When is Good Enough “Good Enough”?
Thoughts on the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” Mentality
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
On a recent wonderful warm evening, my wife Joanne and I took a ride to a popular ice cream shop that’s “Down The Shore.” The place was packed and we went in to take a number. Ours was number 6 and they were calling number 22 so we had 83 people ahead of us. Still the waiting is part of the “experience.”
I believe all of us in business observe and try to learn from every other business we go to. I’m always on a recon mission to see what I believe these businesses do right and what I think they’re doing wrong. So with 83 people ahead of me in line, what could they possibly be doing wrong? To me, plenty.
A few years ago, management changed and I believe the place started to look dirty. The ceiling fans are dusty, the drop ceiling and vents are dirty and a few gallons of bleach on the floors would make a remarkable improvement. The outside lights don’t work and the sign is falling apart.
The service is good with college kids earning a full tip jar. They work very hard scooping the hard ice cream and dealing with people like me looking for wet walnuts and jimmies on their overstuffed sugar waffle cone. The prices are okay and I guess the ice cream is good. It must be with all these people waiting in line, right?
We found a spot outside and the summer heat began to melt my double chocolate cone onto my hand, but I still sat and observed. Joanne sensing a moment where I would say to her “hey, maybe I’ll open an ice cream store…” asked what I was thinking about.
I smiled and laughed and told her that I’m not interested in opening an ice cream store. But I mentioned all the obvious negatives I had noticed, yet despite those, the place was packed with happy people eating ice cream. After all, that was the idea.
So I mused that if I bought the business and cleaned it, replaced ceiling tiles, scrubbed the walls and floors, put more benches outside and fixed the sign, I might end up putting the place out of business by doing all that.
Joanne reminded me if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I also thought to never underestimate the simplicity of your customers. If they are happy, who are you to try and make them more happy?
So when is good enough good enough? When do you stop reinvesting in your business and making changes? When do you stop?
I think the answer is “never.”
It doesn’t take much effort to see prominent examples of companies that never said “it’s good enough.” Tesla and Apple are just two of many hundreds of companies that continue to improve and innovate every day. In my own experience, that’s what drove me to start Jersey Jack Pinball. On the other hand, sometimes “the don’t fix it unless it’s broken” mantra seems to drown out the “continuous improvement” thought process.
I was walking through a retail store recently and workers were busy painting a wall that looked like it didn’t need it. All they were doing was applying the same color, so I took a closer look. I saw some very minor dings in the wall that they were covering up. The impression I got was that the people who own the place want to keep it 100% perfect.
Whenever we take a cruise or stay in an upscale hotel, we see maintenance people polishing the brass or cleaning windows. Better run businesses will keep their bathrooms at a level of continuous cleanliness, not letting them get wrecked to the point that they need to be closed to be cleaned properly. This happens all the time in most business settings.
If you get all of that then I guess it’s up to you to choose. Do you fix it when it’s broken or prevent it from getting broken by working on it all the time?
As a route operator, are you doing all you can to keep patrons playing the games? Are you keeping machines clean enough, are you helping promote your locations through social media, are you prompt enough with service calls, do you work to establish and maintain a friendly relationship with the location’s management or owner? FEC and arcade folks, do you maximize the traffic around the games, keep your merchandise presented properly, and train employees to recognize issues and exchange ideas with you about customer relations? Things may not be broken in your locations, but could they be better? Would the effort (and expense) of your proposed changes bring a boost to your bottom line?
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at jack@ jerseyjackpinball.com.