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The Choice is Yours

The choice triangle of "quality, speed, cost" where you can only pick two has many examples.

Most industries have a spectrum of choices in quality, price, and speed.

Take the riddle of the town with two barbers - one shop is pristine, with no waiting, and the lowest price in town. The barber there has a sharp haircut. The other shop has a long wait, has hair all over the floor, and costs twice as much as the other shop. The barber in that shop's hair is a mess. Which shop would you choose? The answer is the second one. The first barber clearly does not know how to cut hair (as evidenced in the other barber's haircut vs. his own). If I choose the first barber, speed + cost - quality.

If my air conditioning stops working on Friday night, I can have a technician out within an hour, but I can expect to pay more to have it fixed then than if I waited until Monday.

In almost any buying decision, with a little work, you can always find something cheaper. Delivery time might be months longer from a factory in China than a supplier across town. And the quality might be suspect.

As professionals, we can take these lessons to heart. Know your worth - both to your customers, and to your company.

If a customer asks for a project "yesterday" and asks you to drop everything to prioritize them over other everything else (at the expense of everything else, including personal time) - don't be afraid to tell them up front that the price will be higher than normal. Or would they rather sacrifice quality?

A logistician I worked with gave me a great example. She had a client that needed components from Asia by Monday (this was a Friday) or their factory would shut down. She charged 3X what she would normally charge them to move their freight. "Why should we pay that much?" they said. "We can call any other forwarder and get a better rate." She told them they were paying not just for her overtime - as she was going to have to babysit the cargo's journey all through the weekend - but for her expertise. "You are paying for the knowledge that my 30 years' experience, connections, and knowledge that I will keep your plant running." Quality. Speed.

If you are selling something, you better have two of the three. Companies that have the highest price and the lowest quality don't last in the long run. If you are the highest cost, and the slowest to deliver, the quality needs to be off the charts.

Your employer (and boss) should have a crystal-clear understanding of the value you bring to them every day. What would it cost to replace you? Six months' effort, recruiting costs, and almost-certainly a higher salary paid to someone that will take up to a year to get up to speed. Would your loss cause them to lose customers? Would other people quit along with you?

Make sure they know your value - especially when it comes time to dole out pay raises and bonuses.

I have a client who gets it - they have a customer service rep that has been with the company for over twenty years. The GM told me she's paid well above their other reps (about twice what the local market for a good CSR makes). He's fine with that. She handle's about 40% of their customers' orders, and all of their biggest accounts. The customers love her and will go directly to her with any issues, as she knows how to get stuff done. In the words of the GM, "It will cost us millions if she left, so we incentivize her to stay, and reward her for her work. It's worth every penny." Quality + Speed. (And saves them big bucks in the big picture.)

Hopefully if you are reading this, you (and your employer) do not feel like you are an interchangeable cog that can be replaced at a moment's notice. You know your value and charge accordingly.

If you yourself do feel undervalued, and want to explore other options, please let me know if I can help. (I might not get back to you immediately!)

Likewise, when you work with other professionals (whether getting your HVAC fixed, a new tattoo, or, ahem, working with a recruiter) - remember the triangle. If you want quality and speed, expect to pay. If you want quality and cost, have some patience. You are paying for their experience, more than their time.

The Rivet Group is a recruiting form that specializes in leadership roles across multiple industries.

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