Rush Hour

Full Speed Ahead

So what's the rush? Technology, particularly the Internet, has accelerated the pace of doing business to the point where being fast enough no longer is. "You have to be a Tiger Woods of the business world," says Blackwell. "We've set a new standard. I remember when people said it was impossible to run the four-minute mile--then Roger Bannister did it. A similar thing is happening in business: The Roger Bannisters and the Tiger Woodses are setting new benchmarks, so if you can't run the four-minute mile, don't bother to show up."

Blackwell's words ring true. Whether you refer to it as "just-in-time delivery," "real time" or "Internet time," the idea of fast-forwarding products or services to consumers in record time is revolutionizing the business world. "This is an irreversible trend," says David Peyton, director of technology policy for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). "There's no going back."

Or slowing down. As computers keep chipping away at our notions of what constitutes quick turnaround, the race is on for entrepreneurs to prove themselves capable of running that metaphorical mile in Roger Bannister's sneakers.

"One of the great mistakes many entrepreneurs make is they think if they have a good product, they'll be successful; that's no longer true," insists Blackwell, who is also a professor of marketing at The Ohio State University in Columbus. "A good product is essential, but an efficient supply chain is equally important. And that involves state-of-the-art logistics. There's a war going on between putting money into assets like inventories, warehouses and trucks, or putting money into information from the computer. And the [computer] nerds are winning the war."

Blackwell's point is clear: The swift of feet realize that in today's market, they must take an entirely new approach to business.

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Rush Hour.

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