What If You Didn’t Have to Choose?
During my time at Southeast Community College, one of our instructors had a collage of papers taped to the inside of the glass that separated his office from the lab area. I only remember one of them. It was old, yellowed, and perhaps clipped out of a newspaper. At the top it read, “There are three types of jobs,” below there was a picture of an equilateral triangle with the word GOOD positioned at the top point, FAST on the bottom left, and CHEAP on the bottom right, and just below that it stated, “You can only pick two.”
At the time, I thought it was funny (it still is) and kind of whimsical. Beyond the obvious humor though, it always stuck with me and I’ve often pondered its deeper meaning; and like any good joke there is truth at its core. In the years since, I have seen a few different articles in magazines that include the triangle and the dynamic it references. If you want fast and cheap, it won’t be good. If you want cheap and good, it won’t be fast. If you want good and fast, it won’t be cheap.
But here’s the thing, only being able to choose two may make a clever joke but doesn’t necessarily deliver the best project for all parties involved.
Let’s try replacing those three words with more substantial ones: QUALITY for good, SCHEDULE for fast, and PRICE for cheap. Think for a minute about what your priorities would be for a remodeling project. Would you emphasize quality? I think most people would say, “Yes! Of course, I want quality!” I don’t blame you! Who’s going to get a new kitchen and say, “Yeah, I really don’t care how nice it is.” That would be silly, right?
But wait a minute, what do you define quality as? If your top priority is quality, does that mean custom cabinets to the hilt, with the best hardware, quartz countertops, and a tile floor straight from Italy? Does it mean the absolute best installers from the tri-state area? Does it mean the finest light fixtures and other products money can buy? “Well, just hold your horses, Grant, we aren’t made of money over here!” Okay, so how does one define quality? It may mean something different to everyone. Here’s how I like to define it regarding construction: “Quality is an excellent installation by qualified people with the best products, in a specified price range.” Did you catch that? That definition has price in it!
So now we see that PRICE influences QUALITY, which means they have a relationship to each other. If we go to the other extreme and our top priority is price, how will that affect quality and schedule? It could mean the cheapest and fastest products to install, right? “Grant, I don’t want that either.” I hear you! How about schedule? Would you want your kitchen completely redone in a week? How would that affect quality and price? Again, we see how it will affect the other two negatively. By now you are thinking, “Yeah, yeah we get your point”, so where do we go from here?
I will forge ahead and face the danger of being cliché: the answer relies on balance. I know, I know; EVERYTHING is about balance. How you eat; how you exercise; how much tv you watch; how much social media you consume; and a million other things. I get annoyed hearing it, but dang it if I can’t disprove it (I’ve tried).
So, if prioritizing a single point of the triangle is no good and being able to only pick two is not ideal, then what are we left with? The ideal job lies somewhere in the middle of the triangle. If you will, imagine a red dot right in the center of our triangle. That’s the sweet spot, right where we get the best of all worlds or at least the best of quality, schedule, and price in our example. Yes, it is possible that some projects might wander closer to one point or another depending on the client’s project goals, but in general it must stay somewhere close to the middle before we start seeing major negative effects in other areas.
Our goal at Compass is to deliver a remarkable remodeling experience; it is our job to keep your project as close to the center as we can. When we call to talk about your project, we ask things about what your time frame is and what your budget is. This helps us determine where your priorities are in the triangle, and if this fits well with our goal of sticking close to the center of the triangle. We may even push back on your budget and let you know that the project you are describing would need a different budget, one between x and y. This is because we know to maintain the high level of quality that we provide and that you want, we can’t go bottom shelf with the budget. Again, we are trying to find that sweet spot in the middle of the triangle. It’s a push and pull relationship, back and forth struggle in a sense, but we strive to be your advocate and get you into the best project possible.
To achieve the best project possible for you, I believe we need to shrink the triangle. “Aim small to miss small” is a quote whenever you are trying to miss small: sharp shooting, golf, etc. This is the general idea behind “shrinking the triangle”: If we can eliminate the wild swings out towards the ends of each point on the triangle then we will deliver a remarkable remodeling experience.
Our goal is to deliver the most value for every remodeling dollar, to deliver the best quality without blowing out the budget, and to keep a tight schedule to maintain quality and efficiency (price). Doing this requires a combined effort with all parties involved to get in the same boat, row together, and go in the same direction (or something like that - I have never rowed a boat before).
Some of our “triangle shrinking strategies” are seen and some are unseen. First, we have invested in an online job management software, CoConstruct. What does this do for us and you (other than sound fancy)? It allows us to: track our time, organize project files, communicate schedules to trade partners and you, organize communication and photos with trade partners and you, active job costing (watching job costs throughout a project to make sure we are on budget). We have invested in drafting software that allows us to quickly and accurately draw out projects, this allows us have working drawings and the ability to see what the finished project will look like in 3D. This is all to help support the most essential factor to shrinking the triangle: planning.
Our process allows us to “5P” (Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance) our projects with you. To make it easy for you, we have created YOUR COMPASS: The Remodelers Guide. This allows us to set realistic expectations, plan with you, draw your project, create a detailed scope of work, pick out selections, compile all trade partner quotes, and deliver a fixed priced contract price. All the while working on the same side of the table with you through the process; we are a team. Throughout this process we can find that sweet spot on the triangle for your project. Yes, it costs something up front, but it is the best way to shrink the triangle and deliver a project that has the best of the three kinds of jobs: quality, schedule, and price. We know our process looks different, but it is a proven process that we know will get the finished project right where your priorities lie, within the center of a shrunken triangle.
I hope this made you think and challenge some of your existing perceptions of how price, quality, and schedule interact with each other in construction. If you want to learn more about us and our process and what it can do for you, reach out to us! We are always happy to answer your questions!
We are still looking for our next great team member. We are committed to improving the industry and doing things differently. If you or someone you know is passionate about working with their hands and wants to work for a company that wants their employees to thrive, grow, and advance in their career and on a personal level, please reach out or let them know about us! Thanks!