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What the Hospitality Industry Can Learn From Airbnb About "Doing Things That Don't Scale"

What the Hospitality Industry Can Learn From Airbnb About "Doing Things That Don't Scale"

You've probably heard the phrase "doing things that don't scale" before, especially if you're in the tech world. The basic idea is that you should focus on things that will help you grow your business in the short-term, even if they're not sustainable in the long run. This can include things like building personal relationships with your customers or offering customer support that goes above and beyond what's expected.

In this article, we'll break down Paul Graham's essay "Do Things That Don't Scale" and explore how the hospitality industry can apply these concepts to their own businesses.

In his essay, Y Combinator founder Paul Graham is especially focused on the recruitment of new users in the early days of a startup, and finding ways to delight them.
What Paul Graham Says About Doing Things That Don't Scale

You're in the hospitality industry and you want to learn from the best of the best. Well, there's no better place to start than with Paul Graham's essay "Do Things that Don't Scale." In it, Graham advises startups to do things which are not sustainable in the long run. He argues that these "unscalable" things are actually what will help you grow in the early stages.

So what can the hospitality industry learn from this? Here are a few key points:

- Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty: In the early stages of your concept, you can't be afraid to get into the thick of it. You have to be willing to do the grunt work, even if it's not glamorous.

- It's all about growth: In the early stages, your focus should be on growth, not profitability. Doing things that don't scale will help you grow faster.

- Be prepared to pivot: As your concept grows, you might have to pivot away from some of the things that you're doing. That's OK! It's all part of the process.

What Airbnb and DoorDash Did Right

In his essay, Graham talks about how the early-stage startup Airbnb did things that didn't scale in order to get their business off the ground. Graham is especially focused on the recruitment of new users in the early days of a startup, and finding ways to delight them. In Airbnb's case, the founders went in person to New York to visit their hosts and help them make their listings more attractive. This is when they just a handful of listings on the platform.

DoorDash founder Tony Xu spent time as a delivery person in Domino’s and FedEx to figure out how to help small restaurant businesses do delivery better. We learned a couple of interesting observations”, he noted. “It was really hard for a small business to know how many drivers they need”.

These are just a few examples of "doing things that don't scale." By taking the time to understand the needs of their customers and going above and beyond to meet those needs, they were able to create super successful businesses.

In the early days when the Airbnb founders visited their hosts in person and even took photos of their listings for the site. Photo courtesy of WSJ.
How the Hospitality Industry Can Apply These Lessons

Now that we've looked at what Paul Graham has to say about "Doing Things That Don't Scale", let's talk about how the hospitality industry can apply these lessons.

The hospitality industry is all about providing a great experience for customers, so the first thing you can do is make sure that your own employees are happy. After all, they're the ones who will be interacting with guests on a daily basis.

You can also focus on providing a personal touch that larger companies can't provide. This could be anything from hand-written thank you notes to customizing guest tables to each individual's needs.

Finally, don't be afraid to get out there and promote your business. Talk to people in your community, hand out flyers, and do whatever it takes to get the word out. Remember, you have to go out and get customers—you can't just wait for them to come to you.

TLDR

The hospitality industry can learn a lot from companies like Airbnb and DoorDash about "doing things that don't scale." These companies have been able to successfully grow by focusing on providing a great customer experience, even if it means going the extra mile.

The key is to focus on providing value and creating a personal connection with each customer. This may mean doing things like hand-delivering items or providing custom experiences. Whatever it is, the goal should be to create a truly unique and memorable experience that keeps customers coming back.

DoorDash founder Tony Xu spent time as a delivery person in Domino’s and FedEx to figure out how to help small restaurant businesses do delivery better. Photo courtesy of Biz Journals.

What the Hospitality Industry Can Learn From Airbnb About "Doing Things That Don't Scale"

What the Hospitality Industry Can Learn From Airbnb About "Doing Things That Don't Scale"
by
Doron Segal
by
Tomer Molovinsky
by
Olivia Terenzio
by
Jessica Buckley
by
Ashley Rodriguez
March 25, 2020

You've probably heard the phrase "doing things that don't scale" before, especially if you're in the tech world. The basic idea is that you should focus on things that will help you grow your business in the short-term, even if they're not sustainable in the long run. This can include things like building personal relationships with your customers or offering customer support that goes above and beyond what's expected.

