Think big

We have a fixed amount of time to live. So it’s important that we use our limited time so as to maximize its output, however we choose to measure it (impact, fame, fortune, …). And to do so, we need to think big.

Building an e-commerce business that sells specialty cheeses is useful. Such a business can certainly be successful and have an impact.

I have nothing against specialty cheese e-commerce businesses. I’m just using them as an example to make a bigger point.

But why limit yourself to specialty cheeses when you could also offer other dairy products? And while you’re offering dairy products, why not offer the whole range of supermarket products?

Running an e-commerce business that sells specialty cheeses and one that serves the full range of supermarket products are both full-time jobs. You need more people and capital to build and operate the latter than the former, but they both require your full dedication. They’re not hobbies that you can spend a few hours a day working on.

Thinking big doesn’t mean that you need to offer the full range of supermarket products on day one. You can get your start in a specific category like specialty cheeses. This is what Amazon did with books. But you should have a bigger end game in mind.

Thinking big also doesn’t mean scaling prematurely. If your business has local operational requirements, you need to get it working with the right economics in one geography before trying to replicate it in another. Your goal should be to achieve the former rather than spend time talking about how you’re going to do or prematurely doing the latter.

The general case of this, valid for all businesses including ones without local operational requirements, is that you need to have achieved product market fit before investing time and money in scaling.

Thinking big does mean that it will be easier to motivate others to join you in pursuit of your vision. Most humans want to have an impact, and the bigger the opportunity to have an impact that you offer the easier it is to motivate employees, attract investors, and onboard partners. Since you’re also human, it’s also easier to motivate yourself.

Thinking big also means that, even if you come up short of your goal, you’ll likely end up having had a bigger impact than that which you would have had if you had pursued a smaller goal. It’s better to fall short of an aggressive goal than to achieve an easy one.

Finally, thinking big also means that you receive more criticism. The bigger your goals, the more you step on the feet of people whose self-interests benefit from you not meeting your goals, and the more jealous many people who don’t have such goals become of you. But, at worst you get used to the criticism and at best you use it to further fuel you towards your goals.

Taken altogether, it’s worth thinking big.

Also published on Medium.