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Outlier’s Path

Setting the Pace

Founders dream about the dent they will put in the universe, stay grounded in reality, and build a plan connecting these two worlds. To realize their plan, founders harness their leadership skills, which involve creating a vision, setting lofty goals, and inspiring others to join them. After that, it is about setting an uncomfortably fast pace.

Speed is a critical competitive advantage that allows startups to win against incumbents. Fast-moving companies can adapt to changing market conditions, deliver innovative products or services, and make efficient decisions along their journey. Speed allows a startup company to become a leading, market-leading, category-defining, and, eventually, legendary company.

The single most significant predictor of the success of an early-stage company is how quickly they sprint out of the gate because this translates to its future ability to execute at scale with speed. While it is an overgeneralization, the hull speed and standards of excellence do not improve from the first board meeting. The company’s headcount grows, the business becomes more complex, processes creep, and coordination becomes a bottleneck. So are all companies destined to slow as they grow? Yes, unless we fight against it, and the question is how?

First, consider running your weekly execution rhythm as speed workouts. For athletes, speed workouts play an essential role in improving performance. The value of speed workouts comes from pushing past previous limits and setting new ones. How often do we subject our team to speed workouts for company execution? The best-executing companies are constantly measuring their inputs and outputs each week and finding ways to set their pace slightly faster the following week.

Second, are you willing to break or reinvent processes? One of the sneakiest elements that slow companies down is process creep. They start small and lightweight. They start helping you move faster, but as processes grow, it starts to slow you down. Have you ever questioned why your company’s expense policy or employee handbook increases in length each year? Every additional page has its rationale, but when the totality grows past the point when no employee reads it, what is the point? The expense policy and employee handbook are easy to complain about because perhaps you didn’t write them. What about some process that you penned and increased in length over time? Does that process still allow you, your team, and your company to move faster, or do you need to break and reinvent them?

Third, embrace and drive change. Leaders push their teams to achieve ambitious and near-impossible goals by thinking and acting differently. With a constant drive to improve and change, we can develop creative solutions that are better, faster, and cheaper. Ultimately, this innovative spirit frees us from a lull and allows us to speed ahead after we reach a plateau of performance.

Setting an uncomfortable pace can lead to remarkable results, whether you are leading a small team or a large organization. How will you set an uncomfortable pace this coming week?