The Nitty-Gritty:

  • How Tyme founder Jacynda Smith manages 100-200 individual consultations with new customers each week
  • Why these personalized consultations help Tyme delight 90% of frustrated customers
  • How virtual styling sessions create a feedback loop that helps Tyme get better & better
  • What Tyme is doing to leverage the success they’ve had with personalized virtual styling sessions

“Do things that don’t scale.”

That’s the advice that Paul Graham, co-founder at startup accelerator Y Combinator, commonly gives to founders.

“Do things that don’t scale” just happens to sound like the opposite of what many digital small business owners fret about when they exclaim, “but that doesn’t scale!”

Here’s the thing: if we spend all our time worrying about what does and doesn’t scale, we don’t take the very necessary steps to get to the place where scaling is even an option.

Today, we’re examining customer service that might not scale but has helped the company create massive growth.

Before we get there, let’s take a closer look at this idea of doing things that don’t scale.

In Graham’s article on the concept, he outlines how a number of today’s huge companies did things that didn’t scale to build their footprint.

First, companies like Stripe, Airbnb, and even Facebook recruited new customers by hand. The Stripe founders personally set up new users and installed the software on their websites. The Airbnb founders literally went door to door. Facebook famously went from campus to campus signing up new users.

Second, founders make deliberate choices to take small actions that build the foundation for their ability to scale up. Graham writes, “the right things often seem both laborious and inconsequential at the time.” The “right things” were actions like the Airbnb founders taking professional photographs of early home listings or Steve Jobs prioritizing the quality of execution of his product from fonts to packaging.

Finally, Graham talks about how many successful companies have been built by “over-engaging” with a small group of core users in the beginning. The founders reach out, have one-on-one conversations, and find out how the product is meeting (or not meeting) the user’s needs. It creates a feedback loop that helps the product get better and the company better understand the customer.

And that leads us to today’s conversation with Jacynda Smith, the creator of the Tyme Iron.

The Tyme Iron is a unique hairstyling tool that’s meant to replace both your flat iron and your curling iron so you can create a variety of styles for medium-length to long hair.

When you look at it, you get it.

But when you use it? Well, that can be a different story.

Faced with questions and even some frustration from new users, Jacynda made an interesting choice. She decided to FaceTime her customers, one at a time, and walk them through the process of creating the style they wanted to create with their new Tyme Iron.

In other words, Jacynda made the choice to do something that doesn’t scale.

But instead of abandoning that choice as the company grew, she doubled down.

As you’ll hear, the company now employs 5 full-time virtual stylists whose job it is to sit down with new customers, one on one, and help them style their hair with their new Tyme Iron.

I had to know how this process is managed, plus I wanted to know how investing in this premium customer experience has benefitted the company overall.

And that’s what this interview is all about.

One last thing though before I introduce Jacynda.

Doing things that don’t scale works for any size business.

That means it can absolutely work for yours.

Now when I bring up doing things that don’t scale, most often I hear “but I don’t have time for that” or “I can’t afford to do that!”

And that’s understandable. Many of the big companies I mentioned earlier are willing to take a hit to do things that don’t scale at the beginning. The truth is that taking that hit might work for you, too.

But more likely, if you don’t have the time or money to do things that don’t scale, there’s something out of whack with your business model and pricing. So before you give yourself an out and tell yourself that doing things that don’t scale is good for someone like Jacynda but not good for you, take a good long look at the way your business is actually functioning.

Now, let’s find out what works for Jacynda Smith!

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