Monday Mornings with Madison

Harnessing the Elusive Power of Momentum

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Estimated Read Time: 7 min.

Just What is Momentum?

Achieving momentum is one thing.  Keeping the momentum going is another.  And leveraging momentum to its full advantage… well that’s a whole other matter.  English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author Sir Isaac Newton – arguably one of the greatest scientists of all time — said that “A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force.”  He dubbed this the First Law of Motion.  Simply put, things do not start, stop, or change direction all by themselves. It takes some force acting on them from the outside to cause such a change. 

Think of a soccer ball.  A soccer ball will remain at rest unless and until it is “acted upon” by a person kicking it.  That ball will then begin moving and remain in motion until it is hit by another person or stopped by wall or foot.  Or it can be slowed down by ongoing impediments, such as rolling uphill or hitting uneven ground, until it loses all momentum and is forced to stop.

This concept can be applied to business.  Think of the business as being the soccer ball.  For a business to function, it must produce quality products/services, market them effectively and make it easy for customers to find, buy and use them.  In order propel the business into motion, a business owner must get the business started.  He/she must create a business plan, incorporate the business, hire employees, choose a name for the brand, make a sample product, find a space where the business can function, etc.  That doesn’t happen on its own.   That is what creations motion.  It gets the ball rolling.

Newton’s Second Law of Motion states that the instantaneous rate at which an object’s momentum changes is equal to the net force acting on the body.  So momentum is the resistance of a moving object to come to a stop and is expressed as speed times mass (Velocity x Mass).  So, basically, once something starts, it will continue unless something with a net force equal to or greater than the velocity and mass of the object acts on it to change its direction or reduce its motion, and the amount of momentum that an object has depends on two variables: how much is moving and how fast it is moving.  The greater the momentum, the harder it is to stop the object’s movement.

In business, this means that applying a great deal of force — resources such as skilled workers, the right tools, better equipment, more time — to a business goal will generate greater motion (work being done; ideas being tested; goods being produced; etc.) and make it harder to stop.  There are also external forces that can keep a business growing and moving forward, such as demand for a product, social media buzz, and PR.   And, there are other external forces — such as competition, lack of demand, brand reputation, etc. — that can cause a business to change direction or stop altogether.  When effort is sustained, that creates momentum.  But if that force is removed, then the motion will reduce or change its trajectory.  It will, in effect, lose momentum.  In business, momentum can be expressed as:  momentum = production x motivation.

The Power of Momentum

When harnessed, momentum is a glorious thing to experience.  And momentum can apply not just to business, but to any project, program, campaign, effort or cause.  Case in point.  Last Fall, over two dozen people entered the race to become the nominee for the Democratic Party for 2020.  Announcements were made.  Campaign staff were hired.  Offices were established.  Social media buzz was generated.  Fundraising happened.  Policy statements were issued.  Talking points were shared.  Debates were had.

By the time primary voting began, it was clear that some campaigns were doing better than others.  Some campaigns took off.  Others didn’t.  Some gained momentum; others fell flat.  It looked like the trajectory was that one candidate was becoming the Front Runner for the Democratic party.  In fact, to many it seemed all but certain.  Then something unexpected happened.  South Carolina had its Democratic Primary election.  Suddenly, a candidate whose standing was deemed to be “circling the drain” suddenly roared back to life.  Last minute major endorsements and focused campaigning pumped new life into what many thought was dead.  Suddenly, there was a rush of effort and energy pouring to that candidate’s bid.  The campaign used that momentum to maximum advantage and not only took the lead on Super Tuesday last week, but basically knocked out four of the top candidates, got endorsements from them all and it now is considered the new Front Runner to become the Democratic Nominee for the election in November.  Political affiliations and beliefs aside, it was impressive to watch the elusive power of momentum at work!

The problem is that moment is just that… elusive.  Keeping momentum up is tricky business and harnessing it is even harder.  First, let’s start by understanding the Three Stages of Momentum.

Stage 1 – Creating Momentum

Creating momentum can seem like the hardest thing to do.  It often feels like running in place.  There is a lot of work going on but it doesn’t feel like there is any movement.  For businesses, it is the kind of effort that goes into expanding into a new territory, marketplace or state.  It is the kind of effort that goes into hiring and training a new team.  It is the kind of effort that goes into updating a company’s CRM or Operational software.  It might takes months or years to do all the nitty-gritty legwork and behind-the-scenes research and planning to launch a new division or product or deploy a new campaign.   Creating momentum typically involves the coordination of a lot of effort and moving parts slowly coming together.  It is slow, tedious, messy and hard to be sure it is even working.  Many projects, programs and businesses will quit before ever gaining any traction and momentum, often stopping just before hitting their stride.

