Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business

Paul Jarvis

Finished Reading:
Jan 24, 2019

Edition Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Edition Release:
Jan 15, 2019

Purchase Search via DuckDuckGo:
ISBN 9781328972354

Highlights & Annotations


If you’re utilizing systems , automations , and processes to build a long - term business , you’re not trading time for money , but instead operating and profiting outside of the time you spend working and beyond your one - to - one relationships .


Defining a Company of One > Page 9 · Location 212

As much as I enjoy growing my wealth , I also realize that there’s a point of diminishing returns if I don’t also take care of myself and my well - being

Defining a Company of One > Page 11 · Location 240

His company found that the level of resilience a person exhibits determines their success in business , far more than their level of education , training , or experience . Contrary to popular belief , resilience isn’t something that only a select few are born with . It can most definitely be learned . 

Resilient people possess three – absolutely learnable – characteristics:

  • Acceptance of reality
  • A sense of purpose – being motivated by a sense of meaning rather than by just money
  • The ability to adapt when things change – because they invariably do

Defining a Company of One > Page 13 · Location 274

When I was doing web design full - time , each time an economic bubble burst or a recession hit I found myself in a great place to find more jobs because I could offer the quality of work a larger agency could provide , but at a price that had one less zero in it . And not only was I still making more profit than if I had been salaried at an agency , but I could still make the most of the price I was charging because my overhead was almost nothing past having a computer and writing off the second bedroom in a rented condo . And then , when the economy picked back up , agencies were so busy that they had to farm out work , which I was available for . So either way , I had a model for revenue that larger agencies couldn’t have replicated without scaling down immensely .

Defining a Company of One > Page 14 · Location 286

But to achieve autonomy as a company of one , you have to be a master at your core skill set . Competence and autonomy are tied together because the opposite — having complete control but not a clue what you’re doing — is a recipe for disaster .

Defining a Company of One > Page 15 · Location 294

In the beginning , a pre-company of one adopts the mindset of a sponge — basically , you learn everything you can about your profession , your industry , and your customers , and you work at collecting valuable skills of your trade .

Defining a Company of One > Page 15 · Location 296

Corporations that excel at creating autonomy for their best employees often empower them to become something like companies of one : these employees work faster and more ingeniously, and they use fewer resources .

Defining a Company of One > Page 17 · Location 333

achieving control over a company of one requires more than just using the core skill you are hired for . It also requires proficiency at sales , marketing , project management , and client retention .

Defining a Company of One > Page 18 · Location 342

Speed is not merely about frantically working faster . It’s about figuring out the best way to accomplish a task with new and efficient methods .

  • Work smarter, not harder

Staying Small as an End Goal > Page 28 · Location 465

These companies weren’t able to become self-sustaining because they spent and grew based on where they thought their revenue would hit — or they grew based on venture capital injections of funds , not on where revenues were actually at .

Staying Small as an End Goal > Page 31 · Location 515

Buddhists call the Beast the “ hungry ghost ” — a pitiable creature with an insatiable appetite . There is never enough for the hungry ghost , so it’s always looking for more .

Staying Small as an End Goal > Page 35 · Location 573

Nomad List

Staying Small as an End Goal > Page 41 · Location 651

set an upper limit for growth 

Staying Small as an End Goal > Page 42 · Location 667

Socrates said that envy is the ulcer of the soul , meaning that we can easily become negatively affected by the success of others

Staying Small as an End Goal > Page 43 · Location 686

For example , if I’m envious that you make more money than I do , then I need to recognize that making more money might be important to me , work toward figuring out if that’s truly the case , and then , if it is , determine how I can best make more of it . Once we learn what triggers our envy , we can focus on how to rethink or move forward

Staying Small as an End Goal > Page 43 · Location 688

In an ancient language from India called Pali , there’s a term , “ mudita , ” which seems like the opposite of envy , because it means “ to delight in the good fortunes or the accomplishments of others . ” ( Interestingly , it has no counterpart in English . )

What’s Required to Lead > Page 48 · Location 747

What I have done is structure my business around what I’m better at — online teaching and written communication . I’ve turned my introversion into a positive tool , instead of an excuse for inaction . I find ways to lead that suit my personality and skill set : I avoid speaking to large groups and instead lean more on one - to - one communication . My introverted nature is the primary reason I teach online courses instead of doing speaking gigs . Online courses allow me to use a channel through which I can communicate effectively , and in a way that my audience connects with .

What’s Required to Lead > Page 50 · Location 774

hiring more people ended up not being the solution ; instead , introducing more processes and structure helped fewer people accomplish more — while allowing them the autonomy to solve problems in their own way , using a common tool set .

