I watched Something Ventured for the 5th time the other night, I rarely watch things twice.
I’ve always wanted to get in to venture. I’ve done little ventures since I was 9, some strong, others weak. I know how to start up, get initial traction, build customer relationships, and make sustainable.
I work at an agency, as the Digital Marketing Director. We do work for multiple business owners that have successfully built their business. For some, after they reach sustainability, they go on cruise control, for others — They keep pressing the gas. It seems like there is a progression that goes:
Startup > Traction > Growth > Sustainable > Scale or Cruise?
Is one way right or wrong? I think it depends on the business. Here is a handy little thing I whipped up to illustrate this.
For example, my skateshop is currently sustainable. It’s not super profitable, but we make it happen — Sometimes that takes a hand from a friend, or a big tee shirt deal. But for the most part, it’s a break even business that serves it’s community in a *sometimes* profitable way. There aren’t many ways to scale it that wouldn’t involve a huge cash injection. eCommerce? More Inventory? New Product Development? More Locations? Complimentary Products?
Should I chase that carrot, or keep it on cruise control? Honestly, I would rather cruise control it and devote my energy in to something new, that’s scalable. If anything, slowly grow over time.
I’m working on something in peer-to-peer payments, that’s triggered from some of those “hands from friends” I mentioned earlier. I think it’s going to do well, and surprise-surprise it’s NOT in the skate industry.
I remember one time I was drinking coffee with a friend named Jeff at Jammin Java in Fayetteville, it was probably 2012. He asked me how I could make my growing longboard co “infinitely scalable.” At the time, I was like “WTF is this guy talking about? I just want to make/sell more longboards.” (I was looking to raise money to buy equipment that would take time/money out of the production process). But, that was a great question — One that has really stuck with me. I couldn’t make it infinitely scalable, it served it’s purpose — Now, it’s just a memory. Maybe it wasn’t scalable?
I’ve also seen people(including me) try to scale, but push their business in to failure with new investors, new equipment, new responsibilities, new people, new space. Which I didn’t mention earlier, but it obviously could happen any time in the evolution of the business. One time someone invested in inventory for my longboard business, part of *their* plan was them helping grow the business in a whole new sales category they claimed to have access to. BUT, they did nothing — They literally left town, changed their number, and called me 14 months later asking for a return.
So, the plan they brought to me, invested in, and committed to, failed. It ended up helping my business fail, what a stupid mistake I’ll never make again — Fuck that dude. So basically I tried to scale with a new investor, but I should of stayed in my lane and kept the cruise control going. Who knows, maybe the business would still be alive today if I didn’t try to scale it?
So, that being said — Is it worth it to build businesses that aren’t infinitely scalable? Is sustainability and/or cruise control ok? I think there is a time and place for both, it really just depends on the model. What do you think?
Go try again.