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Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Theodore Roosevelt

Doing what you can, with what you have, where you are…. easier said than done Mr. President.

In this fast paced, do it now, and give me everything world that we live in, the intensity and speed in which we are often running proves to be faster than our feet can move. Have you ever had a client or manager expect you to build a Ferrari with KIA parts? Oh, and they want it delivered in an unrealistic amount of time and when you don’t deliver they go crazy?

There are two key behaviors that allow this to happen. One, appropriate expectations with the involved parties were not properly set and Two, the task was accepted and attempted with less than what was needed to have a successful outcome.

Setting the proper expectations

Everyone wants more for less and in the current on-demand world we live in, every service, product, and even people are viewed as a commodity. Business wants IT to move faster and deploy solutions while cutting testing, shortening requirements gathering and delivering a global solution for $5. Totally unrealistic but this is what happens every day for both software vendors, and internal IT departments.

Just as successful IT managers navigate the politics of setting expectations with their business peers, small business owners and individuals must be willing to have uncomfortable conversations with their customers and team members in order to mirror that success in setting realistic expectations.

It is vital that a small business fully understand their capability of delivering a product or service and be able to confidently communicate a realistic timeline for delivery. One of the worst mistakes that a growing business can make is to not manage client expectations and meet their own provided deadlines. Small firms that don’t practice the principles of managing expectations and meeting deadlines will quickly be marked with a bad reputation which could prove to be the death nail in a promising venture.

Can you really do more with less and deliver a quality product or service?

While there are certainly cases to be made for optimizing resources or processes there is a limit to how lean you can go and still deliver without jeopardizing quality. Often in the pursuit of doing more with less the producer of the product or service will start down the path of substituting quality materials. This slippery slope of replacing quality components with lesser parts eventually leads to an overall inferior deliverable.

There is a reason that high-end sports cars cost what they do. Their engines are precisely tuned to maximize their efficiency. The sports cars require tires that do not fall apart when driven for hours at high rates of speed.

If manufacturers started to use lower quality products, their reputations would be damaged and the market would penalize them for their poor performance.

At the end of the day, when you have optimized all you can from your project or service the cost is going to be what it is. You are going to need to be honest and hold your ground that you can’t make a New York Strip steak out of SPAM. If you will articulate your position and educate your customer, they will fall into alignment with expecting what they are willing to pay for.

Coach’s wrap up

For small businesses and startups that are growing, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” is a great piece of advice. I would add a second part to this advice which is to clearly set expectations early and often with your team members, and clients about materials, due dates and quality checks.

Let’s be realistic, you don’t really have eight arms and you can’t work 36 hour days. You have to move at the appropriate speed that you and your team can realistically maintain. That doesn’t mean you don’t hustle but moving too fast sacrifices quality and leads to poor performance.

You are not going to be able to compete with everyone at every level so don’t sweat it. With every win and every change in technology or process, you are going to be able to level up (buzz word, I know) what your capabilities are resulting in being able to deliver more value to your clients as you grow.

Remember to be realistic with what you can deliver and when. No matter how much you try, you cannot build a Ferrari out of parts from a KIA.


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