When should you plan for scale?
We didn’t start Nearshore to get rich. We started the company so that we could work when we wanted to work and not work when we didn’t want to or couldn’t. Our goal isn’t to become billionaires; it’s to have retirement income for ourselves and to leave a legacy for our children.
“Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the earth.”
Archimedes, quoted by Pappus of Alexandria in Synagoge, Book VIII, c. AD 340
Solopreneurship is not our goal. Having a self-sustaining business in 3-5 years is the goal. And we’re going to succeed. How? We are designing everything we do or will do to scale. By scaling, I mean being able to extend and contract capacity from zero to huge to zero with relatively little time, effort, or expense.
Plan for the full range of likely outcomes. We might fail utterly in the short term, but at least we will always have the knowledge and relationships that come from having attempted to pursue an opportunity. We might hit the jackpot and need to scale up faster than anyone expected in ways we can’t anticipate. There’s a lot we don’t know. But we know that there are people who have built wildly successful companies that are less knowledgeable, less experienced, less well-connected, and less well-resourced than we are. So why not us?
Explore every opportunity, but avoid getting too attached to any of them. Ask potential partners about their businesses and how we might be able to help. We tell our story and ask for feedback at every turn. We also listen to others’ stories; that’s where you’ll find the most opportunity to help. When business development is about reciprocally sharing plans and dreams, it’s fun and easy. When your dreams intersect with others’, opportunity often springs forth.
Always be recruiting. At this stage, we are our own team. We contract out things like back office, legal, and accounting. But the rest of the day-to-day is done by us. But a business that’s self-sustaining consists of trustworthy individuals. Finding employees and partners takes time. By the time we are ready to hire and establish formal business partnerships, we had better already know who those people will be. Or at least we should know what their capabilities and qualifications are. Do we need a CFO now? No. But this time next year, I expect we will, at least a fractional one anyway. And when the time comes, we’ll probably need them in a hurry. So we keep our eyes and ears open now with an eye toward the future. The same goes for all roles we’ll need to staff over the coming 3-5 years.
Design in automation at every turn. Keep asking ourselves and others how we can delegate and automate. Where automation is an option at a price we can afford, we favor that over manual options. When automation isn’t financially within reach in the near term, we keep returning to it if it becomes cheaper or when we have more cash.
Learn every job, or at least enough to be able to manage those whom you’ll employ. Unless you’re a lawyer, you’ll never be an expert at the law. But you must learn enough to have conversations about strategy concerning the law. The same goes for accounting, taxation, HR, procurement, and every other current and future aspect of the business. You don’t need to worry about going deep in any particular area. Entrepreneurship is a dilettante’s game.
Write playbooks long before you need them. Document for future employees and contractors. Write like someone is going to read what you wrote. Even if we don’t provide the documentation to anyone, putting processes and procedures on the page creates clarity and helps refine one’s thinking.
Imagine alternative future histories, either in writing or out loud. There are many forks on the road. Play with the various possibilities and their consequences, including the negative ones. It’s true that “No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength.” (Moltke the Elder, later Mike Tyson) But that doesn’t mean we don’t plan. It means instead that we need to become experts at planning and re-planning. And that takes a lot of practice.
Seek out allies, partners, and advisors — even competitors. Share your story and your vision with whoever will listen. Listen to the same from other entrepreneurs. Explore ideas with like-minded people, including competitors. They’ve been where you are, and the best of them want you to succeed. There’s magic in coopetition.
Get your family used to hearing about our plans. The entrepreneurial imagination is scary and sometimes bizarre to people who haven’t experienced it. Family members may find talk of grand schemes disturbing. But their support is vital. We need their acceptance and encouragement. Getting them on board takes patience and understanding, but we must do it. Family members and close friends are vital stakeholders. Don’t leave them in the dark, even if keeping them informed is uncomfortable and time-consuming.
Enjoy the research. Starting anything of consequence is mostly about embracing ignorance and asking questions. The questions tend to beget more, some of which are not answerable in the moment. Many questions are not answerable. We can’t merely accept our ignorance. We must learn to enjoy it. We enjoy finding new questions because every question is another fork in the road. It’s another door behind which could be more opportunities to learn, grow, and prosper.
What’s the most important thing we can recommend?
Get yourself a French Bulldog. Frenchies are the best!