"Speed kills,” said Jimmy Johnson, world champion football coach. That single quote embodied Jimmy Johnson's entire philosophy of building championship football teams. Why? Because all athletes make mistakes while in the fevered pace of the game. However, fast players can get back into the proper position, which allows them to execute despite their errors.

Likewise, in basketball, the most productive rebounders aren't normally the tallest or biggest players. That's because, in that phase of the game, smaller and quicker beats bigger, stronger, and slower just about every time.

Speed is also the great dominator in business. I would like to show you why the speed of your business decision-making, planning, and execution might be the difference between you making it to the next level or remaining part of the pack. We'll talk about why companies are slow and how you can pick up the pace, and when you have finished reading, my hope is that you'll be inspired to go faster and, thereby, go higher in your profession.

Why is speed so important to a business? The Silicon Valley rule-of-thumb is that any good idea is being contemplated by at least five other people at any given moment. Therefore, you're always in a race whether you know it or not. How many times in your life have you seen someone get rich off an idea that you had also? Probably lots of times. What was the difference between you two? It was probably not intelligence. Raw intelligence is not necessarily the primary success factor in entrepreneurship. The difference was execution. Often, the speed of execution.

Second, speed is important because time is actually a more precious resource than money, especially for a start-up company. "You can always get more money, but you can never get more time," says Jeff Levy, Founder, President, and CEO of eHatchery, an Atlanta-based business incubator. In Mr. Levy's industry, just like in yours I'll bet, ideas and money are more plentiful than the ability to execute the plans. The fastest entrepreneurial teams win the races to the consumers' doors.

Third, speed is important because it can be your only advantage when going against the giants. This concept allowed young Michael Dell to beat Big Blue (IBM) in computer sales. It has allowed Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) to chip away at Intel's market share steadily and surely. AMD used to be constantly behind Intel in developing faster microprocessors. Now they are a major force in pushing technology advancements. AMD became a player by drastically cutting the time it takes to get updates of their microprocessors to the market.

This thought is best expressed by David Allen, productivity coach and founder of David Allen & Company, who said, "Power comes from speed, not from muscle." The speed with which he swings the golf club allows Tiger Woods to make the longest drives from the tee. In baseball, it is bat speed that creates many home runs. By the same token, speed can allow a small company to overcome the large staffs, enormous budgets, and entrenched market positions of the big boys.

Strategic speed is a critical function of leadership. Although most CEOs would agree with this, they are at a loss as to how to up the pace.

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