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December 1996 Vol. 5 Issue 5

The Dividends of Speed

Let's be clear about what's at stake here. For those who really do things faster than their competitors, the rewards can be extraordinary:

The ability to set de facto industry standards by being the first to market with innovative offerings.

The ability to stay on the cutting edge of innovation by incorporating technological advances and services faster than competitors.

The ability to respond more quickly to market opportunities by reducing product cycle time.

The ability to reduce business risks dramatically by introducing new offerings CLOSER TO THE TIME WHEN THE OPPORTUNITIES ARE FIRST IDENTIFIED.

The ability to extract premium prices based on first mover advantage.

The ability to attract and lock up the most attractive and strategic distribution channels (opinion leader support) through a preemptive first strike.

Productivity improvements and cost reductions through lower inventory carrying costs.

Dramatically higher staff morale and commitment as problems get resolved faster and individual contributions get translated more quickly into concrete results.

Confused and off-balance competitors, bewildered and put on the defensive by your CONSTANT, quick paced innovations.

A leader must be so committed to a project that he or she is willing to do it with or without someone else. My Dad was working double overtime and weekends when I was a 10 year old kid and my Mom's car broke down with a rusted out radiator. My dad, who was a machinist, could easily have fixed it, but he was too exhausted from the work cycle. My pretty, blonde haired, 26- year-old mom, was so determined to drive to get groceries and other items for the house that she grabbed Dad's Chiltons book and she went out into the garage and changed the radiator herself. I remember the look on my Dad's eyes when he opened the refrigerator, saw groceries and asked Mom how she went and got them. He received the answer:

"The wood you chop yourself warms you twice." - Henry Ford

One definition of a professional is a person who does things even when he or she does not feel like doing them. In other words, a professional is not blown by the winds of the moment. Professionals stay focused on the successful accomplishment of their mission, and do the difficult things*. The things necessary to get things done which need to get done. I believe you must have resolve to follow through with initiating an innovation and bringing it to market. You must believe in your product and in yourself. You must be ready to stand alone at times and state firmly and confidently that you believe your concept is the best solution to the problem at hand. You need to be able to stand toe-to-toe with the brightest counterparts you encounter and state your case, make your point and allow them to feel good about themselves, the questions they ask and the input they give. You need to include them in on what you're enthusiastic about and make them feel they are part of the momentum.

Written by Howard J. Leonhardt


* References: The Eleven Commandments of 21st Century Management, "What cutting edge companies are doing to survive and flourish in today's chaotic business world." Matthew J. Kiernan, Prentice Hall, 1996. Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, Laurie Beth Jones, Hyperion, 1996.


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