Friday, January 18, 2002  
SBN Magazine Cleveland: FYI

Too fast

Internet time is driving us to fundamental errors.
By Todd Shryock

The Internet has driven the speed of business to somewhere on the far side of turbo.

The hectic pace of the silicon gold rush has also caused some spectacular crashes, all because of a lack of fundamental business sense.

""There's a lot of things coming together that is creating an environment where we're all moving fast,"" says Dorothy Langer, president of Langer and Co., a Boston-based strategy consulting firm. ""When you move fast, you don't have time for planning, and planning is among one of the more important things that companies aren't doing.

""If you're not planning, you're not thinking long term.""

The speed of business may not allow you plan in the traditional sense, but you can still plan to some degree, even if it means not dotting every i and crossing every t.

"You need to plan, or else you're not thinking through your decision process -- you're not forecasting events that could change your business," says Langer. "You'll have no contingency plans, you could hire too many people and suddenly realize you don't need them. There is a lot of poor execution going on."

Some of the problems come from the relatively young management teams that companies -- especially Internet companies -- have leading them. The labor shortage also means there's not a lot of talent to be found when building a team.

Because of this, the customer isn't being served well, and people aren't being put in place to handle problems. Internet businesses are currently trying to find a business model that works. Smaller companies used to have the Internet to themselves, but now all the large corporations have jumped into it with their resources. These old economy companies have made mistakes, as well.

"They're not making the same mistakes," says Langer. "If anything, they make mistakes on the side of being too conservative. Their problem is they don't understand the Internet or the people using it."

Langer's bottom line: You have to have long-term financial, product and marketing strategies that are constantly revisited. When you have a plan and a framework, when something changes externally, you'll understand where you're at and where you have to change.

Related Links: Langer and Co. website

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