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Move or die: surviving the change

Drive speed into your business. Don't let others beat you to the race. Here's how ...

This article was translated from our Spanish edition. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In a second, the arm is spinning in the air, the hand is holding the gun, and the target is in sight ... If the Wild West shooter didn't have a swift hand, he could already be left for dead. Today thousands of competitors, members of the shooting association World Fast Draw Association, a worldwide shooting club, pay tribute to those tough men. Each year, shooters compete to see who has the most nimble fingers to pull the trigger. & flashquot Fastest shooters take just a fraction of a second to fire & flashquot, says Howard Darby, one of the association's highest- ranked members . & flashquot The common fast shot is only a tenth of a second slower '', but nobody takes the time, nobody cares.


The world is moving at high speed, and this is the only thing that counts. The news is constantly presented: e-mail , e-commerce, rock and roll , McDonald's, Amazon.com ... the world is spinning at such a speed that it almost makes you sleepy. But don't fall asleep! There is no time to lose. According to Kelsey Biggers, vice president of Micro Modeling Associates, a technology consulting firm in New York, & flashquotel market changes very fast and when it comes to companies that are dedicated to technology, things that traditionally were done in a year now need to be finished. In 90 days - and he adds - the landscape changes so quickly that if you try to keep up and keep up with your five-year plan, you simply give up for dead in six months.

It's clear that the business world has accelerated & flashquot, says Jeff Shuman, director of business studies at Bentley College in Massachusetts, but it seems to me that one of the challenges for new entrepreneurs is not getting caught up in a speed that is out of step. natural to which the other businesses in its branch move. '' This is a premise of the recent libromás Shuman, written with David Rottenberg, The Rythm ofbusiness: The Key to Building and Running Successful Companies (The ritmode business: the key to start and run successful businesses). & flashquot Looking for speed for its own sake will get you in trouble. And if you do fall for the trap, you need to be very careful to stay calm by opposing the arbitrary pacing of speed & flash, says Schuman. It's good advice, but even he admits that sometimes customers demand speed. In that case, speeding up a business is not so arbitrary, but 'speed up and slow down' is something you must do properly, according to the circumstances. `` The reality is that customers are setting a faster pace, '' concludes Schuman.

Heating up motors

Running a business is like participating in a long career, where we are all competitors. Jeffrey Green, 29, one of the three founders of Stamps.com (a company that started three years ago and is dedicated to selling stamps over the Internet) is an entrepreneur who, without a doubt, is in a constant career Either studying the details of a partnership with Quicken.com and America Online (http://www.aol.com) for his customers to buy stamps from him; or attempting independent growth, while preparing for the wave of customers you expect in the near future.

How fast has this company grown? Stamps.com has employed more than 100 people in the last three years, and that has caused some of its own growing pains. The company started out in an office designed for three or four people, then moved to another office that could fit ten. In August 1998, Green moved into an 8,000-square-foot office, and within three weeks, it was bursting. He rented the attached office, the same size, and quickly refilled it. Lately they moved into a four thousand square meter office. His secret was to locate a real estate agency specializing in short-term rentals. We might think that Stamps.com's business plan has been useless but Green says: & flashquotStrategically we have not strayed that far from the initial plan; Neither of what was planned in terms of the number of employees, the amount of investment, or the calendar to achieve certain objectives. When you have the success that we have achieved, it is impossible to imagine how big the company would become, if when we started we worked in a small room with three other people, and we did not even have an office of our own - and he adds - the good news is that generally We will be successful if we maintain the initial vision of what the company needs or should be. ''

But if your company grows a lot, Green suggests: & flashquotIt will always be much better to hire people who want to grow and stand out, and inform them of the situation up front. It may not be the most welcoming environment, but if you slow down to teach each person about the business before they start work, you will be left behind. ''

Charles O'Reilly, a professor of human resources at Stanford University, is convinced that the most flexible companies will set the pace. & flashquotThere is a whole rhetoric about formal learning in companies, but the secret is to unlearn; if you really want to go fast, you have to forget what you have learned. When we say that an organization learns, we mean the fact that it develops processes and systems to improve its operation. However, if these systems get in the way of choosing new paths, then they become potential death traps, O'Reilly says.

