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Have you ever been behind a driver who is poking along, looking ahead only three feet at a time?
The car starts and stops and swerves and, if you''re lucky, finally pulls over to the side of the road so you can go around him.
Compare that with a race-car driver who is focused intently at the whole track and all the other cars on it with him, and who can feel the grip of his tires on the ground beneath the car.
That is the difference that separates companies that are going along one step at a time and those that are going somewhere.
As acclaimed business authority Peter Drucker repeatedly noted, motion is often mistaken for progress.
That''s a mistake a lot of business owners make. We confuse motion with progress.
Over and over, I have found the businesses that flourish are the ones that are run by owners who assess situations and make decisions quickly.
It''s the decision-making pace they establish in their companies that can make a difference.
Pace and sales
Here''s an example of pace as it applies to sales.
Several years ago I was hired to train a sales representative who had been selling for my client''s company for a few months.
As we went into the field to start the day, it quickly became clear that his pace of making sales calls was insufficient to meet the sales goals the company had established for him.
It may have been enough to convince his boss he was doing his job. It may have even been enough to make him look busy.
But it wasn''t going to generate the sales the company wanted. Although the salesman thought he was using his time effectively, we were able to double the number of calls he had been making.
Pace and operations
What about the differentiating factor of pace as it applies to operations?
How much revenue do we generate in a day? Or, how many projects do we complete, and how quickly do we complete them?
If you''ve been in business any length of time, you can cite examples of losing jobs to a competitor because you couldn''t respond quickly enough.
The competitor who got the job may have been far less competent than you, but he got it because he could respond quickly.
When it comes to making management decisions, how long does it take you to hire the right person for the job, fire the wrong person for the job, call back the unhappy customer, address the out-of-line employee, get paperwork turned in or make collection calls on overdue accounts?
Naturally, different personality types cause people to move at different speeds when it comes to making decisions.
Some people prefer to analyze situations in greater depth, while others prefer to jump right in.
Of course, I''m not suggesting you knee-jerk your business decisions in an effort to step up your pace.
But it is important to recognize that, although you may be engaged in the right activities, the pace at which you''re doing the activities may not be sufficient to achieve the goals you''ve set for yourself.
The business world simply moves too fast today to drag your feet when it comes to making decisions or responding to a customer''s needs.
Too many competitors are waiting on the sideline, itching for a chance to win your customers if you don''t move fast enough or if you stand idly by.
Setting the right pace to compete is a vital part of having a competitive edge, but it''s only part of the equation.
Win with intensity
The second part of the "pace and intensity" equation was brought home to me a short time ago when I was speaking with a client.
He and I have both coached soccer teams over the years.
We were remarking about how you can pick out the kids who are serious about winning the game just by looking in their eyes — they have a different intensity than the kids who are there just to play.
The kids who want to win have an awareness of the entire field; they know where the defenders are and where their open teammates are.
The kids who want to win don''t give up after they''ve passed the ball; they immediately move to get in place for the next play.
It''s not as if these kids walk around all day with a winner-take-all look on their faces. But once they take the field, it''s all business, and there''s no question about their intention — they came to win.
It''s the same way in business.
Intensity and sales
Once again, let''s use sales as an example of where intensity plays a key role and can spell the difference between success and failure.
Over and over again I see that the guys who consistently grow sales are the guys who adopt a "take-no-prisoners" approach to sales growth.
If sales are sluggish, they don''t make excuses about the season of the year, the economy or the weather.
There''s no ranting and raving in the office, no obnoxious closing pitches or veiled threats to the sales staff about what will happen if sales don''t materialize.
Instead, they go about figuring out what they have to do to make sales happen in spite of the season, the economy and the weather.
Intensity and operations
When it comes to invoicing and collecting cash, the same thing holds true.
We can talk all day long about the need to get paperwork turned in, bills sent out and receivables collected.
But if we aren''t committed to making those things happen, then all our words are just empty expressions of frustration.
You can take the whole issue of intensity one level deeper by considering the impact of sustaining a high level of intensity for long periods of time.
Any one of us can be intense about something for a short period of time, especially when we''re motivated by emotion.
But it''s the guys who can maintain a high level of intensity month in and month out, year in and year out, whose businesses soar to higher levels of performance and success.
Chuck Violand began his career by founding a carpet cleaning and disaster restoration operation in northeast Ohio in 1977, and in 1989 began consulting full-time. Each June, Violand hosts an Executive Summit to help owners and managers of cleaning and restoration companies learn the executive skills necessary to manage a growing business (Visit www.violand.com for details). Violand can be reached at (330) 966-0700.