On Quality

Quality. Quality. Quality?  For some reason as I write this I’m having difficulty finding the words to articulate what I want to express.  This is strange because I’m always thinking about quality and how to express it in the projects I build.   I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for at least four years, yet now the words evade me.  I suppose starting at the genesis of where the concept entered my mind would be as good a place as any to start.  To do that we have to travel back in time…

The above picture shows the phrase, “Surrounding you with quality” on my truck.  This isn’t a clever marketing idea for me.  It comes from my dad, who taught me this trade.  I remember seeing that very phrase on his business cards and brochures.  I included it on this website and on my truck, both as a tribute to him and the ideas that he instilled within me, of what it means to do quality work, and, more importantly, why it matters.  The word “quality” can be found on just about every trade website out there, but the word has to have meaning, it has to carry weight or it’s simply another empty word regardless of how often it’s used.  For me it’s a philosophy of work.  An ideal to which I strive towards on every project I build.  If this seems overly personal, well, it is.  I build each of my projects myself and I invest a lot of myself into each thing I build; fences or otherwise.  In the back of my mind I can hear my dad telling me as a young man; “Do it right.”

My dad and I had a conversation recently regarding quality.  It comes up often when I’m either trying to find better methods in which to improve the way I build or, sadly, in the frequent examples I come across of what quality is not.  I discovered that my dads views on quality came from his dad, a man I never had the pleasure to meet as he died from cancer before I was born.  His teachings would be taken to heart by my dad and in turn he would pass those same lessons to me.  It’s a lineage passed down from one generation to another and although I never knew my grandfather, his teachings, a part of him, are found in the many things my dad has built and now the things that I build.  Quality is important.

Thanks Dad, for everything!

The teachings of my dad aside, what makes quality a thing of importance?  Why does it matter?  Lets start with a common understanding of what quality is.  I’ll take the standard definition for us to work with here, which is “the standard of excellence in something”.  Quality then can be measured in degree.  There are levels of quality.  On one end is poor quality and on the other end exceptional quality.  On a more personal level, I measure quality in two ways when it comes to the things I build: visual appeal and durability. A fence can look like good quality initially, but time will quickly reveal if it was built with quality in mind or simply completion.  In an age where profit motive reigns supreme, real quality is often the first thing to be sacrificed.

The visual appeal of a thing built is often the easiest form of quality for most people to assess.  By looking at something you can sometimes get a feel for whether it is of poor or exceptional quality.  The problem is that today many things look really good on the surface, but a deeper inspection reveals the shortcomings.  This is why I consider both the visual appeal as well as durability when I think of quality.  Both are needed to achieve that “standard of excellence” of a thing built.

Assessing the durability is a far more difficult undertaking and is likely why those with little understanding of building methods will only consider the visual side of quality.  If it looks good it must be, right?  Not necessarily.  I’ve come across poor quality fences and I’ve come across exceptionally built fences.  The latter is rare, the former more common.  The ones that were well built have something in common; the handful of things that needed to be done right were not only done right, but were done with attention and care.  This is how I try to build things, with attention, care, and respect.  Respect not only for the clients who hire me and the money they are spending on the project, but for the material itself.  It is difficult to defend building poorly and it shows a complete lack of respect for everyone involved when quality is not at the heart of what’s built.

Having said all that let me confess; not all of my fences or other projects hold up to the ideas I’ve shared here.  I would not want you leaving this conversation thinking that I’m silly enough to believe that all of my projects are “perfect”.  I’ve done it long enough to know that even with the best of intent and methods of building sometimes things go wrong.  An adjustment needs to be made or a replacement completed.  These are generally small issues and can be easily corrected.  I know that some material, regardless of how mindful it has been selected, might decide to do something it shouldn’t.  Its the nature of building with wood in an outdoor environment.  I address these issues when and if they arise and this is all anyone can do. Integrity.  Perhaps another subject for another day…

Quality costs more money and requires more time, but in the end it’s easily justified.  It’s just the right way of doing things.  Give me a call and let’s talk about how we can build quality into your fence project.