I used to be a perfectionist, so I’m coming from a place of knowledge. I recognized very early on that my behavior was actually not benefiting my business. Years later, I coach others in business and how to find that correct balance between deliberating perfectionism and meeting clients and prospects’ expectations. Unchecked, perfectionism will kill your business or at the very least, put a huge dent in your profits.
Here is how perfectionism will kill your business:
Perfectionism chews up time
Time (especially for a service-based business) is your greatest resource. Whether it’s you, your manager or a team member – the effect is the same. If you are taking extra time to make something 100% right, then that is time not necessarily well spent. There are only so many hours in a day and if you are spending time being perfect, then you are not spending time on other things – perhaps getting in new business, chasing clients for their payment or responding to enquiries in an efficient manner.
Perfectionists may miss deadlines
Getting something right, not just 99% right, but 110% right, means it will take you longer. Chances are you will miss important deadlines, if not on that activity then certainly on something else.
Perfectionism causes people to leave
If you have a business owner or manager who expects perfectionism, then that just causes undue stress for the team. A stressed team will end up making mistakes, dislike their job and ultimately look for employment elsewhere. The cost? Well, statistically it costs a business 2.5 times a person’s salary to replace them. There goes a chunk of your bottom line profit.
Perfectionism and too much detail takes time
In some businesses, there is the opportunity to be very detailed. Let’s look at bookkeepers. They could enter in every line item of a 30 line purchase slip or simply code to the relevant expense accounts. There is no right or wrong, but the perfectionist (who is inflexible) will want to do it fully, even if the need (or justification) is not present. More time, more wages spent.
Perfectionism causes stress
Whether yourself, the manager or your staff, stress has a cost as well. Not only that the staff are stressed and unhappy, but they are also not productive. If the stress gets worse, then it affects their health. Sick leave is a cost to a business.
Perfectionism (or even accuracy) is not needed all the time
Let’s look at emails. If you are emailing your supplier or a member of your team, does it matter if the format is right, spelling perfect and grammar spot on? I used to waste time re-reading (or correcting) silly typos in emails to the team which just didn’t matter. Now, if you’re writing a newsletter to be published and viewed by thousands, then that is different. Choose when to be perfect, and when to not be perfect. For the perfectionist – here is my challenge to you. Send out an email with a mistake. It will be incredibly hard, but time is money and if you’re wasting time, you’re wasting money. The same principle applies to situations where you are preparing a draft.
Perfectionism will hinder an outcome
My first book (this was hard) was printed with imperfections. I’d had it read several times, but if I kept on making it perfect, it would still be unprinted today. Instead, my sixth book has just been printed. At times you just have to draw a line in the sand and finish the task. Otherwise, you just won’t ever get it out there. I’m not saying allow something to go out riddled with mistakes, but 99% is actually good enough most of the time.
Perfectionists avoid risk-taking
If you are in business, then business is about risk. You might be marketing a concept, or putting forward a proposal for a large contract. Many aspects of business contain risk. Risk (when managed well and after clear due diligence) can project us to the next level. Getting caught up in being a perfectionist, worrying about the little details, will not take you there. Yes, having attention to detail and being well-organised will help you – being OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) will not help you. Don’t miss out on opportunities because you were too focused on the little details and lacked vision for the big picture.
Perfectionism kills creativity
If your business requires a creative angle, then being a perfectionist may well put a dampener on that creativity or stop the creativity altogether. Depending on your area of creativity in your business, don’t put undue stress, pressure and perfectionism onto creative staff. Again, staff should find that balance between creative, right and not taking too long.
Perfectionists lack flexibility
Success in business (and life) these days depends on one being adaptable. You need to be flexible and able to respond in a quick and timely manner. If you are not adaptable, you will either miss opportunities or even be left behind. What about the business owner getting a website created? It needs to be 99% right but doesn’t have to be perfect. For every week your site is not up because it hasn’t passed your stringent stamp of approval, that’s another week you’ve been passed over by prospective new clients, Google and other search engines. Compromise is another good trait in business and one which is often not well-taken by perfectionists.
Perfectionists pay more for services
You’re thinking – what the? How does that work? Quite simply, a perfectionist using the service of a person (let’s say a website manager or graphic designer) will be allowed so many edits before they get charged. If you are indecisive, perfect and just have to have it so … those edits and changes and extra time spent will get picked up by the supplier and contractor in one way or another – essentially with you paying more at the end of the day.
Perfectionism does not always endear you to others
Your boss is waiting for the reports … you’re still ‘playing around’ with the charts to make them look perfect and s/he is starting to get cranky. Your boss had promised those figures to a client yesterday afternoon and they are still with you. The client takes their business elsewhere. Boss is super cranky. Boss takes it out on all the staff. The other staff don’t love you at the moment either. You – did a perfect job – but is anyone happy? The direct effect is the loss of a client.
Perfectionism stops things from happening
Whilst you are being a perfectionist in one activity, you are unable to work on another. To busy getting out an email which is absolutely perfect, and don’t get around to actioning your marketing? Too busy focusing on a perfect report and don’t get to quoting a heap of prospective new jobs? Whilst you are spending too much time on one thing; you’re unable to spend time in other areas.
Perfectionists perceive lack of perfectionism as a mistake and mistake equals failure.
Whether you, as the business owner, are projecting this on yourself, or your team is living this, it quite simply is counter-productive to a happy and healthy business and happy employees. Whilst it’s difficult to put a dollar value on employment happiness, as I mentioned above, it is easy to put a dollar value on employee retention. Instead of seeing the negative and seeing a mistake as a failure, and holding that ‘victim’ mentality; be confident enough in yourself to move past that. Am I great at what I do? Absolutely! Do I make mistakes? Sure – I’m human. Be confident enough to accept that you occasionally make a mistake – and that’s ok. So if you are living a perfectionist’s life; if you ‘fail’ and are imperfect, you may well be devastated.
Perfectionism costs money
I’ve said it before and I’ve said it above – perfectionism chews up time. Time equates to money and therefore perfectionism costs money. Drafts do not have to be perfect. Emails to staff do not have to be perfect. In fact, if you think about it, there are lots of things which don’t need to be absolutely perfect. In a time-based business, whether bookkeeping, law, accounting, architecture, consulting … time is critical and you have to use it effectively. Time wasted in a time-focused business will impact on the bottom line. Profits will be eroded and to what end?
Let’s look at Steve Jobs and Apple. In 1985, he was booted out of Apple due to his manic perfectionism; he was terrorising the place. Then in 1997, he returned. His perfectionism terminated a number of projects and then began spiraling again. However, Jobs was able to curve his perfectionism and find that right balance – which launched Apple into the amazing company that it became.
I’m not saying a degree of perfectionism isn’t great. It is. Taking care of what you do and making sure it’s right is important. The magic is finding balance. Learn what you can let go of and what you should not. Work this out (or get help working it out) and you will see your business transform. Need help? I can help you through business coaching. Call me on 0411 622 666.