  • Create processes → fewer people accomplish more → they gain independence

What’s Required to Lead > Page 52 · Location 798

generalists will continue to thrive in business as it becomes increasingly valuable to know “ a little bit about a lot . ”

What’s Required to Lead > Page 52 · Location 801

There are certainly domains , like hard science , that require specific knowledge , but for the most part specialist knowledge , if it is blind to everything else , just can’t work in the business world today ( or in companies of one ) because there is too much uncertainty and ambiguity and metrics are so poorly defined .

What’s Required to Lead > Page 52 · Location 803

The time is at hand to embrace generalist thinking and the understanding of many things .

What’s Required to Lead > Page 57 · Location 871

Rand’s first insight is that self - awareness is an absolute requirement . By fostering the ability to notice things about yourself — your own depression , for example — you can remove or put into remission the so - called power tumor . The more you get to know yourself , what your triggers are , and what personally drives you outside of external motivation , the more you can optimize a healthy role for yourself as a leader .

Growing a Company That Doesn’t Grow > Page 60 · Location 911

Kate O’Neill

Growing a Company That Doesn’t Grow > Page 63 · Location 944

churn is what happens when existing customers decide they don’t want to be customers anymore .

Growing a Company That Doesn’t Grow > Page 66 · Location 995

We often think that we need to have everything in place — all the systems , all the automations , all the processes — to be ready to launch a digital product . We want everything all polished and perfect before we hit “ publish . ” But most of the time this doesn’t happen . Most of the time , in fact, waiting until everything is totally perfect can only hurt or delay your launch .

Growing a Company That Doesn’t Grow > Page 67 · Location 998

You can’t start a business with every idea you’ve got for it listed in the “ need to have ” column . You’ll never get anywhere .

Growing a Company That Doesn’t Grow > Page 70 · Location 1050

But then how do you advance in your career within a company that doesn’t grow , or that grows extremely slowly ? Career growth in this case happens by increasing your scope of influence and the level of your ownership ; success in these two areas allows you to stay focused on your skill set .


Determining the Right Mind-Set > Page 78 · Location 1105

In a thriving economy people gladly buy products that align with their values , and in a downturn they spend less and do business with companies they respect and trust .

Determining the Right Mind-Set > Page 82 · Location 1159

she didn’t follow her passion ; instead , she discovered it by accident as she worked her ass off . Her passion came after her hard work — as a result of it — not the other way around .

Determining the Right Mind-Set > Page 82 · Location 1164

passion is the side effect of mastery .

Determining the Right Mind-Set > Page 82 · Location 1167

we need to be craftspeople , focused on getting better and better at how we use our skills , in order to be valuable to our company and its customers .

Determining the Right Mind-Set > Page 83 · Location 1172

Engaging work comprises four key components: 

  • clearly defined assignments
  • tasks you excel at
  • performance feedback
  • work autonomy

Personality Matters > Page 94 · Location 1322

What did change was that I gradually became okay with sharing who I am and using my differences strategically .

Personality Matters > Page 97 · Location 1361

attention can be instantly lost when trust is broken .

Personality Matters > Page 98 · Location 1370

you need to learn how to elicit a strong emotional response to your business , and the personality of your brand , because while it’s easy to forget or lose interest in information , it’s much harder to forget strong emotion .

Personality Matters > Page 98 · Location 1374

Sally has compiled a twenty - eight - question personality test

Personality Matters > Page 100 · Location 1398

we should proudly exclude people , because we can’t please everyone .

Personality Matters > Page 104 · Location 1457

People can copy skills , expertise , and knowledge , which are all replicable with enough time and effort . What’s not replicable is who you truly are — your style , your personality , your sense of activism , and your unique way of finding creative solutions to complicated problems . So lean on that in your work . Sell your way of thinking as much as you would a commodity .

Personality Matters > Page 104 · Location 1460

it’s hard to make money from maybes .

The One Customer > Page 109 · Location 1531

customer service call to RackSpace

The One Customer > Page 110 · Location 1537

Referrals work because they build trust by proxy

The One Customer > Page 111 · Location 1558

“ empathy index ” ( published in the Harvard Business Review )

The One Customer > Page 113 · Location 1592

Like the pizza delivery story , this story captivates us because it reminds us that some companies are less interested in “ business as usual ” and their bottom line than in keeping customers happy and taking care of them as fellow human beings .

The One Customer > Page 115 · Location 1612


The One Customer > Page 119 · Location 1668

Acknowledgment of fault is powerful . It shows empathy , a willingness to own the problem , and a desire to then fix it

The One Customer > Page 120 · Location 1685

Nicholas says that people tend to evaluate each other based on two general dimensions : how interpersonally warm we appear to be , and how competent we seem to be . His work suggests that the way to be positively assessed by others is by making promises, and then keeping them .

