect more?
  • With the economy being less than stable (perhaps an optimistic way to put it) is it even possible to attain products and services that exceed being good enough?

The Status Quo vs. The Necessary Reach

To speak to the first bullet I would like to discuss an enemy we all know too well but at times we fail to acknowledge.  That enemy is known as the Status Quo, which I have chosen to capitalize on purpose to emphasize its importance to our discussion.  The Status Quo is that feeling of comfort and safety that each of us gets when using the same good or service over time.  I am by no means suggesting that none of us should ever feel comfortable or safe, that would be unrealistic and just bad advice.  What I am suggesting is that we all from time to time embrace the uncomfortable feelings that always tend to appear when new ideas are introduced.  I would like to name that uncomfortable feeling the Necessary Reach.  The reason for the name Necessary Reach is that it is always a reach to get out of our comfort zone but it is very necessary to make that reach in order to get beyond “good enough”.  Let me give you a very basic example:

When my wife and I purchased our home we were led to believe there was a functioning wood burning fireplace in our basement.  Unfortunately when we had the chimney cleaned, the cleaner found that the flue in our chimney was full of holes and therefore not up to code.  This left us with two options:

  1. Replace the flue (Status Quo choice)
  2. Investigate a Gas Insert (Necessary Reach choice)

I say that replacing the flue is Status Quo because we know it will work.  The Gas Insert however, has many variables; can we afford it, will it fit in the already cut hole, will it look good in our basement, what is the cost associated with the additional use of natural gas, etc.

After talking it over we decided to at least look in to the insert idea and eventually did purchase one for our basement.  Looking back this was clearly the right thing to do.  The insert is clean, it puts out a lot of heat, we can turn it on/off with the flick of a switch, and the natural gas costs really do not add up to all that much in that we can turn our heat down.  Had we simply embraced our Status Quo feeling I am very confident in saying we would not use our fireplace nearly as much nor be as happy with it.

The Necessary Reach is not that we ended up purchasing the insert.  The Necessary Reach is that we decided to go beyond what was comfortable and investigate the insert option in the first place.

While this may not seem like a life changing decision in the grand scheme of things, imagine if we were a business deciding whether we should stay with traditional servers or move to a more cloud based solution for our data storage needs.  Even if the business decides to stay with traditional servers they can be sure they have made the right decision for them simply by embracing the idea of the Necessary Reach and investigating options that do not fit in to their Status Quo.

Everyone is unique and when it comes to final decisions there will be a different balance between the Status Quo and the Necessary Reach.  The trick is being able to embrace the uncomfortable feeling allowing each person to make the most informed decision possible.

Spending more on the right goods/services

The second bullet poses a bit more difficult question.  With the economy being bad, is it possible to reach for more than “good enough”?  I say, Yes!

To do so does require does require some self reflection.  What is most important to you?  If you can start by answering the seemingly simple (but surprisingly difficult) question than you have a much better chance of moving beyond just “good enough” for you (or your family, business, etc.).

The company that I work for, Siteimprove, does all of our work by phone and online making high quality computers, internet connection, and phone systems very important.  This of course leads to more resources being devoted to these items.  You may be asking, “That seems obvious, what is the point?”  The point is that as a small business we do not have unlimited resources.  So the question becomes; How do we commit the necessary resources to our communications efforts and still maintain responsible spending?

The answer lies in overcoming the Status Quo.

The Status Quo says that as a company we should have a state of the art office, top of the line office furniture, and a high profile location.  By embracing the Necessary Reach and focusing on what is most important to us we have been able to more effectively delegate our resources.  We have a very low profile location in a historical building and IKEA office furniture.  It fits who we are as a company and allows us to invest in what is necessary.

The same idea can apply to a family or individual.  Identify what is important, embrace the Necessary Reach and you will find yourself far beyond just “good enough”

Businesses

  • Everyone wins when businesses go the extra mile

While the ideas discussed under the Consumers area apply to businesses as well I believe that it is more important for a business to move beyond “good enough”.

I say this because if consumers are going to expect higher quality goods and services (and even if they are not) a business that goes the extra mile can have a huge impact.

In the essential business book “Built to Last, Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porus they discuss why Nordstrom’s changed what consumers expect from a department store.  There are stories about employees taking returns from consumers on items that were not even purchased from Nordstrom’s or employees bringing out purchases to a consumers car in the rain.

Acts like these that change consumers’ expectations force other businesses to either improve on their offerings or become obsolete.

The amazing thing is that the acts themselves really do not require all that much effort!  All they require is the willingness of businesspeople (salespeople, support, management, manufacturing, shipping, etc.) to show that they care.  “Good enough” is simply doing what you are being paid to do, we all deserve better.

As I said at the outset, these are not new ideas.  The balance between Status Quo and Necessary Reach has been discussed at length over the years but it is something I truly believe in.  Having a strong core of principles and yet being able to adapt to what life brings you is a skill that is hard to learn and even harder to master due to the fear of getting beyond your comfort zone.  Seth Godin calls this fear “the resistance” but I would like to be a bit more positive; be honest with yourself, embrace the necessary reach, and you will find yourself beyond just “good enough”.

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