Velocity Matters More Than Speed

I had a debate with someone about speed of execution and its impact on entrepreneurial success. Oversimplifying, he believes that speed of execution increases founders’ chances of success. People who move fast and get a ton of stuff done will be more successful—or so he believes.

Getting stuff done matters a lot in companies of all stages. If you can’t execute, you’re dead in the water. But what you get done matters more than how fast you move. I like this analogy: Two people are rowing a boat. Imagine that Person A is rowing south toward their destination, but Person B is rowing north as fast and hard as possible. Not only does B negate A’s effort (they’re at a standstill), but B could take them in the opposite direction of where they intended to be. Ideally, partners will agree on a destination and row, in sync, in that direction. Rowing in the right direction is more important than how fast you row. You should row (a) as fast as you can (b) in the right direction.

Speed of execution matters, but directional accuracy matters more. The CEO of Flexport, Ryan Petersen, put it well:

"Velocity is different from speed. Velocity has a direction. You have to know where you’re going. Sometimes going really really fast is negative velocity, because you’re going the wrong way."

The people who have outsize success focus on velocity, not speed.