In 21st Century Retail, The Hare Will Always Beat The Tortoise.

Technology has changed everything.

The recent coverage of Michael Jackson’s sad demise was a stark example. As his ambulance was on its way to UCLA Hospital in Los Angeles, TMZ had spread the news globally that he had suffered a heart attack and could not be resuscitated. It took less than 30 minutes for the word to reach television news in every country in the world.

Our customers live in a world of instant.

And so do our competitors.

This puts huge strain on a retail business and elevates speed to the top of the list of organisational capabilities, supported by an embedded operational DNA of constant change as an attribute. Today a business that executes fast and keeps on mutating will beat a business that slowly and methodically refines with a conservative “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mantra.

Even if the tortoise eventually executes the initiative better and more thoroughly, the hare is already 3 or 4 initiatives down the track and has progressed to a more innovative approach that is radically more profitable to operate, sell or deliver.

To be fast consistently, reliably and sustainably however, requires fundamentals in place that enable it.

After all you can’t be constantly looking over your shoulder to see if you’ve stuffed up. You’ll trip over yourself. You can’t be causing too much strain on your people. They’ll collapse.

You have to be capable of executing to at least the 95% standard that is within acceptable tolerances (remembering 100% is not sustainable nor profitable in retail).

This requires the systems, processes and disciplines that make the business hum like a well tuned racing engine. The systems that ensure compliance, consistency, dependability and accuracy are bulletproof.

If you use the tortoise and the hare story as a way of making yourself feel good about being slow and methodical, be prepared to go the way of many species of tortoise. Pecked over by birds and fish of prey; or starved to extinction by more aggressive, faster competitors for your food source.

Adaptability is the retail word of our times. The most adaptable and the fastest to adapt retail businesses will be the ones that survive and prosper.

Speed wins.