What the hack am I doing?

Harold’s little whiteboard

I need a new whiteboard for my office. I do have a small one off to my side. The problem is that it is off to my side. It’s not facing me, where I can see it all of the time. Yes, there are days that I am too lazy to turn my head 90° to the right.

There’s a spot on the wall in front of me that works well. In a perfect world, I can place a 40″x30″ whiteboard in the spot to maximize utilization. In this imperfect world, the best I can do is 24″x36″ from the supply stores.

Then I started poking around, asking The Google about custom whiteboards. It led me to various options, including:

  • Special Dry-Erase paint — turn my wall into a whiteboard.
  • Inexpensive panels at the big-box hardware store — essentially custom building my own whiteboard.
  • A video demonstrating how to take an old picture frame and turn it into a whiteboard. First step? Go to the Thrift Shop and find an old picture with a glass-enclosed frame. I might pop some tags while I’m there.

I smack my head and think ‘why am I doing all this?’

Why do I suddenly have all of the time in the world to hack this myself in order to save $30-$70, depending what I really need?

Businesses make these decisions every day

Do I build or buy?

Sure, with the right amount of time and effort, you can build or customize anything. I could spend hours building, painting, framing, etc., to get a 40″x30″ whiteboard. But why? If a product or service exists and meets the proverbial 80–20 rule, buy that product. No product, even if customized, meets every single requirement upon rollout (and if it does, you probably spent a lot of time developing towards perfection).

Is this one of our core competencies?

That’s business jargon for ‘doing something that adds value’. It is defined as “A unique ability… that cannot be easily imitated. Core competencies are what give a company one or more competitive advantages”.

If you are a training company, for example, one of your core competencies may be the ability to quickly customize a curriculum for a customer. There is something unique about how you execute that delivers competitive advantage over other training companies.

You might be able to do your own taxes. But does it add value to your business, and is it a good use of your time? Go hire an accountant. While she’s completing your taxes, find another customer, or customize another class for a client and deliver it early. That will certainly enhance your reputation and provide additional competitive advantage.

I finally bought a 24″x36″ glass whiteboard that looks nice, works well, and is directly in front of my desk. But, I did visit the Thrift Shop. I might have visited one once in my life. It was an interesting experience, and I made sure I didn’t spend anymore than the $20 in my pocket.

Discussion questions (answer in Comments below)

  1. Did you ever buy anything in a Thrift Shop?
  2. Do you think ‘good enough’ is good enough?

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I help companies turn their strategies into action plans.

Performegy’s services include: strategic planning, IT assessments, identifying operational risks and gaps, and improving communication between IT and business partners.

Its founder and president, Harold Waisel, has over 25 years of experience building strategies and roadmaps, delivering technology solutions, improving service levels, integrating companies, and developing key performance measures. You can contact Harold here. Thank you for reading.

Originally published at performegy.com on May 1, 2017.