“The right things often seem both laborious and inconsequential at the time.”Paul Graham, YCombinator
Which of these options would you prefer?
Number 1 or number 2?
You write an app to help schools get insights from attendance data. You sell the app to 100 school leaders. There is almost 0 marginal cost for each new person who downloads the app. And with each school leader who you convince to download and use it, you gain a tremendous amount of new knowledge as the usage data, support requests, etc pour in.
You develop a 1-day consulting session to help school leaders get insights from attendance data. You plan a short presentation about the important metrics. Then, you show up at the school, in-person, and deliver the presentation. Questions and discussions follow. After lunch, you open Microsoft Excel, and show the administrator how to use certain formulas and pivot tables to find the important stuff. At certain points, you’re there basically doing the work for them. At other points, you’re showing them tasks they can do later on their own.
I know, I know. many companies will (and do) use a hybrid of both. But for the sake of example, I’ll put these two companies at opposite side as I’ve described it.
Is number 2 simply for the person who isn’t thinking big enough?
Is it for the person who doesn’t realize how to make the most of their idea?
In a surprising number of cases, I’d argue that the answer to both of these questions is NO.
In number 2, consider all the benefits gained.
When you show up in person, you develop a real relationship with a client. If you do your job well, they are more likely to refer you to others. Through face-to-face conversation, you can see in real time which parts of the process are challenging for the “user” to understand, and you can refine your presentation, and your process on the fly to help meet the administrator’s needs.
If you did this 100 times, do you think you might have more insights to build that app now?
All this to say: don’t immediately discount the path that may require more work or seem less efficient at first glance. There was some incredible truth to Paul Graham’s famous words of “do things that don’t scale.”