Fix the problem or apply a band-aid?

When do you just cover up the problem and when do you fix it? Some problems are just too expensive to fix. You won’t get a reasonable ROI in the needed time frame. Every potential solution has to be prioritized.

I thought of this while working on the fixer-upper of a home we recently purchased. It was so easy to stand with the realtor and say it needs a new kitchen, new bathrooms, new plumbing, new electrical, the hardwoods need to be refinished, all new paint…The list goes on: easy to say, completely another thing to get done.

I am so thankful to my wife, Katrina, who manages all this while I am out on the road with clients each week. But, I do my share on the weekends. The painting bids were just outrageous. Lucky for us, one painter told us how to get by without replacing a lot of the rotted wood on the outside of the house. He told us to go to an auto parts store and pick up some Bondo – the putty they use to patch holes in cars.

I had dabbled with this stuff when I was 16, when I seemed to wreck my car way too often. We bought a gallon and I began applying in thin coats, one after another, covering up the years of neglect to the exterior siding. I had a lot of time to think during this process… It was apply, sand, stand back, look at the spot and repeat.

I was thinking about how often we have to use Bondo in the business world. We just cannot afford to fix everything. I have often heard anything can be done with an endless supply of time and money; it’s something few of us have.

As I got into my workweek, the thoughts of applying Bondo last weekend kept coming back to me. I was working with a company to develop metrics and dashboards, and we talked about how much it would cost to automate this process vs. hiring someone to manually produce the reports. The solution? Apply some Bondo — hire someone.

Often the 80% rule comes into play. It’s all about the math. For example, if a solution to 80% takes $1,000 and two weeks to complete compared to $10,000 and five months to get to 100%, your choice is easy. Get the solution to 80% and launch, faster is likely better in this high rate of change environment.

Don’t worry if you need to apply a little Bondo. The house is looking great and I am sure it will get us through a couple of winters before we have to replace all the siding.

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