When people first start a business, they are often focused on doing things that scale. However, there’s been a lot of talk recently about doing things that don’t scale. Specifically, doing things that require a lot of human interaction and touch-points, but wouldn’t generally be defined as “scalable.” In a startup, it’s those tasks that can make or break you. We did this in the development stages of mHelpDesk and are still doing it today. I’m going to dive into the benefits of this, some examples of why it works, and exactly how we utilized things that don’t scale in business and our personal lives. First, I’m going to talk about how this is applicable to business. Many people have this theory that “if we build it, they will come,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. Paul Graham said “The most common unscalable thing founders have to do at the start is to recruit users manually. Nearly all startups have to. You can’t wait for users to come to you. You have to go out and get them.” In his blog post, Paul talks about the specific non-scalable things that the founders of Airbnb did that basically made their business take off. They literally went door-to-door in NYC and recruited new customers and hired a professional photographer to make the pictures on their site beautiful. I thought that was interesting because a lot of people are building incredible web companies but it seems that there’s this mindset that you can sit behind a computer, write some code, and get millions of users without ever having to interact with customers. Once we hit that point where we needed to acquire customers, we took Paul’s advice. We used his approach by doing whatever we could to win a customer. So, what exactly did we do that doesn’t scale? TONS of data entry. I’m talking about thousands of line items per customer. Some of which were handwritten notes. We realized that customers wouldn’t try us out unless they had their historical data in our system – so we got it in there. That is the definition of something that doesn’t scale. For us, it meant having to manually enter in data. There is no tool or software out there that could do that. This was a super tedious task but when a customer asked me if I could do something, my answer was always “ABSOLUTELY.” Doing something that our competitors wouldn’t do definitely gave us the boost we needed. I believe it’s imperative for a startup to do things that don’t scale. I also believe in taking it a step further — building a system around things that don’t scale. At that point, we had identified a differentiator. However, it was still a task that ate up a ton of time. How do you build a system around things that don’t scale?