It's Not the Big That Eat the Small... It's the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business


Conventional wisdom once told us big companies are unbeatable... and eat smaller competitors for breakfast.

Not anymore. These days It's Not the Big that Eat the Small... It's the FAST that Eat the Slow!

Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton discovered what separates today's icons of speed from everybody ...

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Conventional wisdom once told us big companies are unbeatable... and eat smaller competitors for breakfast.

Not anymore. These days It's Not the Big that Eat the Small... It's the FAST that Eat the Slow!

Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton discovered what separates today's icons of speed from everybody else.

They asked questions like:

  • What is the difference between speed and haste?
  • Where does business go to spot trends before the competition?
  • How can leaders help people stop dreading high velocity and rediscover the thrill of deciding, acting and staying fast?
And studied the world's fastest companies like:
  • H&M Europe's fast fashion phenomenon now poised to threaten apparel stores in America.
  • AOL who gulped down Netscape and Time Warner in record time.
  • Charles Schwab the new dominant name in discount and on-line financial services.

The results are in this sensational book... a national bestseller, translated all over the globe and universally praised.

Would you like to make speed a competitive tool in your business? Here's your roadmap!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
What do successful companies master that other ventures cannot? They are ready to face the 21st-century economy with an ability to adjust to change and a constant concern with providing first-rate customer service. To find these companies, the authors traveled around the world to learn these secrets from such winning firms as H&M clothing stores, Charles Schwab, Hotmail and Telepizza. Among the smart strategies are spotting trends, testing products and getting to market quickly. The authors offer lots of tips, interspersed with anecdotes about both successful and failing companies. While the information is excellent and the presentation clear, the content doesn't lend itself easily to audio. The authors are fond of lists, such as "10 steps" obviously, people listening while driving or commuting will have to replay these sections if they want to take notes. In spite of this drawback, entrepreneurs willing to put in the effort will get some practical help from this book. (June) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780066620541
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 347,316
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Jason Jennings became the world's youngest owner of a radio station when, at age twenty-one, he purchased KEOS In Flagstaff, Arizona. With speed and success that became legendary in the industry, he used his Innovative approach to business to propel his radio station group to the top of the Industry. Today, his company, Jennings Partners, is an International consultation practice that serves retail, manufacturing, distribution, and communications clients. He and his partner live in Tiburon, California.

Laurence Haughton left Newstalk radio in San Francisco in 1976 and joined Jason Jennings. His mission: to build a media sales consulting practice from the ground up using the unique insights Jason had discovered in his first radio station. The new company's client list and revenues grew quickly as Haughton's talent for marketing strategies and sales tactics connected with decision-makers. By the end of the second year, Haughton had propelled the Jennings organization past all other media consultants in America.

For twenty years Haughton has tested and modified every strategy and tactic to make sure the Jennings consulting practice had the depth of real world experiences that so many consultants lack. Along the way he has equally immersed himself in the academic study of business disciplines believing that "even a dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant will see further than the giant by himself."

Today Jennings and Haughton consult internationally and have been applauded by clients representing every industry classification, from all over North America, Australia-Asia, and Europe.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Fast Thinking

Speed, merely for the sake of moving fast, without a destination in mind, is haste. Eventually, out of control, speed will land you in big trouble. But imagine how many more races you'd win if you had a big head start.

Think about the advantage you'd have if you knew what the future was going to look like and were able to spot trends before the competition. Consider the power of being able to think about things quickly and accurately, tackling in minutes the same big issues and questions the competition would be processing for weeks.

Imagine for a moment the exhilaration of working in an environment where politics and palace intrigue were a thing of the past and the best idea truly wins. Such an organization would be much faster than its rivals. In this part, you'll learn how the fastest companies in the world think fast because of their ability to:

  • Anticipate.
  • Spot Trends.
  • Put Every Idea Through The "Grinder."
  • Let THe Best Idea Win.


Anticipation: expecting; being aware of something in advance; to regard as possible.

The ability to anticipate is one of the key ingredients of efficient speed. Chances are that if you just take off without a clear view, not knowing where you're headed, you'll end up panting, out of breath, and no better off than when you began. Maybe you'll be worse off for the exhaustion.

