From hoodies to health care, scalability is key
I'm one of those people who can't stand the thought of missing out on anything. Ever. And, as such, I subscribe to a lot of newsletters. And I mean a lot. Recently I was scrolling through my usual onslaught of startup, mobile, digital, science, enterprise and entrepreneurship emails when I came across an headline that seemed out of place - it was about hoodies. Also supremely gifted in the art of procrastination, I opened up the Slate article and was privy to a very interesting take on the topic of scalability.
American Giant is a San Francisco startup that manufactures high-quality clothing in America and sells them directly to consumers via their website. After a Slate writer's rave review of their hoodies went viral, they sold out of every single product in 36 hours and were backordered for months. Reading a story like this made me wonder about scalability, and not just as it relates to tangible goods. Because building and redesigning websites usually goes hand in hand with building and redesigning businesses, the issue of scalability is one that Integrity has experience with.
Recently, we launched a major medical application that gained traction much faster than the client expected. I talked to our Founder and CEO John Simanowitz about how he has been advising this and other clients to prepare for success - rather than to become a victim of it.
"When you're architecting a solution and the solution is your business, it isn't just software, you should be ready," Simanowitz says. "You should be ready for both failure and success."
Simanowitz says that part of Integrity's process is identifying the key success metrics up front so that they can be planned for. "Identify your edges, have a plan for them, have a system to notify when you're reaching one of those edges," he says. "Don't scale your servers when they go down, set up notifications to warn you when they could go down."
And just as important as planning for success is preparing for failure.
"What if you build it and they don't come?" Simanowitz says. "It's just as important to plan for that."
He suggests having back up plans to implement online advertising and other marketing tactics. Which leads him to another important point - cashflow.
"One way you can fail if you're very successful is not having enough cash on hand to support orders or users if it does take off," Simanowitz says. "Be realistic about your cost. Make sure you've raised enough money to last for a year or so, so you don't have to be reactive; you can plan intelligently."
He says that one of the most important aspects of intelligent planning is intelligent hiring. Hiring the best people too soon can leave them bored, while not hiring soon enough can burn them out.
"Have recruitment in the pipeline," Simanowitz says. "Start recruiting smart people before you need them so you can hire them when you need them."
At Integrity, we like to live by the adage that failing to plan means planning to fail. At the beginning of every project, we identify problems that can arise in the case of either success or failure so that we're ready to scale accordingly. Could your site crash due to traffic? Will you need to hire quickly? What if you need to handle an influx in orders? We've got a plan for that.
As Simanowitz says, "People succeed on purpose. You should plan to be successful and make sure it doesn't hurt you. You can't just hope it'll be OK."
If you liked this story and want to leave us feedback, questions or that really funny joke that Cindy in HR sent you today, find us on social media! Integrity is active on Twitter and Facebook, or you can contact the author directly via her personal Twitter.
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