Entrepreneurship & Physics: Slowing down speeds you up

In my earliest hitchhiking days, any car that stopped was an opportunity to travel. The excitement of the moment put me in the car; unfortunately, it also sometimes left my brain on the kerbside…

On such occasions I would slowly discover I was headed the wrong way or the intended drop-off point would leave me few options for getting the next lift.

Experience was a great teacher. Thankfully I became adept at asking the right questions before accepting lift offers. It felt odd at first, turning down a free offer to travel, but I had learnt the hard way that slowing down would in fact, speed me up.

Entrepreneurial Parallels

The emotional excitement attached to hitching a lift is not dissimilar to that of being on the cusp of starting a business. The desire to ‘want to get on’ can be so overwhelming that nothing gets in the way of launching the new venture. I’ve been there myself several times.

It’s as if all listening to rational advice stops. An inner self-belief and independent ‘spirit’ is taken over by the power of anticipation. Doing something, in fact anything is the key. Patience is for wimps.

No one doubts that entrepreneurs need energy, focus and a passionate desire to make something happen. But speed without thought produces the kind of results I experienced as a young hitchhiker.

Time for some deeper thinking…

I’m no Einstein, but…

Whilst I once partially destroyed a fence (aged 12) with home-made fireworks (Potassium Permanganate & Glycerine) and somehow passed a Physics ‘O’ Level in 1982, I’m no Einstein. However, from school, I do remember the following equation:

Momentum = Mass * Velocity

For entrepreneurs, I believe the formula to be extremely important. Momentum is the force required to achieve business success and the stuff is required in abundance particularly in the early years of any new venture (akin to getting a rocket off the ground). To demonstrate the relevance of the equation in an entrepreneurial context, let’s apply the formula to a ‘new business idea’.

Momentum is key to New Ventures

For any new business the ‘Mass’ represents the quality of the idea. ‘Velocity’ can be defined as the speed in which the idea develops and becomes a business – critically, in a given direction.

To create the necessary momentum to survive the early years, it is imperative that the entrepreneur takes time to work hard on the idea and shape it through research, skill and intelligent thinking. This work increases the quality of the idea and thus the overall value of the ‘Mass’. Importantly, work on the idea also informs the direction the business takes.

If the entrepreneur is then able to work at a reasonable velocity (it doesn’t have to be ‘breakneck’ speed) the business develops a high level of momentum and is thus far more likely to survive.

By contrast, if an entrepreneur fails to work on the idea (and just focuses on moving quickly) the business has very low mass but high speed. As a result of the equation (Momentum = Mass * Velocity) the business ultimately has insufficient force (energy) to survive. In practice, the early days for this type of venture can look bright, but unlike my fence-destroying fireworks, things fizzle out quickly.

As this short article from SmartBusinesssTrends shows, prioritising quantity over quality can often lead to business failure. Their 8-point guide illustrates how excess speed causes problems in different parts of the business.

Key Learning Points:  Failure is often the result of too much speed. Being patient as well as prepared to think through, research and test an idea fully is a strategy that is far more likely to lead to long-term success. 

Postscript: For more on physics and its relationship with marketing, have a look at this film featuring Dan Cobley. Well worth 7 minutes of your time.



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