Is Quality a Virtue?

“Virtue” by definition is a quality held to be of great moral value. “Quality” is defined by Webster as grade, degree of excellence. So do we, as consumers, hold high quality in high regard? The answer is resoundingly “Yes!” . . . if the price is right. Recent consumer surveys show that we found quality more important than “the right price” in 2008, but that price has overtaken quality as more important in 2009.

Do we, as craftsmen, deem high quality attainable? Funny, how we tend to expect more of others than of ourselves. When you tie a bow and don’t get it quite right, you just fluff it up and send it on. If you pick up a package pre-wrapped and see a bow that is askew, then you comment on the poor workmanship.

Now try telling a craftsman that his quality is questionable – you may as well tell him his Mama is ugly. To a craftsman, quality is close to integrity. You aren’t as likely to lie, cheat, steal if you think you are going to get caught. So then the burden of ensuring consistent high quality lies with top management. They have to constantly be looking and correcting – kindly, gently. It’s hard. . . and expensive. Not just using higher grade materials, but fixing the mistakes and healing egos.

As for me? I definitely think quality is important. Here at McKinley Leather, we strive to meet the highest standards possible. Yet, it is one of the hardest and most expensive things in production to control. We start with quality components that are sold by dependable and reputable suppliers, but you have to keep a careful eye because there are always a small amount of rejects. Thankfully, our suppliers work with us to help troubleshoot and resolve problems.

We work at figuring out how to make the best possible products at the leanest price available. We avoid the vantage point of trying to figure out what we can remove from our products to achieve a target price.

The end result? Not the most extravagant products on the market. But hopefully some of the best values out there. (Value, by the way, increased in importance during 2009!)