Day 195: Stop trying to scale too soon!

“In order to scale you have to do things that don’t scale.” – Brian Chesky

Like many new founders, I found myself a few months into my venture, Tinkerdash. I had a clunky, manual service and had completed some testing with users. It was now time to build something that could scale and take over the world, right?

Wrong. At least that’s Brian Chesky’s theory who, as co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, has earned the right to an opinion.

During his appearance on Reid Hoffman’s podcast, Masters of Scale, Brian Chesky refers to the “handcrafting” stage as the part before scaling and business expansion. He argues that this is actually the most creative, enjoyable part, even if it feels like a lot of work for little return at the time. And it’s during this stage that you’re able to serve people on an individual basis, helping you to understand what they REALLY need, not just what you think they want.

Simply, if you try to scale too soon then you risk missing the mark, wasting precious resources and potentially even spelling disaster for your company.

So when is the right time to scale?

It is difficult to know when to scale and perhaps remains an art rather than a science. Fortunately, however, Brian Chesky provides a useful yardstick against which to measure. Scale if you can answer yes to at least one of these two questions:

  1. Is it a problem today?
  2. Are customers asking for it?

If the answer is “no” to both of these questions then it’s too soon. But if the answer is yes to one of these two questions AND the effort required to scale is the best use of your resources at that point in time then you should go ahead. Simple (in theory).

What did this mean for my venture?

Well, it meant I was bonkers for thinking that I needed to develop a fancy bot (what’s a bot? check out this article) and a back-end application. Neither of these things would solve an immediate problem nor were they things customers were asking for. So with immediate effect, I put a stop work to any work to scale Tinkerdash.

Instead, I decided to enjoy this time working closely with users, more aware that these next few months will be key to any potential future success. Here’s to hoping.

Why not try if for yourself?

Next time you’re thinking of automating or scaling something, ask yourself, could you or your customers live without this <insert new feature> tomorrow?

If the answer is yes then perhaps you need to suck it up and endure the hard, manual work for a little while longer. And enjoy the creativity that ensues because one-day things will be a little harder play around with and change!

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