Is Speed Killing Your Life and Business – Part 2

Business Consequences of Speed

Firstly lets look at some of the consequences of a ‘speed’ culture in your business. Here is a quick list of consequences that we can all relate to:

  • Hurried consultations with customers leading to confusion over choosing the right product.
  • No real connection is made with the customer and the customer’s objectives. We must all learn to connect with the customer; and that takes time. Time to listen and relate. Time in person and time on the phone.
  • Poor management of the customer’s expectations.
  • More money spent on IT than is needed.
  • Stressed staff. And this stress rubs-off onto the customer. A ‘blame’ culture ultimately develops between all stakeholders when a problem arises.
  • Medium to long-term reduction in productivity of all such staff.

This list can go on and on. But you get the drift. And most business owners will probably relate to some if not all the above consequences of speed.

How speed affects you personally

Since starting to write this article I did some research into the Slow Food Movement (which I’d heard of six years ago) to see if its principles had some relevance to speed in business.  The Slow Food Movement philosophy is based around the practice of doing everything slow when it comes to food. It acknowledges that fast-food is killing us culturally and physically. Eating as the most basic of human enjoyment has been hijacked by speed. In protest, the slow food movement was started. The movement contemplates growing food slowly and organically. Fruit, vegetables, beef, lamb, poultry all taste much better when it is allowed to grown at its natural pace without modification or artificial chemicals that speed up the ripening or fattening process. The slow food movement also espouses slow preparation of food and most importantly slow eating enjoyment of food. There is now slow food restaurants and slow food cookbooks. The movement was born in Italy and has gained momentum world-wide. Now, people all over the world are enjoying weekend afternoons of eating and drinking for sittings that last 3-6 hours.

On reading about the slow food movement I could not help but think of how the culture of speed has also robbed us of the many other many personal pleasures of life. On doing a Google search I discovered and read a very good book by Carl Honore titled: “In praise of Slow”. Carl discusses the negative culture of speed and its impact on every aspect of our life.  How we eat, sleep, work, think, make love and connect with others socially. Since Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “time is money” in the 18th Century we as humans have become a resource driven by time. Honore makes the point that since the start of the industrial revolution all inventions have been designed with speed in mind. Either to travel faster (think cars), work faster (think office machines) and communicate faster (think phone and now email). Profit became linked to haste, and time became the currency. And the problem is that everything is designed to save us time rather than slow us down. Save us time to work harder and faster. As Honore puts it, we have become ‘velocitized’. We are now addicted to speed. We love it and we don’t want to get off the highway. You’d swear that with fast cars, fast meals and fast email you’d save so much time to work a 5 hour day instead of the now common 8 – 12 hours. But has that happened? Of course not. Now we get to cram more into our schedules to make more money so we can buy more things that we never get to enjoy because we are so damn busy.

So how is the culture of speed in your work affecting you personally? How many times have you worked through lunch or after hours because you were told that something was urgent? And you had to compromise your well-being for arbitrarily set deadlines. Did you miss time with your kids? Did you hurry lunch and get indigestion, which not only feels uncomfortable but robs you of energy because you did not absorb the nutrients from the food you ate. Did you miss your walk at lunch time? Now ask yourself this: Was it worth it?

Here is a list of personal consequences that I have gathered from talking to people in business:

  • Poor dietary habits and poor digestion
  • Lack of consistent exercise
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Reduced creativity
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Poor quality time with children and/or partner
  • Executive burn-out, pessimism and depression

Part 3 – Tomorrow: “The Solution to Speed”

Is Speed Killing Your Creativity? Part 1 of 4

I was inspired to write this article whilst on-board a Virgin Blue jet to Fiji. I was trapped on a five-hour flight and had forgotten to bring a good book to occupy me. Even worse I was full of energy so I could not even pretend to nap in front of the  energetic young crew  So what was I to do? It was then that it struck me. My mind was racing as fast as the jet and I could not just sit and be still without some form of distraction. (I guess that self-awareness increases, as you get older). I realized that many of my colleagues suffer from the same affliction. So the question was: why do so many of us who work in the corporate world feel so rushed and feel the need to be doing something all the time and faster still? This culture is rampant in our society. It’s as if our whole society has caught a disease. A disease called ‘speed’. Some of us thrive on it. We are addicted to it. But has anyone stopped to question why we are doing everything faster in the name of customer service and increased profitability? Is that what the customer wants? And has speed translated into increased profits?

