By Nick Dumitru
We’ve all heard the old saying of “practice makes perfect” but what does perfectionism get you. Contrary to what society tells us, I believe perfectionism does more harm than good by getting us stuck in a state of analysis paralysis that reduces workplace performance.
The benefits to taking an action-oriented approach using Nike’s famous “Just Do It” slogan is a great way to open the floodgates to profits and growth for your cosmetic business.
Psychologist J. Clayton Lafferty, who studied the lifestyles and personalities of 9,211 managers and professionals, is quoted in Psychology Today. Lafferty says, “Striving for perfection is likely to harm employees and companies alike. Perfectionism has nothing to do with actually trying to perfect anything. Because they equate their self-worth with flawless performance, perfectionists often get hung up on meaningless details and spend more time on projects than is necessary. Ultimately, productivity suffers.”
Entrepreneurs are especially prone to the pitfalls of perfectionism. As Guy Kawasaki writes in his book, The Art of the Start, “the hardest thing about getting started is starting”.
For small and medium sized business owners, being a perfectionist is a surefire way to lower profits and market share. The worst-case scenario is that this mindset may put you out of business. To avoid this result and reap the rewards of a growth-oriented business, let’s examine why it hurts your bottom line.
The most successful entrepreneurs anywhere in the world have one thing in common. They have a strong bias towards action. As soon as they hear about a
great idea, they run rather than walk to make it happen, knowing they can refine later. Kawasaki, in The Art of Start, describes this attitude:
“You should always be selling—not strategizing about selling. Don’t test, test, test—that’s a game for big companies. Don’t worry about being embarrassed. Don’t wait to develop the perfect product or service. Good enough is good enough. There will be plenty of time for refinement later. It’s not how great you start—it’s how great you end up”.
Failure to implement is by far the single biggest culprit behind mediocrity in business. The truth is that you can be the best surgeon in the world. But if you don’t market yourself, you won’t experience the success and accolades you deserve.
To illustrate the point, let’s use a simple scenario involving two doctors.
Two plastic surgeons, Jim and John, both went to the same school and started a cosmetic surgery practice in the same year. Both interned at the same hospital and both studied under the same master surgeons. Consequently, their medical training is literally identical.
The fundamental difference is that Jim and John have different personalities in the way they get things done. While Jim is compelled to get things done quickly, John has a tendency to want to make sure each task is perfect in every way.
Wanting to build their practices, both John and Jim decide to run an ad.
While John immediately hires a graphic designer to create and finalize the ad, John works painstakingly slow with his designer to make it perfect, overseeing every small detail.
Jim quickly acts placing the ad in a healthcare magazine and receives a call the next day from a patient wanting a breast augmentation and some liposuction. Meanwhile, John is still fine tuning details for his ad hoping to get it just right and in fact perfect.
At the same time, Jim accepts a deposit from his client and completes the surgery. He uses the payment to run his successful ad in five additional magazines, which while less successful, still lead to 3 new patients. John on the other hand got sidetracked with another project and has still not completed the ad because it isn’t perfect.
After a month, Jim decides to invest in a laser machine and add additional services. John finally finishes his ad and places it in a magazine. Nothing happens. John forgets to take into account that what was perfect to him may not necessarily be perfect to his prospective clients. He takes the salary he earns from the hospital and pays the rent on his new clinic, which has limited traffic and is demoralizing. Jim, on the other hand, is busy and continues to take action earning great rewards.
This scenario clearly shows the pitfalls of perfection in that it is an illusion we fool ourselves into believing. There is only one right ad and that’s the one that gets you customers. The best way to know whether it is right or wrong is to test it publicly.
In conclusion, to avoid analysis paralysis, make an effort to take action every day.
Each evening write the most important things to do the next day to improve your business. Then get those two things done before noon.
If you get just one thing done every day for five days weekly, that’s 20 big and positive actions every month. In business, acting based on speed is king.
When an idea comes to you, implement it. As Kawasaki says, you only need to be good enough so your business grows. Let competitors take their sweet time arriving at perfection.
Also beware of “seeking perfection’s” sibling: fear of failure. One rarely experiences spectacular progress without first experiencing spectacular failure (well, a modicum of failure, at least).
“A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.” – Alexander Pope
I completely agree Colin. Too many of us are taught that failure is wrong when it is really the best learning experience anyone could ever have.
Great post Nick, when I struggle with perfectionism my recently acquired mantra is “minimum desirable product”, if somebody is going to buy a basic order of service, the entrepreneur can always add to it later and in the meantime written benefits of already being in the marketplace.
Wow. That was dead on. I am guilty of not completing things in my life because they aren’t perfect yet. The example of the two doctors made me laugh because it is so true that what you think is perfect is not what others see as perfect. This is great, Nick. Thanks.
Michael, I agree completely. I always tell clients that what you need is the minimum level of professionalism. It apples to services as well. It’s more important to be in the market than to get it absolutely perfect. The software industry is a great example of this. Get to market as soon as your software is usable and reasonably stable. The bug fixes and updates take care of the rest and you can make those fixes with the money you make from sales. Nobody made a touchdown or scored a point by sitting on the sidelines.
Thanks Jule, I’m glad you got value out of it. We’re all guilty of it don’t worry. What’s important is to be conscious of what’s happening and make a move!
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