Startups and the Need for Speed
I distinctly remember the first time I ever flew on a plane. I was excited.
First of all, I was *flying*. Totally new experience here.
And second I was going to see my girlfriend.
After settling in to my seat I waited with anticipation while we taxied to the runway.
Then it happened. The jet engines blasted thrusting the plane forward and I was jolted backward into my seat.
The speed was exhilarating.
But it was also wildly practical! In under two hours I had traveled nearly 700 miles from Tampa to Nashville.
The relationship didn’t last, but the memory did.
Starting a company is a lot like traveling. But not in the leisurely “we’ll get there when we get there kind of way”. A more apt metaphor is that of a hungry bear chasing you and you smell like fresh salmon. Sushi anyone?
In the startup world, speed is required for survival. Best to fly if at all possible.
A Culture of Speed
Dave Girouard’s recent post, “Speed as a Habit” offered several great insights into how to bake speed into your company’s DNA. This was a great piece that I’d encourage you to read.
Central to his article is the decision.
How quickly can you make a decision?
How quickly can you determine the magnitude of a decision?
How can you default to getting things done faster?
And lastly how can you push these ideas down through the culture to ensure everyone is rowing fast and in the same direction?
There are several ways to tackle this problem from a tactical perspective.
I’d like to focus on one approach.
Really. Good. Processes.
When I was the CTO at Shipt and we were basically starting from scratch with building a grocery delivery business, we had a million things we needed to do.
During these early days, Bill Smith (Shipt’s Founder and CEO), was religious about us creating great “playbooks” and then just running the play.
And we did that.
How do we launch a new city? Figure out the steps, hand off the “play”, and go run it.
How do we hire more shoppers? Run this process. Over and over and over again.
The key to this is creating a really good process. If the process is effective at solving the problem or accomplishing the goal, then it becomes a simple matter of executing.
Or stated another way the process answers the question of how? After that it is a simple matter of doing.
Do you want to succeed? Just do this.
Just Do This
This is a powerful concept, but one that feels underutilized in startups and business.
It is powerful because it forces you to think deeply through the most effective steps required to accomplish a generally large task. After you get that right you can gain leverage by delegating to other employees that may not always know what to do (much less how to do it), but are effective when given the steps to perform.
This also will lend itself to increased velocity as your team gets better at executing the plan and also funnels new insights based on experience back into the process to make it better.
The goal is to eventually develop the perfect process and have it being run all the time.
What is the process for closing a new sale? Step 1, 2, … N. Now go do that. Wash, rinse, repeat. As long as it continues to be effective.
When it stops working, adapt the process and repeat.
This is applicable to so many aspects of a business.
Hiring. Onboarding. Accounting. Sales. Product launches. Making decisions. Etc etc.
And for each area there could be large numbers processes that should be codified and standardized within an organization.
Consider any time spent developing these kinds of repeatable processes as an investment in the future. While it may feel like it is slowing down initial progress, overtime it will become rocket fuel that allows you to blast past less efficient competitors.
This is an area where agile startups have a great advantage. They have the flexibility to create and test processes from scratch and get real velocity, instead of dealing with bureaucratic debt that slows many companies to get lapped by snails.
So… develop speed as a habit. And use fantastic processes as your secret weapon for generating more velocity.
The survival of your company may depend on it.
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