Johnson's World: Dear Mister Perfect

Complacency is deadly to your business. Any company that has the "good enough" mindset is sending an open invitation to competitors, who will happily come in and steal your customers.

August 1, 2013
Steve Johnson11074644

There is a mentality that is poison to the system of any established organization. That mindset, which creeps in slowly and eventually permeates an organization if not stopped, is the attitude of “good enough.”

This line of thinking evolves when a workforce comes to believe that it cannot or need not innovate any more, that has reached the pinnacle of customer service, and that it is unrealistic and downright ungrateful of clients to expect anything better than the status quo.

Factors such as unions, monopolies, and most of all plain ol’ success all help to engender this mindset. Since all of these factors are present in federal governmental organizations, this mentality is particularly dangerous to the public sector.

Take for Example…

Large corporations and non-profits also fall prey to this sort of thinking. The most obvious example of the disastrous results of this attitude is to be found in the lesson of the automobile giants of Detroit and the United Auto Workers.

Lee Iacocca was president of Ford in the 1960’s when Detroit was firmly convinced that substantial improvements to cars weren’t practical, even though the Japanese were introducing those very improvements. So how did Iacocca plan to satisfy increasingly demanding customers?

“I say, give ‘em leather,” he said. “They can smell it.” You can hear the contempt for the customer in his voice.

When Carroll Shelby was offered a Houston Toyota dealership in 1971, Iacocca advised him not to take it. Why not?

“Because we’re going to kick their butts into the Pacific Ocean,” sneered Iacocca. Shelby later estimated that following that advice cost him $10 million, which was nothing compared to the billions that American automakers lost when Japanese carmakers kicked Detroit’s proverbial butt into Lake Erie.

No one is exempt. That very same arrogance infected the victorious Japanese just a few decades later.

There are not as many stories about the “good enough” attitude poisoning entrepreneurs because the poison is much faster-acting in small businesses. If a small businessman cops an attitude, a new entrepreneur is quick to jump in to meet the increasing demands of the slighted clients.

Another Observation

I received this note in response to my criticism of the quality of service of the United States Postal Service.

Mr. "Perfect" Johnson,

Are you so perfect, that you have NEVER made a mistake? I guess ALL of your articles are 100% accurate. Only ONE man has ever been perfect and I don't think that he writes such biased articles. If only you could experience just one day in a letter carrier’s shoes... You really have no idea. How many times have you received the right mail?

Less than Perfect Letter Carrier of 30 years,

Jeff Essick

“How many times have you received the right mail?” Mr. Essick asks rhetorically.

No, I’m not satisfied just because I receive the “right mail” some of the time. Manufacturers who have implemented the Six Sigma standard of quality, guaranteeing no more than 3.4 defects per million, won’t be satisfied with the Postal Service’s level of mistakes either.

I won’t be sharing your message with my clients, Mr. Essick. I have a giant ongoing challenge convincing the world of the value of print, of its effectiveness and its superiority to electronic media such as email, Web, and text.

After I tell people that they should pay a premium for print and another for postage, you want me to tell them that they should be satisfied as long as some of their message is delivered correctly?

Mailers now have email for their newsletters and business correspondence. They have UPS and FedEx for their catalogs and product deliveries. They have text messaging and Facebook for their personal notes.

These tools aren’t perfect. I spend the majority of my time convincing people that, in most instances, print is the most effective communication medium. That includes direct mail, but please, Mr. Essick, all of my efforts are for naught if you don’t put the envelope in the correct mailbox.

Lastly, Mr. Essick, I notice that in the heat of the moment you sent your note to me by the first method that entered your mind. You sent me an email.

Steve Johnson is president of Copresco in Carol Stream, IL; a pioneer in digital printing technology and print on demand. Contact him at, or send direct feedback about this column via