Fast. Quality. Cheap. You can’t be all things to all people.

Our brother-in-law owns a successful printing business in Toronto. Every summer when he comes to visit, we inevitably end up around the campfire swapping stories about running a business and the challenges we face as entrepreneurs. One late night, he uttered some truth: “People want their print jobs to be fast, quality and cheap. But a product cannot be all three, it can only be two of the three at any one time.”

For example, the job can be done fast and cheap, but it won’t be good quality. Gotta keep the labour costs down in order to not lose money on that bid!

One can manufacture a product fast with utmost quality, but it’s unlikely to be cheap. Time is money, after all.

Or it can be a quality job done cheaply, but it won’t be fast. That job will wait. You get the idea.

Just last week, I experienced this principle in action when shopping for furniture with my in-laws. They looked at a cheap sofa set that was high quality, but they would have to place a special order it and wait ten weeks for arrival. Another sofa set offered top quality leather and available for delivery tomorrow, but it was double the price. What to do?

Now you might argue with me citing instances where top quality products or services can be delivered fast AND cheap. If so, I’d love to know! However, I think this principle of “Fast, Quality, Cheap” applies to virtually any product or service category, particularly the food business.

Fast food is not usually good quality, but it is cheap. This latest MarketPlace video tells that story well.

A vine ripened tomato takes time to grow, pick and ship at the peak of freshness, but the price per pound is more than a tasteless hothouse tomato picked before its time.

On our farm, we take longer to raise our free-run chickens without antibiotics or animal byproducts in the feed — approximately 49 – 60 days as compared to the industry standard of 29-35 days depending on the size. And yes, it costs us more to raise and process a chicken, but we believe it’s worth it in the end — there are tradeoffs and it’s an entrepreneurial balancing act. We’re aiming for quality over quantity. Food before fame.

We all makes daily decisions about how to spend our precious time and money. It really comes down to personal values, wants and needs — and those sometimes change depending on what you’re purchasing. When it comes to your food, what is most important to you? We’d like to hear from you.

Melanie Boldt Written by:

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