Welcome to part three of my series on behaviors small business people should avoid. Okay, okay, I can already hear the perfectionists in the audience shouting, “What’s wrong with being a perfectionist? I’m proud to be a perfectionist!” Well, there’s plenty wrong with it. When you can’t let go of something until it’s perfect, you’ll procrastinate, perhaps face cost overruns, and may not even satisfy the client because you’re so late with your delivery. What good is something to a client if it is perfect but gets there too late to be of help or so late that it causes problems with their own operations? In general, clients don’t like vendors who cause them heart palpitations by constantly pushing up against deadlines.
And if you’re too busy fussing over every single detail of a project, you will tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. Perfectionists over-analyze, over-think and in general, over-do everything. When you’re so wrapped up by the minutiae of a project, it’s very likely that you’ll lose sight of the big picture.
If you have a staff, your perfectionism will drive them nuts because you try to control everything they do. I once worked for a woman who thought there was only one way to do things and that was her way. Every paragraph of every press release had to be analyzed, redrafted, and then thought about some more. Public relations is a deadline-driven business and her inability to “let go” of anything until it was perfect in her eyes made the already crazy deadlines even crazier. It led to staff burnout and, in my case, was part of the reason I quit.
Perhaps worst of all, your ability to grow your business can be seriously stymied if you are a perfectionist. You may spend so much time perfecting each and every task that you have no time to devote to innovating new products, to attracting new clients for your services, or other activities that will support business growth.
Not advocating sloppiness
Now obviously, I am not arguing in favor of being slipshod. We all take pride on our work and want to do a good job for those who buy our products or services. But there does come a point in every project where the law of diminishing returns kicks in and you need to recognize when the amount of difference you’re making by seeking perfection simply won’t be meaningful enough to your end-user to justify the effort.
For example, every time I pick up one of the books I’ve written, I can find something that I’d like to revise. But I long ago accepted that writers are never truly satisfied so that when the deadline comes and it’s time to turn over a manuscript, I don’t fret that still one more draft would make the difference between a good book and a perfect book.
And perhaps that is the biggest downside of perfectionism. If you constantly strive to be perfect and to do everything perfectly, you may never be truly satisfied with anything, no matter how much hard work you put into it. Instead, live by this motto: “Always do your best,” recognizing that on some days, your best will be truly fabulous and on other days it will just be good but it is still the best you have to offer the world on that day.
Since I don’t suffer from perfectionism, I am at a loss to provide you with other advice on how to overcome such tendencies. Fortunately, I came across this great article, “Overcoming Perfectionism in 8 Steps,” that should be of help. Good luck!