Last week I posted about the book Great By Choice and sort of summarized it’s primary points. There is one part of that book that I keep pondering, though, and I wanted to explore the idea a little more. The idea I’m talking about is the “20 Mile March” concept. Collins explains that we should all be making advances in our businesses at a steady and consistent pace. You should use constraint during good times and push things harder during bad times. I can tend to be a bit impatient with progress myself, so this is a hard sell for me. I saw a picture of Mark Zuckerbergs desk once and it had a sign on it that read “Stay Focused and Keep Shipping”. Above my desk you’ll see the same phrase in all caps and bright red letters, so taking it slow isn’t really my style. Shouldn’t we all be pushing at all times because the competition is always pushing? When is it appropriate to always go full throttle all the time if ever? Isn’t the time to push the hardest exactly at the moment when you reach some success?
I don’t have perfect answers for those questions, but I’ll share a few experiences that may help illustrate why my temptation to always go all out may not be the wisest.
- When I first launched my Amazon store 7 years ago, I was determined to turn it into something huge right off the bat. We uploaded all of our products including dropship vendors. We just set all the levels to 99 and and started selling. As you can imagine, we trashed our seller rating within months and ultimately were suspended because we could never fulfill what we promised. My bold approach had completely backfired, and it took me a long time to get back on my feet. Even to this day my overall seller rating isn’t as good as it could have been if I had just paced myself with this new store. Many people had a bad experience with our brand and will probably never come back. More products did not ultimately result in more sales.
- Another time I thought I was doing a great thing by pushing our move to a 3rd party fulfillment center forward as fast as humanly possible. I failed to see the warning signs because we weren’t able to handle the volume ourselves anymore. Ultimately, we overwhelmed them and they couldn’t handle it at all. The whole thing fell apart and I had to rent several large Uhaul trucks and move all the product to another company with very little notice. As if that weren’t already enough of a mess, the original fulfillment center tore off all of our product labels out of spite(!) so that we had to spend weeks identifying products one by one. Taking some time to really evaluate such a big decision could have saved us a lot of time, money, and headaches.
I think I’ve listed enough of my personal screwups for one post. I really do believe this concept is true though. Keeping yourself moving forward at a steady pace yields the best results. And more importantly, slowing yourself down is incredibly important if that’s your style. In Amazon for example, we constantly are testing and adding and removing product, but never at a volume that could cause our ratings to be dramatically influenced if we were to screw up. The key is to take “baby steps” in all aspects of your business, that way you don’t risk the farm.