[Guest post by Ian Sanders, who has posted here before. He is an author, ideas guy, and marketing expert. His new book, co-written with David Sloly, is Zoom! The Faster Way To Make Your Business Idea Happen (published by Financial Times Prentice Hall). See more at www.iansanders.com.]
When I was researching my new book Zoom!, I got in touch with Tom to get his take on the essential ingredient for success. Despite all the demands on Tom’s time, he sent me a reply just a couple of days later.
Tom’s speed of response was echoed by a line in his email: “I’ve only learned one thing in 40 years of business: ‘He who tries the most stuff the fastest wins.'”
This was music to my ears. Being rapid in business has a bad press. If you’re launching a business fast or turning an idea into reality in days not weeks, people assume that by fast-tracking, quality suffers. Not so. Speed is the factor that can make a difference in the marketplace, speed can beat the competition, speed can get you customers.
Because it’s not having the idea that wins; it is—of course—about how quickly you execute. Software start-ups have known this for a long time, where in the long tail of the apps market, developers make their products fit for purpose and launch early, rather than wait until they’re perfect. “Fit for purpose” means while it’s still a prototype, you’re shipping a product of value—it has to do its job, solve the problem, fix the headache. Getting it out early, listening to user feedback, and making adaptations as you go keep you ahead of the competition.
Speed is a business lesson that any organisation can learn; it’s not just for start-ups. Whether it’s a product launch or a new division being started, making it happen fast is critical. Too many organisations get so stuck in internal procedures they lose focus on just getting it done. Ideas are mulled over in meetings, those meetings run overtime, and decisions get carried over to the next month. What would have been a brilliant, “WOW” idea if it was launched in 10 or 30 days becomes weak when it is finally launched, diluted, 100 days later. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Venture capitalist and former chief evangelist of Apple Guy Kawasaki backs this up. When I spoke to him for Zoom!, Guy said that making your business happen fast is about shipping your product to real life customers. “I’m not saying you should ship a piece of crap: you should ship something great. But if you try to ship something great that is perfect, you’re going to take too long. You’ll learn more about your product in the first week after shipping than 52 weeks thinking about and studying and doing focus groups.”
So whatever business you’re in, try thinking like a software company and apply speed to make your idea happen. It’s better to launch “in beta” rather than to procrastinate and get stuck in business planning. Or should that be ‘business guessing”—after all, who knows what will happen in five years’ time? The idea that launches fastest is the one that succeeds; “done” is often better than “perfect.”
Don’t be one of those people who had a great business idea but got beaten to launch. Put your foot on the accelerator and make it happen: give it some Zoom!