To Get There First

In the Wild West, a quick shot meant saving life; nowadays & flashquot does not matter so much who is the fastest, but who is the first & flashquot says Regis McKenna author of Real Time? Preparingfor the Age of the Never Satisfied Customer (Real Time? Getting ready for the age of the dissatisfied customer). If you are looking for a new market, are testing a new technology or trying to enter a virgin market, whoever crosses the line first will have a great advantage because they will have the learning impulse and the cultural impulse, '' says Mckenna.

An example is Amazon.com. When this company emerged on the bookstore market, everyone thought they would not survive. However, by the time the giant Barnes & Noble hit the web, Amazon.com was already king of the Web when it came to book sales.

From the beginning, Amazon .com knew what they were doing, and that's important. "Don't let the need to move faster jeopardize the integrity of the process of building your business," says McKenna.

Define your product or service properly, but don't wait for "the paint" to dry to begin. The most successful companies are those that have started quickly, and gradually are honing, says Lorne Olfman, director of the department of Information Sciences at Claremont Graduate University in California. `` Microsoft has made any amount of money with the new versions of Windows. The 'fine-tune' strategy is even very common among detergent and household cleaning product brands, whose advertising triumphantly advertises new and improved, '' says Olfman.

During the race

If you must act quickly, we assure you that you will not have time to make wrong decisions. And precisely having made smart decisions is the reason why Heather Blease has traveled part of the entrepreneurial path with success. Blease, 36, is president of EnvisioNet, a company that provides Internet services and technical support to software companies. She is an electronics engineer and founded her business in 1995, when many entrepreneurs were just discovering the Internet. Today, the Blease company has 500 employees, and for 1999 it expects sales of US $ 8.5 million. In addition, she does all this while taking care of her three children, who were less than four years old when she started the business with the support of her husband.

Blease always thought that his industry would change rapidly, but says: Because of the Internet, the change has been much faster than I imagined. It is not a question of how I have stayed in this project, it is rather a question of how I should effectively stay in the forefront & flashquot.

Blease considers that hiring third parties, or in other words, outsourcing, for certain areas, is one of the most intelligent things he has done in his company. He has hired from senior managers to staff to do market research and define strategies. "Being able to get good advice on time is extremely necessary, as there are days when important and above all correct decisions must be made," says Blease.

The Practical Tips

But what does it mean to make the right decision? Here are some tips to do it:

1. Put an ottawara clause in your contracts, especially if you are working with other companies. This is a Japanese concept, Blease explains, and it is a clause essentially to achieve harmony and ensure good understanding between the parties. We agree that if any of the companies goes out of line, and this affects the others, we must sit down and negotiate. It may sound like a vague solution, but it's really about both parties ensuring success through a mutually beneficial partnership. ''

2. Work with new, fast-paced, and financially sound companies, but don't neglect your alliances with more stable and established companies. Large companies may seem bureaucratic, but they are on time to pay.

3. Establish a good relationship with your suppliers, so that you are not just another customer, but a kind of partner. Blease's company consults with businesses using software designed by Aspect (one of its customers), and EnvisioNet tests the product. The first benefits to know what problems your system has and EnvisioNet is prepared to answer the questions of its customers long before the software is released.

4. Prepare your staff. Many entrepreneurs do not have sufficient knowledge about the business they are in. There are many who set out to start their business and learn as they go. `` That is not necessarily intelligence, in many cases it is inexperience, says Blease, whose company has rejected some job offers simply because employers wanted EnvisioNet to implement projects in less than half the time necessary to do so. For example, a potential client recently asked us to complete a job in three weeks, when he would need at least eight, says Blease.

Education = Speed

Fast food, fast checkout, fast line. . . The world moves in a hurry and KenLibman knows it. The 41-year-old entrepreneur owns LibmanWolf Couples, an architectural firm in New York. In a booming economy, where various businesses emerge, it has had no problem growing. In the last five years, we have doubled each year, since we started and we expect to close 1999 with sales of $ 50 million, says Libman.

