Aiming for 92%
What do you do when you see a project, social posts, website, or email campaign which was shoddily put together? You probably cringe a bit inside, don’t you? I know I do. When things are broken or could have been done so much better, as a Secret Weapon, we immediately think about what we would have done differently to make it more successful, less of an eye sore, or function properly.
The nature of a Secret Weapon is to be on the lookout for things aren’t done to our own internal standard. We thrive on our own, ensuring the I’s are dotted, and the T’s are being crossed. We pour over our own work to make sure it’s error free, and tweak until we’re satisfied it’s finally ready to go to the client for approval.
We take extra time to make sure it’s as close to perfect as we can possibly make it. And it shows, because when we decide we’re ready for the title of Secret Weapon, it means we hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard of work than a hired gun.
A Secret Weapon aims to achieve 100% in their work, and only calls it quits when they get to 92%.
Why the ‘Just Ship it’ Mentality Doesn’t Apply to Us
There’s a very liberating movement out there in online business, and I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time again:
“Just ship it.”
It’s good enough, no one else will notice, it’s fine and you can be happy with it. There’s bound to be mistakes in everything, and you can’t find everything, so don’t worry – just ship it.
I’m not going to lie – this mentality is super enticing. Who doesn’t like the idea of being relaxed about the projects they create, and not worrying so much about the final end result? What counts is you getting it out into the world, right?
I agree, when you’re doing work for your own business, perfectionism can rear its head and prevent you from putting out content, launching offers, and selling what you have to people who want it. It’s a very real thing for small business owners, and I’m by no means knocking it – the just ship it mentality has its place, and I’ll applaud whoever came up with it originally, for its ability to get these people to overcome their perfectionistic tendencies.
But it doesn’t apply to Secret Weapons, or service providers of any sort. Just ship it, and the 80% mentality – is not good enough for a Secret Weapon. That’s not what we aim for, and we wouldn’t ever be happy with it as a final result. We most certainly would never show a client something which was only 80% of the final end result.
No one gives medals for running 80% of a race. You don’t get the X-Prize for going 80% to space, and you certainly don’t get any dessert if you eat 80% of your dinner (at least in my house).
So why then would we ever get to 80% in our work? Why would we settle for something so clearly ineffective, or falling short of our end goals? Why would we put our name on something we knew we could have gotten at least 12% better with a marginal amount of effort?
I experienced this quite painfully on a project with a client, who we were creating an online course for. Generally, my clients come to me with a clear-cut idea of what they want to teach, how they want to teach it, and have the majority of the content ready to go. We simply have to tweak and adjust for delivery in an online course environment, make sure the student is supported, and has clear learning objectives along the way.
This client had a lot of content, but it was older content, and she made it pretty clear that she would be updating it as we went along to reflect her new modality, and her findings since she first published it.
For some reason – I don’t really know why to this day – I created the course rigidly based around her old content, with no real wiggle room to accommodate her new teachings.
If I had taken the time to slow down and investigate, asked questions where needed as to which parts needed updating, and which parts were fine to stay the way they are – I probably would have saved myself tons of wasted time and effort.
I rushed through the project, wanting to get to the other side quickly, so I could collect the remaining deposit. I needed the money, and so I thought that since the client wasn’t very tech savvy – I would be able to get away with going about 80% of the way, and maybe tweaking it later as needed.
Oh that ended up biting me in the butt later, since when I sent her the completed course curriculum, with her content neatly placed into models, lessons and engagement elements that would support her learners – she had a bit of a meltdown.
Turns out, the assumptions I made on her content were completely wrong, and the entire curriculum had to be redone. Ouch. The rushing and focus on finishing, rather than on quality, cost me by having to do the project twice.
It’s a mistake I won’t make again and learning it the hard way certainly cemented it in my mind.
Have you ever sent a project to a client, and knew it just wasn’t quite your best work? Say you were short on time, or short on inspiration, or you had too many tasks going on at once, so you figured hey why not – they won’t be able to tell the difference anyway?
I’m going to hazard a guess that those projects are the ones which ended up taking much longer, because of revisions and having to go back over the work you rushed and pushed through. And what happened to that client after the fact? Were they a bit leery about working with you? Are you still working with them at all? Or did they go on their way and not become a repeat customer?
Go back and examine your past projects, think of the ones you didn’t do your best work on and where you are now with that person. I wouldn’t be very surprised if those clients didn’t end up sticking around for much longer after you turned in ‘good enough’ work.
92% Defines a Secret Weapon
What is the one thing Secret Weapons do that hired guns don’t? It’s a broad question I know, and in this book, you’ll find many examples.
But there’s one defining feature, one defining behavior I feel Secret Weapons embody that other service providers do not. It’s the drive to get a project as near to perfection as possible. They go the extra mile, they take the extra time, (and account for it in their schedules), and they make sure every project they work on is as close to 100% as possible.
I call this behavior the 92% – why 92%? Because it’s much easier to strive for 100% and hit 92%, than it is to get to ‘good enough’ and ship it to the client.
Getting your projects to 92% brings a host of benefits with it, and Secret Weapons who focus their energy on getting a project to that percentile, can expect to see those benefits pretty quickly.
But before I dive into the benefits of this way of working, I want to make a clear distinction between working towards perfection, and perfectionism itself.
A Secret Weapon knows there’s no such thing as perfect. As much as we may strive towards it, and hope to attain it, there’s simply no reasonable way we can expect ourselves to be perfect or to do perfect work. But we can strive to be as close to it as possible when we dedicate ourselves to working on other people’s projects.
Perfectionism is the voice that says, “this isn’t good enough, you’re not good enough.” Perfectionism has boundary issues. A Secret Weapon knows being perfect and doing perfect work are two separate things, and neither of them is possible. One of them is worthy of striving for, but neither of them is truly attainable. Keep an ear open to the voice of perfectionism, and label it as such when you’re working on your client projects.
The most powerful method I know of offsetting the tiny voice of perfectionism is pride. Pride gets a bad rap, but it’s super useful as the combatant of perfectionism, and a key tool a Secret Weapon uses to help them achieve great things in the work they do. When you have pride in your work, not only does it feel freaking fantastic, but it’s also an indicator you’ve reached that 92% mark. Having pride in the work you do is incredibly healthy as a service provider. Knowing deep down that you do great work helps you to continue to do that great work, day after day, year after year.
And when you have pride in your work, by extension, your clients are proud of the work you do. It’s a great big never-ending cycle of awesome. Your clients can see you’re proud of your work, and when they see that, they are instantly more confident that your work will help their own business achieve the goals they set out for it.
When we do our best work, work we’re proud of, it really shows to our clients. Not only are they happier overall, but they come back to us again, and again, and again. Because they know we’re going to do a great job on their projects. When this happens, we keep our current clients. They don’t go looking for someone else for the next project – they come right to us first. A Secret Weapon who keeps their clients around longer has a much more stable income than one who doesn’t know if a client is ever going to come back again.
The best thing about making a commitment to doing your best work, to reaching that 92% on every single project you work on, is that new clients come to you easier as well.
You get a reputation. A good one.
Your reputation is something which only comes from doing great work time and time again. It’s a precious commodity for a Secret Weapon, and we treat it like a dragon treats its gold – something to be hoarded and protected at all costs (fire breath optional). When you commit to reaching 92% in all the work you do, your reputation starts to precede you, and it starts to do the heavy lifting for you when it comes to new clients.