Speed Kills Your Business and Your life

The fact is that there is no real need for speed. Customers definitely do not want speedy service. They want good service. Most advertising wrongly convinces customers that speed of service is the performance criteria by which they should choose a service provider. And so the expectation is set. And that has a domino effect, which accelerates through the business process highway and forces a culture of speed on the stakeholders in that process.  But the question has to be asked: does it really matter to the customer whether speed of service is  important to them? Is that more important to them than the right product or a thorough attendance? I have asked a number of business leaders this same question and they all have answered a resounding “definitely not”.

So why the need to rush? How did this culture of speed creep into our strategic thinking?

Some may argue that ‘speed’ is the key to capture greater market share and therefore greater profits. But has that really happened in your business? And more poignantly, has speed translated into better staff performance and hence better customer service? The truth is that if speed is the main thing that’s driving your profits then it will come at the expense of staff morale and ultimately good customer service. A profit strategy that is not sustainable because when staff become burnt-out they will give poor service. And when that happens you will lose repeat business.

There is also the philosophical argument as to whether the ‘profit objective’ is worth it if it compromises your health, your relationships and your happiness. That is, the ‘how much money is enough’ argument. The truth is that we are never motivated to focus on those meaningful aspects in life unless and until we have suffered a loss or encountered a major problem; such as poor health, broken marriage, or loss of friendships. The very things that gives meaning to our existence.

So how is the speed culture affecting your business? More importantly, how is speed affecting you personally? More on this in my next three journal entries.

The biggest mistake ever made in business

I meet many talented and passionate entrepreneurs that often make one big mistake when it comes to creating wealth – they invest in other people’s dreams instead of their own.

Allow me to clarify. Small businesses usually evolve as follows: A smart person thinks of a big idea. They execute it with passion and hard work.  They grow the business and attract more customers. They make money. Grow some more. Attract more customers. Make more money. So far so good.

There comes a point however where most business owners start to get tired and start thinking ‘there must be an easier way to make money. There must be a way to make money which does not require so much of my time and effort.’

Invest in your own field of dreams
An entrepreneur in born

This is when they usually make the biggest mistake. Instead of investing back into their business by purchasing newer technologies and hiring more staff who can take the business to the next level, they look to external investments: Usually the stock market and/or real estate. They think that such investments are an easy way to accumulate wealth. Consequently they take their eye off their business. They spend a lot of time looking for real estate, watching the stock market, meeting with experts etc.. They become immersed in these external investments. They devote a lot of time and energy learning about them. Meanwhile their businesses are dipping in performance. They start to lose customers and lose some key staff. ‘But that’s ok’ they say, ‘I will make more money on the stock market. Who needs the headache of running a day-to-day business.’

Wake-up Call

The GFC hits and they lose a lot of money on the stock market. Their real estate investments drop in value. Their superannuation does the same.

The big mistake they made is this: They invested in other people’s dreams instead of their own. When you invest in a company on the stock market you are literally handing over control of your money to someone else. You are investing in their dreams and not yours. And worse still, you have no control over the affairs of that company. Some people call that a ‘smart’ passive investment, but I call it a ‘dumb’ investment. It’s like claiming victory (or suffering defeat) for a game where you weren’t even on the playing field. Where’s the fun in that?

So when you think about investing in other people’s dreams on the stock market, ask yourself these questions:

1. Am I acting out of fear of failure? (You see I believe that some of us invest in other peoples dreams because we fear failing in our own. We want someone to blame if we do lose money.)