Stage 2 – Maintaining Momentum

When a business has momentum, it is a glorious thing.  Everything seems to roll forward.  Things are getting done.  Stuff is happening.  Staff is proactive.  Customers are satisfied.  Impressive results are being generated.  Businesses that are enjoying moment look better than they are.  Their star shines brighter than other stars.  Their leaders look smarter than they are.   The business enjoys the Midas touch in that everything it endeavors turns to gold.  The company appears far ahead of its peers and its upward trajectory appears unstoppable.

But once momentum begins, it must be maintained.  What does that mean?  In business, it means that it is the time to feed the momentum by giving the business a great deal of attention, focusing intently on the details, and continuing to fuel the drive in the same way that got things going in the first place.  In the beginning, keeping up that momentum is easy.  The results get everyone excited and there is great pressure and desire to keep going.  Over time, it gets harder.  More about that in a minute.

Stage 3 – Advancing Momentum

Once the momentum is sustained, then it is time to advance the business.  If everything on the front end of creating and maintain momentum has been done, then advancing becomes easy.  The momentum is able to advance the business to the next level.  However, if once there is some momentum, the team gets complacent and starts to rest on its laurels, then the momentum will evaporate because it is being acted on…. Slowed by… inertia.  And then the momentum is lost.

Harnessing Momentum

Momentum creates motivation. Motivation creates opportunity.  Opportunity creates results.  So keeping momentum up is key.  How?  Here are 5 tips to keep and harness momentum.

Step 1. Create a Game Plan and Commit to the Vision

Planning doesn’t directly build momentum, but it is key in order to keep momentum going.  Without a game plan, it takes longer to complete a goal.  Without it, the risk of failure or going astray and losing focus is higher.  Every company that has achieved some momentum should have a plan of what to do next.

Once a plan is in place, it is important to not only remain committed to the plan goals, but to the process as well.  Success takes time.  It is critical to adopt a mindset that “no matter what happens and no matter how long it takes, the company will persist until the goals are achieved.” There is no retreat or Plan B.  Super achievers persist because they believe their visions and goals are achievable, despite the present circumstances. That is when entrepreneurial battles are lost or won.

2. Set SMART and Recurring Goals

Goals should be SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based.  But it is not enough to set SMART goals.  Another important factor for keeping up momentum in business is setting recurring goals.  These recurring goals change, but stay the same.  For example, a habitual goal would be to write two blog posts daily, but what is written will surely change.

3. Create a Positive Environment with the Right Mindset

Doubt and negativity kill momentum.  Create a work environment that is positive and happy, and keep people who embrace those values.  Don’t let negativity kill the energy.  Cynical and negative people can ruin a company’s momentum.  Attitude is everything.

4. Keep a High Level of Focus and Intensity

In business, leaders can become vain and shortsighted, chasing after every shiny new software, process or idea that surfaces.  Agile.  Lean Six Sigma.  Etc.  Instead, focus on the main plan and keep the entire team focused on what really matters.  Then keep that up.  By purposely directing intensity to things that matter and giving distractions a wide berth, momentum grows. But here is the key… to remain intensely focused on something, it must be something that resonates and really matters to the organization.  Otherwise, the focus and intensity fade.  Intensity and focus are two of the hallmarks of maintaining momentum in business. If goals are pursued with great intensity and focus, the momentum continues and company becomes unstoppable.

5. Reward Results

Reward the team for all the hard work.  The greater the rewards, the more enjoyable the ride.  That means celebrating small successes.  Make staff feel appreciated. Momentum in business is built on the accumulation of successes, one after another in quick succession without stopping.  So each of those successes should be elevated and celebrated.

That’s it.  Do these things consistently and business momentum will continue.  And that is a good thing because the most powerful effect of momentum is psychological.  Competitors begin to fear a company with momentum and that creates mental blocks that prevent them from competing effectively.  Think Amazon.  Now bring it.  Make it happen.  Just do it!   Get it done!

Quote of the Week

“You must take action now that will move you towards your goals. Develop a sense of urgency in life.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


© 2020, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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