Businesses Need To Pick Up The Pace

Healthy risk taking leads to healthy profits, writes leadership expert Tommy Weir.

There is a speed-shift taking place as we speed up from the cautionary pace of 2009-2010 and the leisurely 2011-2012. “It’s not fast enough” is being heralded in the corporate corridors again. And if Dubai is successful in being awarded Expo 2020, this will become the everyday motto as we drive on the autobahn of business.

As a driver, speeding tickets are one of the greatest pains to deal with. Anything that stands in the way of speed is a huge annoyance. Likewise in business, things that stand in the way of speed bring frustration. We can call them the speeding tickets of the speed shift.

Knowing that speeding tickets and speed bumps keep driving trapped, what stands in the way of speed in business?

Risk is very interesting as it either fuels or puts the brakes on speed depending on the orientation. Some people are driven by risk; therefore, to them it is like a turbocharged engine begging to go faster. However, the opposite often reigns, even the thought of risk is greeted by the reaction of pressing on the brakes to bring the business to a controllable speed.

Businesses who are not positively inclined towards a risk proposition always struggle with speed, as they prefer safety and security. You can witness this on the roads – my aunt, whom I love dearly, does not like risk and it influences the way she drives. Her preference is to arrive at a destination safely even if it takes longer. But I have friends who make sure they arrive as quickly as possible, even if the trip pushes the boundaries. With the speed of business rapidly picking up, the risk equation is quite different and survival in this growth phase requires you to pick up the pace.

Risk aversion is closely related to protectionism – it acts to control the environment and restrain it. Both manifest themselves in safety and security. This state of mind struggles with speed as it works to minimise the chance of injury or loss. Typically, protectionism and risk-aversion prefer things to stay as they are. Safety and speed do not necessarily go together however, speed and survival do.

An “I want to be in charge” mentality creates bottlenecks and puts giant hurdles all over the business. A controlling mentality by any business leader is a speed trap that is surely to slow business to a crawl. Control systems involve the creation of programmes and activities that are used to regulate the business. Controls work in the same way that the thermostat on a cooling system switches off when the temperature in your house goes below a certain degree; your control system limits your business activity by slowing it down.

In a healthy sense, control can help business like a seasoned jockey who exerts his control over a racehorse to ensure that it runs at peak speed. Having a control system can allow you to monitor, measure, and make adjustments where necessary to speed up your organisation’s performance. A leader can either be like an amateur riding a horse whose ways are distracting or a seasoned jockey both holding the horse in check, curbing and controlling it. One slows the horse down and the other pushes it for speed.

Making the speed shift requires the exact right level of control; otherwise, the business will grow only as fast as your over-controlling allows it. Mario Andretti, the famed race car driver said, “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”