June 26th, 2012
07:05 PM ET

Letters to the President #1254: 'Quality'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama every day, and I have done so since he was inaugurated. He has yet to complain.

Dear Mr. President,

Have you seen "Brave," the new animated movie? Magnificent! The artwork, the story, the character development, the direction…all absolutely wonderful. The rendering of the fur on the animals, and the hair on the humans is particularly noteworthy. I have been a big fan of fine animation for years, so I speak from some experience: This is a masterpiece. If you have not checked it out yet, you and the family ought to trot down to the Georgetown multiplex and give it a look.

Truth be told, you should see it for more than the entertainment value, because it is also an excellent reminder of what true quality can be. Sometimes I think one of the key problems in our economy has been a long, sloppy slide by too many American firms away from the concept of offering quality first. Too many firms, I suspect, have focused too much on cutting costs, maximizing profits, and marketing instead of on quality.

There’s nothing wrong with considering such matters, of course, but they are often more about short term gains. Could this brilliant movie have been made cheaper by cutting corners, using cheaper talent, and rushing the production schedule to contain wages? Sure. And maybe it would have been the same film. But I doubt it.

Quality is about values; about companies and individuals asking themselves, “What do we value most?” In the case of Pixar, I think they value making great movies. And they know if they do that, the profits will come. Turn that equation around: focus on profit first and good movies second, and I think you wind up with a very different result.

The problem is, when companies are afraid of declining revenues, layoffs, and losing market share, it is easy for them to think quality is a luxury they can’t afford. To the contrary: Focusing on quality is the way out…it is the safety rope…it is one of the best ways we can not merely turn our economy around, but also built it into something much stronger than it was.

Hope all is good for you. Call if you can.


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