Start-ups are built to soar, or at least that’s what every founder wants. But as with kids, so with companies – gotta crawl before you walk.
Scaling a business up is hard work – it’s also wasteful work. I’ve never seen a high-growth company that didn’t have to throw out some very good solutions that energy and hard-work achieved just a few months prior to make room for the new problems and solutions brought about by straight-line growth. Personally, I’ve come to terms with this – little makes me happier than dismantling something I built in favor of a newer, bigger solution.
Why is this? Well, if I supersede my solution because of growth, it means to some degree that my solution was successful. We had a problem, we built a solution that enabled growth and now, without an upgrade, what was once state-of-the-art will become an impediment. It’s a little success inside a big venture and I love little (and big) wins!
Of course, the goal is to choose wisely and get solutions that will scale with the business for a while – but here’s the rub – the desire for scalable solutions and decreased waste can make founders cast too big a net to begin with. Big solutions take a lot of energy to build, and lots of energy to maintain. Small solutions take less of both. Looking ahead and designing a solution for the next step, or the one after that, isn’t just about making decisions. It’s also about the team, technical framework, and financial support to keep the big engine chugging.
What I often see is that founder’s who focus too far into the future wind up missing the very business opportunities that would power their growth. Focus on building the big foundation obscures the more important work of taking advantage of the moment and focusing on business development.
Here’s the sobering truth – why build for a future that may not happen? Nothing in startup land is guaranteed. I’d rather build a system for the company we have, or will have tomorrow, and save my best efforts for making sure we live to tell the story and replace yesterday’s solution, rather than taking my eye off the ball and winding up out of business, but with a beautiful, complicated system that doesn’t have an enterprise to support.
I might be wrong – perhaps there’s a way to scale with 100% efficiency, but I’ve never seen it and what I see, more often than not, is that people who try wind up wasting effort anyway. Let go of perfection and just build for the space between where you are now and a quarter or two out – then pray you’re lucky enough to have to build something better sooner than that!!