Business, Fast and Slow18th March 2019
Anyone that recoils at the thought of racing 26-odd miles to complete a London Marathon and yet finds themselves darting a few metres to try and catch a bus twice a week will know what I mean.
There’s running. And there’s running.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that these two models of physical endeavour shouldn’t command the same terminology; verbs are defined by their parameters as much as their action.
Closing a door and closing a door so hard that the neighbours wake up are two very different things. Just as remembering what you just said quickly or slowly will markedly change how you feel about your wellbeing.
Businesses are too often defined by passive statements: When it launched, who its clients are, where it is based. These measurements are valuable but sit idle while the people that inhabit the business reinvent it each and every morning they step into their offices.
Businesses are better described by how they operate. And especially by the pace that this how reverberates between working hours.
An urgent operation, answerable to regular demands throughout the day, will look unlike a business that creates a tangible output once a quarter. And so it should. Like a plant in a persistent wind, businesses inevitably bend to their clients’ needs and expectations, especially when they’re growing.
Can an enterprise be both quick and slow, successfully and simultaneously? Two factors suggest otherwise:
1. Urgent demands tend to blare a few decibels louder than those that can wait until tomorrow. Decision makers can be forgiven, amongst the noise that any job creates, for misinterpreting the loudest voice for the most important. And nothing will look more alien to someone working towards an annual target than a herd of co-workers oscillating between different targets all the while losing time and focus on the main objectives
2. Recruiting, training and – crucially – rewarding team members that pound through activities, or plod along towards longer-term goals, relies on disparate approaches. Housing someone that warrants an hourly high five next to an individual that cannot prove discernible progress from one week to the next is likely to disorientate both workers
"Businesses inevitably bend to their clients’ needs and expectations, especially when they’re growing"
There are means to achieve it, of course. A large firm that relies on logistics must be reactive yet maintain strategic functions that depend on deep-thinking and abide to far-reaching visions in order to remain competitive. I’d wager they do this by separating those teams in numerous ways to solve the issues outlined above.
Alternatively, if either physical or cultural space cannot be ceded, then agencies can offer a viable partner, set to a different tempo. Non-Executive Directors might not provide such consistent support but will provide an alternative opinion and their own rhythm.
Seek these options out. As your business grows, consider roles that buck your natural pace, particularly if your schedule leaves little time to think about it yourself.