Embracing the Unscalable: The Key to Deep Business Understanding

“You’re there. We’re here.”

Sam Zemurray would say to his counterparts in the northern cities. He worked from an office he set up near the fields on the isthmus.

Steve Jobs approved every ad & Design before it would ship to market.

Sam Walton wrote his P&L by hand monthly so he could remember the numbers for each store before visiting.


I’m an operations guy. I get great satisfaction when I can reduce friction, redundancy, or automate something.

But it is important to embrace unscalable things, especially in the beginning, so you can develop understanding through repetition.

When I have an opening on my team I’ve come to value doing their job until the role is filled. Yes, I could have other teammates share the load – and I will for some tasks. But there is value in getting in the trenches.

You get reacquainted with the work. You notice inefficiencies with a fresh set of eyes. You appreciate the work they do when it is back off your plate. And your B.S. sensor gets recalibrated.

By all means, delegate, automate, build systems.

But know which unscalable things you can embrace from time to time. When you know your business from A ➡ Z there is no problem you cannot solve.

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