What the hack am I doing?

I need a new whiteboard for my office.  I do have a small one off to my side.  The problem is that it is off to my side. It’s not facing me, where I can see it all of the time.  Yes, there are days that I am too lazy to turn my head 90° to the right.

There’s a spot on the wall in front of me that works well.  In a perfect world, I can place a 40″x30″ whiteboard in the spot to maximize utilization.  In this imperfect world, the best I can do is 24″x36″ from the supply stores.

Then I started poking around, asking The Google about custom whiteboards.  It led me to various options, including:

  • Special Dry-Erase paint – turn my wall into a whiteboard.
  • Inexpensive panels at the big-box hardware store – essentially custom building my own whiteboard.
  • A video demonstrating how to take an old picture frame and turn it into a whiteboard. First step?  Go to the Thrift Shop and find an old picture with a glass-enclosed frame.  I might pop some tags while I’m there.

I smack my head and think ‘why am I doing all this?’

Why do I suddenly have all of the time in the world to hack this myself in order to save $30-$70, depending what I really need?

Businesses make these decisions every day

Do I build or buy?

Sure, with the right amount of time and effort, you can build or customize anything.  I could spend hours building, painting, framing, etc., to get a 40″x30″ whiteboard.  But why? If a product or service exists and meets the proverbial 80-20 rule, buy that product.  No product, even if customized, meets every single requirement upon rollout (and if it does, you probably spent a lot of time developing towards perfection).

Is this one of our core competencies?

That’s business jargon for ‘doing something that adds value’.  It is defined as “A unique ability… that cannot be easily imitated. Core competencies are what give a company one or more competitive advantages”.

If you are a training company, for example, one of your core competencies may be the ability to quickly customize a curriculum for a customer.  There is something unique about how you execute that delivers competitive advantage over other training companies.

You might be able to do your own taxes.  But does it add value to your business, and is it a good use of your time?  Go hire an accountant.  While she’s completing your taxes, find another customer, or customize another class for a client and deliver it early.  That will certainly enhance your reputation and provide additional competitive advantage.

I finally bought a 24″x36″ glass whiteboard that looks nice, works well, and is directly in front of my desk. But, I did visit the Thrift Shop.  I might have visited one once in my life.  It was an interesting experience, and I made sure I didn’t spend anymore than the $20 in my pocket.

Discussion questions (answer in Comments below)

  1. Did you ever buy anything in a Thrift Shop?
  2. Do you think ‘good enough’ is good enough?







6 responses to “What the hack am I doing?”

  1. Elaine Bennett Avatar

    I teach people that “good enough” is great when it comes to their writing — don’t try for perfect, just aim for “done.” But “good enough” is NEVER good enough for my office! Are you kidding? That’s a primo source of procrastination and easy to justify because “I’m going to have to look at it all day long.”

    I love this blog. And congrats on getting out of a thrift store for under $20

  2. Harold Waisel Avatar

    Thanks @Elaine @bennettink.com. You know I’m in agreement with you on the writing. Get it down on paper. Worry about format, grammar, etc later. Trust me, my office is good enough, definitely not perfect.

  3. Spencer Day Avatar
    Spencer Day

    Great writing Harold, I really enjoy your commentaries! Buy vs. build and commodity vs. customization are essential EA principles for business and IT investment guidance. Thanks for reminding us!

    And by the way… Damn right I’ve been to thrift shops. Are you kidding me? When I was 24 and penniless, I nevertheless needed furniture for my cheap apartment on Park Drive in the Fenway. Nice tables and chairs for short cash. I still have one or two of them 43 years later!

    I believe in use (and re-use) of things that are GOOD ENOUGH. Lately though? Several years ago, I needed a particular style of sport jacket for ONE SUDDEN AND BRIEF OCCASION and got a nice one for $10 at a large Goodwill on the south shore. Whilst there, I got a Tommy Bahama beach shirt for $3 – can’t beat that!

  4. David Singer Avatar
    David Singer

    I take the “good enough” approach with our monthly regional email. One could spend hours with lots of little tweaks. I heard a podcast about how we spend to much time making decisions about things that don’t really matter much. The author said that in a restaurant the asks the waiter for a recommendation and just takes it. She doesn’t fret about that decision where I have friends who always make a big deal about their selection.

  5. Harold Waisel Avatar

    Thanks Spencer. I feel like Thrift Shops are where all Tommy Bahama shirts eventually get recycled. Glad you found one there. And good to hear from you.

  6. Harold Waisel Avatar

    Thanks David. Sometimes in a restaurant, I feel like I don’t even want to hear about the specials, especially when I’m 80-20 sure that what I want from the menu is good enough. But then I don’t want to be rude or end up with the waiter’s saliva in my entree.

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