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Excellence or perfection whats the difference

Is there a difference between excellence and perfection?hand-ok

Most people would tend to think that striving for excellence and striving for perfection both mean the same thing. Do they?

I have been very privileged to have worked in quite a few different industries in my life, which has given me many life skills that are very valid in the frenetic online retailing and ecommerce world.

In another life I was trained as a diamond setter (the artisan that takes pieces of jewellery from a jeweller, sets the stones and cuts and engraves the metal to give the jewellery piece its final high lustre glitzy look). I had a brilliant master trainer when I served my apprenticeship. My trainer could turn a plain surface of gold, silver or platinum into a glistening piece of art. I spent many laborious hours trying to replicate his skills sometimes redoing things three, four and even sometimes five times, often to the annoyance of the jewellers as they would have to occasionally remanufacture or rebuild pieces I had worked on. One day my trainer pulled me aside and suggested I stop trying so hard and stop aiming for perfection. He went on to say that if I continued to strive for perfection that I would not succeed at work. I was dumbstruck I wanted to be perfect. He put his hand on my shoulder and he pointed out that I needed to find a balance between productive output and good quality work. I was trying too hard to achieve perfection on something that is never going to be perfect after all, the items we worked on were all handmade and he felt the finish on them was excellent and would exceed the critique of our fussiest customer.

So what does this have to do with online retailing you ask?

Well, I have worked on a few ecommerce projects that have been held back from go live because a line is a pixel too far to the left or a button is too far to the right, or the mother in law doesn’t like the look of the front page, or the wife thinks its not to her liking (even though she is not the target market) and thus a page redesign. Tinker with all these minor issues for months on end, only to find that two or three entrepreneurs in a garage somewhere with a second hand server, twenty buck hosting plan and some hand me down computers have trumped a multi million dollar company in launching a game changing website. Why? Because they didn’t get bogged down in the pursuit of perfection. These entrepreneurs, built their site, knew what their intention was, and launched knowing the site was good enough and that any issues would be addressed as they went along. This is where successful ecommerce is right now. Game changing websites focus on excellence not perfection, they get things going in a way that is good enough to achieve the intended outcome without focussing on superfluous things that are nice but are not going to make a difference.

This focus on excellence often is seen in many creative agencies offering ecommerce solutions for their clients, however digital agencies are not online retailers and often focus on the perfect design aspects instead of important usability aspects that make online retailing sites work well. They strive for perfection not excellence and produce incredible looking sites that have poor conversion rates.


Consider what kind of online retailing business environment you operate in? If you strive for perfection and are not seeing results, maybe its time to see things from a perspective of excellence.



Mark Freidin is an experienced ecommerce consultant, and is co founder of Learn more about Mark



Image: Michal Marcol /

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