Startup general interest

Every job you do has your signature on it

By March 16, 2015 No Comments

I just read this on a post by Slack and Flickr founder Stuart Butterfield titled Rules of Business:

Every job you do has your signature on it

When I was around 10 or 11 years old, my father offered me $10 to move a cord of recently-delivered firewood from the driveway into the garage and stack it up inside (I am old; $10 was a great deal of money back then). I managed to get all the firewood inside but rather than it being stacked against the wall, it was more or less evenly distributed across the floor of the garage. I expected my payment, but instead got some advice: “Every job you do has your signature on it — do you really want to sign that?” I always remembered that and if I am going to do something, I make every effort to do it right. (I also properly stacked the wood afterwards, even though it took forever, and I got paid in the end.)

It’s great advice, and also easy to forget. Successful people are generally hugely productive, which means they get a lot of stuff done fast, and constantly have to trade-off speed and quality. Deciding whether you’d be happy putting your name next to a piece of work is a good test of whether the quality is high enough. As companies and individuals we are judged on what we produce and if we if it isn’t of a quality that we would put our name to then our brands will suffer.

At the same time we have to remember that perfection can be the enemy of progress and there are also occasions when we run short of time and it’s important to just ship, even if it’s something we aren’t proud of. It takes good judgement to know when ‘good’ is ‘good enough’ and when to break the rules and sacrifice quality for expediency. Acquiring that good judgement is something we should all strive for over time, and being conscious (mindful even) about our decisions as we go helps our judgement to become better more quickly.