Speed Kills When Scaling Up

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On December 6, 2019

Speed up BusinessShould You Speed Up or Slow Down to Scale Your Business?

There is a common misconception among leaders who are trying to scale up their businesses. It’s often assumed that if you plan to get bigger, you immediately have to do things faster. And while speed—especially in areas such as production and cash flow—can be critical issues as you scale up, that doesn’t mean you should rush into things as you plan to scale up. The opposite is often the case. Speed kills when scaling up.

The Difference Between Urgency and Speed

Sometimes business leaders confuse urgency and speed—but they aren’t the same thing. Urgency is priority-driven. It’s about focusing on the most important things. Speed may or may not be required. It’s better to take some time to make sure you’re doing the right thing than plowing full-speed ahead and doing the wrong things quickly.

Why is Speed Sometimes Dangerous?

Being nimble is business is a big topic these days. Companies need to be able to react and adapt to changing markets. But being nimble (or quick) is different than going too fast. Sometimes business leaders feel like they need to jump on a new opportunity immediately in order to beat competitors to the punch (and thereby gaining market share). Sometimes, that can work. Trends, however, can be tricky things. There have been a lot of hot new ideas that were really nothing more than smoke. Rushing into something because it appears to be a great opportunity can be costly. Can you really afford to commit resources (time, personnel, cash, etc.) to something you haven’t thought through? Successful businesses run marathons—not sprints.

How Does Slowing Down Help You to Scale Up?

Scaling businesses do learn how to be more efficient and effective. They generally are quicker and nimbler than their competitors. But it’s not because they are fast (or hasty). It’s because they slowed down and took the time to think through essential elements of their businesses.

  • Vision: Take time to be sure that the vision you have for your company is solid. Yes, you want to be bold—and even have a Big Hairy Audacious Goal that will set you apart from the competition. But make sure it’s a vision that’s sustainable and worthy of the discipline it will require.
  • Strategy: Your vision alone won’t get you where you want to go. Take the necessary time to think through the specifics of what you’ll need to do to accomplish your objectives. How will you deal with competition? What contingencies do you need to have in place? What part does timing play in the probability of your success?
  • People: Don’t be in a hurry to fill key positions. Keep in mind that your goal isn’t to but “butts in the seats” but to hire the right people for the job. You’ll also want to take the time to figure out which key roles to fill first.
  • Processes/Execution: This is where the rubber hits the road. Having the best vision and strategy and staff won’t matter if you don’t execute your plan well. Part of that involves having metrics in place that measure your progress. When it’s time to act, make sure your employees know exactly what’s expected of them—and that there are specific metrics in place to measure progress.
  • Cash: I repeatedly mention a comment from Verne Harnish that talks about how nothing sucks cash faster than growth. Taking the time to make sure you have a good handle on your cash flow is absolutely critical for scaling up your business. Rushing this process can cost you your business. It doesn’t do you any good to (quickly) grab market share if you’re not in a financial position to hold onto it.

There was a classic Academy Award-nominated musical entitled: Stop the World, I Want to Get Off! Sometimes business leaders wish they could “stop the world” while they’re working on transforming and scaling up their companies. Of course, it doesn’t work that way.