In defence of perfection

Suckers for punishment, we’re putting ourselves in the firing line again by sharing our rather unorthodox opinion… This time about ‘perfection’ in the SME workplace.

Blogs and articles about perfectionism and its crushing effects on SMEs are everywhere. The crux usually is that the pursuit of perfection means people get bogged down in the small things and lose sight of the bigger picture.


The trouble with aiming low

There is a widespread view that not everything you do can be perfect (and don’t get us wrong – we agree in principle). The issue is that the prevailing anti-perfectionism sentiment gives rise to a sloppy, ‘It’s good enough’ mentality. Better to do everything to an average standard than a few things brilliantly. Our view is that this is too much like valuing quantity over quality.

We saw a quote the other day that read, ‘Perfection is shallow, unreal and fatally uninteresting’. For some reason, this was a hard pill to swallow. Perhaps because in our business, this simply does not fly.


Why we shoot for the moon

For example, when we take on a client who is brave enough to start their own business or re-brand after many years (an equally challenging emotional roller-coaster), it is our job to develop creative that reflects their vision and does it justice. We have processes in place to achieve this and when our team perfects it, the result is far from shallow, unreal and uninteresting. To the contrary, it is exceptional…

The argument here is not that what you deliver has to be perfect every time – we know that’s impossible. Our view is that aiming for perfection is no bad thing. We feel that giving 80-90% is not good enough. Not for our clients.

As well as the perfection quotes we’ve come across that don’t gel with us (‘The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement’, ‘Striving for perfection is demoralising’ etc), there are a few pro-perfection quotes that we love and want to share. Ones that beautifully sum up our beliefs:

‘Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.’

Vince Lombardi

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”

Angelique Arnold.

There is a disclaimer to all of this too (isn’t there always?). Perfection, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder… but that’s a blog for another day.

We’re going there… Giving back strategically.

This month, we’re braving a controversial topic. One that never fails to evoke emotion and divide the marketing community: is it ethical to ‘give back’ and leverage this contribution for business growth?

Our view? Absolutely.
Since it’s good for the soul to give back regardless, why not do it in a way that shows your business in a positive light? The way we see it, there’s no harm in being smart about charitable contributions.

We’re well aware that for some, putting the words ‘giving back’ and ‘leveraging’ in the same sentence seems like a contradiction. But hear us out…


Barriers to giving back

We’re all good people (most of the time) and we rely on our strong moral compass to guide our business dealings. Naturally we want to help others and generally ‘do good’ in the world, so why aren’t more SMEs stepping up to the plate in terms of charitable contributions and community support?

Well, it’s complicated. Running an SME is challenging – especially in its start-up phase. As much as we’d all love to help, allotting time/resources/dollars to a cause – no matter how worthy – cuts into the bottom line at a time when every little bit counts. Reality bites.

There’s enough going on with building your business culture, managing the team, exceeding client expectations, remaining competitive, paying overheads, and dealing with insurance, accounts, tax and legals. Oh and you also have to make a profit. Fun and games.

It seems like a tall order to throw a charity donation or pro bono job into the mix.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.

Consider this…

What if ‘giving back’ could be integrated into your marketing strategy? What if by contributing to a good cause you could help your business grow?

A little disclaimer before we continue: there is always the possibility that your contribution will not be leveraged as you’d envisaged. It’s important to accept that you may not get what you’d hoped from it.


How much can you spare?

When we talk about giving back, it doesn’t have to be in the form of cold hard cash. Anyone can write a cheque, but we’ve come to believe the most effective way to give back is ‘in kind’ – by donating your expertise and talent.

Every SME out there provides a service or product to clients. They have an area of expertise that others are willing to pay for. One way of ‘giving back’ is by donating your product or service.




5 tips for effective, respectful leveraging
  1. Choose an organisation that needs you most. If you construct patios or pour driveways, for example, you could offer your services to a charity that provides emergency housing for those in need.
  2. Be clear about your intentions. Tell them you’d like to leverage your partnership and how you intend to do this. If the first organisation you approach isn’t on board, maybe another will be.
  3. Be upfront about timelines. With pro bono work, you may not be able to dedicate the same resources/hours you would to your highest-paying client. Don’t feel bad about this. Just communicate when you’ll be able to realistically deliver.
  4. Give them your best. As with any other client, your non-profit work should be used to increase your business profile and demonstrate how good you are at what you do.
  5. Share the good news. Make a case study of the project, include it in your portfolio, share it across your social networks or use it to generate PR for both the charity and your business. Win and win.
Mutual admiration society

One final thing to remember (and this may help ease your troubled mind) is that charitable organisations are hardly naive about leveraging – far from it. In our experience, they know full well that’s how the game is played. For every anonymous cash donation they receive from a kindly billionaire, there are many charitable partnerships with companies where both parties benefit.

Happy giving (and receiving)!