Dec 5, 2017

Your 2 Biggest Competitors: Inertia and Time

Your real competitors aren’t external. They’re internal. You’re competing with inertia and time. We all face the forces of inertia and time, and they are dogged, ferocious competitors.

I find it strange to describe “inertia” and “time” as competitors, but they’re two of the biggest obstacles to growing your business and brand.

In my business and my clients’ businesses, external competitors are never really the biggest concern. Sure, we focus on differentiating our brands and developing our competitive advantages, but I can’t say I’ve ever really sweated the actions or services of another company.

Inertia and time are another story. These competitors slow me down, get in my way, and hurt my business.

So how do you beat them? The answer is surprisingly simple, focus.

Say No Early and Often

Apple’s revenue last year was over $229 billion, but most of their products can fit on a large boardroom table.

That’s remarkable, and it takes incredible discipline. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said, “This is the most focused company I know of, am aware of, or have any knowledge of. We say no to good ideas every day so that the company can keep its focus on a small number of areas.”

Focus is essential for overcoming inertia and time.

You add more work to your plate and stretch your resources every time you say yes. This is deadly. A long list of priorities erodes your company’s profitability and revenue growth.

You have to know where to draw the line, and when to say no.

One of the key values of branding is focus. Clearly defining the three big questions helps you set the boundaries for your business:

  1. What do you want?
  2. Where do you play?
  3. How do you win?

Without focus, every business decision and opportunity consumes too much time. You end up hemming and hawing over options, while time keeps marching on.

Get Out of Your Own Way

Most of our challenges with time and inertia are self-created. We’re our own worst enemies.

According to Ron Wince, 45% to 50% of what a company does is a waste. These are systems that do not bring value to customers, nor do they drive revenue or cut costs.

When I heard Ron say that I was blown away. But as I looked at my own business I realized he’s absolutely right.

A lot of processes evolve over time. They might have been implemented for a good reason, but after a while those processes can become obsolete.

The problem is institutionalized processes are hard to spot, and even harder to get rid of.

If you are fighting against inertia and time, you have to kill wasteful procedures. We all work with constrained resources, and anything holding you back has to be eliminated.

As a starting point, take a look at your own routines. For 5 days keep an hourly log of your activities. Once you’ve tracked your routine for a week, break it down into an inventory of tasks, processes, and deliverables. What are you doing that could be considered waste?

Eliminate anything that does not

  1. Bring value to your customers,
  2. Does not drive revenue, or
  3. Does not cut costs.

Time and Inertia Are Growing Stronger

The most common response to “How are you?” is “Busy.”

It’s a strange response, but so common in our hurried culture. Busy has become a badge of honor. It’s not uncommon for people to work 60 to 80 hours a week. The demands on our time are increasing.

The busier you get, the harder it is to overcome inertia. It takes more effort to start projects, and incredible discipline to stay on task day after day. But this is our reality.

The challenges of inertia and time aren’t going anywhere. You will be competing against them for the rest of your life.

Every day is a new opportunity to overcome inertia and time. Use focus to hold them at bay, and make a point of beating them. If you can overcome inertia and time then you’ll make any external competitor irrelevant.

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