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Do the Things That Don’t Scale

Operations & Management

Josh Winkles wrote this article


Can we scale it?

Well, does it scale?

How would you do it at scale?

You hear it all the time, especially in technology startups.

Scaling, scaling, scaling.

Companies are making decisions based on whether or not they have a way to make it scalable.

I want to present a new idea for you to experiment with.

Do things that don’t scale.

I’m not saying forever, but give it a try.

Humans have been running businesses for thousands of years, and we did it before we had excel macros, scripts, and the cloud. All the 0s and 1s in the world will not mean as much to John and Jane as the personal touch or taking a few extra minutes. In fact, early on, it is doing these things that help to set you apart.

Let’s take one of the most well-known (and frustrating) occurrences that exist today.

You call into a customer support line for help.

People are expensive. Some of these companies are huge, so what do you get? The dreaded automated teller.

After pressing ten buttons and likely having a stroke from a fit of rage, you just want to get to a person!

You don’t care that the automated system saves them $50,000 or allows them to serve a million more people. Now think about your business. What part of your company causes your customers that level of annoyance because you are trying to scale something?

How can you make the experience better?

Maybe your communications have gotten a little cold.

You pull up your email marketing provider, and you type out your latest content marketing piece.

You add that first name tag (since of course, no one is yet to the fact that you don’t type each name individually) at the top.

Since most CRMs have a notes section for each contact, why not take a couple of your customers and throw in a personal note when you email them?

Ask them about that trip they were going to be taking the last time you heard from them or if the kids are into any summer sports since they tagged you in their Instagram post. Keeping things personally doesn’t have to be elaborate, complicated, or expensive.

It just requires you to be human.

I’ll share one of the things we do here at Chop Dawg.

It’s a smaller thing, but customers have enjoyed them.

Our client invoices are custom-created.

They are rather elaborate and aesthetically appealing.

They have to be edited manually every time a payment comes in, and I send them out manually along with the receipt.

As a human being, I think they are very nice, but as an operations guy, I often find myself trying to find a way to automate those updates or move to more simple and standard invoices.


So we can have fewer interactions with our customers?

Since when has a company benefited from putting more distance and technology between them and their clients?

It has often been during my correspondence about a payment that questions have come up or even feedback that helps not just that client, but all of the others as well.

I hope you’ll look at your business and find the things that don’t scale… and keep doing them as long as possible. From handwritten notes to follow up phone calls, you’ll be glad you did.

If this idea is intriguing, Paul Graham who is the legendary founder of Y-Combinator has written an entire article that you can view here.

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There are over 2 comments. on this article. Join in on the discussion!
  • Marwan said:

    I read this article expecting to hate it but it was really good and convincing.

  • Luisa Santos said:

    Great article, I personally enjoy those little things that can create a unique connection and personalize attention with our clients. Loved the idea of the custom-created invoices.

Join in on the discussion! Leave a comment and get involved.

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