The case for the on-demand everything and the dedicated nothing
My mantra is “Become Replaceable” and that can freak people out.
“But I’m irreplaceable”, say some founders.
“Yes, I know, and that’s the problem.” is my standard answer
So I whipped out my dictionary to allay some fears in the hope of bringing a bit more clarity to the paradox.
What’s the difference between irreplaceable and indispensable?
Webster’s can help.
Note how the word was hardly ever used before the Industrial Revolution.
Again, common word usage tells us that before the Industrial Revolution, indispensable was used frequently.
Today, indispensable is at an all-time low.
Ideally, though we want to use that word a lot more. We want entire teams of indispensable people.
We don’t want a single irreplaceable, anything. Because, according to the dictionary and my experience, it or he or she is impossible to replace if lost.
And worse, if your business thrives or dies on a single point of failure, it’s a huge liability. It should scare you, should keep you up at night, especially if that single point of failure is a dedicated anything.
So you shouldn’t have a dedicated VA, you shouldn’t have a dedicated graphic designer, you shouldn’t have a dedicated coder.
If you have an opportunity to outsource to an on-demand service, you need to have access to as many people as you need whenever you need them. Plus, you should have the freedom to “turn out the lights” as well, without remorse or regret.
Now it may sound heartless, but it will make your business sustainable and allow you to sleep at night because a single point of failure is literally just that a point of failure.
But what about the replaceability thing? I bet you’re thinking.
If you’re replacing yourself with somebody else that is in a dedicated role, you’re really just taking the bottleneck from you and moving it to someone else. But it’s still there. It’s just someone else’s bottleneck.
You haven’t cleared the path, you’ve just pushed the dirt along.
Here’s another way to look at this paradox. Look at an engine, like it’s your business. The carburetor is irreplaceable because the car (your business) cannot, will not run without a carburetor.
Indispensable is the nitrous oxide that makes that engine go faster, accelerate better, and be more efficient and effective. You can still operate, you can still grow without nitrous oxide. You can still get from point a to point b, but if you really want to do it the way you want to do it, then the nitrous becomes indispensable.