Sometimes it sounds cool to build something ourselves, from the ground up, the fruit of our labor – something we really poured ourselves into. But often, that route ends up being too arduous, and we end up running out of capital to deal with it. Smart companies have a neat trick that saves money and helps them meet customers’ needs more effectively: they use existing infrastructure that others have built. I’m watching this trick play out in front of my eyes as I travel to Chicago.
Heading to the Windy City
I’ve driven to Chicago, flown to Chicago, and taken trains to Chicago. Right now though, as I write this post, I’m heading to Chicago via a mode of transport I’ve never used – the MegaBus. It’s a pretty neat setup. The bus has nice seats, free wi-fi, electrical outlets, no TSA lines, and it will drop me off downtown, right where I need to go.
The people who created MegaBus have utilized a smart strategy to grow without lots of risk. Instead of building their own bus terminals, they use empty parking lots of other businesses. This has saved them millions of dollars and allowed them to expand steadily without taking too much of a gamble. If they want to enter a new market they don’t have to find a location, build an expensive building or do anything else. All they have to do is send a bus and let their customers know where to show up. If the market turns out to be unprofitable, they can simply stop going to that city.
MegaBus uses other people’s infrastructure as much as possible. This is their secret sauce for smart growth, and you can use it too. Instead of hiring expensive, fancy programmers, test your concept by just using a WordPress site and some plugins. Groupon did that very thing – all they had was WordPress and a basic email list. They entered all their deals and information by hand. They transitioned to a more robust system eventually, but only after their idea was thoroughly proven and refined.
Do This First
Before you build something look around at the systems other people have already built. Adopt a MacGyver-like mentality – improvise with the resources that are close at hand.