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

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What if the real key to a more fulfilling career was not to scale up but to work for yourself and become a successful and sustainable company of one? The New York Times bestselling author of Deep Work Cal Newport calls this book a “must-read for any entrepreneur who prioritizes a rich life over riches.” Company of One offers a refreshingly original business strategy that’s focused on a commitment to being better instead of bigger. Why? Because staying small provides one with the freedom to pursue more meaningful pleasures in life―and avoid the headaches that come with traditional growth-oriented business. Having personally discovered the benefits of cutting out the corporate hierarchy that constantly demands more, author Paul Jarvis explains how you can do the same. With this groundbreaking guide, you’ll learn how to set up your shop, determine your desired revenues, deal with unexpected crises, keep your key clients happy, and find self-fulfillment every step of the way.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2019

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About the author

Paul Jarvis

17 books209 followers
Paul Jarvis is a veteran of the online tech world, and over the years has had such corporate clients as Microsoft, Yahoo, Mercedes-Benz, Warner Music and even Shaquille O'Neal.

​Today, he teaches online courses, runs several software businesses and hosts a handful of podcasts from his home on an island on the West Coast of Canada.

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5 stars
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122 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 450 reviews
Profile Image for Melanie.
329 reviews14 followers
February 12, 2019
Unfortunately, this book was not what I expected, and I ended up skimming the last half of the book. Paul Jarvis argues that companies do not have to constantly scale, nor have a growth mindset, nor add employees. Individuals can be "companies of one," outsourcing or hiring contractors when they need to, but effectively keeping their companies small and manageable while still being successful. This might make for an easier, happier life, especially balancing work with a personal life. I couldn't agree more with all of this, which is why I bought the book. However, it's pretty clear from the beginning Jarvis is not talking about freelancers like me; he says freelancers—those who receive money for a service—aren't getting paid unless they're working. Instead, he's focusing on people who create products. But I disagree: There are tactics freelancers can use to get paid when not working, such as seeking retainers with anchor clients, subcontracting work, etc. I had hoped this book would be more tactical, but it spends 200 pages going into detail about his initial hypothesis, explaining over and over the "company of one" concept. While the numerous company examples are interesting, they seem to be only about wealthy, large "companies of one," not small business or freelancers. I also found little to no applicable advice. At only 200 pages, the book feels too long and needed an editor. I had hoped this book would provide concrete tips and systems I could put into place today, but I didn't find any takeaways that piqued my interest.
Profile Image for Annie.
870 reviews837 followers
June 8, 2019
I give this book 3.5 stars. The author lives in Canada where healthcare is affordable and becoming self-employed or starting a small business can be a realizable dream. In the US where the cost of healthcare insurance is outrageous, it would be risky to quit a corporate job to be your own boss. Some of the tips are good whether you're self-employed or have a side gig (like finding your purpose, listening to customers, creating better products, and building trust in your brand). The main point is to stay small and agile so that you can continue creating better products. When demand for your products go up, you charge more until demand levels off to the amount of work you can handle as a small business. Don't make the mistake of becoming preoccupied with growing the company (which comes with increased debt, complexity, and bureaucracy). Ultimately, it leads to losing touch with customers and getting surpassed by smaller, agile competitors who are making better products.
Profile Image for Jordan.
171 reviews6 followers
March 12, 2019
I finished *Company of One*. This book seems to be a series of affirmations about starting and running a small business online. Its central argument is that small businesses are more nimble and can care more about their customers, and this is both good for profit, good for the psychological wellbeing of the owner, and good for society as a whole. I agree with this.

If you care about this space at all you’ve read almost everything in this book already when you read Jason Fried and DHH’s books. Which you should read. They were making most of these arguments 15 years ago in blog posts and magazine articles. So when, at the end of *Company of One*, the writer says he used to feel like he alone held these values until he embarked on the project of writing the book, I don’t believe him. (The author was a web developer, and every successful web developer in the West has heard of and been influenced by the two aforementioned folks.)