How can you select the right destination? How can you do a better job of anticipating what might happen, seeing the outcomes, consequences, and results in advance?

Anexperiment from The Economist, titled, "Garbage In-Garbage Out: Economic Forecasting, The Accuracy of the Dustmen's Predictions," puts the need for anticipation in perspective:

In 1984, a questionnaire was sent to four ex-Finance Ministers, four Chairmen of multinational firms, four students at Oxford and four London Dustmen (referred to in the U.S. as Garbage men).

Ten years later the predictions were compared to the actual results and the British Garbage men outperformed the ex-Finance Ministers and the Oxford students while equaling the foresight of the multinational business executives on a number of key economic predictions. (The Economist, June 3, 1995)

The garbagemen did a better job of anticipating what would happen than the government officials and Oxford students. Knowing what things are going to look like in advance can help you make the right decisions. Anticipation is natural. Everyone does it every day.

We anticipate what the weather will be when we decide which clothing to wear. Moms and dads anticipate the family's transportation needs when deciding which vehicle to purchase. We even anticipate what kind of day we'll have at the office based on the gruffness or friendliness of the boss's morning greeting (or lack thereof).

Some people anticipate better than others to the extent of impacting our lifestyle. In 1953, C. A. Swanson and Sons, a poultry producer, was stuck with 260 tons of frozen turkey and insufficient storage room. They kept moving it around the country in freezer boxcars. Jerry Thomas, a salesman for the company, was on a business trip, noticed the three-compartment aluminum trays used to serve airline meals, and an idea clicked. Observing that the television was fast replacing the fireplace as the centerpiece of most American homes, he anticipated a society where the family would begin eating in the living room in front of the television. He wondered: What if you took that frozen turkey, put it into those aluminum trays alongside some stuffing and potatoes, and called them TV dinners? A half century and 6 billion dinners later, Swanson still sells more than 150 million TV dinners each year. Jerry Thomas had anticipated correctly.

In 1990, Leopoldo Fernando Pujals, a sales manager for Johnson & Johnson in Spain, began taking notice of the droves of women entering the Spanish workforce and reasoned they'd be too tired to cook at the end of the day. He anticipated the end of siestas, late-night dinners, and heavy Spanish cuisine and saw a need for home-delivered food. He founded Telepizza and ten years later was presiding over an empire with 1,000 restaurants worth $2 billion.

In 1992, Steve Case became CEO of AOL, a fledgling online service provider that counted as its customers geeks who spent their free time in the basement playing computer games. While the company's total number of customers could be counted in the thousands, Case envisioned a new world. He anticipated a planet where personal computers were as common as telephones and televisions, and, less than ten years later, the company he'd built from scratch gobbled up media giant Time Warner in a transaction valued at $166 billion (Dow Jones Business Wire, January 10, 2000).

Sabeer Bhatia was an Indian immigrant in the United States who spent his days watching other young computer engineers grow wealthy through their involvement in Web-based start-ups. He and his future business partner Jack Clark wanted to be rich as well. In 1996, determined to launch a company, Bhatia and Clark began spending all their free time writing the code for Java-Soft, their intended product. The duo quickly became frustrated by their inability to transfer data files between them and wondered how they could get around the fire walls designed to keep outsiders away from their respective employers' computer systems. Wouldn't it be great, they reasoned, if there were a way for everyone to have a private e-mail box? They anticipated a world in which everyone would have an e-mail address. Twenty-two months later, they sold their company -- Hotmail -- which by then had more than 20 million Microsoft clients and more than $400 million in Microsoft shares.

Unfortunately, most people limit exercising their anticipatory skills to daily matters such as food, clothing, and personal finances. What might happen if you could anticipate as well as Jerry Thomas...

