Why speed is of the essence in business decisions

27 November 2014 -


Often, entrepreneurship is more like a sprint than a chess game. But there is much less fear attached to moving fast than you may think – and many more opportunities to seize

Michael Jacobsen

If you achieve a reputation for speed and urgency in business, you will be amazed at how it repays you by delivering fast rewards.

Speed is often associated with irresponsibility – especially in management – but I would argue the reverse is true. Moving fast allows you to take opportunities you might otherwise miss. It minimises the costs of ongoing problems, and instils passion and urgency into your staff. But it is more than a nice extra; it is essential – because if you don't act quickly, your customers will go somewhere else and your life and business will stall. If you have to do something, do it immediately. And then get on with the next important goal on your list.

In business, we have many decisions to make each day, and they need to be made fast and then acted upon fast. For some people, making decisions is a long, torturous process. However, in my experience you’re better off making a decision – and taking the risk of making the wrong one – than procrastinating, “sitting on the fence” or, worse still, deferring the decision to “another day”.

People who attract profit make speedy decisions involving millions of dollars. To an outsider, they may seem irresponsible, because it doesn't appear to be a “considered” decision. Those successful people realise, though, that nothing in life is perfect, and that you may have to make a decision based upon limited or imperfect information. The world’s leading entrepreneurs realise that decision making is “perfectly imperfect”.

With hindsight, your decision may turn out to be the wrong one. But most decisions will help you move forward to a new position in the business environment. In business, inertia is unacceptable.

Speed: your greatest friend

If we fail, and the outcome is a lesson on how not to do something, then failure is there to make us better, wiser, smarter, more cautious – or even more adventurous.

Be realistic about failure, and you’ll see that it is a tremendous opportunity. Most successful people have “failed” many times, yet they see it positively and bounce back from it. Failing gives you the information you need to do better.

Most “eureka moments” come after years of trying to solve a problem, and failing. The great philosophers, scientists and entrepreneurs of history often spent most of their lives failing. Yet their ability to learn from their failures has literally created the world we live in today. So if failure is just a way to learn, it makes sense to fail fast.

Failure is a wonderful catalyst for change – which is something that most people are fearful of.

The anxiety that comes with failure provides successful entrepreneurs with the clarity to see what needs to be changed, and the courage to accept it. Stepping out of our comfort zone to deal with a problem is an important step towards attracting success.

Countering “rabbit in the headlights” syndrome

At some stage in business, though, you may find that you freeze, are unable to make a decision, and feel afraid of where you’re going.

When fear-based thinking dominates, you can’t operate at the right vibration. Fear changes how you operate, and how your business operates. It damages your the organisational culture, and undermines your broader Vision of the business.

You feel trapped because you don’t know what the right action is. Which implies that first, you must find the knowledge you need in order to act.

That may mean learning under pressure, and taking action on incomplete information. But just like in the military, in business that is sometimes necessary. Taking positive action and making better decisions is what it’s all about. If that means you’ve got to learn something fast, so be it. Once you commence, you will find it most liberating – and a path you will want to stay on forever.

Michael Jacobsen is author of The Business of Creativity. His background is in the global entertainment business – most famously as founding co-producer of Dirty Dancing: the Classic Story on Stage.

For further hints and tips on making the most of your entrepreneurial skills, sign up to this forthcoming CMI seminar SMEs: Taking Your Business Forward.

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