Speed is of the Essence

In business, it is always important to react to changing circumstances and this has never been more true than in 2020. Regular readers will know that I have written a lot this year about adapting and pivoting but this week I wanted to look at something that can be an aspect of that but also has an impact on most other aspects of business – speed.

In any normal year speed is of the essence in so many aspects of business. But 2020 has been no normal year and speed has been even more important in so many more ways than in any other year. But as well as adapting and pivoting, in what other areas in business is speed so important?

Speed is crucial right from the very beginning. The difference between a wantrepreneur and an entrepreneur is that a wantrepreneur talks the talk, and seems to want to get the business started, but takes forever to do so or never actually gets started. But an entrepreneur actually gets on with things quickly and makes it happen. They take real steps to turn their ideas into reality and do so as quickly as possible.

Different types of business have different characteristics and speed is more important in some sectors than in others. Nowhere is speed more important than in the technology sector or businesses using technology in some meaningful way. Some founders seem to constantly want to perfect their technology to make it perfect before launch, but often because the speed of change in technology is so fast it is never quite perfect, and as such it ends up never quite getting launched. The best way to test such a product once it has reached a certain stage is with real customer feedback and this is only possible after launch.

Another reason that speed is so important in anything to do with technology is that if you do not get your new product or service to market as soon as possible and gain first mover advantage, or at least early mover advantage, then your business might be dead before it starts. Your competitor could overtake you and beat you to market and make a large land grab that will make your own business so much more difficult or, indeed, totally unviable. That is, the failure to act quickly is almost the same as failing to act at all.

More fundamentally, and whatever the business, it is always important to monitor the performance of the business and compare it with forecasts and expectations. Any variance should be investigated, especially if it is underperformance, and action taken. Crucially, it is important that action is taken quickly in order to ensure that any problems are rectified as soon as possible.

Just as important is the need to constantly improve your product or service, as well as to monitor the competition and react to changes and improvements in theirs. In business, if your company is not moving forward at least at the same pace as your competition then it is, of course, in effect going backwards. Speed of product development and getting new product to market as soon as possible is imperative. 

However old each of us are we will all agree that the world is changing at an ever faster pace. That is not just perception as each of us age, but it is true. Spurred on by ever greater technology and the ease of communication, advances come more rapidly year on year. But even allowing for that general rise, there is no doubt that the events of 2020 have made events speed up even more. For good or bad, there has been a very marked move towards a cashless society, online shopping, video conferencing, working from home and all that that implies, and so much more. Those companies that are able to react quickly enough, and to preferably lead the changes, are the ones that are best able to compete in business in 2020.

It has always been important in business to be a market leader and to be ahead of the curve rather than a market follower and behind the curve, but 2020 has proven beyond any doubt that speed really is of the essence.