I lived by the 80/20 rule long before I understood what it was. I used to think of myself as lazy and then I learned about the Pareto Principle which states that “roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes” (Wikipedia). I now consciously aim to keep things moving forward even when they aren’t perfect. Life’s too short to waste precious time on the 20%. I’m sure that sounds crazy coming from accountant but if you think about it do you really want your accountant to spend two hours looking for a difference of $10 on your tax return? Probably not.
Perfection is often objective –what I think is the perfect meal is unlikely the perfect meal for my neighbour. Similarly in business what I think is a perfect deal you may think is a waste of time and money. I’ve been thinking of the many things that would never get finished if I waited for them to be perfect.
- Writing this blog – I could agonize over the words I’m writing on this page and rewrite an unlimited number of times but then you would be waiting for eternity to read it.
- Defining service offerings for clients – I could spend years defining the list of services we offer clients. It could include everything from a full personal financial evaluation to tax returns for each year, cash flow forecasts, etc. I would have to write up documentation for our team as to where all the decision points are when assessing an almost limitless list of assets and liabilities, goals and constraints. In the mean time I would not have time to meet with clients nor would I be able to learn from my experiences. Instead I listen to clients when they tell me what keeps them up at night. I listen to their hopes and dreams. I use this information to come up with ideas about how I can use my financial knowledge and the knowledge of my team to support the goals and dreams of my clients.
- Documenting processes in our firm – Every piece of work we do is part of a process. Whether it’s setting up a new client on Xero or Receipt Bank, preparing a tax return or monthly financial statements, there are tasks that need to be accomplished and decisions that must be made along the way. We are accountants and we love to have documentation to follow. At some point there is a trade-off to be made as more detailed documentation could actually cause more problems than it solves. Having “perfect” documentation of all of our processes could actually result in our knowledgeable team no longer using their professional judgement but instead following blindly. Instead we choose to document processes enough that everyone has a roadmap and sign posts along the way but still has the ability to use their knowledge to improve the process.
- Deciding on which new technologies to implement – No accounting system is perfect as they all have different functionality. The important part is not to find the perfect system but rather to understand the trade-offs you are making when you choose one system over the other. This is true whether you are choosing a new To-do list program, an accounting system, a customer relationship management system (CRM) or a new E-Reader. Is anytime anywhere access key to your business? Do you really want your CRM system to be able to integrate with your accounting system? What, if any, historical data do you need brought in to your new accounting system? If you take the time to determine what problem you are trying to solve by implementing a new technology and use that as a lens to assess your options. You won’t necessarily get a perfect solution but you should get the best solution given the options available. Waiting for the perfect system could result in you never moving forward along the continuum of progress.
- Growing your business – Growing a business involves taking risks and making decisions every day and usually with incomplete information. Use the information at hand to make the best decision but always listen if your gut tells you something other than the facts at hand. Move your business forward by making a decision. Waiting for the perfect time or perfect information could have you lose out on the opportunity at hand. If the decision turns out to be wrong learn from it and move on.
Life if full of decisions. If everyone waited for the perfect solution to each problem or the perfect option there would never be progress. Moving forward and being flexible are often more important that being perfect.