In this article, we'll break down Paul Graham's essay "Do Things That Don't Scale" and explore how the hospitality industry can apply these concepts to their own businesses.

In his essay, Y Combinator founder Paul Graham is especially focused on the recruitment of new users in the early days of a startup, and finding ways to delight them.
What Paul Graham Says About Doing Things That Don't Scale

You're in the hospitality industry and you want to learn from the best of the best. Well, there's no better place to start than with Paul Graham's essay "Do Things that Don't Scale." In it, Graham advises startups to do things which are not sustainable in the long run. He argues that these "unscalable" things are actually what will help you grow in the early stages.

So what can the hospitality industry learn from this? Here are a few key points:

- Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty: In the early stages of your concept, you can't be afraid to get into the thick of it. You have to be willing to do the grunt work, even if it's not glamorous.

- It's all about growth: In the early stages, your focus should be on growth, not profitability. Doing things that don't scale will help you grow faster.

- Be prepared to pivot: As your concept grows, you might have to pivot away from some of the things that you're doing. That's OK! It's all part of the process.

What Airbnb and DoorDash Did Right

In his essay, Graham talks about how the early-stage startup Airbnb did things that didn't scale in order to get their business off the ground. Graham is especially focused on the recruitment of new users in the early days of a startup, and finding ways to delight them. In Airbnb's case, the founders went in person to New York to visit their hosts and help them make their listings more attractive. This is when they just a handful of listings on the platform.

DoorDash founder Tony Xu spent time as a delivery person in Domino’s and FedEx to figure out how to help small restaurant businesses do delivery better. We learned a couple of interesting observations”, he noted. “It was really hard for a small business to know how many drivers they need”.

These are just a few examples of "doing things that don't scale." By taking the time to understand the needs of their customers and going above and beyond to meet those needs, they were able to create super successful businesses.

In the early days when the Airbnb founders visited their hosts in person and even took photos of their listings for the site. Photo courtesy of WSJ.
How the Hospitality Industry Can Apply These Lessons

Now that we've looked at what Paul Graham has to say about "Doing Things That Don't Scale", let's talk about how the hospitality industry can apply these lessons.

The hospitality industry is all about providing a great experience for customers, so the first thing you can do is make sure that your own employees are happy. After all, they're the ones who will be interacting with guests on a daily basis.

You can also focus on providing a personal touch that larger companies can't provide. This could be anything from hand-written thank you notes to customizing guest tables to each individual's needs.

Finally, don't be afraid to get out there and promote your business. Talk to people in your community, hand out flyers, and do whatever it takes to get the word out. Remember, you have to go out and get customers—you can't just wait for them to come to you.

TLDR

The hospitality industry can learn a lot from companies like Airbnb and DoorDash about "doing things that don't scale." These companies have been able to successfully grow by focusing on providing a great customer experience, even if it means going the extra mile.

The key is to focus on providing value and creating a personal connection with each customer. This may mean doing things like hand-delivering items or providing custom experiences. Whatever it is, the goal should be to create a truly unique and memorable experience that keeps customers coming back.

DoorDash founder Tony Xu spent time as a delivery person in Domino’s and FedEx to figure out how to help small restaurant businesses do delivery better. Photo courtesy of Biz Journals.
Doron Segal

About the author

Hey I'm Doron, the co-founder & CTO of Per Diem — a mobile app platform for restaurants. I'm also a dad and a husband. I love to travel and meet new people.I love creating things, and see people using the stuff I built.Prior to Per Diem I worked at Saildrone, OpenTable, Apple, Beats Music, Siemens.

Tomer Molovinsky

About the author

A second time founder with a passion for building products at the intersection of hospitality and technology. I've had the pleasure of launching reservation systems, mobile payment solutions, and loyalty programs at OpenTable and Resy, and witnessed how operators were losing a direct connection with their customers online. We built Per Diem to strengthen the relationships that businesses have with those customers, and to ensure that local businesses can thrive in today's economy.

Olivia Terenzio

About the author

Jessica Buckley

About the author

Ashley Rodriguez

About the author

Ashley is a freelance writer and podcast producer based in Madison, Wisconsin. She hosts a podcast called Boss Barista and writes an accompanying newsletter with full transcripts of each episode and articles about coffee and restaurant work. You can check out her work here (ashleyrodriguez.work/).