Monday, December 17, 2007


When my dad helped crescendo California Analytical Laboratories in the early 80s, he coined a rallying cry: [We are] The Best Mother Fucking Lab. The fridges were stocked with beer, Mick and the boys melodied through the halls, and hippies-turned-chemists cranked out water, soil and air samples, riding the Super Fund wave on their route to catapulting CAL Labs public. Life was good. The license plate on my dad’s Toyota pickup truck was the exclamation point.

Aside from being obviously profane and devilishly in your face (the DMV’s license plate police failed to translate the acronym), BMF – to me, with 20 years of hindsight – was a genuine call to trump mediocrity. Being good, great, or just another analytical lab did not suffice. CAL Labs was the best.

If memory serves, I wrote a few weeks ago about great being the enemy of good. Good enough is, when you’re starting a company or trying to launch a product, often the answer; you do not have enough oxygen, time, or capital to be great. Get it out there, emerge and adapt. Being the best will come if you have the courage to point your tips downhill (destination unknown) and traverse the mountain.

But it’s scary, especially if you’re used to having the answers: Clear visibility and calculable calculus are preferable to blizzard-blocked vision and uncertainty. I live this daily, the quest for certainty, clarity and known knowns. It’s a Pollyannic place.

Jackson Browne phrased it aptly in Red Neck Friend:

Come on and take my hand
I may not have the answer but I believe I got a plan
The Oh shit, we may fail, we do not have the answer bemoan of Eyeores is a cry for mediocrity. If you aspire to be the BMF at whatever you endeavor, you set forth with a plan. The answers will come, perhaps perpetuated in metal.


Anonymous said...

Good thought - I like the observation of 'good enough' (don't worry be crappy) as a phase one leading to 'getting to great' (BMF) as one builds. Getting to great is a discipline.


Mike at UCD said...

Ah the good old days!

FYI - I was at a retreat with my current co-workers a month or so ago and we were discussing the vision we wanted for our lab. I recounted the BMF lab story as a vision that had been quite successful for one of my previous employers. They're working on the vision statement now and I think they got the idea. Haven't been able to get them to include "BMF lab" as part of the statement, though. ;-)

Sure do miss Charlie.