Fast, Cheap, or Good – Which Are You?

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Fast, cheap, or good – you can only pick two.

Understanding the relationship between cost, quality and timeliness of a process or project is very important for customers, contractors or anyone who works on projects.

It really doesn’t matter what line of business you’re in, from food service to construction all customers want their project done well, fast and cheap.  The problem arises if you’re a contractor like me who likes to do good work and use quality materials, which can take longer and usually costs more.

Fast, Cheap, Good Pick Two Triangle Theory

Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick Two triangle theory

A client recently shared the Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick Two triangle theory with me and it instantly made sense and had me re-living really bad client meetings.  I’ve have customer meetings where I was asked to do work performed to museum-quality standards, on a time schedule with a penalty for me running over and all for a reduced rate.  They claimed that the amount of referrals they would give me warranted the reduction in price.

In other words, they were saying that they wanted work that was fast, good and cheap.  And if I met all the requirements, the reward would be potential referrals.  Really?

Unfortunately, I’ve met plenty of people who request this type of work and it never ceases to amaze me when I meet more.  Today, when I meet with potential customers who demand fast, good and cheap work, I explain to them that it’s impossible to do all three – it just doesn’t work that way.

According to the Pick Two triangle theory, you can either be expensive, slow or do poor quality work.

Click here to read which combinations of fast, good and cheap result in expensive, slow or poor quality work.

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Robert Robillard is the editor of the blog, A Concord Carpenter, Assistant Editor of Tool Box Buzz and principal of a carpentry and renovation business located in Concord, Massachusetts. Rob hosts the Concord Carpenter... Read more

4 comments on “Fast, Cheap, or Good – Which Are You?

  1. Kurt

    Good concepts. In our society customers have developed a perception that fast and cheap equal good, whichis not the case. Quality work is not always fast or cheap.

  2. Jerry

    I have always subscribed to this theory. I did come across an example that disproves it though. It concerns the definition of “cheap” if someone wants good work fast but is willing to pay 25 times the going rate because it is worth it to them to get it fast and good, is it still “not cheap”.

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