I started in this business by helping my Godparents, Reed and Wanda Tate at their flower shop in my hometown of Luray, Virginia when I was a teenager. That was over three decades ago, but I still have a relatively clear memory of an important lesson I learned back then. It came in the form of a story written on a card that hung over the desk in the back room. The story went something like this:

A lady walked into the shop of the best hat maker in her city. She’d never had the pleasure of owning one, but she decided that today was the day she would. She told the haberdasher that she wanted the most beautiful hat in the world, and wanted to wear it that night to a gala. The artist gladly complied. Right in front of her, he took a simple strand of ribbon and indeed created the most beautiful hat she had ever seen. He sat her in front of a large mirror and placed it on his customer’s head. She swooned and bellowed an excited “I’ll take it!” The hat maker was pleased. He responded, “Wonderful Madame, I’ll wrap it for you. That will be $500.”  The woman blanched.  “$500?!” she said. “But, you only used one piece of ribbon!” The haberdasher undid the ribbon with one quick tug and let it fall to the table. “Madame,” he responded, “the ribbon was free.”

In other words, you can get anything in any combined pair of: quick, cheap, and good. But the pair you choose will always be at the expense of the one you omit. Want it quick and cheap? You’re going to lose quality. Want it quick and great quality? You’d better be ready to pay. And if you want it cheap and high quality? Well, it will be forever before you see the fruits of that labor (if ever). While I’d like to take credit for this simple but brilliant truth on behalf of my industry, the reality is that this really does apply to every facet of life. Time is money. You get what you pay for. The list of maxims goes on.

When clients come to me, it’s because they believe in the craft of a david beahmevent: generally my projects take ample time, as my team and I attend to every detail of quality. So those are the two that I often choose. I’m not saying here that we will only work on the time/quality projects, without any regard for expense. (While that would be wonderful, it’s obviously not realistic.) What I am saying is that when we approach projects with our clients, we define our priorities together right from outset and it makes our process much simpler.

There’s a similar story to the one about the woman and the hat maker. This one’s about Picasso, sitting at a Parisian Café in the 20s, doodling on a napkin and waiting for a friend, when another patron recognizes him and asks if he can purchase the napkin. “Certainly”, replies Picasso, “that will be $10,000 dollars.” The patron gaffaws: “But I just watched you draw that. It only took you a few minutes!” Picasso smiles, “No sir, that took my entire life.”

I suppose the point of this post is that we’re often made to look at the big picture once it’s too late. By considering these three realistic points right at the beginning of any major endeavor or decision, I can say with certainty, that you will never find yourself in the embarrassing position of the lady or the patron.

The Secret Ingredient: Define and prioritize your decisions, and they’ll be easier to make.

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  1. Guy

    A universal truth, to be certain, but most often true, I find, in the design and conceptual deliverable business. interestingly it’s my experience that in the advertising and branding business it’s adequate TIME rather than adequate money that people have a hard time appreciating. Ironically time is the variable that is flexible when it comes to truly spectacular results!

    Great post, David.

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