Why businesses sometimes need to slow down to go faster

Reducing the pace can help businesses to think through matters more thoroughly

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The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said that “the only constant in life is change”.

This couldn’t be more true in business. But as technology advances and simplifies our lives, and the world becomes more connected, for many businesses change feels more like an extremely rapid shift that shows no sign of slowing down.

Take the events of the past year, for example. Entire businesses shifted their operations from a physical presence to online within weeks and many were forced to embrace a digital transformation that they had previously put off. Others, who were doing well before the pandemic, were forced to shut down their operations entirely.

But rapid change – and businesses operating at speed – aren’t unique to the pandemic. As a millennial, my generation lives in a world that encourages us to hustle, where overwork is celebrated and where we are pressured to be successful and have our lives figured out before we hit 30.

So, at a time when businesses compete to get to markets first  and operations are constantly shifting, you may think that it’s counterintuitive to take things slowly. However, it might help you to achieve your objectives sooner.

At the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I launched a unique venture. I had a strategic plan and objectives in place and everything was going well, except for one thing. I was operating at such speed that it was detrimental to the growth of the business.

I expanded too soon, the business grew too fast and incurred unnecessary expenses. Our team meetings were conducted hastily. We didn’t take enough time to strategise, because we wanted to be the best in the business as fast as we could.

Yet, just as in driving, speed can kill, and it nearly put an end to my business. My team and I were left with no choice but to slow down to save what was left of it.

Reducing the pace helped us to think through matters more thoroughly and see where we had gone wrong. We emerged with clearer objectives and realised that we didn't need to sprint to reach our goals, only to accelerate at certain points. We knew when to slow down, and when to take things up a notch.

A few months later, we were more aligned, focused and had dedicated enough time to strategise major business moves. Ultimately, our performance enhanced and we were on the right track.

Imagine your business as a car you are driving. When behind the wheels, you alternate between speeds. You slow down at turns and roundabouts, stop at traffic lights and increase your speed on a highway. The same should be applied when driving the growth of your business.

Think about your organisation’s case. Where would your traffic lights and stop signs be? At what points should you accelerate? And most importantly, how do you know when to slow down and when to stop?

Evaluate your organisation’s recent growth. Are you going too fast? Do you have enough time to make big decisions?

And how do you know when you should be slowing down? There isn’t a one-size-fit-all approach. As a business owner or organisation leader, you need to figure out the speed you should be driving at different stages.

In business, we should be looking at aspects other than speed. Before we focus on delivering a product within 24 hours, we need to ensure that our logistics are in place and that we won’t be overworking our employees.

And before pledging to open a certain number of branches within a year, we need to ensure that our business is in demand and that this will be a sound investment in the long run.

In a business world that is preoccupied with speed, slowing down may be the thing that will save your business. Think about when you need to slow down and keep in mind that just like driving your car, changing your speed is essential throughout your journey.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi