Business Tips: Newton’s 3 Laws at Work

We often think of business as a special function. In reality, it operates in much the same way normal things around us do. In fact, the concepts behind Newton’s Three Laws of Motion are as applicable to business as they are to physics.

First Law: “an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion in the same speed and direction unless acted upon by an outside force.”

Second Law: “the force applied to an object equals its mass times the acceleration.”

Third Law: “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”

Objects in the physical world don’t move of their own accord, nor do they in economics. No business starts without the deliberate application of energy. The entrepreneur provides that initial force. Without a concerted effort to identify a need, derive a solution and create it, there would be no new businesses. In addition, only the continued effort of the founders will keep things moving.

This occurs because operations rarely maintain their level; much less grow of their own accord. In fact, the opposite is true. There is always friction in the business environment: interest rates and terms of contracts change; competitors enter the market; an economic downturn decreases demand; and prices of supplies increase. This is the force acting against progress. Consequently, things tend to decay over time. Revenues drop off and costs increase. The bottom line erodes.

The larger the business, the more entrenched its bureaucracy, the greater the mass you are pushing against. It requires the application of extraordinary energy to get it to move even a small amount.

There is a similar condition with an operating business where inertia rules. Often, the easiest course of action is simply to do what you are doing. Everyone knows the routine. No additional expenditure of time, effort or money is required….

…or is it?

It is only when someone seizes the initiative, looks at what is wrong and takes an action to correct it, that things change. This is why small businesses are often successful even when directly competing with a larger, more established firm. They are more agile because they can adjust to market conditions, even with more limited resources.

The lessons learned from these business tips are clear. First, nothing occurs without somebody exerting effort to make it happen. Second, the greater the headwind, the larger the bureaucratic inertia, the more effort it takes to move the organization even a tiny bit. Third, when the leaders stop rowing, the boat stops moving. Never stop rowing.

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Dave Clark

Dave Clark taught Strategy at West Point and is a co-founder of FundingSage, which provides valuable information, tools and resources to entrepreneurs seeking to start, grow and fund a business.