2. Do I really love my business? Do I believe in the mission? (You see I believe that if you really love what you do, then you would never want to invest in other people’s dreams)

The answers to these two questions will hopefully will lead  you to this conclusion: The best investment you can make is in yourself and in your own business. That is the best form of wealth creation. Sure, it does require you to work hard but the return you get is much more than money. You get to wake up every morning and lead a life of purpose. You get to experience the joy of adding value to your customers lives. You get to inspire the people you work with. You get to control your own destiny. And you get the opportunity to grow your business on your own terms.

Investing in yourself pays the biggest dividends

[A dear friend and client of mine is slowing climbing out of a financial mess. He had spent so much of his time and energy working and investing his money on the stock market. He put his life on hold for much of the decade. He worked tirelessly because his plan was to make enough money so he could eventually retire and spend time travelling with his wife and ‘being happy’. After the GFC hit however, he had to start again because he lost so much on the stock market. The following is a snapshot of what I shared with him.]

Imagine if you will a tall beautiful tree with two branches; a left branch that reaches high into the sky with a barren trunk but the most abundant fruit sitting at the very top. And a right branch that reaches away from the left branch but then curls back towards it at the very top. This right branch has an abundance of lower lying fruit scattered throughout, and is easier to climb.

INVEST IN YOURSELF

This “money” tree is a metaphor for creating wealth. The left branch represents investing your money in shares, bank deposits or real estate.  The right branch is where you invest in yourself. I see so many people trying to climb the left branch too early in life and then fall. They lose their money and become despondent. They end up quitting on the idea of being rich. The mistake they make is this: The left branch may or may not make you rich but it will never make you wealthy.  Only the right branch can do that.

Being rich gives you money but being wealthy gives you freedom.  The irony is that most wealthy people I know have both, freedom and money. And they all have one thing in common. They invest in themselves by climbing the right branch first.

What does it mean to invest in yourself? It means to spend your time, energy and money improving the following areas of your life: Your health, your love life, your family, your work, your friendships, and your learning.

As you invest more and more in these areas you are climbing your way up that right branch and getting closer and closer to the top of the left one. A funny thing happens when you actively live your best life. You put yourself in a position to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. When you live a complete life that makes you happy, healthy and loved, you start to develop a positive frame of mind and a warm attitude. This attracts good things and good people to you. And these often come with opportunities to work and invest in new ideas that excite you and make money for you.

Then, and only then, should you invest some of your time and money on the left branch. Whether you make money or not, you will always have your wealth. No one can ever take that away from you.

Have your ideas ever been burgled?

A dear friend of mine from New Zealand had his home burgled on the weekend.  He took his family away for a great weekend to Lake Taupo for what he said “was the best break ever,” only to return home and find the front door open and belongings stolen. The most significant thing that was stolen however was his daughter’s innocence. For the first time she had to process the fact that there are ‘bad people’ in this world.

So how does one deal with such an event? Any parent will tell you that the best way to raise children is to continually distract them with more positive matters. (Children are easily distracted not because they are naive but because they live in the present.) The idea here is not to dwell on the event. Sometimes people spend too much time analyzing what went wrong and how it affected them emotionally. The issue grows in proportion to the amount of time they spend thinking about it.

It is no different in business. Ideas are stolen or ‘borrowed’ all the time. But I see so many entrepreneurs waste a lot of their focus and energy dwelling on it rather than getting on with it. They focus on the review mirror instead of the road ahead.

So whether you have been burgled in life or in business, the best way to deal with it is to learn from it, get over it and distract yourself with more positive matters. Focus on your mission and your goals. Wake up every morning and take action. Continue to eat well, exercise, love, laugh, create, innovate, communicate and build solid relationships with family, friends and associates. Very soon you will forget about the event.

What you choose to do in your future can never be burgled.

Sam Makhoul.