Do Things Manually First


We've heard that premature optimization in code is bad, but what about in your business? An all-too-common failure mode for SaaS startups is to try to build big fancy automated systems before you even know what is worth building in the first place.

Instead, Amy Hoy recommends "Flintstoning" first - a terms that comes from the way Fred Flinstone powered his car with his feet. The idea is to do complicated things manually first until you really understand the problem, and then automate.

We shipped without a BUNCH of "critical" features — but we could still deliver the results to our users (and our bottom line), it just took a little more hands-on work.

You can still provide a lot of value (often more value) to your customers by first doing things manually, and then you also have the benefit of really understanding the customer pain and you won't waste time on complex engineering projects.

Of course, the goal is not to do it manually forever - Alex Hillman says:

To avoid over engineering (and wasting time), try flintstoning everything before you build big fancy systems and automations.

So yes, it will take a bit of up front manual effort - but you'll save so much time and money in the long run if you do things manually first.

One thing to do today

Think about the next 3 big features you are trying to build into your product. Now, brainstorm ways you can "Flintstone" those features first:

  • Can you offer them as a free concierge service to your best customers?
  • Could you try to attract a new customer by offering to manually onboard them to the new feature (before it's even built)?
  • Or, could you just put a button in your app that looks automatic, but just sends you an email that you handle manually?

Mentally commit to trying at least one "manual" feature in the next few months.

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