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My old friend Debbi Fields, the creator and founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies, shared with me a terrific story about when she first created the iconic Mrs. Fields brand. “Cookie Lady,” as I’ve called her for decades, founded the Mrs. Fields Cookie Company in the late 1970’s with her first store in Palo Alto, California where she sold homemade-style cookies. Becoming a franchised brand early in the 1990s, she grew her chain of stores in retail strip centers, malls, airports, etc. to well over 1,000 units, which included Mrs. Fields locations in 22 countries and a thriving gift, catalogue and mail-order business.

Debbi shared with me the important lesson she learned while launching her first store. Tight on financial resources, Debbi cut corners and saved money producing her cookies using margarine instead of butter in her recipes. Margarine, a butter substitute, was significantly less in cost than real butter and so, her cost of goods sold was low. By the same token, her sales dropped dramatically due to a poor tasting product. Her reality was that cookies baked with margarine never tasted as good as those baked with the “real thing,” — butter.

She learned early in her entrepreneurial life that “butter is better!” When she changed her recipe back to a butter-base, sales, success and national acclaim sky-rocketed.

The lesson here is simple. Whether it be in baking, business or life, never compromise quality. Never trade down to less expensive ingredients.

There are so many product, program and service options available to customers and consumers today, business people often wonder whether or not quality still matters. The answer is an unequivocally, resounding “yes.” After all, quality isn’t just about offering a product, a program or a service that exceeds a standard or expectation, it also defines one’s reputation as a provider of value and a customer experience that is above and beyond.

It has been proven time and time again that providing quality products contributes greatly to maintaining customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Quality management, the act of overseeing all activities and tasks that must be accomplished to maintain a desired level of excellence, is a compelling imperative for success. It includes a definition of quality-centric policies, procedures, standards and practices. Also called “qualify control,” it represents the non-negotiable operating rules of an organization.

The quality of a product is typically measured in terms of performance, reliability and durability. It often differentiates an organization from its competitors. Quality products can ensure that a company will survive (and thrive) in a “cut throat,” highly competitive marketplace.

I repeat, “Whether it be in baking, business or life, never compromise quality.” Debbi Fields’ lesson on butter being better transcends baking and business. It is also a life lesson. It is hard to dispute the statement that quality people with quality attributes succeed.

One might ask, “What are some examples of ‘quality people?’” Search no more, dear reader, here are my answers.

Not in rank order of importance, the following represent my viewpoint of the traits and attributes of “quality people.”

• Quality people exhibit a positive energy that is contagious.

• Quality people are empathetic and care about others.

• Quality people are intuitive and are quick to understand.

• Quality people are passionate and enthusiastic.

• Quality people are good listeners and are always responsive.

• Quality people are great role models we can learn from.

• Quality people are kind, friendly, generous and considerate.

• Quality people are honest and have integrity.

• Quality people are responsible and capable of being trusted.

• Quality people are life-long learners and inquisitive.

• Quality people exhibit leadership traits and take the lead.

• Quality people are polite and respectful to others.

• Quality people are optimistic and have a positive attitude.

• Quality people are generous with their own belongings.

• Quality people work hard, smart and go the “extra mile.”

• Quality people are authentic and genuine.

• Quality people surround themselves with quality people.

• Quality people are brave and and courageous.

• Quality people are decisive and make fact-based decisions.

• Quality people are engaging and always encouraging.

• Quality people are goal setters and goal-oriented.

• Quality people are well-informed and knowledgeable.

• Quality people are humble and always exhibit humility.

• Quality people are inspiring and help others grow.

Whew! The list is long. The attributes listed are vast and I’m certain I’ve missed a few. Nonetheless, it should provide us a guide to all of the things we need to strive to become in our lives so we can be referred to and respected as a quality person.

When asked what the most important traits of a quality person were, philosopher Socrates replied, “…honesty, trust, kindness, empathy and consistency…”

We are all continual works in progress. Raising the bar on our own personal, as well as professional, quality is a journey, not a destination. English Victorian era writer John Ruskin said, “Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.”

Bake a cookie with margarine. Bake a cookie with butter. Place them side-by-side and taste the difference. There is no question… “Butter is better!”

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