Back in 1985 I was working for (a Texas based Technology company ). We were bidding on a very large multi-million dollar computer based project for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Part of the bidding process involved all us potential vendors travelling via buses throughout the Los Angeles area viewing a dozen of the 700+ schools that would potentially buy and use our systems. While driving thru the various areas of LA I had seen white billboards with 3 words on them WE SUCK LESS. I saw this billboard in several different parts of the city. After repeatedly seeing that same sign in the various communities, I asked a local contact regarding the purpose of that billboard, or rather what it meant. I was told that it was a marketing campaign of a local radio station. The premise was – We’re not the best, We’re not number one, We’re not perfect, But We Suck Less than our competitors, and therefore customers/listeners should tend our way. “Were not perfect, we may not be very good, but we suck less than your other options””¦
As we continued the 2 day journey throughout the city, that concept really struck a nerve. It really wasn’t a premise or concept that was even remotely familiar to me. This approach, while just in jest”¦ I think, just hit me as so unusual, that I found myself sharing this story many times over the last 25+ years. Ironically I have also crossed paths with various businesses and business situations over the years that prompted me to recall this ” business concept”. Is this concept completely hypothetical, or does it truly exist? Has anyone else seen this in action in certain business environments? Is it possible that this could be an approach of a business, or just the result of many years of apathy, poor management, or some other larger problem?
I really really think we all our wired to “set the bar very high”, we strive to be very good, we want to be the best, some seek perfection even knowing its not possible but keeping it as a goal nonetheless. But to non- chalantly say, “I just have to suck less than the next guy” and as a result of that approach my business will advance to me is somewhat mind numbing.
I recognize faults and imperfections occur in my own business practices. I’ve always felt that it is important that I remain my own toughest critic. As a business broker that helps business owners sell businesses and individuals buy businesses communication is very important. Promptly returning emails and phone calls to me is an essential, and is just mandated. Treating business relationships with respect, honesty and effort is important to me. Is it easy for someone to fall into the trap that since my colleagues/competitors don’t return emails/phones calls for 4-5 days or never then, if I wait 2-3 days to return a call or email, that makes me better than my competitors. Is this possibly the mindset of some in business? Can one be satisfied with the approach of just not being as bad as the others?- I don’t know.
But I do know Striving to “Suck Less”, to me just sucks. I really don’t know if it is a conscious business concept by some, but I do believe I have seen some resemblance of this approach. I also know that I find myself 25 years later sharing this story again.