Why Planning for When You’re Bigger May Be A Waste Of Time


Monday, 9.19pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Do things that don’t scale. – Paul Graham (Y Combinator)

Why would you want to be bigger?

I suppose your size could be a measure of success?

I’ve read that some successful people say that they don’t really care about the money.

To them, it’s a way of keeping score.

So, if you were coming up with a goal for yourself or your business, should you aim to be big?

Should you want to be a millionaire? Or start a billion dollar company?

Or are these approaches looking at the wrong things altogether?

After all, money is presumably a byproduct of what you do.

This can be something that’s a little hard to talk about.

You tend to get very quickly into the differences between tails and dogs.

For example, if you’re looking for an education should you go for the one with the biggest salary prospects or the biggest probability of getting a job?

Many of us do.

So, one would assume, that the better your education the better the job you will get.

Although, why is it that the people who run companies are not usually the ones with the most degrees or letters after their names?

Why is it that so often in real life, as Robert Kiyosaki brutally puts it, A students work for C students, and B students work for the government?

Let’s look at another area that appears to be exploding.

Almost everyone has an idea for a killer app.

Something that, if they could only get it built, would take the market by storm.

The steps involved are pretty simple. Find a development shop, explain what you want, pay for their time and get your app.

How much would you bet that the shop would get things right?

If you’ve ever tried to get something like this done, you’ll know that at the end you now know exactly what you want and it isn’t what you’ve got.

Now, why did you go to the shop in the first place rather than making something yourself?

You could have picked up Excel or created something that worked in a paper planner?

But, by raising money and getting a team together you felt like you could get to scale faster.

It’s the rocketship model. Money is like fuel. If you can create customers before your money runs out you’ve achieved orbit. If not, you’re probably debris.

I was reading some advice on coding – procedural versus object oriented.

Use object oriented, an experienced programmer urged. It might mean you write more code but if you get successful it will be much easier to manage then.

All of these approaches say you should plan for what happens when you scale.

But, Paul Graham doesn’t.

And the experience of many others also suggests that scale can be a trap.

At the start of any process you need to do things manually.

Recruit customers one at a time. Serve them, like you would as a waiter at a table. Get to know what they like and ask them how the food is.

Because, when you’re bigger you won’t have the time to do things like that.

And if right now, when you can talk to each prospect, you don’t, you’ll never know what they really want.

If you want to build something, build something you want.

If you’re building for someone else, like that shop you hired earlier, they’re less interested in giving you what you want than not being blamed when you realise that what you said you wanted wasn’t what you needed.

Building what you want is more than just building a product. It’s the same approach to building everything else – relationships, careers, interests.

The place where we go wrong is when we try to predict what will succeed rather than just working on what interests us.

And when we’re engrossed in our work we don’t think about money or size or scale.

We think about the work and if we’re lucky, those other things will turn up as well.

But it really wouldn’t matter either way.


Karthik Suresh

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