The Illusion of Scalability

Scalability is considered a holy grail by so many people in both the tech world and in business. If things can scale we’ll obviously make money right? Or so we’ve been told. Scalability is that sacred ability to mint money on a continual basis while never having to worry again.

Of course if you can’t scale, then guess what – you can’t “win”.

Unfortunately scalability is one of those things that most businesses can never achieve because for so many of us the biggest asset in our business is people. People simply don’t scale. Trying to maintain that you need to scale in the face of a very finite resource is absurd. And yet, for too many of us (myself included) we look at the world and think if only we could scale.

Well guess what – you cannot scale yourself. So if you happen to be working in one of those businesses where you are the primary asset stop trying to kill yourself by trying to figure out how to “scale” – in fact “scale” is the wrong metric so stop using it.

On the other hand, perhaps you might have a business that could possibly scale. Does that mean your should try? Perhaps and perhaps not. You might be making a nice living already and by trying to “scale” you could run yourself straight into bankruptcy.

Scalability is not for everyone – and that is ok.

So now, it’s time to take off the blinders, to stop reading too many business glam articles featuring that 27 year old with the really expensive watch and it is time to focus on the fundamentals – things like hard work and focus!

And look. I’m not saying a business that manages to scale is unimpressive – it is. But the truth is most of us are not running that business. We are instead running, or working at another business where the focus is not on achieving “scale” but rather we are focused on things like profits, margins and the next quarter.

The truth is for too many of us we’ve been led to believe that only by achieving scale have we managed to achieve success and that is just not true. There are so many flavors of success and there are so many paths towards it.

Also, scale alone does not ensure success. AOL and Yahoo! really seem to leap to mind. If we are going to focus on the tech space in particular there seem to be a fair few number of businesses that have scaled only to flame out in spectacular fashions.

To my larger point though, please do not feel the pressure to “scale” simply for the sake of having “scaled.” The idea that only through scale you have succeeded is a complete myth.

If you are looking for something to replace your now new found appetite for a new focus instead of scale I might suggest scarcity.

David Gadarian on LinkedinDavid Gadarian on Twitter
David Gadarian
With deep expertise in both digital strategy, and the "online narrative" David has helped businesses of all sizes to better define and to further expand their digital footprint. Prior to entering the world of 2.0, David spent 15 years living in working in Los Angeles as a television producer where he set up projects at networks including CBS, NBC, FX, TNT, Showtime and Comedy Central.

David is currently employed at Dassault Systèmes as the Digital & Social Media Sr. Marketing Manager for North America. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are in no way affiliated with Dassault Systèmes, but rather reflect the personal views of David.
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