Libman moves fast, talks fast, thinks fast and works fast. And that's what your customers expect. & flashquot They always tell me that if I can get them changed two months earlier than planned, it will save them a lot of money, Libman says. This entrepreneur has architects, engineers and contractors working for him under one roof, which means that his company is self-sufficient and has everything to respond very quickly. Staff generally work three eight-hour shifts, but when projects need to be completed, they also work Saturdays and Sundays.

Libman's speed is well founded. He has the best staff, very well paid (his advice is `` fuck him and pay him more ''), and he often gets suppliers to work for him faster by promising to pay them a 50 percent advance. In this way he achieves that in the end the work costs less. And perhaps his best decision has been to be very open to technology. Technology changes very fast, Libman says, and so he insists that his associates attend seminars and stay up-to-date on the latest developments in their field. However, since no one can force staff to work during their free time, Libman wisely does bring the seminars to his staff. We deal with so many suppliers, be it telecommunications, furniture ... that I try to have seminars twice a week, and they come and show us the news. '' Since the suppliers are very interested in doing business with LWC, they often teach the course for free.

Treating people well is very important. & flashquot Treat your people like they're gold, to keep them motivated, and with a high sense of synergy. That way everyone will pull evenly, says Libman. This strategy has worked wonders for him, and he says that through a recent study they found his company is 28 percent faster than its competition. When asked how fast he thinks the business world will move in five years, Libman says: I haven't thought about it, because if I did, I would surely fall out of my chair. Maybe it's better that you don't even think about it. After all, flying so fast can burn the best entrepreneur.

Three Things You Should Keep Doing Slowly

1 . Don't & flashquot pursue & flashquot your product or service. You can only create a better product by taking the time to make it better. Once you've done it, then yes sell it as fast as you can.

2. Put trust in your employees and customers. Trust is gained over time & flashquot, says Jeff Schuman.

3. Change turn. If people knew you as a manufacturer, and you will change to being a distributor only, do it slowly, without haste, so that the change occurs naturally.

Four Tips to Go Faster

1. If you want to be the slowest, make up all the rules that come to mind. To do this, Charles O'Reilly recommends not having too many rules. And, as an example, he mentions the case of PSS World Medical, a provider of medical supplies whose revenues since 1993 have exceeded US $ 1 billion. “In part they owe their success to their same-day delivery. And their competitors haven't, '' O'Reilly says,“ because PSS has a lot less bureaucracy. Each distribution center has sufficient autonomy to serve the customer. ''

2. Share the information with everyone, that is, realize that your employees are smarter than you think.

3. Diversity in managers is not very convenient. People work best when they know the other members of the team. `` A quick way to accelerate change is to redirect the entire team, '' O'Reilly says.

4. Get rid of your desk. "It only serves to accumulate papers," says Biggers.

The Fastest and Most Successful

If there was an honor roll for companies that have achieved success more quickly, they would surely be:

* Amazon.com. Nothing stopped them, they did not have a name to take care of, everything had to be done.

* Federal Express. It's not just fast and on-time delivery, but support and service.

* Cisco Systems. It has a great level of sales through the network, and great support and service.

* Intel. Very good customer service.

* Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble. Their close alliance allows them to share inside information. Procter & Gamble knows exactly what happened in Wal-Mart stores at the end of the day.

* America Online. They did not invent the Internet or computers or the network, they invented the idea of people communicating over an existing network. Since they had that idea before anyone else, it allows them to go faster than the others.

Contacts (edit)

Avalon Solutions, TEL (USA) (603) 743-4500, Internet: http: //www.avalonsolutions.com

Charles O'Reilly, c / o Barbara Buell Faculty Research Editor, Office of News & Publications, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford, CA94305-5015.

EnvisioNet Computer Svc , TEL (USA) (207) 373-3201. Internet: http: //www.envnet.com

Jeffrey Green, 3420 Ocean Park Blvd., Suite 1040, Santa Monica, CA90405, USA Internet: http://www.stamps.com

Howard Darby , E-mail : hdarby@nortelnetworks.com

Libman Wolf Couples, TEL (USA) (212) 980-3113, Internet: http: //www.lwc.com

Regis McKenna, c / o Susan Miller, Publicity Department, Harvard Business School Press, 60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163, USA. TEL (USA) (617) 495-6334