The third zig is about adding scale to your undertaking. After getting to cash and then adding resources and processes, you need to add scale to get your product or services to the masses. In simple terms, scale is something that can be published or duplicated or sold over and over again. Think about the music industry as an example. There are amazingly talented studio musicians who get hired to play for top recording artists. They come into the studio, lay down their tracks, get a check for an awful lot of money, and then go onto their next gig. They live a good life, making more than most of us. The trouble is, their check is a one-time payment. On the other hand, the artist who writes and records the song gets a royalty every time the song is downloaded, sold at Wal-Mart, or played on the radio. Through scaling their talents and business strategies, recording artists gets lots and lots of checks for an awful lot of money—and live a great life!
Business gets really fun for me when I can make money while I’m sleeping, or on vacation, or working on my next project. I remember the first time this happened for me. I was laid up in bed for what I knew was going to be a few weeks, so I came up with a little business idea, threw together a web site, worked my search engine optimization magic, and went to bed. I got up the next morning, brushed my teeth, checked the web site, and found I had made $37.50—while I had been asleep! (That number got bigger as the days went on.) Scale is what allows me to do that.
My colleagues and I often use the term, “Nail it, then scale it.” What we mean is that during the first two zigs and zags, you’re really trying to figure out how to nail your business. You’re figuring out the discipline, the effort, and the processes that will make it work. In zig number1, you are figuring out how to get to profitability. In zag number 2, you are adding resources. In zig number 3, you need to figure out a model that you can replicate quickly and get your product out to the masses. This is the “scaling it” part.
When I’ve talked or written about this concept, I’ve offended several members of my family because I summarize my ideas by stating, “I never want to be a doctor and certainly never a lawyer!” My point is not to offend my brother, who is a very successful doctor. My point was that doctors have to put on their literal rubber gloves and poke at some very tender places, and attorneys have to put on their figurative rubber gloves and poke in some dark places. Otherwise, neither one is making money. I don’t want to do that. I like making money beyond the time that I am physically and/or mentally working.
There are alternatives most of us can pursue, though. I have a good friend who is a dentist. He’s told me several times about a really great product he wants to develop that would make it so much easier to fill cavities. He has lamented that he just doesn’t have enough time to work on this because he is stuck drilling and filling teeth all day long. He feels he has no options, but I’ve explained that the option is to zigzag. He already has a business with a solid cash flow. He just needs to add resources—and then scale.