Good Enough

I help companies grow.

From 2011-2016 I led the turn-around for the Warburg Pincus portfolio company,  A Place For Mom. Over five years the team I recruited fixed the company’s operations, re-structured its workforce, built a marketing team, and grew revenue by more than 3x while dramatically expanding profit margins. We did it by rigorously resisting the urge to chase excellence. Instead we worked our way through each functional area making each one “good enough”.

Companies are constantly being distracted by the search for excellence. A CMO of a Fortune 500 company once asked me how to merge his marketing analytics and sales CRM platforms. Before I answered I asked him how long it was taking his salespeople to respond to marketing leads. He had no idea. Until you are calling back your inquiring customers within thirty seconds (which I believe is “Good Enough”) you have no right to talk about merging technology platforms. He wasn’t even tracking how long it took to call his customers, let alone managing to it.

Individuals are equally distracted by excellence. Kids push to be in the NBA, but even if they achieve top 0.1% ability there will still be 300,000 better players in the United States. A top 1% teacher makes no more money than an average educator. But if you manage to be even top 20% in education and top 20% in basketball, you could be a very successful national-caliber coach. We waste time and effort chasing “excellent” investments that do no better than the average. We search for the perfect soulmate while missing out on happiness right in front of us.

Sometimes excellence is needed, but our ability to predict what causes excellence is much weaker than most of us believe. And if you don’t know what will cause excellence, then “trying” to be excellent doesn’t actually lead to excellence (except by random chance). Chasing excellence becomes more about “show” than “results”. Fortunately we do know how to be “good” (or avoid being bad). If you are “good enough” in enough different things it looks surprisingly like being excellent. And here you were just trying to be good.

The pattern that good beats excellent can be seen everywhere. I have seen examples in business, science, education, parenting, policing, charity, regulation, health & medicine, venture capital, the arts, personalization, recruiting, sports, wine, waiting tables, investing, dating and even cutting hair.

So I’m writing a book about it.

In the book you will learn:

  • Why we don’t know what causes excellence
  • Many examples across many disciplins where good is a better choice than excellence
  • Why the traditional solutions – like bigger or better data – don’t solve the chasing excellence problem
  • How to be successful in a “good enough” world

Good Enough: Why Good is Better than Excellent is a mix of compelling data and fascinating stories. It mixes the storytelling of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point with the practical applications of Tim Ferris’s The Four Hour Work Week. The first chapter draft is finished and available here. You can also pre-order the book at a dramatic discount (be warned: I do not have a publication date yet, but I will send out draft chapters as they are completed to anyone who pre-orders the book).

 

You can read more about my background on my Bio page.