[Notes] The Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business, by Paul Jarvis

Published on Jul 11, 2019

I took notes while reading The Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business, by Paul Jarvis. Sharing them here as reference for myself, and for anyone who might find it useful. 

This is not a book review, just raw notes lifted directly from the book, with some minor interpretations and categorisations of my own. This is part of my reading list for a new season



A company of one is a collective mindset and model, a blueprint for growing a lean and agile business. 

More isn’t always better. Not all business growth is beneficial. Enough is good enough. Be too small to fail.

Staying small intentionally as end goal.

Focus on becoming better, instead of growing bigger.

Make your product better for existing audience.

You don’t need a big vision. Just begin with a few paying customers. Starting small is the best time to learn what your business truly is.

Advantages of a company of one 

A company of one has 4 traits:

  • Resilience & adaptability - easier to adapt as one person
  • Autonomy & control - mastery as a expert generalist is a requirement before autonomy can happen, plus no conflict of interest from having venture capital 
  • Speed - less corporate mass, faster pivot
  • Simplicity - simplify to make it more efficient for one person, less layers of complexity

Redefining what success means

Solving problems with efficiency and effectiveness, not with more money, labour, systems, customers.

Not everything needs scale to succeed. What’s your personal definition of success?

Companies of one isn’t anti-scale, just where it makes sense to scale, instead of being a vanity metric.

Excessive growth isn’t always better. More risk, more stress, more work. Most startups close due to too much growth too fast. A company of one - venturing out alone - isn’t more risky now, than employment.

Set upper bounds of business targets. Everyone sets a lower limit but few set upper limits. Many don’t due to status envy.

There’s a satisfaction in reaching the point of enough in your business, then knowing that you don’t have to explore every new potential opportunity that comes up. This freedom allows you to run your company of one in your own way. 

Every business is, in a way, a lifestyle business, in that each represents your choice of how you want to live.

Growth done thoughtfully 

Growth based on realized profit, rather than potential profit. Hiring only when cheaper to do so, over outsourcing or tech.

One can have the output of many, using leverage of automation, outsourcing, selective collaboration, customer education to self help.

A different relationship with your customers

Virality is overrated - viral means it appealed to everyone, not your target customer. Connecting with your niche audience is more important and far less costly.

A personality - the authentic you - is required for your company of one. People buy based on relationships, and personality forms one half of that.

Smaller businesses tend to want to act like larger companies, but large businesses are trying to act like smaller ones. Small businesses need to start embracing and acting like small businesses. Companies of one can be proud to be one, use personality to stand out, smaller focus to niche down, know customers by name.