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Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business Paperback – January 14, 2020
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—CAL NEWPORT, bestselling author of DEEP WORK and DIGITAL MINIMALISM
“You're not a machine, so why would you run your business like one? Company of One shows you another way. If you've ever wondered how to have a business that works for you—instead of the other way around—you need this book.”
—CHRIS GUILLEBEAU, bestselling author of SIDE HUSTLE and THE $100 STARTUP
"Growth has been hacked to simply mean “more”. More revenue, more customers, more employees, more products, more, more, more. That’s a tragically myopic view of growth. Paul Jarvis will help you open your eyes to a broader, wiser definition of growth. One of learning, one of betterment, one of contentment. There’s never been a more opportune time to launch or run companies that embrace having and being “enough”. The most important ingredient is a new world view. Company of One can give you just that." —DAVID HEINEMEIER HANSSON, Creator of RUBY ON RAILS and Founder of BASECAMP
"Your business can thrive with less! Company of One is an riveting, lucidly written guide to run a successful minimalist business." —Joshua Fields Millburn, host of The Minimalists podcast
“The default equation of more = better in business isn’t working anymore. If you want to build something that matters, make a difference for your family and the world, and actually enjoy what you do, Company of One offers the inspiration and step by step actions that will change the way you do business, and the way you do life.”
—COURTNEY CARVER, bestselling author of SOULFUL SIMPLICITY
"Paul Jarvis beautifully illustrates that “Small is the new big.” It's true. It's not about how many employees you have (or how many customers you serve). It is about “who” you are working with. This is a revolutionary idea for our times: build your business based on your values. There's nothing small about that. This book is a treasure."
—MITCH JOEL, founder, Six Pixels Group, and author of SIX PIXELS OF SEPARATION and CTRL ALT Delete
“Ever since starting MailChimp 18 years ago, I’ve always been told that my way was wrong. My way has never been to “be big.” My way was always to “be useful.” My company has become a global brand with millions of customers, over $525 million in annual revenue, and almost 1000 employees united by a single mission to empower companies of one. Go figure. There's not one, right way. Only your way. Paul’s book can help you find your way.”
—BEN CHESTNUT, CEO and founder of MailChimp
"Company of One will give you invaluable insights to focus on the purposeful, interesting, and impactful work you actually love doing, right alongside permission to stop blindly chasing growth by defining success on your own terms. This book is great for freelancers, side-hustlers, and small business owners who are looking to bring autonomy, self-reliance, and creativity to their work without becoming total workaholics.
—KATHLEEN SHANNON and EMILY THOMPSON, authors/hosts of Being Boss
"Paul Jarvis is the savviest sole proprietor I know. This book is a permission slip to reject tired corporate business advice in favor of a smaller, slower, more personal approach. Amen." —JOCELYN K. GLEI, host of Hurry Slowly
"A bright, useful entry in the small-is-beautiful genre."—Kirkus Reviews
"Persuasive . . . Jarvis’s soothing guide is a good reminder that chasing the million-customer mark is not the right choice for every entrepreneur.”—Publishers Weekly
About the Author
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Four years ago I leaped into becoming my own company of one as an author and editor. I knew how to write and how to edit, but I didn't know how to run a business.
A friend who'd just made the same leap highly recommended an online course I "absolutely had to take." That course was Paul Jarvis's Creative Class. I attribute my business's continued success to having taken that course.
So, I was thrilled to see "Company of One" coming soon.
I read it in a few days. It's accessible and full of encouraging stories from other companies of one, including Paul's own story. The book also provides plenty of arguments for why the company of one strategy—better, not bigger—may be the right fit for you.
Lastly, two quotes from the end may tell you if this book is for you:
"Enough is the antithesis of growth. Enough is the true north of building a company of one, and the opposite of the current paradigm promoting entrepreneurship, growth-hacking, and a startup culture."
"Business success does not lie in growing something quickly and massively, but rather in building something that's both remarkable and resilient over the long term."
Thanks to Paul, I've built a company of one that's so far proven resilient. Now, with the advice and encouragement of "Company of One," I hope to make it remarkable.
When we first started emailing, he told me about the book and how he was working with a traditional publisher which meant it was going to take at least a year longer than if he self-published. I don't think that the delay added any value to the book...and I am interested to see whether the publishing deal translates into greater visibility and sales. I hope so since the author is a good person and more importantly these are important ideas that are not usually given much attention.
Having waited a year for the book, though, I was disappointed. The ideas are important, and Jarvis does a good job of providing data and examples to support his point of view. Unfortunately, many of the stories he uses are of companies that are not companies of one. They may share some of his values about building relationships with customers and quality over growth, but they are not examples that support the larger argument about a company of one.
There are examples of companies that do follow this model, and it is a missed opportunity to not talk more about those in greater depth. For example, he talks about a design firm that is a network of designers. It would be great to understand better how they operate, what systems they have in place, and how others could follow from than example.
Jarvis talks about his accountant and lawyer, but I know from his other writings that he works with a team of other contractors. Yet the book does not really go into those details. Overall, the book is NOT a how to manual. It is what I would describe as a manifesto that articulates a particular vision and set of values, but it could do that much better. I wonder how much the publisher and editor influenced the direction of the book in this way, because it was not as strong as his weekly newsletters.
My personal belief is that the future of business will be very large companies and lots of companies of one that form networks to solve problems. This book is a first step in articulating some of the values and reasons for this future. Interesting omissions, though, are the idea of the long tail and 1,000 true fans that are foundational to the shift from mass marketing and production to micro marketing and production that leverage personalization versus scale.
Maybe the book would have been better as two books. One on the company of one and the other on relationship marketing. While these are related ideas and both reflect how Jarvis operates his own company, they are also separate. This would allow discussion of how companies like Basecamp operate to develop relationships with customers and how companies of one can operate their businesses.
Despite my frustrations with the execution of the book, it is still a valuable read and important.
In just the first few pages, you encounter ideas like:
- What if you responded to a growth in support requests by finding a better way to teach your customers how to use what you sell, so they didn’t have to ask questions as often?
- What if you didn’t have to work more hours to finish a project but just more efficiently, so you could then enjoy more of your life away from work?
It's a book about building a small business that allows you to enjoy more of your life. About saying, "$500,000 is enough profit for me, so I'm going to take the rest of the year off instead of trying to push the business further."
He talks about things like finding a purpose, channeling your personality as a differentiator, maintaining customer relationships, setting up simple systems, and more. He also gives numerous real-world examples of tiny companies that have huge profits without chasing the mindset of mindless growth.
If you like books like the Four Hour Workweek or Basecamp's Rework, this is great supplemental material.
Top international reviews
Understanding growth and being able to influence it is the same as being able to control and know how to drive a formula 1 race car. Things will go bad if you're doing things you're not ready for.
Great book that opens and asks the questions you need to think about if you don't want to run your company to the ground. I also enjoyed the principle of empathy (towards employees, customers, partners,...) that rarely anyone understands today. There are amazing opportunities (that not many companies do!) when you approach your problems from this angle.
Leaving that aside, I love the idea of staying small and out of unnecessary problems.