The One Customer > Page 121 · Location 1697

This “ commitment drift , ” as Maryam Kouchaki , Elizabeth Doty , and Francesca Gino describe it , is defined as systematic breakdowns in fulfilling a company’s most important commitments to its stakeholders

Scalable Systems > Page 127 · Location 1761

People tend to start with a business model and then become unhappy when their days are filled with tasks they don’t enjoy . Instead of thinking , What product can I create ? or What service can I offer , James believes that we should first think : What type of life do I want ? and How do I want to spend my days ? Then you can work backwards from there into a business model that allows you to create scalable systems to deliver your product to your audience .

Teach Everything You Know > Page 139 · Location 1920

ideas aren’t a valid currency . Execution is the only valid currency in business .

Teach Everything You Know > Page 144 · Location 1995

In business these days , it’s not enough to just tell people you’re an authority — you’ve got to demonstrate your actual expertise by sharing what you know and teaching others . You build authority not by propping yourself up , but by teaching your audience and customers — so that they

Teach Everything You Know > Page 145 · Location 2002

our brain slow down or shut off when we are receiving wanted advice from experts .

Teach Everything You Know > Page 145 · Location 2003

Basecamp has no internal goals or quotas around conversions or customer growth — its only mandate is to out-share and out-teach everyone else by writing books , speaking at conferences , and even hosting workshops at the Chicago office .


Properly Utilizing Trust and Scale > Page 152 · Location 2061

there are three aspects of trust : confidence ( “ I believe what you say ” ) , competence ( “ I believe you have the skills to do what you say ” ) , and benevolence ( “ I believe you’re acting on my behalf ” ) . He’s found countless instances of companies that advocate for their customers . This is a long - term investment in honesty and transparency , and every company of one needs to employ it from the start .

Properly Utilizing Trust and Scale > Page 157 · Location 2133

large corporate business has focused its marketing and promotion efforts on collecting “ vanity metrics ” — like social media followers , subscribers , or clicks . But those metrics don’t always correlate with sales , profit , or reputation . That is , they don’t measure engagement or trust — they simply show how many people took some form of marketing bait . By considering “ collecting ” over “ connecting ” ( with customers ) , these companies are becoming too caught up in collecting page likers and followers and have forgotten to build relationships with those individual customers who are already listening , following , or buying .

Launching and Iterating in Tiny Steps > Page 178 · Location 2413

if you’re at a place where you aren’t sure what to do because things haven’t worked out , do you still think that your initial assumption was correct ? And in knowing all you know at this point , would you pursue the project all over again ?

The Hidden Value of Relationships > Page 185 · Location 2516

Part of being better is better serving an audience who , if served well , will become customers and , if served well as customers , will become advocates .

The Hidden Value of Relationships > Page 185 · Location 2521

“ What gets measured gets done . ”

The Hidden Value of Relationships > Page 188 · Location 2554

you have to make deposits into your social capital account often and build up your balance well before you ask your audience to buy what you’re selling . Do this by being helpful and creating value for as many people in your audience as possible . At the core , your social capital depends on what you can provide for your audience that educates and builds trust , value , and reputation . Social capital is built on mutually beneficial relationships , not one-sided sales-pitch-fests .

The Hidden Value of Relationships > Page 189 · Location 2568

a popular theory put forth by Sam Milbrath of HootSuite is that you can begin by dividing your mass interactions with an audience into thirds . Sam suggests that one - third of your updates should be about your business or your content , one - third should be sharing content from others , and one - third should be personal interactions that build relationships with your audience .

The Hidden Value of Relationships > Page 189 · Location 2573

By sharing and teaching , as we’ve seen in previous chapters , you can establish yourself as a credible expert .

The Hidden Value of Relationships > Page 190 · Location 2582

HighRise , a CRM ( customer relationship management ) company ( and an offshoot business of our friends at Basecamp ) , does something most unusual when a person becomes a customer of their software — their support team films a personalized video for that new customer : addressing them by name , asking what help they specifically need , and giving them direct access to a human being at HighRise .

The Hidden Value of Relationships > Page 191 · Location 2592

Instead , in Lieberman’s estimation , belonging and connection , which Maslow defines as psychological needs , are our most basic need and should be at the bottom of the pyramid , because humans are wired to connect with each other .

The Hidden Value of Relationships > Page 192 · Location 2615

By not first considering the core group and relationship that your business serves , you can run a risk of making them feel like they don’t matter — or worse , making them feel like your company doesn’t care about them .

Starting a Company of One—My Story > Page 201 · Location 2718

“ People want to be the noun without doing the verb . ”

Starting a Company of One—My Story > Page 205 · Location 2781

I’ve simply used my skills to help others , because I enjoy doing it . And I’ve offered this help for free , in small doses at first , and then later for good money in larger doses .

Afterword: Never Grow Up

Page 219 · Location 2975

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 .

Page 219 · Location 2978

Real freedom is gained when you define upper bounds to your goals and figure out what your own personal sense of enough is . You’ll have the freedom to say no to doing the expected , or to opportunities that don’t serve you .

Page 224 · Location 3008

and unless you start asking questions about each pathway , you may not enjoy where you end up .