Things I Wish Somebody Would Have Told Me About Exhibiting

#6  Good, Fast, Cheap.  Pick any two. vs. Value

In project management, there is a tool known as “the project management triangle”.  This triangle is used to show the opposition encountered between a project’s quality, time and cost.

The project management triangle’s meaning is very easily understood when it occasionally shows up on a succinct office sign that say “Good.  Fast.  Cheap.  Pick any two.”  I saw this sign the first time — almost 20 years ago — and will admit to having one permanently hanging in my office. It’s a great reminder of one of the inevitable glitches of managing trade show exhibits: last minute challenges.

This saying is a good maxim to pass on to your internal stakeholders who may be helping you procure services and products for your upcoming shows.  Work with your show team to clearly communicate your timelines for production and shipping, and make it clear that missed deadlines and last-minute changes and add-ons will result in charge-backs to their departmental budget.  It’s amazing how this tactic curtails a lot of these surprise requests!

As much as we plan, Murphy’s Law (or Adams Law of Exhibiting — see my 7/23 blog post) will kick in, and something will slip through a crack, or change, or need to wait for an exhibit-critical decision to be made.  And all of these can cause budget-busting expenses.  Three of the biggest budget busters I encounter are procrastination-based:  last-minute changes to exhibit properties, rush charges for graphics production and last-minute shipping are three of the biggest budget busters.

Another place that this saying is important is knowing when asking for “fast” will result in rush and late charges from your product and service vendors.  I’ve worked with vendors who charged double for anything with less than 5-working days notice, and triple for anything under 2 working days. And, on the other hand, I’ve had vendors who don’t increase rates unless they incur overtime charges for inside work or if their outside subcontractors up-charge them.

When it comes down to our “get-it-done” bottom line, remember that the lowest-cost (a.k.a. “cheap”) provider is not always the best option, especially for last minute purchases. Writer Oscar Wilde cautioned against being the “man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  Keep in mind that there will be times when the loyalty of a long-time vendor, who may not be the least expensive, will pay off exponentially.

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