When Airbnb was founded in 2008, most its users were in New York City, but the founders of the company lived in Los Angeles. At one point in the early days of Airbnb, when the company was still small, like 50 people small, co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky has a fateful conversation with Paul Graham. Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator. Paul simply points out that Brian should be in New York talking to the customers they have in person. In other words, the founder of Airbnb should be going door-to-door talking to their users. Brian’s response to Paul advice was, “But, that won’t scale.”
All leaders, especially leaders who are building something from the ground up face a temptation to scale quickly. Building a system that will scale is a good thing. But missing the opportunity to do small things now, unscalable things now will ultimately help when the idea does scale.
This was the secret behind discovering what people loved. Talking to people, asking questions, getting to know their likes and dislikes, etc., was the key to building Airbnb into the global brand it is today.
Planting a new church, launching a new campus, or beginning a new ministry brings with it the temptation to scale quickly. But there are once in a “lifetime” opportunities that should not be missed while the church, campus, or ministry is still small.
The chance to spend time talking in depth with people, listening to people, getting to know their stories, pouring into people personally are opportunities available while the church, campus, or ministry is still small; before it scales.
These small interactions can pay big dividends in meeting the needs of people as the church, campus, or ministry scales up in size. These are moments that will not be possible at a certain size, but they are possible now.
Leaders should remember that there are lessons to be learned, and opportunities to be had at every level of scale. Let us not miss these opportunities of the “small” in our rush to the “large.”
It is precisely the fact that something will not scale which makes it a precious commodity that is available only for a time. There is power in small that should not be squandered on the way to scale. There are things that you will never again be able to do, that you can do right now. Don’t miss it.