Why your start-up needs to slow down

It was Mahatma Gandhi who once famously said, “There’s more to life than increasing its speed.”

And his observation applies to business as much as it applies to life. Businesses that have the most success are the ones willing to take the time to slow down and think about what they are doing.

This is borne out by an Economist Intelligence Unit study that found companies who slowed down made, on average, 40% more sales and 52% higher profits than companies who had set getting faster and faster their main priority.

So what aspect of your start-up will benefit from you slowing down?

Understanding the difference between operational speed and strategic pace

Companies that have slowed down and seen great success, have understood the key differences between;

  1. Operational speed, and
  2. Strategic pace

When professionals refer to operational speed, they are describing how things just get done in the organisation. Companies who focus more on operational speed continually look for the corners they can cut and the initiatives to embrace that will give them an ‘faster to market’ edge over the competition.

Conversely, the companies that focused on strategic pace are the ones that focused on requiring less time to deliver value, but were not afraid to slow down and make sure that the progress was continuing along the appropriate track.

These companies took the time to analyse and refine their value proposition for their products and services; ensured that those met the real needs of customers; and validated authentic alignment to actual experience.

Imagine for a moment a flock of geese. When the geese are migrating, the bird who has to fly at the front breaks the air for those that follow. That takes energy and effort. The flock will naturally rotate the lead bird to share the load, and the flock goes further, faster as a result. There’s a coherence in a flock of birds, an understanding, a system. They have harnessed strategic pace.

Companies who are successful with their strategic pace will have the same coherence and understanding throughout the team. Everyone will understand and support the overall objective, and the strategies in place will be oriented towards achieving these goals.

By treading lightly and travelling at a strategic pace, the company will be amazed at the progress they can make.

The value of a ‘strategic pace’ approach

Companies who focus excessively on operational speed are the ones who tend to make demands, followed by explanations of, “Just do it!

These managers do not take the time to explain why. Their sole priority is meeting deadlines to ensure that the work is done and they are left blameless. They do not seem to give priority to aligning the work to the organisations goals and values, they just want everything to be done at an ever increasing pace.

This environment and mindset can be detrimental to employee improvement and to the customer experience. Consider when the most learning takes place – when employees take the time to think back and review how a particular project went and how it can be improved. When the company is in a perpetual rush, there is no time for this crucial evaluation.

This strategy also assumes that the only advantage for a company arises from doing things faster than the competitor. Since the company does not take the time to see how their work aligns with customer needs, they do not continue to provide the quality customer experience that people seek as those needs change.

A strategically paced goal will give the company the tools it needs to be responsive to its customers and its employees to enable growth and success.

Developing a strategic paced centred strategy

As a start-up you have the opportunity to build your company anyway you’d like, so decide, right from the start, to build one that has a strategic speed strategy. To do so you will need to focus on the three following areas:

  • Deep Listening
  • Open Learning
  • Effective Re-skilling

Strategically paced companies understand that alignment and clarity are essential for success, so they strive to get everyone on the same page. With everyone in the company travelling along the path together, when mistakes do happen, there is no blame to hide from and everyone is ready to support and catch everyone else.

Since the time needed to build trust, clarity, and understanding has already been taken, everyone feels more comfortable working together and giving each other the confidence they need to succeed. Building that environment alone can help improve profits and the employee experience.

A study conducted by Daniel Goleman showed that by improving the climate for employees, companies could boost performance by up to 33 percent.

Creating an environment where employees can rely on each other, trust each other, and do meaningful work that includes self improvement helps to harness this trait. Improving the employee experience will also allow companies to improve the customer experience, as employees are the face of the company.

Good leadership is vital for success

New businesses seeking to implement a more effective strategic speed plan should be aware of the significance of solid leadership. This leadership should involve strong and open communication that is also willing to listen to innovative ideas about how to improve.

The leadership should be concerned with the end goal of the organisation and how the goals and the processes line up with the company values.

General Motors is an excellent example of a company who uses strong leadership and good communication to improve the business. The director of planning and strategic initiatives for the brand, Nick Pudar, has said that whenever he begins to consider a new initiative, he begins by meeting with all of those who will be involved and discussing with them their goals, their planned actions, and the contributions they will need from other teams.

By including those who are involved with the initiative in the initial conversation, Pudar and General Motors vastly improve the alignment within the organisation.

The improved alignment helps these transitions go more smoothly and makes it easier and more efficient to correct any inconsistencies that arise. By taking the time to ensure that the team is united, they can improve effective speed and production where it matters.

The same principles apply to all businesses from start-ups to multinationals

Although General Motors is a large, well-established company – the principles still apply to start-ups, no matter how big or small.

There is more to business than just increasing speed. By treading lightly and finding the optimal strategic pace, organisations will increase their sales and their profits.

When you take the time to reflect on what needs to be done you’ll adapt at the right time and do the right things, you’ll addresses the needs of customers and employees, coherently.

By remembering to listen and learn from what you hear, along with organisational leadership and communications, you can avoid the hamster wheel of organisational speed and optimise your time with strategic pace. After all – isn’t that partly why you started a business in the first place?

About the Author

This guide has been written for ByteStart by William Buist, the owner of Abelard Collaborative Consultancy, and founder of the xTEN Club – an annual programme of strategic activities for business owners. William is also author of, ‘At your fingertips’ and ‘The little book of mentoring’.

More start-up help from ByteStart

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