DRY vs. PRY

To repeat or not to repeat...?

Ever had the dishwasher break and hand-washed a massive pile of dishes? 🍽

It’s the worst.

You’re just sitting there staring at something that could save you hours, while you clean each individual dish. That kind of repetition sucks. 😑

But then, have you ever had a message finally click with someone, after you’ve said it 5 different ways? That lightbulb moment is so cool, and the repetition leading up to it is really valuable. 💡

Being an effective founder deals with this.

It's about knowing what to repeat, and what to do once. Knowing when to load the dishwasher, and when to say that important thing one more time.

Some of this is super intuitive, and you do it already. But some of it...is not.

You gotta hang some things out to DRY 👕

DRY stands for “Don’t Repeat Yourself.” It’s a software principle, and it comes from an older programming book called The Pragmatic Programmer. 🤓The original (and very wordy) definition deals with knowledge in code. Today, when most people reference DRY, they simply mean, ‘don’t duplicate stuff when you program.’ 👯 It’s a pretty good general rule*.

DRY helps you avoid doing the same work over and over again, and it also helps minimize mistakes. Say you have the same piece of code in three places. If you update it in one place, but forget to update it in all the others (which you will do), then you'll get a bug.

As a founder, DRY definitely applies to building your product. But it applies a lot of other areas of your business too—more on that below. 👇

*Some code repetition is good. An experienced programmer will know when to break, and when to follow, this principle. 💻

Other times, you really want to PRY 🔄

PRY is “Please Repeat Yourself.” It’s a common management idea, but we first came across the acronym in a post by Eric Friedman.

Whereas DRY is the all about avoiding repetition, PRY is all about applying repetition. 🚀

As a founder, PRY is particularly important when you're dealing with people. You and your employees need constant reinforcement. 👪So it’s not smart to say something once and assume everyone “gets” it.

This is true in big companies, and it’s especially true in a hectic startup. Each person in your company is bombarded by tasks, deadlines, and their own concerns.

As a founder, it’s up to you to elevate priorities and vision above all that noise. 🌟

Of course, this doesn’t mean you continually say the same sentences over and over*. (I guess you could print them on a t-shirt and wear it daily. 😆) But it does mean you find creative ways to consistently invite your entire team into the same priorities. 📣

*It’s not all talk. You totally can, and should, repeat yourself in actions. 🏃

When to DRY and when to PRY 🤔

So ‘Don’t Repeat Yourself’ sometimes and ‘Always Repeat Yourself’ other times. But how do you know when to do what?

It depends on whether you’re dealing with a process or a person.

DRY when your priority is efficiency, and you’re dealing with product or process: 🛠

  • SaaS product code: Keep your codebase lean, clean, and super powerful.    

  • Accounting: Keep information in one organized location, and minimize mistakes.
  • Surveys: Craft one survey that all respondents fill out.  

  • Regular updates: Use one template for weekly meetings, and/or investor reports.  

  • Customer onboarding: Send automated emails to welcome customers.

Other places you may want to keep DRY: invoicing, payroll, and scheduling (check out Doodle and Calendly).

PRY when your priority is communication, and you’re dealing with people: 👋

  • Advertising: Most customers need to interact with you a few times before they act.  
  • Hiring: Repeat your culture, values, and priorities in every step of the hiring process.

  • Public speaking/pitches: Want the key points to stick? Say them a few times.

  • Vision-casting: It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing.

  • Project Management: Managers who repeat themselves lead more efficient projects.

Also use PRY in: branding, mentoring, values, building habits, and telling your company story.

Okay, but what if I need to deal with process AND people? 👀

Fair. Most parts of your business are mixed bags.

The key is to break big pieces like “sales” down into smaller pieces. As you start to do that, you’ll see some stuff is more process-based, and some stuff is more people-based.

Maybe you automate gathering leads. But then repetitive phone conversations help you understand exactly what customers want.   

It’ll take some practice to figure it out.

But seeing things through this lens—through DRY vs. PRY—can help you be a more effective founder.

It can show you what kind of repetition is a total waste of time.

And what kind of repetition is absolutely key to success. 💥





You invest very heavily and thoughtfully in deciding what kind of company you want to be. And then you repeat it, over and over and over again.

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn