Faster always wins: How to speed up your company

In a noisy market, speed is a critical—and underrated—competitive advantage. Here’s how to make decisions, conduct experiments, ship products and campaigns, and gather market feedback, faster.
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"It's never been easier to start a company. It's never been harder to build one."

This 2012 quote from Naval rings even more true today. The barriers of entry to start a business have genuinely come down.

Technology is way easier and cheaper than it was 15–20 years ago. There’s almost endless know-how widely available on the internet. In the remote world, you can hire talent anywhere.

But when the barriers of entry go down, competition goes up. Like WAY up.

Today there’s so much noise. So many well-funded competitors. Companies that started with SEO 10and years ago have a massive head start (just try to catch up on backlinks). And ultimately everyone’s gonna copy each other.

All innovative companies need to deal with near-identical clones sooner or later. They’re gonna copy your product, your marketing tactics, your messaging.

There are a few things today that have become more important than ever when it comes to business building. Brand is one. Speed is another.

My biggest wins have come from taking swift, decisive—even radical—action. Here’s how to ingrain speed into your business.

Speed is a massively underrated competitive advantage.

Most of the market—especially the big players—are slow.

If you can make two or three moves every time they make one, you have a huge advantage.

Speeding up companies is hard work, but the quickest and easiest way is to cut down on waiting.

It’s amazing how much time gets wasted on waiting.

Often what happens is someone or even a whole team is waiting on something from someone else from another team. Weeks of delays. Waiting for someone else to complete something else, or worse—waiting to schedule a meeting to discuss something so decisions can be made.

Executives concerned with moving faster are often not aware this is happening, or who is waiting for what. It’s certainly happened to me. Everyone should answer this one question on a weekly basis: "What are you waiting on this week?" Discover the scale and sources of waiting so you can fix it.

Speed of execution, speed of decision making, and speeding up market feedback loops is paramount. If you're slow, your competitors will not only catch up to you—they’ll run past you.

Make decisions faster

Fast organizations have more people deciding and taking action, and fewer people briefing each other, reporting, seeking approvals, and sitting in a myriad of unproductive meetings.

Decision making is a process. Faster, better decision-making is essential to speed. We can move much faster when we decide faster.

​​Bezos introduced this decision/speed matrix, and I like it a lot.

Basically pretty much always decide fast, unless the result is irreversible with major consequences. Most decisions are reversible.

When someone proposes to spend more time in planning or research, you need to ask them:

Are we in the business of science, or in the business of making money?

It’s so easy make excuses for more planning and more research, but unless the decision would be irreversible with major consequences, you’re better off doing less, faster. 

If the decision was suboptimal, you can tweak it later. Gather data, optimize.

Moving fast compounds. Small speed optimizations pile on top of each other, and it adds up. It's cumulative.

Here are three ways to democratize decision making in your organization to move faster:

  1. Stop making your top people bottlenecks

    Top leaders should focus on fewer, more mission-critical decisions. All other decisions can be delegated. 
    Leadership has to determine which decisions are “strategic” (can be made at the top only) and which decisions are “operational” (most decisions).

    The way forward is to democratize decision making across the whole org and empower both accountability and autonomy. The foundation of coherence is trust and transparency. 
  1. Set clear rules and guidelines for how decision-making should happen

    Four things are critical to establishing the ground rules and process on making good decisions:

    Clearly communicated strategy: Everyone needs to know what the company strategy is and the overall direction we’re going as an organization. Each team member should be able to say: “I know what we need to do, I understand why, and we will do it.”

    Establish boundaries: Define what not to do, what we’re not about. This establishes the field we’re playing within and helps people decide what actions support the values and purpose of the organizations, and which actions do not.

    Reliance on facts: Actions should be taken based on evidence. Make information accessible. Everyone needs to be able to access the data they need to answer questions and make informed decisions quickly, and commit to using it.

    Tolerance for mistakes: A slow decision can often be worse than an imperfect one. Tolerance for mistakes that don’t put the business at risk is essential for speed and fostering a growth mindset. 
  1. Reduce the need for meetings.

    This is not the same as no meetings. One way to cut meetings is to eliminate meetings for updates and information sharing. That should happen asynchronously.

