The Speed of Business

You’ve left home with your family headed to the mountains for a week of cool weather, hiking and water sports. It’s a long trip but one you’ve done many times and there’s never any traffic this time of the week. Your family’s excited and happy, as are you, knowing that good times are only a matter of hours away.

And then WHAM you’re in a traffic jam, the river of cars backing up the highway for hours, laying waste to the good vibe everyone was feeling. What was once predictable has become unpredictable and costly in terms of time, money and morale.

Highways are apt analogies for businesses. Some highways handle more volume at higher speeds than others, by design. Traffic on highways flows smoothly most of the time – until it doesn’t. How do you build a business for high throughput and high velocity, and what do you do when the flow is disrupted, jeopardizing revenue, profits and your relationship with your customers?

It starts with the discipline of rapid decision-making. When faced with choices or challenges, with what speed can you complete due diligence, make a decision, and implement it? Measure business velocity: the number of high-impact decisions made per period of time. A good decision imperfectly executed will always trump the perfect decision never implemented. Place a premium on making decisions rapidly, in line with your business objectives. Some will be brilliant, some will be turkeys, but you’ll learn from the latter and the ones that succeed will increase the speed of your business.

If something’s happened to disrupt the flow of your business (e.g., loss of a key employee) the tendency is to consider it a temporary set-back. Think again: until the event that has disrupted your business is resolved, it’s your highest priority. Getting the offending vehicle off the highway is the only way to re-establish normal traffic flow: tackling the unexpected business challenge through concrete, high-priority actions is the only way to restore business flow. Quickly identify the root causes of business disruption, prioritize solutions and tackle them. Resolve to have a plan of action in place within 48 hours of a major disruption so your business can resume its speed.

Customers love speed. By the time they contact your business they’re 60% - 70% of the way through the sales process. They’ve researched you and your competitors online. They expect quick, clear answers and they hate repeating themselves (don’t make them provide the same information twice!). Responsiveness from you and follow-through are more important than ever, whether it’s in the sales or servicing. A competitive substitute for your business is only a click away.

Money loves speed. Improve your ability to target your ideal prospects with compelling offers. Maintain high levels of focused activity in your sales process. Cut delivery times and keep invoicing and receivables current. Pursue continuous improvement of your business’s systems and processes in order to increase efficiency, productivity and throughput at every level. If disruptions recur it’s likely your business processes are flawed and you’ll need to rethink your business model. It’s a big decision, yes, but one that cannot be deferred.

And remember, procrastination is the enemy of speed. Procrastination increases business risk because it can result in deferring revenues and expense reductions, or leaving known problems unresolved. Make “Do it now” your daily mantra and accelerate the speed of business.

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