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The Risk/Speed Success Factor

Joe Calloway, CSP

Be Bold. Be Fast. The Risk/Speed Success Factor

In the 1800's ice harvesting was a thriving business. Companies would harvest
huge blocks of ice from frozen lakes in New England and ship them to locations around the world. Business was booming.

But then someone figured out how to make ice in factories, and that was the end of the ice harvesting business. And refrigeration, in turn, pretty much eliminated ice factories.

The amazing thing is that not one ice harvesting business was able to make the evolution to manufacturing ice in factories and on to refrigeration. The moral of the story is simple: some species evolve - some die out.

The great temptation of success is to not change. Too many people in business think that stability means not changing, especially when business is good. Years ago that might have been true, but in today's marketplace not changing - not taking a risk - is the riskiest thing you can do.

Stability today is found in movement, much like a child's top - it's only stable and upright as long as it's spinning. Jack Welch once said that "If the rate of change outside your organization is ever greater than the rate of change inside your organization - it's over."

Success today is a very temporary state of being. Success is redefined from moment to moment. T.C. Tu of Taiwan's Institute For Information Technology said that "Success used to depend on making the right choice. But today success depends on being flexible to move from one right choice to the next right
choice quickly enough."

"Whenever you see a successful business,
someone made a courageous decision."
- Peter Drucker

The old cliché is true: The riskiest thing you can do is to try and play it safe.

Risk + speed creates a competitive advantage. And if you take risk, you do so knowing full well that not everything you try will work. Not every new product will be a hit in the marketplace. But every successful company must keep moving forward with new products for one very important reason: to keep from becoming a commodity.

Product development must be constant and it must be fast. Speed to market has never been more critical. Relative parity in technology and a hyper-competitive business environment means that whatever edge you gain in product will be short lived. Your competition is right behind you with every move you make.

You don't have to be first to market every single time with every single product. But you must sustain forward movement with a never-ending stream of product, ideas, and innovation. He who hesitates truly is lost in a world in a market that is more demanding every day.

Roger Mowen is the chief information officer at Eastman Chemical Co., a $4.6 billion manufacturer of plastics, chemicals, and fibers. You might say that Eastman is a giant in a "slow industry", but it's a giant that is learning that speed has become a survival skill.

Mowen says "I'm on a mission to change the culture of Eastman. I'm teaching people to become comfortable with executing 80% of solutions quickly, rather than waiting until we've answered every question to the third decimal point."

What Mowen and his colleagues have discovered in terms of customer satisfaction is that corporate buyers have changed just like consumers. As Mowen puts it "Once one of our business customers has bought a book from Amazon.com or entered an auction on eBay, they want to do business with us in the same way. No matter how fast we go, we have to be one step ahead of them."

No aspect of the "Rules of Business" has changed like the customers' expectation in terms of speed. And no business has experienced this change more than the financial services industry.

Even as far back as 1986, First American Corporation's (Nashville, Tennessee - now AmSouth) annual report stated that "our competition isn't just other banks. Our competition is the fast food restaurnt that serves food in seconds and the gas pump that takes your credit card - our competition is everyone who delivers their product or service with speed."
 

Joe Calloway, Professional Speaker, Building customer focused organizaions.
Joe Calloway

A Fortune Magazine article on "Today's Tough New Customer" said

"Whether you sell $100 million planes or 79 cent pens, your buyers have changed enormously in the past few years. Their demands are lengthening; their patience is shrinking. Shifts in the economy have given them a sultan's power to command exactly what they want, the way they want it, and especially when they want it. You'll either provide it or vaporize."

You have to always think about what you are doing that worked yesterday that you must let go of in order to make room for what will work tomorrow. The reality today is that there is no such thing as "holding" your position in the market. You are either moving forward or losing ground. If you're not changing - you're losing ground.

In the early 1960's the United States of America was losing in the race to explore outer space. Russia's Sputnik program was producing a string of successful efforts, while our own space program was experiencing tremendous difficulties.

President John Kennedy saw that to move the program forward we must take a risk and move fast. He surprised everyone, even many in NASA, by declaring that "we will send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of this decade". It was an audacious and incredibly risky strategy, and one that ultimately set the United States on a path of success. Kennedy knew that "tweaking" the program wouldn't do the job - we had to take a risk and we had to move fast.

Great companies favor the opportunity of movement. Mediocre companies favor the false security of the status quo.

"Statistically, 100% of the shots you don't take don't go in."
- Wayne Gretzsky
 


Joe Calloway speaks on how great companies take performance to the next level and just keep getting better.  
Like to know more about Joe?
 

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