Building More: The Flaws of Perfection

Words: Corey Adams
Words: Corey Adams 
I get it. I have been there and returned there from time to time. I have a little bit of perfectionism in me. Although it can be used for good, perfectionism often falls into the wrong hands, or at a minimum applied to the wrong task.  At the beginning of my time in this industry, I was infected with it. I grew up with the mantra, “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” The sad part is that most of us did. If you grew up in a small construction company, or in a small town of blue-collar workers, this was a badge of honor.  Why do people feel this is a good quality? The easy answer is they are narcissists, but that is not the whole story, or in many cases not even a page in the book. The real reason that many small business owners adopt this mindset is fear of failure.  When we start our businesses, we have to do it all. A small business owner needs to grow a massive amount of extra heads to wear all the hats. It is exhausting and thrilling at the same time. For those that make it, the thrill of success is greater than the exhaustion of getting there.  Once we get some security in our business, perfectionism does not leave. It was a trait learned out of necessity, and now it is ingrained in us. How does this affect us moving forward? A few ways. Delegation. Probably the biggest way that perfectionism is a flaw. In order to grow past an owner/operator setup, we need to begin to delegate.  I can remember towards the end of my partnership in my father’s company, we had a real conversation about what my role was, and what tasks I was doing. I was ready to push controlled growth. The problem was I was stuck doing day-to-day operations that could have been hired out at a fraction of what my salary was. It made no sense financially, or rationally. The problem? My father is a perfectionist, and frankly, I got it honestly.  Quality control. Ok, I am about to get maligned for this, but it is the truth. You can over quality certain jobs. Now I get that quality work is the backbone of a good referral system. I understand that small business branding relies heavily on the quality you put out, but let me add some perspective.  Imagine a project that doesn’t require perfect quality. Painted brick, concrete floor that is getting a floor covering, etc. You all know the jobs I am talking about. If you spend an extra 20% of labor time to make that project perfect, did you make any money? Probably not. If you did, you got lucky because your competitor bid it with 20% less labor.  As an example, there was a contractor that spent 10 days setting 67 bollards around a facility. They were a rectangle shape, 4’ apart. They built braces, structures, and batter boards to make sure every bollard was perfect. The GC was upset. That wasn’t in the schedule and had no reason to be done.  When I was called in on the next one, I heard the story, and immediately decided to not make that mistake. Three days later, three guys had set 97 bollards and filled them. Job done, and they passed with flying colors. Were they as good? No. Were they more than acceptable to GC and the owner? Absolutely. Success is not perfect. In fact, it is downright sloppy at times. Find a successful contractor, or any business owner, and ask them if everything went perfectly. I guarantee they will answer no, and probably laugh a little.  We all make mistakes. I make them often, and always will. To strive for perfection in every aspect of a business is an exhausting life of spinning wheels with no gains to justify it. Perfectionism is a self-imposed roadblock to success. Entrepreneurship is not about perfection. It is about trial and error, reevaluation, progress, getting better, and creating a life where you have the financial ability to be free. Especially free of the flaws in perfection.
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