It seems the US economy has turned a corner. Well, if nothing else, at least we can see the corner now. I can tell because customers who wouldn't even consider spending money with us a year ago are now willing to have a conversation. But caution and uneasiness are still restrictive forces. People are hesitant to make decisions - even those decisions that have a clear benefit or a reasonable ROI.

I can understand the need for caution. Nobody wants to make the wrong move. But delaying can often be more damaging than making a choice that turns out to be less than 100% perfect. This is particularly true when you know that you will eventually be forced to make a decision whether you are ready or not.

Take Intelligent Mail Barcodes, for example. Unless the USPS changes its mind again, postage discounts for automated mail will only be granted to mailers that use the Full Service variety of IMB. Standard Service IMB and POSTNET will be retired.

Few organizations can afford to lose the discounts upon which their postage budgets are currently based. So they will need to find a way to utilize Full Service IMB. For some organizations, this will be a big change. Waiting until the fourth quarter of 2012 to decide what to do will put them at a disadvantage.

And yet, there are companies who today still don't feel they are ready to make that decision. I suggest they make a choice and get on with it. Even if it turns out that you want to change your approach somewhere down the road, you'll at least be preserving your postage discounts and accumulating valuable information that will help you be more confident about taking the next step.

The Cost of Waiting
Perfectionism in the document business is something we all seek to attain with every mailing. But there are times when the pursuit of perfection in other parts of the business gets in the way of progress. I've seen that happen time and again with some of my clients.

Taking the Risk Out of Decisions

1. Take advantage of trial offers or guarantees. Enter into short-term agreements at first if they are not too expensive.

2. Look for customer reviews or analyst opinions. Take advantage of your personal network and sites like LinkedIn or Twitter to solicit opinions.

3. Find an (unbiased) expert. An assessment of your current and desired conditions, along with a list of recommendations can expose you to the best alternatives.

Most often, clients feel that they haven't thoroughly investigated all their choices. Or they believe they can accomplish what needs to be done without any outside help. There is nothing wrong with that train of thought.

Unfortunately, what usually happens is that they are never able to make the time necessary to do that detailed analysis. Or they can't free up the internal resources necessary to take on the new project. Before they know it, they've gone several months without taking any action at all!

In the meantime, their competition may be taking advantage of the procrastination. Rivals may be developing new capabilities, aggressively increasing their market share, or raising awareness for their goods and services within the marketplace. Once a prospect or customer starts relying on your competitors for advice or information, once they start investigating alternatives to the products that you offer, it may be very difficult to bring them back into the fold.

Delaying necessary actions until you've analyzed the situation to death could turn out to be a costly mistake.

I'm not suggesting that anyone start making decisions about procedures, hardware, software, or postage without thinking it through. That would be irresponsible and it could get you fired. But I am suggesting that making a choice that has a high probability of creating the desired result is often possible without assessing the impact of every little detail.

Something to consider about the document printing and mailing business today is that the future is somewhat uncertain. There are a lot of variables that could affect the viability of decisions that are made today about document operations. Postal service standards and delivery networks, digital postal delivery channels, mobile technology, postage rates, social networking, demographics, mail volume decreases, government regulation, global economic conditions, and environmental concerns are just a few of the issues that could alter the way you do business over the next few years. No one can really predict how trends, technologies, or events will change how we create and distribute information in the future.

So making the best decisions based on what you know today, keeping your options open, and understanding the necessity of flexibility may be the most appropriate strategy for document operations managers right now.

Trust Yourself
As a small business owner, I have to make lots of decisions. I am almost never really sure of the right choice. But I've got to make those decisions. I do a reasonable amount of research and then make up my mind. Curiously, I've found that the decisions I make after succumbing to my perfectionist tendencies aren't any better than the ones I make with much less stress and anguish. And making progress is always more satisfying than having lots of loose ends.

When you can make a decision where the rewards outweigh the risks, and you're reasonably sure it is the right move, put perfectionism aside and take some steps towards progress.

Mike Porter is a reformed perfectionist and President of Print/Mail Consultants; a consulting firm that helps print and mail facilities maximize their potential. Get more thoughts about document operations by subscribing to the free newsletter, "Practical Stuff" at