Do the Hard Thing Perfectly That No One Wants to Do

A tried and true way to build a large business is to do something that is difficult really well that no one wants to do.

There’s actually a lot of work people want to do. Things that feel rewarding, creative, and fulfilling.

Then there is work that no one wants to do. Doing your taxes, managing a cap table, paying bills, staying compliant, etc.

An advantage that businesses which do what no one wants to do themselves and has to be done perfectly (stakes are high e.g. fines, jail) is that there is built-in marketing and less competition. Customers are reminded they want someone else to do it every time it comes up—when they get a letter in the mail from a state agency, when they get a penalty, when their lawyer gives you homework, etc.—enforcement is marketing. Less competition gives room to make more progress in the market before it becomes an attractive business—if you survive long enough, when the market emerges you were there the whole time.

See also:

  • Combined with hiring people that care a lot and there is a good shot of making something significant (some would argue Stripe’s innovation is getting smart people to work on schlep-y problems)
  • How to Do Great Work (Literature Notes)

    I read How to do great work by Paul Graham. It’s a collection of advice I’ve heard from various places. It sounds wise but it’s impossible to disprove. It leaves the practical parts of applying it to the real world up to the reader. Still, I find myself agreeing with pretty much all of it and it took me a very long time to learn these lessons.