Today I’d like to talk to you about something I have been passionate about my entire life – Excellence. Ever since I was little – I can remember it being ingrained into me excellence was important, no matter the task – whether that was the Lego masterpiece I was designing or the homework project throughout public school or even into my early part-time jobs.
When I folded those college branded sweaters at Campus Crew – you could bet the farm that they were going to be even and neat and they would look good. Some call it perfectionism- I do not. I simply say it’s ‘doing it right’.
Fast forward to starting my own business several years later. I think I knew in 2002 that I wanted to start my own business. I didn’t know what it was going to be at that time – but I knew one thing – I wanted to be known for excellence – and that anything else would not be an option. I can recall, without doing any research, in February of 2009 (when I first jumped into this event filmmaking world) walking into Vistek, which is a major Canadian professional video and photo store, and asking the first guy I saw to help me get started by telling me what I needed. Even if it took me a long time to pay off – I wanted the best I could get.
The lesson here is not to go blindly into a store and ask a sales person to make your decisions for you – in fact – quite the opposite. But that’s not what I’m getting at in this post. I was introduced to StillMotion very early in my career – actually within the first month of opening. As did many of us – I fell in love with what they were doing and decided that was the bar of excellence that I needed to aim for. I then booked 2 seats for Emily and I at the first In[Focus] in Austin, TX because I knew Patrick of StillMotion was speaking there, as well as many others with sweet online work. I began to identify what Excellence was in our industry and began to list the steps I needed to achieve it.
Now fast-forward another year. We’ve picked up some new skills and services (including quality Same Day Edits) that generate excitement and qualified referrals. We’ve re-named and branded our company from Sorlie Arts to Honey & Dear. We’ve raised our pricing over 400% in just 2 years. We went from filming 9 weddings – mostly for free in 2009 to 34 in 2011. Things are going good, right? Well – the reality is with growth like that- it becomes harder to keep up the excellence on a daily basis. With more sales comes more expectations of delivery. With those expectations – you need more people to help you. We have to find a balance of choosing affordable help who will also care deeply about excellence in the same way that we do.
Recently, we had an editor working with us who did a documentary edit for us of a ceremony and speeches. We used to look over this editors’ work on a regular basis – but after a while – decided they were good enough and trust worthy at maintaining our quality standards. We delivered the DVD to the couple without feeling the need to preview the work (big mistake – one filmmaker colleague of mine told me even after 9 years – he still watches everything that leaves his office.). The next day, we got our first ever real complaint letter in three years of business. I have to admit – it hurt me deeply that we delivered something that wasn’t up to our standards of excellence- but it hurt more because it was preventable. It was an average product sold for an excellent price.
After watching the DVD back in our studio – I realized that our editor had settled for average – and by our not watching the film – we therefore as a company had settled for average in this case and at the end of the day – that made me incredibly embarrassed. Every single one of our customers deserves the best – but this one in particular is one of our biggest cheerleaders. She watches every one of our videos- and even posts other people’s weddings to her Facebook! Talk about worst possible ‘client’ to screw up!
I personally called the bride within minutes of receiving her letter and apologized and informed her that we were going to fix everything immediately and go over and above to make sure she was happy in the end.
As a business owner – settling for average is a recipe for failure. I’m willing to assume that most businesses fail because they settle for average. Average customer service. Average product. Average Attitude. Average follow-up time. Average post-sale support. If you’re going to be average – you’re not going to stand out. If you don’t stand out – you’re not really going to get any attention. If you’re not getting any attention – well – then – you’re probably not going to get any sales. If you’re not getting any sales… well… I don’t really think it needs to be said.
In short – if you have been settling for average and cutting corners on your product – whether that be to intentionally save money – or perhaps because you’re just overwhelmed – take some time to unplug from the situation and identity areas that you are perhaps compromising in and try to find ways to improve – one step at a time.
Have a great day!