Stepping Up Our Game Mon, Apr 06, 2015
It’s always been tempting to chase the quick buck. Playing the “long game” is slow, demands patience, and requires extensive effort. Who wants to spend the time building something that will last?
I'll put it this way. When you think about it, what is the American Dream? The “acceptable” version is to start on the ground floor and painstakingly build a career until you become successful. Bootstraps and all that. But is that really what most people dream about doing, deep in their heart of hearts?
Think of the last movie you watched where someone had to train or improve at something. How was that shown? Let me guess.
A series of quick cuts showing the main character working out, or studying, or practicing. At the end of the montage, you see how much the character has progressed. An intense soundtrack is optional but preferred.
“Just a couple more scenes punching frozen meat in warehouses, and I’ll be a real prizefighter.”
Why is this style of scene so popular?
Probably because no one wants to spend an hour and a half watching someone struggle to gradually improve. And in real life, it takes much longer than that to get really good at something. Slow, tenacious work. Countless hours of honing the tiniest details. It's tedious. It's painful. It takes forever. A montage condenses an enormous amount of time and effort into a few minutes.
The quieter desire, the "American Daydream," is to get rich quick. You see something like the founders of Instagram selling their company to Facebook for a billion dollars after two years, and you think to yourself, “Man, if only I had the right idea at the right time, I could breeze right into sooo much money.” It's a very natural feeling. It's why diet pills and pyramid schemes are so successful. Everyone wants to believe that there's some secret that will let them get amazing results with minimal difficulty.
This desire becomes more apparent when you examine the way that a lot of people do business. Among companies on the rise, especially those involved in tech, there’s frequently a feeling that the whole business is temporary. Building up just enough to cash out. It seems that oftentimes, CEOs are just looking to flip their companies and bounce to some tropical country with fuzzy extradition laws.
“They can't tax us if we're 20,000 leagues under the sea!”
That being said, there’s a big spectrum of attitudes between “I just want to own a super-yacht as soon as I can, to Hell with everyone else” and “I will build a house for my people that will stand until the end of time.” Not many people sit on either extreme end. For each choice, you can choose an approach from anywhere within the spectrum.
The key is to keep your priorities in mind. That might sound simple, but in practice it's VERY easy to let things fall by the wayside. Should you really spend all that extra money reinforcing that minor component? Will anybody really notice if that color’s slightly off? It’s up to you to ask, "Does this decision fall in line with the way I want to go after my goals?"
For us at SlideBelts, the goal is to “play for keeps.” That means pushing to be great at all sorts of things, some seemingly small. Imagine you’re a business, and you’re part of the onion diagram below. Don’t worry, there won’t be a PowerPoint presentation.
We’ll say that the biggest circle encompasses all the other companies who are in the same line of work as you. Each circle nested within it contains a group that stands out in some way.
Are you a company that makes quality products? Cool, but there are still a bunch of others that do that too.
Are you a company that makes quality products and also provides above-and-beyond guest service? You’re doing better. Move into a smaller circle.
Do you do both of those things and also offer competitive pricing? Move another circle down.
And so on and so forth.
We want to be in the proverbial "smallest circle." Oh, company X makes no-holes belts? So do we, except our leather is leaps and bounds ahead. Oh, company Y makes good quality belts? Too bad for them; we make GREAT quality belts, and our guest service blows theirs out of the water, to boot. There's always another step we can take to be better.
Keeping this in mind, we've stepped up our game in regards to leather quality quite a bit recently. Here's a brief summary of what we've done:
-Improved our Full Grain leather quality. Price bumped up slightly to reflect this. Altered dye formula for Mahogany and Cognac belts, and added two new options: Cordovan and Espresso. All Full Grain leather straps are also now finished (smooth) on both sides.
-Released new grade of leather: Top Grain. You can check it out HERE. This is intended to be a price and quality intermediate between Genuine and Full Grain leather.
-Upgraded all of our Genuine leather straps to all-leather. Not a sliver of filler to be seen. This should improve long term durability.
To restate, we now offer Genuine, Top Grain, and Full Grain leather belts. Full Grain is the highest quality, followed by Top Grain and finally Genuine. You can take a look at the image below for a quick reference as to what these terms mean.
Image is from Saddleback Leather
Typically, durability decreases the further down you go from the top of the hide. This is a result of the leather fibers becoming looser the closer they are to the underlying flesh. Our leather straps are taken from the higher sections of each grade so that your belt is tough enough to last through frequent use.
Could we sell bottom-rung stuff that's barely good enough to be called leather and call it "high grade Genuine?" Yeah. Plenty of companies do that, take the money and run. We'd definitely save a lot of money. But is that taking the long view? Is that honoring the trust our guests give us? We'd say not. Shady wheel-and-deal marketing will only take you so far.
Playing the long game isn't easy, or quick, or cheap. It doesn't allow us to dismiss the details. It doesn't let us cut and run. But by playing it this way, we can look at our work and say with confidence, "This is something that'll last."