Paul Graham of Y Combinator has written an excellent post called Do Things that Don’t Scale. I think it’s one of the most important posts of the year. The gist of the post is:
Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes some sort of push to get them going. A good metaphor would be the cranks that car engines had before they got electric starters. Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was a separate and laborious process to get it going.
That’s a powerful idea for a few different reasons. First, Paul’s right – achieving success in a handful of areas, even if it requires serious effort, can have a transformative impact on a business (and not just startups). Second, it’s a really accessible recommendation because just about everyone I know is capable of doing things that don’t scale. Third, I’m a fan of contrarian ideas as a competitive differentiator in business and this is definitely a contrarian idea.
This is particularly true when it comes to building relationships with people who can help make your company successful. Of course you can build relationships with lots of different people. Examples include your employees, investors, and influencers. But in my mind, the relationships that you build with your customers are the most important. That’s why the first thing I thought of when reading Paul’s post is that we should do things that don’t scale with our customers.