I’ve been thinking about the act of creating quality work, why so much around us is of poor quality. I had an interesting thing happen at my day job that made me think about the time that we put towards our work and the quality it yields. I found myself managing the process of putting together a client presentation with a dozen or so technical experts from our company. I decided to put everything I had into it and dedicated about half a full time week of my day job to it, which is a lot more time than we’d normally devote to managing this process. The result: our presentation was a huge success. Everyone who participated in the process noted how well it went. That it was a standout got me to thinking about quality and the time we spend doing things.
My job, like many in this country seems to be on a treadmill that goes faster and faster. Our clients would like to do things faster and faster. And somehow in this breakneck speed we lose track of the concept that quality takes time. We order stuff on Amazon, we get pissed that it is poor quality, and we get stuck in the high speed setting and wonder why the quality of the work doesn’t seem so good. Maybe it feels embarrassing to have to say – hey guys I need more time to do it right. Maybe you’ll look stupid. Maybe someone else out there is doing it faster, better?!! But then you can get quiet and realize that you have the courage to speak up and say – no – to make this thing high quality we need more time.
And I think about that with the business. “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long term.” Henry David Thoreau. If we want something that is valuable – if we want to create something valuable or buy something valuable we need to pay the time that it is worth. Quality is important – when we are a part of the creating of it we get to feel that value – we get to feel the value of our work and the rewards of team work. We get to feel valuable.
When we are pushed to work at a pace that prioritize speed over quality it is quite the opposite. We feel quite rightly that we come up short. The work is not so good, not polished enough, not well thought out enough. And then we feel that knock against our value. Here, I am not talking about perfectionism, but a fair amount of time for a fair amount of work. Instead I’ve been experimenting with what would happen if you pushed back against the unquestionable priority of speed and had a frank conversation about quality. I’ve been doing this lately, realizing that I gain nothing from work at such a speed that the quality slips. Then we get tossed about in the “not enough” cycle. If only I had worked fasted. Full stop. Nope that’s not it. What if you had asked for more time? Or offered something less that would achieve a high quality, but less time consuming product?
I think about quality because that is what we seek with Reid Miller Apparel. It has become uncommon for products of any sort to be high quality. People will tell you that nobody wants to pay what it takes to make a high quality product. Except I do. Drew does. Interestingly, quality is now considered luxury. I have to talk about luxury apparel to convey the fact that the seams will hold, we will use quality thread and fabric, we will pay attention to the construction.
And I know how hard this is. It is taking a lot of time. In this case the most difficult thing has been producing quality on a Monday evening after everyone has worked a full day elsewhere. Some days it can seem impossible. And yet, we are moving, miraculously moving towards the ideal of quality, small town made products. We are moving toward it painstakingly, at achingly slow speeds, pulling out seams, resewing. But we know it is possible. We know that there are people out there desperate like I am for a quality brand they can trust, for fabric that holds up like the standard stuff of the olden days (the early 90s?! 🙂 ).
And you are there supporting us. You believe in it. Today we hold onto this vision together and move towards it some days at a crawl. But we do keep moving. Because we know it is possible if we come together, do the work and believe.
Go, fight win