Mimi Sheraton in the New York Times in 1976 telling the story of walking into a KFC with Colonel Harland Sanders:
You’re frying for 12 minutes—that’s six minutes too long. What’s more, your frying fat should have been changed a week ago. That’s the worst fried chicken I’ve ever seen. Let me see your mashed potatoes with gravy, and how do you make them?
The Colonel is paid $200,000 a year to do advertising and PR for KFC, but when asked about Sanders' remarks on the chain’s methods post-sale:
Raw chicken turns customers off, so we play it safe and fry at lower temperatures for a longer time than the colonel likes.
Which is fair, but this plays to my theory on scaling businesses.
When you run a small or micro business, a single storefront, or perhaps a business like Britt and I do with The Elopement Collective, or our Airbnb, or my celebrancy practice. Businesses that are anti-scale can celebrate the JOMO of business, the joy of missing out. We can’t do every elopement, or every wedding, or take every Airbnb booking on the Gold Coast.
Because of our very deliberate JOMO we can chose a different direction for our businesses where we aim to be five our of five stars, or whatever rating system is in play, we just aim to be the best.
I can’t help but feel there’s a wonderful and often unexplored middle ground between “die” and “grow and grow aggressively”
And ever since I read that I’ve been fascinated on that unexplored middle ground.
When you decide to scale you very simply decide not to be the best, but instead to be the biggest, the cheapest, the most-available, and you turn your back on the best.
I remember a small hotel we stayed at in Manhattan once and it proudly boasted a 7.2 rating on one of the hotel review websites which rated hotels out of 10.
If one of our businesses was 72% as good as the best of that category of businesses we’d shut it down, or completely rework it until it was a really good business and bringing immense value to people.
But when you’re just one of the thousands of hotels in New York, maybe 7.2 is ok?
But it’s not ok for me and it wasn’t ok for the Colonel.