In the service industry there is a common saying, ‘Good, fast, cheap; pick two!’ It sounds confusing at first, but ends up being painfully simple. It’s basically saying, here are three options (good, fast, and cheap), but you can’t have all three. You can only pick two of them.
Why Can’t I Have All Three?
This saying is like a law of nature, getting all three can only be accomplished at the expense of someone else. It’s like saying you want to hover in the air. You can do it if you have some other force like blowing air, a rig of wires, or somebody’s shoulders; but each requires energy and sacrifice beyond what you can do yourself. You can only have all three at the expense or uncompensated extra effort of the person or company providing the service for you.
Good + Fast = Not Cheap
If a client wants a project done to the highest quality and quickly on a tight deadline it can require more energy and resources from a provider. The provider might have to hire extra help to get it done. They will most likely have to bump or pause other ongoing projects in order to devote their time to this rush project. They also have to be vigilant and careful to not let quality suffer under the speed and stress that comes from a quick deadline. This is why there are rush charges or why a provider charges more for a quick deadline. As the toy repairman says while fixing Woody in Toy Story 2, “You can’t rush art!”
Good + Cheap = Not Fast
If a client wants a deal on the price of their project, but still demands high quality results, it will not be completed quickly. Providers aren’t just sitting around waiting for a client to call, they are usually working on multiple projects at a time with far off, rush, or just whenever-due dates. If a rush project comes up they often have to put those other projects on hold to complete it. Projects that aren’t making a lot of money are lower priority to the provider, but are often great time fillers when other higher paying projects can’t be worked on for the moment. So they’ll get done eventually, little by little.
Fast + Cheap = Not Good
This last option is the least desirable of the three because every client wants a high quality product, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time or money to make it happen. The project might require 40 hours to complete, but has a 24 hour deadline. If the budget was sufficient multiple service providers could be hired to break up aspects of the project to get it completed before the deadline, but this is the ‘cheap’ option so most likely the client will attempt to complete the project themself trying to do the 40 hour project in the 24 hour time period, most likely resulting in a complete, but not super high quality product. Once again, “you can’t rush art”.
This saying is a common saying in the service industry for a reason; untrained clients are always trying to break the rules and ‘rip off’ the provider by asking for all three. It is a beautiful thing when a provider finally gets a client trained or comes across someone who already gets it. The client understands and respects the fact that they can simply pick two and get what they pay for without taking advantage of anyone.
It truly is a matter of mutual respect between the client and the provider. The provider shows respect to the client by putting effort and priority into completing their project to the highest quality possible. The client shows respect to the provider by being understanding about time and resource constraints and by paying them a fair price for the services provided. Unhealthy working relationships happen when one party doesn’t respect the other like described above. So clients and providers should have respect for each other in order to develop a healthy, long term, and mutually beneficial working relationship. Remember, “respect is given, not earned”.
Watch the podcast below to hear more about ‘Good, fast, cheap; pick two!’ and hear more anecdotes of this interesting concept.