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Why 'average' is just another word for 'mediocre'

There are many words that can be considered as synonyms for commonly used terms, and most of the time their interchangability is not a problem. However, when we ask clients to comment on the performance of their maintenance department, the reply is often, "We're about average".

Without realising it, the client has just admitted that they are happy with a mediocre performance, and here is why.

Look up 'average' in a thesaurus. The companion words are 'ordinary', 'passable', 'humdrum', and 'nowhere'.  'Average' is the middle point between the best and the worst. Average means you don't stand out in the crowd; you don't look any different to most of the marketplace, and your performance is bettered by almost half your competitors. If you think about it, 'mediocre' is a much more accurate description than 'average'.

Now, if you are a manufacturer or supplier of FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods), then you may have a little more lee-way, but one thing is certain; there are no 'average' Fortune 500 companies. You can be forgiven for thinking that being somewhere near the top of your market is enough to earn a decent living, and you are probably correct, but I bet your competitors are not standing still.

Let's look at an example.

Apparently, professional tennis players only have to be ranked in the top 100 to earn a very comfortable living. Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who could be classified over the past few years as little better than 'average' for a professional tennis player, has improved his rankings by an extraordinary 28% (from 60 to 43), by improving his performance in just one competition (Brisbane International 2013). Now I realise that those of you who follow tennis will claim that I have grossly over-simplified the facts and the amount of effort Hewitt committed to, and of course you would be correct, but the principle still applies: small gains above average can produce amazing results.

In an industry where 80% of your income is coming from only 20% of your customers, delivering mediocre services is a recipe for business decline and ultimately financial ruin. Imagine the improvement to your bottom line if you could increase net profit by just 5% of sales. On a half million annual turn-over, that's $25,000. If you are thinking that it's too hard to improve your bottom line by a few percent, you will be amazed to learn that it's actually easier to make a far larger improvement than a small one.


Investing in a suitable CMMS/EAM application that allows you to control your workflow, keep every workman fully occupied, highlight profitable jobs types, decrease inventory of little-used parts, and ensuring no job goes un-invoiced is a sure-fire way to make this happen. Consider this. If you spent the first year's increase in net profit of the above example ($25,000), you would have an ROI (Return On Investment) of one year. After five years, the extra $100,00 would make the $25K expenditure seem like a smart move, and it gets even better. A properly implemented 
CMMS/EAM will increase your return each year, making the original investment seem like a drop in the bucket.

So, what's it to be? Mediocre or Outstanding?

Posted by Mark Chimes
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