March 9, 2003
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Mass Care

Do we know that, when Flylady sends us email, the emails are mass-produced?

One of the puzzles of the new economy has been the absence (or, perhaps, the invisibility) of email personal service businesses. After all, we couldn't FlyLady send you caring, personal email -- email thoughtfully written specifically to you? Why couldn't a bookseller send you truly personal suggestions, based not on a Pattie Maes algorithm but on knowing a lot about you and a lot about books?

This seems to be uneconomic, but it isn't: we've been doing this in person for eons. In backwater villages and shtetls, even the most oppressed of peoples had a system of guys who did nothing but sit around and advise people about problems they faced: how do you deal with the kids, how do you deal with the laws, how do you deal with critics and other idiots, how do you deal with disease and betrayal? My people called them rabbis.

Think about the economics: how many people could you get to know well enough to give really good advice on what books they should read and what movies they should see? Surely you could write a few personal emails in an hour. Do it for eight hours a day, take it seriously, and you could handle a few hundred people a week -- easy.

You could also do this with computer support, or home cleaning, or cooking. Five hundred people at $5/week is $125,000/yr. That's the magic revenue number -- $100K/employee/year. It might be a close-run thing, but it looks viable to me.