By GSVlabs CEO, Marlon Evans
“This train isn’t slowing down for anyone, but we will stop to let people off.” Tyrone Willingham, former Stanford, Notre Dame, and Washington Head Football Coach
The outset of the New Year is a time to take stock. What went well? Where did efforts fall short? Commitments are made to change behavior, usually with a flip the switch, zero to 60 mentality. I will start going to the gym every day. I will have dinner with my family every night. I will stay current on email! These resolutions often succumb to the demands of life, dismissed a couple months into the year in favor of competing priorities. In questioning why most fall short in maintaining New Year’s resolutions, overly ambitious goals are largely given as the reason. But might the process be to blame?
My wife enjoys running long distances. A one hour run during the week is typical, while she “treats” herself to a two hour run on the weekend. When I first started running with her, I recognized that I could not maintain the pace, so I needed to train on my own while testing myself periodically by joining her on a run. Over time, I was able to run faster and for longer periods allowing me to join my wife on the trail without her having to sacrifice the quality of her run. There were times during the process where I felt uncomfortable trying to keep up, but in the end, my fitness and our relationship are better for it.
In business, maintaining a fast pace over the long haul is critical to staying ahead of the competition. During the startup phase, with just the original founders on board, a “move fast and break things” culture develops out of necessity. Eventually the best Founders, similar to the best distance runners, figure out how to feel comfortable performing at a speed uncomfortable for most. However as each milestone is reached, additional employees are hired, some of whom will need time to acclimate to the established pace. Helping new employees get up to speed can be accelerated by adhering to the following process.
Eventually the new employee should be near the head of the pack, excelling at the established pace and pushing your company to move even faster. If after a period of time (months not years) that is not the case, then you need to make the difficult decision to let the employee go. Otherwise, the rest of your team will have to exert energy, pulling the new employee along rather than pushing ahead. As my former coach Tyrone Willingham shared with our team at the beginning of the season, “This train isn’t slowing down for anyone, but we will stop to let people off.”
A progressive pace is fundamental to sustained success. Whether you are trying to keep a New Year’s Resolution, training for a marathon or launching a startup, fast and steady wins the race.