Grow Your Business: The Power of Speed
In the early 1970s the car company, Chrysler, was struggling financially. Operational inefficiencies, skyrocketing costs, and mediocre products were dragging the company towards the brink of dissolution.
Enter Lee Iacocca. Iacocca was at Ford and courted heavily by Chrysler to come in and turn the company around. Throughout the late 70s and 80s he did just that. Part of the reason was his commitment to speed.
Legend has it, one day he was walking through the factory floor with some of the engineers when one of them pointed to a car (either the LeBaron or the Sebring, depending on whose version you believe) and said, “Wouldn’t that make a great convertible?”
Iacocca responded, “Well, go get a blowtorch and let’s cut the top off. We can drive it around and see if people look at it.”
That’s what they did, and the rest as they say, is history. A new convertible was born.
The lesson in all of this is the speed at which the decision was made. There were no focus groups, no committees, no high level meetings to discuss the merits of creating a convertible. There was just a man with a blowtorch and a commitment to speed.
Action > Planning
In general, taking swift, decisive action is going to get your further along and grow your business faster than spending a lot of time planning and strategizing. That isn’t to say that planning isn’t important, it is, but you can plan all you want to and still never get anywhere if you don’t put those plans into action.
I’ve also found that excessive planning can sometimes just be a form of procrastination. After all, if you never execute on an idea, you can’t fail…you can always just claim that you “haven’t launched yet.”
The trouble with this kind of thinking is that business is so variable that plans have a way of changing often throughout the process. Waiting to take action until everything is “perfect” is a surefire way to fail. Nothing will ever be perfect. Sometimes you just have to execute on imperfect ideas and make adjustments as you go. Like they say, being an entrepreneur is like jumping off a cliff and building your wings on the way down.
So, how do you take action and execute with speed? Here are 4 tips to help you get started…
4 Tips for Executing with Speed
1 - Run your business as a benevolent dictator. Unless you have partners who have a controlling share in your business, you shouldn’t run things like a democracy. It’s fine to get input from trusted employees, mentors, partners, etc. but at the end of the day, decisions are yours alone to make. Be bold and be decisive. More is lost by indecision than wrong decision.
What every business really needs is some old, curmudgeonly veteran of business stomping around and growling, “When are we going to ship this damn thing?!”
2 - Set hard deadlines for EVERYTHING. Every single task on your task list - no matter how seemingly trivial - should have a deadline. Whoever invented the deadline is a genius. It’s really the only way shit ever gets done. Hold your employees accountable for deadlines, but more importantly, hold yourself accountable for deadlines.
3 - Leverage others. Employees, partners, vendors…whoever can lend you help should be asked. You can’t do this alone and if you try you are going to move like a dinosaur. There’s just too much to be done and it needs to be done too quickly for you to let your ego get in the way. Delegate where you can, understand that the person assigned the task won’t do it exactly the way you would, and be ok with that. Oh, and make sure you give them a deadline.
4 - Make speed a part of your culture. Working quickly and efficiently should be an integral part of your company’s culture. From the highest executive to the lowliest mail clerk (do these even exist anymore?) speed should be a cornerstone of your business. Teach it, preach it, and most importantly, live it.
In Latin, there is a phrase, “memento mori” that loosely translates to “remember that you have to die.”
The Stoics throughout history have been extremely mindful of the fact that we are all going to die at some point. Seneca remarked, “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”
This obsession with getting things done and accomplishing the day’s work was done with a pure understanding of the finiteness of life. At the risk of sounding morbid, you will die someday. And that day will most likely come faster than we like to think. Instead of letting this fill your mind with fear, I would urge you to see it as a grand opportunity. You can’t control when you leave this earth, but you can control what you do with your life while you are here. Your time to create, to build something, to leave a legacy is short…make the most of it while you can.