Why ‘good enough’ kills profits


If you’ve been hearing the words ‘good enough’ used a lot in your business lately, it’s an early sign that you’re headed for trouble. It’s also a big sign that your employees are lacking your vision and passion. They will ultimately, albeit subconsciously, work to destroy your company.

It may sound simplistic, even harsh. But the reality is that by allowing a culture that accepts mediocrity, you are willingly hurting your company’s profitability. For a business operating in a stable marketplace with less competition, you won’t see the effects for a while. For others, it will come much quicker. There are many reasons why ‘good enough’ really isn’t good enough and here are the reasons.

1. ‘Good enough’ is not good enough for your best employees

As a company, you risk creating a culture where mediocrity, poor performance and a ‘good enough’ attitude is the status quo. You’re no longer inspiring your staff to do their best work, but are encouraging them to produce substandard work that no one should be proud of.

Great employees are quick to spot this issue and leave. A lack of motivation is one of the top three reasons employees leave companies. The biggest motivation killer is not having their basic need fulfilled, which is to be proud of their work.

As your best employees leave, the pressure builds on those left behind who are willing to accept poor performance. This extra workload and pressure results in them having to make further compromises. Eventually, this vicious cycle erodes a company’s profitability. Without a drastic change, this will ultimately be the demise of a company.

2. ‘Good enough’ leads to poor products and services

If you’re producing poor products or providing a level of service that’s just ‘good enough’, you’re indirectly telling your customers that you don’t care about them. Who wants to work with or buy products from a company that is openly proud of producing crap?William Shakespeare

Think about Nokia and Apple during the global financial crisis. One was a mammoth on autopilot, churning out uninspiring and substandard products, while the other was producing products that had people camping out for days just to get their hands on them.

The former went from holding an 82% market share at their best, to less than 2% today. The latter went on to become the richest and largest company in the world. A culture of ‘good enough’ killed Nokia.

3. ‘Good enough’ makes you feel guilty

There is one emotion humans rarely handle well: guilt.

Doing just ‘good enough’ is a powerful force for creating the feeling of guilt. Sure, it may be good enough. But it could have been better. You could have spent more time on it. You could have fought for your view better. You could have instilled more passion in your team. Ultimately though, you chose not to and accepted mediocrity and the payment for such a decision is guilt.

You may be asking how guilt can affect profitability. Trying to ease that guilty feeling and blaming yourself, even if subconsciously, will affect your ability to make the right decisions. This will cost you time and money.

Will deciding something is ‘good enough’ cause your business to inexplicably implode today? No. Will the endless pursuit of perfection guarantee success and profitability? Again, no.

However, every time you allow yourself to accept ‘good enough’ as an outcome, you’re telling yourself, your employees and importantly, your customers, that you no longer care.

If you don’t care, why should they?

  • It’s impossible not to agree with the problems “good enough” causes, especially, losing the great employees first.

    As Seth Godin would tell us, we should really aim for “great enough”. We should also however, ship often, ship early, and sometimes, ship something lousy…as part of the process to building something remarkable.

    Maybe “good enough” is only a problem when it is used to sweep something under the carpet that is actually “not good enough” at all, or as you point out in the last paragraph, “allowing good enough as an outcome” – outcome being the key word here, suggesting finality.

    Pursuing perfect, or gold plating your product before releasing, will be as destructive to your profits as the “good enough” approach you’ve described here.

    • Hi Stuart,

      I couldn’t agree more. As an advocate of lean and the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) the pursuit of perfection can be worse than mediocrity.

      For me, its about producing the best MVP you can. Not producing something you’re not happy with, that is average at best and just accepting and hoping it’ll be ‘good enough’.

      Where i worry, is the very quick downward spiral it can create. The panic of producing something poor, then the rush to rectify but doing something even worse. For me, the mentality should be similar to what you referenced from Seth Godin.

      I like to ask myself “Am I proud of this?” If the answers no, then in my mind, that falls well into the ‘good enough’ territory and needs more work.

      Appreciate the comment to! :-)

  • This is the first time am hearing this ‘good enough really is not good enough’. Yes i too agree that some times good enough leads to laziness. Its a great post and it’s worth reading.