It's Not the Big That Eat the Small...It's the Fast that Eat the Slow. Copyright © by Jason Jennings. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

Introduction to the paperback edition
Prologue 1
I Fast Thinking 9
II Fast Decisions 69
III Get to Market Faster 121
IV Sustaining Speed 185
Epilogue 251
Index 255
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Interviews & Essays

Author Essay

Remember the old "acorn into a mighty oak" tale? That's the story in which a sprout emerges from a little seed and slowly starts to grow. Then after years of regular, incremental increases, the sprout is finally an oak tree able to provide comfort from the summer heat and protection from winter's storms.

The traditional way to visualize growth in a business was to imagine it as analagous to the growth of the oak tree: slowly and steadily, a business was to build itself up, adding more layers day by day and carefully branching out until it dominated its space on this planet.

But that oak tree metaphor doesn't work in the ecosystem most of us face today. The way things are now, if we grow our operation bit by bit, bigger and stronger competition will move in to take away our nutrients. Or if the enterprise doesn't look robust enough to financial markets, the investors might impatiently grab a chain saw and turn us into plywood.

In today's competitive environment, business has to start growing and keep increasing fast. We needed a new metaphor to replace the tale of the old oak tree.

It's Not the BIG that Eat the SMALL...It's the FAST that Eat the SLOW looks at several companies that went from "an unknown to the dominant player" in record time:

--AOL, which surged past all the Internet start-ups and then swallowed Netscape and Time Warner
--Clear Channel Communications, which surged beyond the market value of more established media companies, each with a head start measured in decades
--Charles Schwab, which surged and blew away the field, becoming the dominant franchise in financial services
--H&M, which surged to over 600 stores and brought consumers new exciting levels of fashion, quality, and price

The one common word we believe described their spectacular business strategies was "surge" -- "a rapid, immediate and robust increase."

Oaks trees don't surge; they have a growth rate in the single digits -- so we looked around to see if there was something in nature that grows in a "rapid, immediate and robust" way.

We found a plant that can grow at an incredibly accelerated rate. It will get to the same height an oak tree takes years to reach in just a few days. This plant will also double every three years and can continue at that pace for a century. What's more, it has a scheme resilient enough to survive anything (even nuclear attack).

This phenomenon is...bamboo.

Bamboo is awesome. New culms can go from nothing to 90 feet in height in less than two months. And bamboo keeps on growing, adding up to 30 percent more coverage year after year. One planting can, in its lifetime, envelop millions of square feet.

So bamboo is the perfect metaphor to illustrate surge in business. And upon further study, we found bamboo offers an incredible lesson business can use for creating its own fast and sustained development.

Before bamboo begins the surge, we can see it has spent months at work below the surface. For three quarters of the year, the plant is building a foundation that will support its great potential. Nature's secret strategy for "rapid, immediate and robust increases" is to spend significant time and effort on the roots.

This gave us an insight for looking at some of the fastest companies in the world. A lot of business is run by incrementalists. They say, "Let's cut 3 percent from every line in the operating budget." "Can we squeeze another half point of margin out next quarter?" "Plan for 5 percent growth across the board." These guys play it safe and depend on asset manipulation and acquisitions for growth.

Others are managed by the "business is a rat race" school of thinking. These favor constant motion, shows of exertion, and gung-ho attitude; "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" is their rallying cry. These guys sometimes get lucky, but in the long run their "do overs" waste more resources than luck can support.

But the fastest businesses have a new breed of management. They've learned to separate speed from haste and still know how to avoid paralysis by analysis. They've learned to regard high velocity as a natural state and have trained a group of associates to swiftly adapt, improvise, and overcome. These are the companies that grow revenues significantly by creating new market space or remaking an industry in an original and innovative way.

Our look below the surface of surging companies found 26 root strategies for quick thinking and fast action in any organization. It's Not the BIG that Eat the SMALL...It's the FAST that Eat the SLOW documents what slows you down, what can speed you up, and what you can do to sustain your momentum. It can help you learn to surge like bamboo.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2001

    Yes but...

    This book highlighted the facts, but didn't analyze them. We have come to accept that the fast eat the slow (it has been said by at least 5 CEOs in Europe and the US in just this way...) - but let's move on from here. So, Darwin was right, but what does this mean for companies of all sizes? Moving on from this, what do we learn? While this book shows a few obvious best practice examples, it doesn't dig deep enough, and as such is largely non-academic. It is best read as an introduction to the issue of speed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2001

    Good Overview of Thinking and Decision Processes for Speed!

