Adopt a right-first-time philosophy

There is a tendency with a lot of small business owners to drive themselves and their staff to complete tasks in ever shorter timescales.  This is partly due to clients wanting deliveries faster and faster.  It is partly down to a desire to be ever more efficient and to reduce costs.

There comes a point in this drive for optimal efficiency when speed leads to an increasing number of mistakes being made.  You will reach a point of diminishing returns, after which you introduce more and more errors.  The cost and time to address these errors will begin to exceed the time saved in the latest drive to be more efficient.

Sometimes, it is clients who will demand schedules which are almost impossible to meet.  If you plan to take on a contract under these onerous conditions, look out for your client demanding penalty payments for both late delivery and for less than perfect quality.

When you take on such a tightly scheduled contract, the two most likely occurrences are missed delivery dates and more errors (lower quality).  Your client knows where your vulnerabilities lie and will use contact terms protect themselves as far as they can.  Most common is the imposition of financial penalties if either of these situations were to occur.

Before you accept a contract on this basis, you must be very confident in your experience and capabilities to minimise the likelihood of these risks arising.  It is not unusual to find that these penalties exceed your potential profits, so if they are triggered you will lose money.  Some contracts carry too much risk, especially ones imposed by larger organisations, and should never be accepted by small suppliers.  It is seldom a good idea to gamble the future of your company on a high-risk contract, however lucrative it might appear.

It remains, of course, very important to drive out all inefficiencies and unnecessary costs from your business.  If you don’t, your competitors will drive you out of business as they will become ever more efficient, being able to deliver their products/services at a lower cost.  However, there will come a point when you have removed all the inefficiencies you can and the process in question is optimally balanced between speed and accuracy.

In some industries, the implications of rushing a process and getting something wrong is far more serious than in others.  For example, in a paint-shop, where you are respraying a panel of a van, the implications of making a mistake is that the panel has to be resprayed again.  This adds time – which means your client doesn’t get his vehicle back at the promised time – and cost – because you use twice the materials and need double the labour time.

So, the cost of rushing the job and having to repeat some (or all) of the work is more raw material cost, more labour cost, a disgruntled client and your subsequent jobs all delayed, as you spend twice as long in the painting bay as planned.  There may also be contractual costs, depending on the provisions made by the client to receive penalty payments for late delivery.

This illustrates why it is essential to get everything you undertake completed right the first time.

It is worth keeping in mind the following phrase: “There is never enough time to do a job properly but always enough time to do it again”.  Don’t try to save a few minutes only to find the resulting mistakes then cost you many hours of re-work.  It is prudent to spend a little longer on each task to get the job done right, the first time.

For building a positive reputation in the marketplace for your small business, this is exactly the right philosophy to adopt.  Your customers or clients will respond well if they know they can rely on you to get their job done correctly, even though it might take a little longer than your competitors.

Adopting a philosophy of getting all your tasks completed correctly the first time they are attempted, will give you a growing reputation for quality and reliability.  You may not be the fastest but you will be able to guarantee a successful completion will be completed the first time.


  1. Identify where you have to repeat tasks due to errors.  Investigate why these errors are arising.
  2. Develop and implement plans to eradicate these errors so you can complete tasks first time, without compromising quality.
Posted in Customer Care