How can I drive more quality in my organization? Try these three tips.

You can revolutionize your entire business by making excellence job #1. Here’s how – and why it’s worth the investment.

In an interview with Fast Company in 2013, John Lasseter shared how he and his team at Pixar operate:

“Everything I do and everything Pixar does is based on a simple rule: Quality is the best business plan, period.”

This quote came up recently in my conversation with Gil Hanse when he joined me on my podcast, How Leaders Lead.

It hangs in Gil’s office, and it encapsulates his entire business philosophy.

And it works for him! With his attention to detail and commitment to excellence, Gil has built a reputation as one of the world’s finest golf course architects.

Ever since that conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role that quality plays in a business.

Can focusing on quality really be your whole business plan?

Well, I’ll say this: if you don’t have quality, you don’t have any plan at all!

It’s the foundation of everything you do, and it’s YOUR job as a leader to make sure your TEAM knows that quality is job number one.

When you focus on quality, a lot of other parts of your business get easier. 

And if you neglect it, there’s often a domino effect of negative consequences.

I know because I saw it firsthand at KFC when I first became Yum! Brands CEO.

(More on that in a minute.)

Quality plays a vital role in your business.

It goes beyond higher customer satisfaction and lower return rates.

It impacts your culture, your brand, and your bottom line.

In this article, I’ll show you three ways you can revolutionize your business by focusing on quality.

Then I’ll share three simple strategies you can use to help you and your team make it a priority.

Let’s dive in!

Part 1: Three ways quality can elevate your business

Quality strengthens your brand.

It’s a fiercely competitive world out there! People have more choices than ever for where they spend their time, money, and attention.

That’s why a strong brand reputation is essential. It helps you cut through the noise and differentiate yourself from competitors.

Quality plays a pivotal role in shaping how customers perceive your brand. 

Plus, it can create a massive competitive advantage.

When you consistently deliver top-notch products and services, you become known for it. Customers trust you. And it makes you the first brand people think of when it’s time to buy again or share a recommendation.

That excellence and reliability become a part of your brand identity – not just for the customers who already love you, but also for those who haven’t done business with you yet.

Quality lowers your customer acquisition costs.

Early on in my time at KFC, I made a surprising discovery:

The chicken wasn’t being marinated!

You see, Colonel Sanders had always taken the time to marinate his original recipe chicken. It was a key step in making the final product tender and juicy.

Unfortunately, what we were serving in restaurants at the time was a far cry from what Colonel Sanders had intended.

The standards had changed. Quality had slipped. And the business was struggling.

I knew we had to start marinating the chicken again in order to prioritize quality and win back customers.

Now, did it cost more to add that step to the process? You bet it did.

But it created a higher-quality product. And with that, we started to build more repeat business – which ultimately lowered costs and helped power the whole turnaround.

No matter what business you’re in, it’s expensive to acquire new customers and get them through your door for the first time. You can’t afford to have them only come through the door once. 

If you want repeat customers, you need to prioritize quality.

When you do, you’ll also find that those repeat customers spread the word about their positive experiences.

This word-of-mouth marketing becomes a powerful driver for customer acquisition, giving you a steady supply of new customers without costing you a fortune in marketing and advertising.

When you focus on the right things, your investment in quality will pay for itself – and then some.

Quality inspires your staff

Employee engagement is a vital factor in driving business success.

But tapping into people’s genuine motivation is easier said than done.

The good news? Prioritizing quality can help with that, too.

It’s hard to ask people to be at their best when the product or service you’re selling isn’t at its best.

Quality is a powerful motivator for employees because it gives them a clear target to aim for: excellence.

When your employees feel proud of their work and truly invested in it, they go above and beyond to deliver exceptional results.

When you prioritize quality, you show your employees that their contributions matter and that their work has a real impact on the success of the organization.

This is how you create a culture where people want to engage, be creative, and continuously get better. Now, that’s powerful fuel for any business!


Part 2: Three leadership strategies to help you prioritize quality

Now that you understand some of the positive effects that quality can have on your business, let’s explore specific ways you can prioritize quality in your organization.

Define what quality means for your customer

There’s not a one-size-fits-all definition of quality that works for every business.

It varies depending on your industry, market, and customer segment.

That's why it's essential to engage with your customers and listen to how they define quality for whatever it is you sell.

Use surveys, interviews, and reviews to get insights into their expectations and preferences.

With this knowledge, you can align your product development, service delivery, and customer experience strategies to meet (and exceed!) those expectations.

Remember: when we talk about prioritizing quality, it’s vital to understand what we’re really talking about: your customers’ idea of quality!

Stay connected to the details of your business

In the introduction of this article, I mentioned my recent interview with Gil Hanse. Now, some of you may wonder why on earth I would invite a golf course architect to be on a leadership podcast!

Well, first of all, I just love golf. And more importantly, I believe leadership lessons are EVERYWHERE. And when you look at Gil’s incredible work and success, you can understand why I would want to pick his brain and see how he leads.

When I asked him about it, he told me he is “not a big business guy,” but that he and his team kept things simple: “We've always tried to focus on quality first and foremost, and that attention to detail.”

That’s exactly why you’ll find Gil Hanse out on his bulldozer, alongside his team, helping to make the (literal) on-the-ground decisions about his golf course designs.

When unexpected aspects of the terrain arise or circumstances change, he’s connected to the details and can help guide his team toward the best decision.

Every business is different, but I’ve never seen a successful leader who couldn’t dive into the details of their business.

They understand how things happen, how products get made, and how customers get satisfied.

Without a firm grasp of those key details, it’s nearly impossible to develop a winning strategy.

A lot of leaders come in with lofty strategies but have no idea of what the real issues are on the front lines and how to solve them.

Now, I’m not suggesting you micromanage every detail. But I encourage you to stay connected to the details that drive the overall quality of the work you do.

Work with your team to fine-tune your testing and feedback processes

It’s one thing to talk about the importance of high standards for your products and services.

But it’s something completely different to create a culture centered around quality.

Yet that’s precisely your job as a leader!

Collaborate with your team so you’ve got robust testing and feedback processes. Encourage open and transparent communication where team members feel safe speaking up with their feedback, even when it isn’t pretty.

Additionally, emphasize the importance of learning from mistakes and iterating on your processes. Share your own stories of failures and how they helped you grow.

By setting an example of transparency and involving your team in the quality improvement process, you’ll create that all-important sense of ownership and shared responsibility. That’s key if you want a team dedicated to excellence and continuous improvement.

Quality is the foundation of successful businesses.

By focusing on quality, you can build a trustworthy brand, lower customer acquisition costs, and cultivate engaged employees. And I hope I’ve shared a few practical ways for you to prioritize quality with your team in the coming weeks.

Now, I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments: How will you prioritize quality and develop strategies to ensure it's always job #1 in your organization? Tag a colleague or friend whose ideas you’d like to hear.

Let's strive for excellence together and make quality our ultimate business plan!