More is Less, Less is More (Company of One by Paul Jarvis)
Bigger + faster = success?
Fellow freelancers, entrepreneurs, and business owners – is your main goal simply to grow as fast as possible? Is that why you started your business?
I hope the answer is No, but you may have gotten sucked into the world of obsessive growth, like may of us have. The first decade of my entrepreneur life was focused solely on growth which, ironically, is exactly what DID NOT happen.
Let’s be clear: growth is good. Making money is good. But having a business that is sustainable and supports the lifestyle you want to have comes FIRST, then you build in the growth over time.
In Company of One, Paul Jarvis cites numerous examples (even more than I expected!) of companies that have grown too fast and paid the price, as well as companies that focus on being a “company of one” (aka a business that questions growth).
Now why in the world would any company question growth?! Didn’t we already over that growth is good?
INTENTIONAL growth is good.
I’ve personally seen the most success in my life when I’ve figured out solutions to problems without having to do what traditional businesses do to solve problems – hire more people, throw more money at the problem, or build complex infrastructures to support the extra employees. Basically, I’m not interested in addressing problems by throwing “more” at them. Solving with “more” means more complexity, more costs, more responsibilities, and typically more expenses. More generally the easiest answer, but not the smartest.
The concepts in Company of One speak to why I started working for myself – more freedom, more autonomy, and more self-sufficiency, along with being able to help people in ways I simply couldn’t otherwise.
But maybe your job doesn’t lend well to be an entrepreneur, or perhaps you enjoy working as part of a larger organization with specific goals. Guess what: you can be a “company of one” instead of a bigger organization too.
Paul’s book does a fantastic job of spelling out the benefits and methods of being a “company of one”, no matter how you make money. At the end of each chapter, he has points to “begin to think about,” which a spectacular summation of the concepts of the chapter and enough to get your wheels turning on how to apply what you read to your own business or position.
By the way, this IS NOT only for SaaS (Software As a Service) or product-based businesses.
As a service-based business, I can say that Paul directly provides insight on how to model and test your services to make the most of your time + effort. While he does mildly advocate moving into products at some point, he absolutely emphasizes that starting with a service is the fastest way to begin making money, finding out what your would-be market will actually pay for, and over time, you can develop products that speak to those needs – but you can keep offering services if you want!
I have friends who are working on transitioning to working for themselves + I’ve already sent them this book. This is, in my opinion, one of the BEST books to read at ANY stage in your professional development, but the best time is NOW.
This is a book you will devour. This book will make you think. This book should be re-read at least once a year to provide valuable reminders along your path (from which it is VERY easy to stray).
P.S. Paul also offers an affordable, one-time-fee course that accompanies the book. I plan to sign up, if nothing else, to be a part of the community aspect to connect with fellow “companies of one.” I need more people like that in my professional life, and I bet you do too.
(Thanks to the Austin Public Library for having this book available to borrow.)