• In Praise of the Fast Company

    by  • March 21, 2016 • Branding, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy • 0 Comments

    InNOut_EmployeesShould every company be striving for the form of strategic advantage that has become the hallmarks of Amazon, Google and Facebook? For sure, in the tech world, it’s hard to imagine success without quick and continuous technology improvement. What about your world?

    Whether you sell information or cremation, the common thread for success is sustaining an advantage. The means to this end isn’t limited to technology breakthroughs. There are all sorts of strategies and cultures that can bolster and sustain a company’s supremacy.

    Intense Competition Remains a Fact of Life

    Make no mistake; intense competitive rivalries remain a fact of life in most industries. How leaders address the challenge to create opportunities can be as different as night and day. For example, a great poker player does not play the game the same way as would an astute chess player. Business leaders of the poker ilk value quick, prudent, and confident decision-making. They understand the risk of each play, but unlike chessmen, they sacrifice strategic contemplation and negotiation to establish themselves as nimble paragons of tireless execution. They put the pedal to the metal to get the job done, and they expect that modus operandi from their teams. The most successful leaders, leverage ‘fast company’ cultures to achieve competitive advantage.

    Fast Companies Get Results

    Fast companies deliver superior results to thousands of customers, retailers, restaurants, and service organizations. California-based In-N-Out Burger chain epitomizes this quick and nimble culture. Unlike competitive fast food restaurants, they deliver the “fast” in the category’s nomenclature. In-N-Out Burger keeps it simple in order to deliver a great product, quickly. Their menu is limited to three beef burger offerings, fries, shakes and soft drinks. If you want chicken, salad, pizza or wraps, get out of the line-up to the counter and go elsewhere.

    Equally nimble are some of the world’s most successful private label brand manufacturers. Store brands, particularly in the US are doing better than ever. In 2014, private labels generated $115 billion in sales, an increase of +2.5% over year ago – more than twice the gain of national brands. While In-N-Out Burger thrives on doing less, private label manufacturers prosper by doing more. They have to do more (and do it better) because the secret to success in this business is a wide array of products and packages in countless shapes, sizes, and flavors at costs substantially below branded competitors. This is just an entry chit into the private label industry. Success comes from the ability to satisfy America’s powerful retail chains with flexibility, service, pre-defined quality, all at the lowest price. This does not leave much room or time for these players to pioneer new technologies or develop their own brands.

    Pedal to the Metal Mentality

    Companies who thrive on a fast culture are obsessed with reducing costs and improving operations. They don’t use their precious time to strategically hypothesize or intellectualize. They map a course of action and hit the accelerator. From top to bottom, everyone knows what is expected.

    These companies are known for their ardent attention to the details of day-to-day activity, but don’t for a minute think they lack far-sightedness. Visions need not be so narrow that they are repressive. On the contrary, they are broad enough that employees who thrive on perpetual motion have the breadth to pursue and create wonderful new opportunities.

    For more on strategy and culture, get a free introductory chapter of my book Do Less Better: The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World.

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    Formerlife: Jacobs Suchard CEO (Kraft, Nabob), Strategy Consultant. Afterlife: Palgrave Macmillan Author, Business Blogger, Wannabe Novelist

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