There is a seeming paradox at the heart of business success. Although it’s widely accepted that speed is critical to growth and profitability – e.g. first mover advantage – many of the successes that I observe have required copious amounts of management patience and persistence: they are very rarely instant wins.

The hugely successful Tesco Express store format, for example, was six years in the making, James Dyson built over 4,000 prototypes of his bag-less vacuum cleaner before creating one that he believed was worthy of commercial production and Apple’s first MacIntosh personal computer was finally launched in 1984 – over four years after the project began!

The paradox is only resolved once you realise that speed, on its own, is not enough. First, you must also create something that your target customers believe to be clearly superior to your rivals’ offerings and, second, you must simultaneously develop a business model that enables you to turn customer delight into profitable growth.

Terry Leahy, at Tesco, James Dyson and Steve Jobs were all balancing the pace of progress with the end product’s likely customer, market and financial impact. They knew that pace was essential, but they also realised that launching a new product or business that had no cut-through or sustainability was worse than no new product at all.

Any racing driver will tell you that speed without grip is no speed at all. It is your ability to generate and sustain clearly superior products and services delivered through a robust business model that provides your grip and enables you to translate your speed into genuine success.

What are you doing to create products and services that are genuinely superior to your competitors’ and how do you ensure that a robust business model supports them? Or is your focus on speed and being faster preventing you from being better?

© Stuart Cross 2012. All rights reserved.