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The Fast-Good-Cheap Triangle

2000px-Project-triangle.svgThere’s a well-known maxim in manufacturing and production that applies to everything from software to sports cars to t-shirts: “Fast, good, cheap – choose two.”

In other words:

  • If you want work to be done quickly and cheaply, you may not end up with the highest quality.
  • Cheap, good work exists – but it may take a long time, since your supplier will constantly be distracted by better-paying jobs.
  • If you need high-quality work done to a deadline, then you should be prepared to pay a premium for that level of work.

Of course, cheap isn’t always bad, and sometimes, cost is the deciding factor. There are certainly times where quality isn’t your primary consideration, or where you don’t mind waiting for your supplier to fit your job in when it’s convenient. However, when it comes to business apparel, it is prudent to think very carefully about whether the lowest-cost solution is the right way to go.

 

Below, we propose a new triangle:
Durability – Readability — Quality.

Durability

There is a time and place for cutting costs to the lowest they can go. Cheap t-shirts, for example, may be adequate for short-term use, such as event shirts for employees staffing a trade show booth. On the convention center floor, temporary and relevant t-shirt design is key – which means the design can’t be used the next year. In this situation, keeping costs down is a main focus. The key here is to build a relationship with a printer that offers fast turnaround and error-free work the first time around.

For many other uses, choosing quality and durability up front is the way to save money in the long run. T-shirts and polos that sport your business messaging should last through regular use and washing without worry of the ink fading or the embroidery losing its hold or luster.

For employee wear, long-term thinking amounts to more than saving money. Whether it’s you or your employees who have to pay the costs of replacing employee polos, having to frequently shell out for new uniforms is bad for morale. Using cheap, non-durable materials may turn out to be more expensive than you think, especially over a period of years.

Readability

Your choice of material and trusted printer are directly related to the quality of your final printed apparel. Quality shows in the readability of your printed or embroidered messaging (including your business logo). Any printing missteps along the way can result in blurred text, grainy images, or uneven colors.

On a typical home or office printer, you can easily see the difference between printing out a low-res image on standard paper and printing the same image at maximum quality on special photographic paper. The high-quality image may take ten times as long to print, it will use more ink, and the paper won’t be cheap – but the difference can be astonishing. Details suddenly come to life, colors are brighter, and lines are sharper.

The same is true of professional-grade printing. Cheap, fast techniques don’t have the crispness or quality of technique that use top-grade materials. If you’ve invested the time and money into designing an effective and readable logo, why waste that effort with low-quality production?

Quality

Perhaps most importantly, your choice of business and employee apparel reflects your company, your brand, and your values. As businesspeople, we know what it means to dress for the part. We cannot be represented by blurry, worn-out, cheap shirts when we are communicating our worth to our customers, clients, and partners.