Insights & News

​The Difference Between Perfection and Excellence

Posted On October 17, 2016

Recently one of our team members saw a sign in a small town diner that said, “We strive for excellence, not perfection.”

It was kind of an eye-catching sign to see in a diner, because you don’t often hear anyone—either a person or a business—say they don’t strive for perfection. It’s just not something people want to say. We all admire perfectionists, particularly in business. After all, the stories about Steve Jobs endlessly obsessing over what color to paint equipment on Apple’s manufacturing floor was part of his mystique.

But was Steve Jobs—or any successful individual or company—really a perfectionist?

We don’t think so.


Because perfection is an end goal. Think about it. Once you have perfected something, you can’t improve on it. If you paint the perfect painting, you can’t make it prettier. If you write the perfect book, you can’t make it more readable. If you bake a perfect cake, you can’t make it tastier. That’s why “perfecter” is not a word—because you literally can’t make something more perfect. So what was the owner of the diner trying to convey with that sign in her restaurant?

The owner was trying to say that she would never be completely satisfied with the food coming out of her kitchen. She would never look at one of her (delicious) greasy cheeseburgers or mile-high pieces of pie and say, “That’s it. That’s perfection. I can do no better.”

For her there might always be fresher, juicier apples she could find for her pie, or a better grade of beef for her cheeseburgers.

We take that same approach to excellence and perfection at Flat World Holdings. If we focused on perfection, that would mean that we aimed to find logistics and supply chain solutions that literally couldn’t be improved, because they were already perfect. In order to do that, our customers would have to exist in a world that never changed.

And that is obviously not the case.

We know that the world of logistics is constantly changing. In fact, from changes in technology to an ever-evolving regulatory environment, our customers exist in a world that changes at almost breakneck speed. As a result, here at Flat World Holdings we have to focus on continuous improvement and operational excellence, rather than perfection. If we focused on perfection, we never would have grown our company by adapting, and when necessary, customizing our solutions to fit our customers’ needs. It would mean that we would have never made the strategic acquisition of a premier freight forwarder like Ram International, or expanded into new markets. Seeking perfection, rather than focusing on excellence, means that at some point you are going to be satisfied with stepping back and saying, “I can’t make this any better.”

Seeking perfection means that at some point you will be happy with stopping, and be satisfied with what you’ve created.And that’s not who we are.No supply chain solution the Flat World Holdings family of companies develops will ever be labeled “perfect”—because we will always work with the customers to see how we can make that solution better.

So what’s the takeaway here?

Always seek operational excellence, rather than perfection. And you can find more than just greasy cheeseburgers and good apple pie in a diner.Sometimes you can also find a little wisdom.