Most of the book seems to be some declaration of a value, like how being small means you can focus more on your existing customers and not on growth or scaling, followed by an example. The examples are where things fall apart for me. He profiles some real charlatans: someone whose webpage pitches how you won’t understand why your customer buys things unless you understand their brain (and pay to ask him and his undergraduate degree in psychology questions about that), someone who created a kind of alternative MBTI-astrology for people in business leadership, and a few people whose method of making money is arranging sponsored content masquerading as personal writing and marketing it all as a personal blog. This is not motivating. More than half of his examples are of people who are just lying about their authority within a domain to people who—while they command lots of capital—don’t know any better.

He also uses a lot of examples from companies that are not mere “companies of one.” Basecamp has 50 employees. Buffer has 72. He puts the behavior of Buffer on a pedestal throughout the book, while the premise of the book is to avoid getting that big in the first place, because being that big means you can’t do the things the book says are valuable about being small. So it all kind of falls apart. While Basecamp can talk a lot about how everyone should aspire to “lifestyle” businesses (e.g., ones that profit in order to afford a certain lifestyle for the owner, and not aspire to much more—note that this includes things like “I want to employ people at a living wage”), they still employ 50 people and make somewhere north of 20MM a year in profit. That is not a mere lifestyle business.

But there were some redeeming qualities, particularly as far as affirmations go. It never hurts me to hear that I should stop focusing on researching a product or planning some feature for something that doesn’t exist yet. I get motivated when I hear—almost independent of the source—that I need to just make and release the thing, that I need to interview potential customers, that I need to quickly get the thing in front of people and iterate. That’s useful and helpful. So the book isn’t worthless.

This book reminds me a lot of *Authority*, which is not a great thing.
Profile Image for Tiago.
Author 10 books1,169 followers
March 25, 2019
Important milestone

This book tied together a lot of recent ideas and trends, from digital minimalism to Marie Kondo, that have in common a simpler and more intentional view of what constitutes success and happiness. This book questions perhaps the deepest and most fundamental assumption of business: that growth is an unmitigated good. And that growth at all costs is the unquestionable premise of all business. That’s not the case anymore, and Jarvis has done a fantastic job making the case for solopreneurship not as a stepping stone, but as a goal in itself. Highly recommended read for anyone pursuing or thinking about pursuing self-employment in any of its diverse forms. You don’t have to sacrifice or trade off anything anymore. This book will show you how.
Profile Image for Poornima Vijayashanker.
Author 2 books34 followers
January 16, 2019
Paul Jarvis does a great job of highlighting the importance of why we need to question growth as it relates to our both our personal and professional goals.

Throughout the book, Jarvis offers examples and alternatives to commonly held beliefs around building, running, and leading a company.

The Company of One doesn’t mean to be prescriptive or claim that there is only one way of doing business. Rather it’s building awareness for what is changing, and how those changes could help you. For example, if you are looking for more flexibility and freedom, you could work remotely or you could build a lifestyle business.

Highly recommend reading for anyone who is trying to figure out what success in business looks like for them.
Profile Image for Adii Pienaar.
68 reviews23 followers
November 21, 2018
Must-read! Finished the book with so many new ideas and new energy to build a business in a new way. We need more of this!
Profile Image for Jakub.
236 reviews
July 12, 2019
What i liked about this book is not about the „American way of doing things”. Its not follow your passion, etc but work smart on small things, decide if you want to grow, if not, it's ok, its not bad.

This is not a book about staying small, is about everything, and imo this is misleading. It should end after 100 pages it would be enough.

