The greatest trick in business is to create a breakthrough product category, like the computer.

The greatest trick in marketing is to convince people that they actually need it.

The computer has three basic strategic values: speed, cost effectiveness, and quality. Three, not one. Three.

The problem is, there is too much emphasis on speed.  Speed is a yardstick, a measurement.  In and of itself, speed is a meaningless number.  To have any business value, speed must serve a purpose.

I make envelopes.  I buy high-speed envelope-making machines bristling with all sorts of computer gizmos.  But sometimes, I wonder why.

Is it to save money?  Well, yes, but at a million bucks a pop, it takes a long, long time to recover your investment, and by then, they’ve got a $2 million machine all greased up and ready to go.

Why then? I’m afraid a lot of what I’m paying for is “We’ve-got-the-fastest-envelope-machine-in-the-upper-Mississippi-Watershed-District” bragging rights.

Marketing hype.

In pursuit of speed, we lose track of cost.  While speed is infinite, the cost of effectiveness of speed is finite. Going twice as fast may provide you with twice the cost benefit of your previous speed.  But I can assure you that whatever it is you do, going a hundred times as fast does not assure you of 100 times the cost benefit.  the faster you go, the less incremental cost benefit you receive.

Speed is glamorous.  Cost accounting is dull.  it’s for people who carry their pens in a plastic sleeve in their front shirt pockets.  And quality is for the old-timers in overalls who use hand tools, fine sandpaper, and camel’s hair brushes.

The German magazine Focus ran an article titled “Race Without Victors.”  the subheading was “Always faster, always more expensive.” Speed, as with any other virtue carried to an extreme, becomes a vice.

Mackay’s Moral: Don’t get high on speed.

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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