Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Really Good vs. Pretty Good vs. Adequate 2

One of my favorite quotes,  by Adam Osborne talking about product development, gives way to Seth Godin talking about running your business.

Adam was a writer first, and a personal computer industry pioneer later. I met him when he spoke to my class at business school, then followed his nova-star company, Osborne Computers, as it rose and then fell. During the first high-tech industry boom in the early 1980s, talking about the critical problems of product development, and getting the product out the door, he said that the problem sometimes was that the product people wouldn’t stop developing and ship it:

Adequate is good enough.

That’s not a theme song or a motto for everything in business — not hardly — but it does fit some situations.

Fast Forward to Seth Godin’s post yesterday, Why aren’t you (really) good at graphic design?. He has put together a page of resources to help real-world people to do slides and such better than most of them currently do, with this rationale:

But now, in a world where it is expected that professionals will be able to make beautiful PowerPoint slides, handsome business cards, clever bio photos and a decent website, it’s as important as driving. And easier to learn and do, and requiring less talent.

That suggestion produced some criticism from designers, “upset that I would recommend that anyone do pretty good design.” Which leads to this response:

The fact is, business people do copywriting, simple legal and accounting work and more, on their own, every day. You compose your own email, don’t you? If your legal decisions were as bad as your design, you’d get fired in a minute for libeling people. Getting pretty good at things is merely a first step, but one that you need to take in order to be ready to spend the money to get great.

And I want to emphasize that last sentence, which belongs in the same real-world and practical reality as Obsorne’s wisdom above:

Getting pretty good at things is merely a first step, but one that you need to take in order to be ready to spend the money to get great.

Things in business are rarely simple and obvious. It’s hard, even dangerous, to come up with general rules that always apply. Sure, everything should always be insanely great; but there are times, projects, issues, on which our business is better with pretty good, and sometimes, even, adequate.

What we have to do is figure out which time is which.

  • http://www.neworleansathome.com Karen

    Once again – “thank you” for starting the day with an inspiring thought. Adequate is good enough – and then the fun begins as you move on to “great”. BUT, first you have to get it out the door!! Right on!

  • http://stevediamondconsulting.com/ Steve Diamond

    Interesting and thought provoking. Of course your last sentence is key:

    What we have to do is figure out which time is which.

    It’s all about discrimination. Yes, I’d love to have a world class designer create a graphic theme for my business: my sites, my business cards, etc. But what I can do on my own is good enough at this point.

    When it comes to my specialty – the efficient use of technology in business – I see too many small and medium businesses settling for what they believe to be adequate, when they could actually have great, often for less cost, if they only had the expertise to find and evaluate alternatives. That’s an area where skimping can really hurt.