There Are No Short Cuts

We all know lots of short cuts. We often seek them to get us to our goals faster, with less effort or expense. Often, they’re helpful, good things. On computers, these things can save time and energy. “Command+N” opens a new Safari tab on a Mac. Use “Control+C” instead of “copy” in Windows. And we all love short-cuts when we’re driving. These are paths that, almost magically, are shorter than the path normally taken, by avoiding traffic, taking a back-route, or finding the most direct path without delays.

But in business, there really are no short cuts. You just have to do the work. Period. In fact, when we try to cut corners or take a short cut, we often get burned – and end up needing more time, effort and energy to correct our mistakes and achieve our goals.

You can only coast going down-hill
There are times, when things are going smoothly and easily, that it’s ok to take things a little bit easy. To coast a bit. But there’s a big difference between taking it easy and taking the easy way out.

This is especially true in digital/on the web, where things are complex, and you rarely find yourself coasting down-hill. You simply can’t skip steps. Because the short cut you take may seem small, but end up meaning the difference between success and failure. Things like spending the right amount of time developing, implementing and testing your tagging strategy for your site and display ads, for example. Or developing and optimizing your landing page strategy. Skipping these steps will, indeed, shorten your upfront work – but will undoubtedly increase your back-end efforts, as well. Because they will likely lead to an under-performing program that requires major triage and optimization.

Do not cut corners
Sometimes we think we can get away with cutting a few corners, jumping ahead, getting from A to Z without going through the rest of the alphabet. This never works, in life or in business. Just like when a baseball player misses a base in order to speed up his path home, you’re likely to end up getting called “out”.

For example, there are search marketing and SEO tricks that might temporarily move you up in the search rankings. But they could also get you penalized, or even dropped from the search engine. It’s not worth it.

And how many companies have tried to sneak and cheat their way to social media success. By writing their own faux-consumer-generated blogs. By faking comments. By sticking themselves into the social conversation without actually achieving it.  These efforts are nearly always called out.

If it sounds too good to be true…
This old saying remains as true as ever – if something does sound too good to be true, it likely is. Like if someone tells you that they can create something “viral”– simply by making a video for your brand. As if that’s all it took! While there are a lot of intangibles in actually creating a “viral” hit, it certainly takes more than just calling it “viral” and putting it out there. If that’s all it took, there would be a lot more successes.

Short cuts sound appealing – i.e., “take me to the same place I’m going, but with less work.” But I’m here to tell you, they don’t work. And, believe it or not, they can end up taking even more time and work. The shortest cut? Just do the work.

What do you think? What are some examples you’ve seen of corner cutting and short cuts?


  1. Damage wrought by corner-cutting and short cuts? That’s easy. Anything floated or promoted by Karl Rove and his ilk. The riptide of Super-PAC funded mis/dis-information posted and consumed as “truth” brilliantly manipulates a couple hundred million our fellow, minimally-informed countrymen and women to “speak out” and fight to “take back” our country.
    The only thing we need to take back is our responsibility. The only thing we need to fight for is a modicum of fairness in both tax and health insurance reform. While we’re at it, can we start working on the restoration of integrity to the Supreme Court? And paying teachers something more than a fraction of their worth? Ah, but I’ve lapsed into the corner-cutting rant I’d hoped to avoid. Next, I’ll be wearing a parka during the summer and scribbling wisdom in a black and white composition notebook in dark corner of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
    Just don’t get me started on the global acceptance of PowerPoint as a valuable presentation medium. Now that’s something to get angry about. Thanks for asking, Michael!

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