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Is a Perfectionist Attitude Killing Your Business Dreams?

Ah the perfectionist. Such a way to live one’s life. Perhaps some day, the pursuit of perfection will lead the human race into a state of genetic infallibility, like in the super-awesome movie Gattaca from the 90s.

However, being a perfectionists comes with more downs than ups along the way. It can demoralize, incapacitate, destroy, alienate — so many verbs come into play in the aftermath of one’s pursuit of perfection.

I’ve been fortunate in my life to work with plenty of perfectionists leading up to the start of my own entrepreneurial pursuits. Through them I’ve learned to throw caution to the wind when it feels appropriate.

Perfectionism has its place mind you. Just not as a constant.


Here’s how perfectionism might just be curbing your attempts at being successful in business:

1. Perfectionists aren’t risk takers.

Perfectionists tend to live too much in the now. They thrive in it. Strive to maintain the status quo at all costs. They’re afraid of change and the fear of failure is always on their minds.

The minute a perfectionist is confronted with ideas with inherent risk driving them, they immediately start with the mental questions, most of which beginning with “What if…” Perfectionists are great goal setters, but they prefer to over-analyze and find the path of least resistance, even if that means losing the race to the finish line. This personality trait doesn’t sit well with entrepreneurs who, by the nature of their professions, must be willing to risk some level of uncertainty.

Perfectionists aren't risk takers

Image Credit: Philip Leara/Flickr

2. Perfectionists find it hard to adapt on-the-fly.

Changes in markets, consumers, staff, competition, technology and life’s circumstances often don’t sit well with the perfectionist. That’s because their OCD nature makes them averse to change. They learn to work within a set environment. When that environment changes, turmoil typically ensues, stifling progress and making everyone around the perfectionist miserable.

Perfectionists only see right and wrong. There’s no gray areas. No other way than theirs to get a given task done. Creativity and innovation (perhaps the two main keys to success for any business) fly out the window when an unreformed perfectionists is at the helm of a business.

3. Perfectionists revel in time-sinks.

While Santa Claus has time to check and recheck his list to his heart’s content, the ever-changing face of most businesses doesn’t leave room for the over analytical approach used by most perfectionists out there.

When you’re checking and re-checking and making sure everything’s absolutely perfect, you inevitably become less productive,” An inventory report may be perfect, contain zero errors and be set up with dummy-proof Excel formulas, but if it’s not completed on time or if making it perfect gets in the way of you completing other important things (like bringing more clients in), this can prevent your business from advancing.

Perfectionists love time sinks

Image Credit: allispossible/Flickr

4. Perfectionism hurts relationships.

Lets just say this often limiting attitude hurts all relationships in a perfectionist’s life. It only makes sense, after all. And if we’re all taught to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, there’s really nothing wrong with demanding perfection from everyone in your life including your employees.

I worked for a man at his small business several years ago, who had come from a national-level job running one of the biggest franchises on the planet. He knew what he was doing and yes, he was the epitome of a perfectionist. Every “i” dotted, every “t” crossed. The trouble was, he originally came from working in a corporate “take no prisoners” environment where mistakes promptly equaled walking papers — with a big corporation to absorb the costs of not just the mistakes, but the hiring and firing of employees which is a massive expense for a small business owner to foot.

Anyhow, this boss pushed his perfectionism on each and every one of his working-class employees every day, to the point where customer service came second to incessant paperwork and other demands. It was terrible to work for this guy, yet I loved all my coworkers. It was a tough decision to leave and from what I’ve heard, everyone else that worked there when I did soon followed suit. Perfectionists find it hard to keep employees and they find it hard to turn it off when they get home.

So is there any hope for the perfectionists out there!

If you suffer from a perfectionist attitude, there’s still hope. But it’s gonna take a lot of work to get yourself out of “not good enough territory” into the more accepting, good-natured approach used by those who know how to go with the flow and roll with the punches in business and in life.

Has your perfectionism gotten out of control? Read this to find out.


Main Image Credit: bark/Flickr

About author

Chad Stewart
Chad Stewart 58 posts

Chad Stewart is a staff writer for who has worked in business for the better part of 16 years now. He got his start in the down-and-dirty world of intermodal logistics management, before moving into more challenging roles in retail and warehouse management. Chad holds both a Business Marketing and Operations Management degree from Sir Sandford Fleming College. In his spare time he enjoys traveling the world, time with his dog, fishing, snowshoeing, watching UFC and is an avid fitness buff.

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