Every business that’s achieved huge scale has another business powering it behind the scenes. And that back-end business often looks very different from its public-facing side.
A great example is Rent The Runway, a business that lets customers rent a single dress for a special occasion to create a kind of “closet in the cloud”. From the outside, this is a business of fashion and glamour. But underneath that exterior, is the largest dry cleaning business in the world. That part of the business could have been outsourced, but they knew the service was so critical, it was not only worth building themselves, but made into a pillar of operations.
If you want to hear more about the hidden business behind Rent The Runway, check out this podcast from Masters of Scale.
We can also look to Amazons massive warehouse operations or the assembly line that builds an iPhone. You can look to any large company and find an underlying business that’s integral to the success of the public-facing business.
On the other hand, a fast-growing business will often outsource every back-end system they can, in favour of focusing solely on the key skills that make up their core business.
I believe there’s an important balance that needs to be found, and while we should learn from the big businesses, as a small business with limited resources we should also be wary not to spread ourselves too thin.