Business strategies hidden in plain sight: Speed as a defensible strategy

June 16, 2020

Sometimes, there are defensible business strategies hidden in plain sight and rarely spoken about. They often come up as important or interesting tactics within a business, but never as defensible strategies. My partner Patrick wrote about how design is a strategic power, citing Clearbit’s use of simple, effective, concise design in all aspects of their business. It was a compelling argument of a business strategy hidden in plain sight.

I think speed is another defensible business strategy hidden in plain sight.

I’ve written multiple times on how I believe speed is a competitive differentiator for startups. But lately I’ve been thinking it goes a step further: the companies that figure out how to build speed as a core process are able to use it as a defensible strategy.

Using 7 Powers lingo, speed is a Process Power. The company that deeply ingrains speed into its culture is able to reliably deliver a superior product. That means shipping more value to customers, responding to user requests more quickly, and finding out what people want before anyone else.

What makes speed so interesting as a defensible business strategy is its compounding effect. The organization that builds and maintains speed as a process will, over time, increase its lead exponentially as it grows.

We see this at companies that have figured out how to apply speed at scale. Facebook is the most obvious example: the short time it takes for them to go a different direction or add a product means they extend their lead more and more over time and fend off disruptors. This has happened with mobile, stories, video, etc.

When in doubt, go faster. But when possible, find ways to make speed a cultural value that can scale with your startup.