Quality over Quantity
You run into your old college buddy at a gathering and learn he’s even more popular now than he was back in his “big man on campus” days. He regales you with stories of parties, rafting trips, rock climbing, pickup basketball games, performances by his garage band, and all his many romances. You exchange phone numbers and promise to stay in touch but assume you probably won’t hear from him again.
It comes as quite a surprise, therefore, when he calls you less than a month later to ask for your assistance moving some furniture. “I’m glad to help,” you tell him as you carry one end of his heavy couch down the stairs, “but I was surprised to hear from you, considering all the new friends you have.”
“Yeah,” he replies sheepishly, “Everyone else I asked seemed to have someplace else they needed to be. Then I remembered how I could always count on you back in college. I guess that friendship is another area where quantity simply isn’t better than quality.”
A Perspective on Priorities
A company figures out ways of cutting corners in creating a popular product, making them not quite as nice as before, but saving significant money. People still seem to purchase nearly as many of them as previously were sold, so that’s good business, isn’t it?
Your customer needs his order as fast as possible and promises to pay a bonus to get everything in before the deadline. You realize that it’s doable if you just loosen some of your quality control measures. You are giving the customer what he wants while making more profit, so that’s a win-win, right?
Taking shortcuts in business can lead to a fatter payday in the short run, but the company that operates that way tends to squander their collective character and individual integrity. Future decisions that might be slightly less than ethical will become easier and easier to rationalize, very likely resulting in negative consequences down the road.
Once a reputation is lost within a local industry it is next to impossible to ever recover fully. Even if a business manages to avoid any bad publicity, the staff will live with the knowledge that they sacrificed quality for some other corporate priority, and company morale will almost certainly suffer to some degree.
The Quality-First Fab Shop
The metal fabrication shop that wants to maintain a reputation among clients and potential customers for always delivering the very best will adopt what is known as a quality mindset or a quality-first mindset.
What exactly is a quality-first mindset? Let’s break down the terms:
- Quality. In the metal fabrication world, the term means that the product—or service—provided will exactly satisfy the requirements set by the customer or the industry in general.
- First. The word first can imply the earliest event, the beginning point, or the most important concept. In usage regarding the prioritizing of something, first indicates that the idea, thing, or action is foundational and foremost in position, ranking above and before anything of a similar type.
- Mindset. A mindset is a way of thinking, a mental state, attitude, or inclination. It can apply to an individual or a collection of individuals that share similar dispositions and thought habits.
A quality-first mindset in a fabrication business, therefore, is a company-wide mentality that the objective focused on by every member of the team is striving for excellence in every job that’s done and every part that’s produced. All other shared or personal considerations, no matter how pressing, are always relegated to second place.
Quality means doing everything that can be possibly done, not compromising in any way, nor accepting half measures. If your friend tells you that he does his job “pretty well” and completes his work 98% satisfactorily, that might sound okay to you, especially if he is a landscaper or stocks grocery shelves for a living. If he is a firefighter, airline pilot, or surgeon, however, it will probably raise some serious concerns in your mind.
The key to a quality-first mindset is to be continually improving in all processes and operations. It doesn’t mean to be perfect, but rather to be working towards perfection as a goal. It means measuring, testing, then refining all practices and procedures across all departments in the business.
Some ideas to help a shop instill a quality-first mindset throughout their operation include:
- Start with small improvements and build from there.
- Be transparent in all planning and communication.
- Educate the staff on how to work collaboratively.
- Learn to be humble as owners and managers and to listen to all employees.
- Endeavor to impart to every employee the ethic of always doing the right thing.
- Always be willing to go the extra mile for a customer.
- Invite critical feedback from customers.
Instilling such a passion for excellence throughout the shop will give employees a clear destination to work towards, increasing their overall productivity in the process.
Establishing a corporate culture of quality can’t happen overnight, but as you slowly build a quality-first team, your customers will notice the difference. In addition, as management and staff become more quality-minded, everyone’s lives outside of the shop will be impacted as well, as a commitment to being people of integrity will improve all interactions in their lives.