    Also include fewer decision makers in each meeting. When David Sacks was at Paypal he enforced an anti-meeting culture where any meeting that included more than 3–4 people was deemed suspect and subject to immediate adjournment.

    Part of this is driving closed-loop accountability. Everyone on a team must be clear about what needs to get done by whom, when, and why. Disciplined follow-up is needed to review actions and results.

    Instead of having a ton of meetings, deliberation, and contemplation, just do it.

Speed enables constant experimentation

To reduce waste, you need to validate ideas quickly. To stay competitive, you need to be constantly innovating—on both your product and your marketing. 

While most still take weeks and months to react to market feedback and ship something, winners do non-stop experimentation and get feedback in days. They iterate and get to things that work so much faster.

How to do marketing R&D quickly

Modern marketing teams need to embrace speed and experimentation as their modus operandi.

Most of the marketing content online is severely outdated. It's a key reason why so many use old stale playbooks.

You still hear "wisdom" like it takes 7 touches with a prospect that made the rounds on the internet in 2005. Please. The world has changed so much.

The Law of Shitty Click-Throughs is all around us.

As soon as something works, everyone jumps on it and the effectiveness of that tactic tanks. The more successful you are, the more people are going to copy what you have put out there. launched a candid sales pitch video ad on LinkedIn—a novel tactic playing on authenticity. Now I see a bunch of companies doing the exact same thing. Gong pioneered data-backed content. Now everyone’s doing it.

To build a brand, you need to stand out. What stands out, gets picked.

Instead of running the same old playbooks, companies need to fail faster and learn quicker. They need (much) shorter feedback loops to spot what's working or not fast.

This means while others are deploying predictable, obvious, seen-it-a-thousand-times marketing, you go for the pattern interrupt. Always be testing and trying new things so by the time you get copied you’re already exploiting the next thing.

How to do product R&D quickly

I’ve had enough costly, failed experiments to completely revamp how I do product experimentation.

Do these classic mistakes sound familiar?

Build a product based on your great idea, only to find that you have no audience to sell it to. Have your developers work weeks or months on a feature that nobody ends up using. Spend $$$ up front to build a product that nobody buys.

I’m three from three.

This is how I run product experiments now:

Smoke tests: Put up a sales page for a product with full copy, everything. Put a buy button on it. Ask them to pay for it.

Ship unpolished versions of product: At Wynter we validate all new product ideas through no-code MVPs. We hack together a bunch of tools to simulate the functionality in a good-enough way.

We're validating what the product should be like and whether people will pay for it without a single line of code written.
This massively reduces waste and improves speed.

Teams need to deploy campaigns in days not months. You need to go from “here’s an idea” to an experiment within a week.

This of course requires a proper experimentation system and the right culture and freedom to execute without five layers of approval.

What you want is to minimize up-front costs while learning a lot. So if it fails, you've lost little money/time.

Get more reps in and learn faster by executing faster. By the time the competition makes a move, you've made three and have outlearned them already.

"Really the only winning strategy is speed, how fast you are innovating and staying ahead of the game. Faster always wins." – Jaleh Rezaei

How to balance speed and quality

"Let's do some research first." While well-intentioned, this is often an excuse to delay shipping.

It mostly means delaying progress for weeks or even months. Sure, research is necessary. Even critical if considering strategic shifts. But when it's about everyday business decisions, it should not come at the expense of speed. 

You need to move fast. Everything you ship needs to be high-quality.

You need both high standards and a culture of learning/growth mindset/fail fast/learn fast. Speed and quality don’t need to be mutually exclusive—you can do both at the same time.

You get speed from reducing scope and quantity. The quality should always be there. If the quality suffers, you just ship crap, but faster.

So cut down on scope and waiting. 

The fast eat the slow 

Speed is a competitive advantage. 

As the market gets more and more crowded and noisy it’s one of the few things that are becoming paramount when building a successful business.

Marketing tactics can (and will) be copied. So will your messaging. So will your product’s features.

When you ingrain speed into your organization’s culture, no one can copy that.

You need to make faster decisions and democratize decision making. You need to speed up testing and launching new products and campaigns. You need to speed up customer feedback and market insights and act on them.

Faster always wins.

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