If you want to succeed: Go slow to go fast

A few years back, I was in an advanced driving class when the instructor brought up the concept of going slow to go fast — which is anything but obvious. In high-speed driving, what he meant was you need to enter the corner more slowly than you think to properly set up for the exit, which results in a higher average speed.  

Several decades earlier, in a competitive analysis class, the professor argued you need to initially go slow to make sure you have a solid plan before executing. Over the years, I’ve found that his premise — most people move to execution too quickly — is correct.  Put in simple terms, think of a race; if you start running before you determine where the finish line is, you’ll likely be running in the wrong direction, and the faster you go, the farther behind you’ll be. 

To drive this point home, let me recount events I’ve covered over the years that were catastrophic for the companies involved and could have been avoided had the decision-makers gone slow to go fast.

The restaurant supply company

This story was heartbreaking. A family-owned restaurant supply company that had become wildly successful wanted to expand, so it hired an ex-IBM sales exec as CEO who promised to grow them to market dominance. The issue with most executives in large companies is that their operational skills become out of date, and they don’t have enough breadth to understand all of the elements needed to do the CEO job. 

In this case, the new CEO — who knew nothing about the Restaurant Supply business — believed, as most sales execs I’ve met often do, that the way to grow a business is to hire more salespeople. And he took a quantity-over-quality approach, making the common mistake that a salesperson from one industry can do well in another. So, he staffed the company up with a massive sales staff. 

And he upped production to handle what he thought would be a significant increase in sales. But because the new sales staff didn’t understand the business (restaurant supply is generally relational and restaurants don’t easily switch suppliers unless there is a problem), revenue growth fell well behind the increase in those salespeople’s costs and premature orders.  Rather than growing the business, which had been very profitable, he bankrupted it in a year. The company no longer exists. 

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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