What is the Trifecta of Scalability?

When it comes to scalability, not all businesses are created equally. More specifically, there are some products and services that scale more easily and naturally than others. Even if you have a great team, fantastic leadership, strong infrastructure, and a great culture, you’ll have a hard time scaling your business beyond a certain point if you don’t have at least a core product or service with the right traits.  Just because those traits need a name – let’s call them the ‘Trifecta of Scalability’!  😉

The Trifecta of Scalability?

In order to scale your business, you need a product or service that can scale – which means you need a product or service that scores well on the Trifecta of Scalability. Specifically, that means you need something that is Valuable, Teachable and Repeatable.  I first saw a reference to this idea in John Warrilow’s excellent book Built to Sell. It’s also part of the Value Builder platform (it’s part of the Growth Potential driver) that we use with our clients.

As with most great ideas, the concept is simple, but it allows you to look at how you’re spending your time and efforts as a company in a different light.  It will help you figure out if you are proactively focusing on a product that is likely to scale (because it scores well as being Valuable, Teachable and Repeatable).

Here’s a quick break-down on the definitions:

Valuable – Is whatever you’re offering considered to be inherently valuable in the marketplace or is it more of a commodity?  A valuable product or service is differentiated in a way that customers are willing to pay a premium for.  Susie offers high-end consulting services as an expert in Salesforce.com implementations. Not many people can match what she can do and a lot of companies need that kind of help.  Susie’s consulting would score as valuable.  Joe’s plumbing services, on the other hand, looks exactly like 20 other plumbers in his marketplace and would score low, even though plumbing help is something that people need. Unfortunately, for Joe, he’s ended up as a commodity (not valuable).


Teachable – Can your service, or the delivery or support of your product, be easily taught to others?  If your core service requires a Ph.D. or some equivalent level of expertise to deliver, then it’s not very teachable.  If however, you can pull someone in off the street and get them up and running effectively in a few weeks of training, then you’ve got something that’s going to score well on Teachable.


*Note – Teachable and Valuable share a natural tension. Typically something that’s easily teachable tends to be not Valuable (lots of people can do it), so it can be challenging to find something that scores well on both.


Repeatable – Finally, your product or service must be repeatable. That is, customers must want to buy that same product or service over and over again.  If I’m selling you something that’s a one-time sale, then it’s not repeatable.  However, if you’re signing up for a monthly recurring service (i.e. Netflix), that’s hugely repeatable and I’ve got a customer base that’s much easier to grow over time – because I’m not out constantly trying to find the next customer just to stay afloat.


Real Life Example – Photography Business

Photography is typically a tough business to succeed in. There’s a lot of competition and it can be very difficult to stand out and to scale. That was the challenge facing one UK based Photography company a few years ago. Using the Valuable, Teachable and Repeatable model, they took a quick look at the primary types of photography they were offering and here’s what they came up with:

Scoring from 0 to 10, they looked at 4 different kinds of photography gigs they had been doing and scored them against this model.  As you can see, weddings are great in terms of Valuable and even Teachable, but they aren’t Repeatable at all.  The clear winner out of this list is School Photos – which is what the company ended up specializing in. They developed a very strong process for how they took and delivered School Photos (which were needed every year) and they were able to teach that process to people with minimal photography skills, allowing them to hire less expensive, more readily found resources.  The end result?  They’ve been able to expand into multiple cities and are growing rapidly and profitably – with the owners not involved at all in the day to day operations.


What do Valuable, Teachable and Repeatable mean to you?

What happens when you run this model up against the kinds of work that you do?  Is there a clear-cut, obvious choice for scalability?  Although this is a simple concept, there are other ideas, such as bundling or creatively packaging things that you could do that can dramatically change how you might score on this. If you’re feeling stuck, you might want to consider talking with a Strategic Advisor as a way to help you brainstorm.

The bottom line is that you will have a very difficult time scaling your business if you can’t figure this part out.

We’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade    Kansas City Business Coach