    This book is the best one I have read to date on helping a company accelerate its ability to move ahead of the competition by being better at sensing the environment and reacting to it. Those who are interested in checking their organizations for stalled thinking in this regard will find a useful list of areas to investigate and improve. 'Do more with less and do it faster.' That's the mantra that the authors have investigated through their case histories of Charles Schwab, Clear Channel Communications, America On Line, H&M (clothing stores), Hotmail, Telepizza (European home delivery pizza chain), and Lend Lease (Australian company). The book is organized into four sections: Fast thinking; fast decisions; get to market faster; and sustaining speed. Each one contains a number of key points, with subpoint details to further elaborate. Here's how Fast Thinking is organized: 'Speed . . . without a destination in mind, is haste.' The focus of this section is on creating improvements in your business model or new business models. The key sections under the heading are to anticipate; spot trends; put ideas through a thorough testing process to probe for their downside weaknesses; and being sure that the best idea wins by changing the company environment. Each of these sections is illustrated with examples from the companies that were studied and more detail on the key elements. In this example, you should see the potential weakness of the book. It correctly points you toward spotting trends, but cannot possibly teach you what you need to know in just a few pages. So you will want to expand on the points here by reading other books that deal with these areas in more depth. In essence, the book then is an outline of the business processes you need for innovation in business models, choosing the right ones, getting them implemented well, and staying agile. The primary metaphor is to Wayne Gretzky, who was famous for his ability to anticipate where the puck would go next . . . and to aim for that spot. If you can determine what is 'likely to occur in the next few months and the next few years [that] is enough to give you an edge . . . .' While I have not studied all of these companies, what was said about the ones that I know well was certain accurate and full of insight. I assume the rest was done equally as well. Many of the conclusions are similar to my own work on irresistible forces. Of the four sections, I thought that the first section on fast thinking had the most original material, and will be the most valuable for many companies. If you have problems with fast decisions and getting to market fast, you may find it hard to change very quickly. But if you are already in pretty good there, the first section can increase the flow of good new ideas for you to consider. Many CEOs tell me that this is a limitation for them. I do have some concerns. If everyone organizes for speed, how sustainable will that be? Perhaps it would be better to organize to grasp advantages that then become unavailable to others. Also, what is it going to be like to work for a company like this? What is your family life going to be like? For readers who are interested in these questions, I suggest you read Professor Robert Reich's new book, The Future of Success. It has many thought-provoking ideas on this subject. After you have organized for maximum speed that makes sense for your business and the personal lives of those involved, I suggest that you consider how the experience can be made much less demanding on everyone. That's the area where the most innovation is needed. May you make rapid progress towards worthwhile goals . . . and have time to smell the roses along the way! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2001

    THE Texbook for Life 100 & Business 101

    In an articulate and entertaining manner, Jennings and Haughton remind us of the basic, but often forgotten, principles that guide the world¿s most successful companies. Most tomes are written under the guise of how to build a better mousetrap. By stripping away the follies of modern business, the brilliance of this book is it reminds us of the purpose of the mousetrap. I¿ve bought and given away 25 copies to date. Whether you¿re a manager, a proprietor, a parent, a spouse, or an investor, this easy read will get you what you want and where you want faster and with a smile.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2001

    Yes, it works, the fast do eat the slow!

    Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton's concise and practical account of leadership strategy, and numerous tactics, show how being fast creates a unique and compelling point of difference. What's more their advice and observations work! Related to the section on Shuffling Portfolios, as someone in his 8th year as Sales Manager and who has consistently exceeded revenue requirements, I did not agree about the most significant performance increases occuring during the first year. Jennings and Haughton had me scratching around in the computer and assessing my own numbers... and guess what... my highest level of growth (25%) occurred in 1995, my FIRST full year in then role. This is a great read for those serious about leading their organizations successfully and consistently in the 21st century.

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