Be creative, best on people, be unique. it's basically a good book about what we can do to have a good life without working in corp. you can be huge but you do not need to have 1 000 empl.

however, it is quite too long. and... in can be summarized in:

Do not grow if you do not need to, know what you are doing, do not follow a passion, learn and do things that helps you be better at what you want to do, start small, find one client and if he is paying enough and you have few other clients waiting then quit a job. if you have too many clients, raise prices. Be unique, and have human touch with customers, do something nice to them and they will do something nice to you. and use saas.

that's it, the whole book. you do not need to buy it now ;)
Profile Image for Nela.
Author 1 book10 followers
June 23, 2019
I've been reading articles by Paul Jarvis for years, so I had high expectations for this book – I even pre-ordered it months before release.

I got the impression this book was not intended for experienced business owners. Apart from some interesting trivia and research references, there was nothing new mentioned that I haven't already applied in my own business.

Paul's definition of a “company of one” is quite different from my definition, and so the majority of the book doesn't apply to the kind of business I run (consultancy). I don't remember whether this was communicated in the book marketing, perhaps it really wasn't (which is Paul's fault), or I hadn't paid close enough attention (which is my fault).

For someone who is considering starting a business and knows next to nothing about it, this book is a great introduction to figuring out business goals that are sane and meaningful, and getting your feet wet. For me, it was pretty much rehashing of things I've been doing for a long time, and just confirmation that I'm on the right path. That's not what I look for in a full length book. If I'm going to spend so much time with it, I want it to challenge me and inspire me to evolve. Sadly this one didn't do that.

P.S. If you read this review Paul, I'm sorry to wreck your rating. I really wanted to like it.
Profile Image for Yury Chudnovsky.
19 reviews6 followers
July 11, 2019
I've put 5 stars for this book, because it was just in time for me. Together with "It doesn't have to be crazy at work", those two books supported me in my decision to actually start moving towards my personal Company of one.
Profile Image for Calin Biris.
127 reviews45 followers
May 28, 2022
Dacă te interesează să construiești un business care să se adapteze la viața personală și nu viceversa, acestă carte este pentru tine. Autorul vorbește despre a stabili ce este “suficient” în materie de creștere și profit, despre cum creșterea poate dăuna companiilor și despre de ce merită să ai o companie minimalistă, când ți se potrivește și când nu. Toate sfaturile sunt din experiența proprie a autorului, având la rândul său o companie minimalistă, încă din anii ‘90.
Profile Image for Mitalee | TheAvidBookerfly.
67 reviews38 followers
January 20, 2019
Key message -
Companies of one are small-scale business enterprises that purposefully stay small in order to provide their owners with a sustainable income, a high degree of independence and a healthy work-life balance. Freelancing can be a good stepping stone to starting such an enterprise, and you can develop one by leveraging the power of a marketable skill set, a niche audience, mutually beneficial relationships, simplicity, personality, technology and great customer service.
Actionable advice -
Apply the lessons of a Company of One to other areas of business.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
797 reviews2 followers
February 19, 2019
I didn't find this book flowed well, and while the bullet points at the end were interesting, the rest seemed to drag. The concept of staying small is appealing, but there is a lack of helpful information that can be easily found and applied. Bigger is better is the general premise of most business books, and while this book's goal is staying small, it just felt like it fell short to me.
Profile Image for Nick Hernandez.
44 reviews
January 30, 2020
Author tries to explain a “company of one” by drawing similarities between solo entrepreneurs and people at companies. I just didn’t get it. If he stuck with solo entrepreneurs being a company of one, the book would have been more on track.
Profile Image for Yoly.
573 reviews41 followers
January 3, 2021
If you're already a company of one and have decided this is how you want to stay, there's not much to learn from this book. It will only serve as validation that you're not crazy for making this decision and the author will show you a few successful companies of one.

The book is repetitive and offers important information that might not be new to you since you're already a company of one.

I would only recommend it if you're contemplating exploring this path, but if you've already made the decision and have been doing this for a while, I think you can skip it.

Profile Image for Nicholas Kotar.
Author 37 books273 followers
February 5, 2022
Reread this for the first time in almost three years. Even more insights the second time around. So far, it hasn't dated much. Lots of great stuff for small and creative business owners. Plus, Jarvis is just fun to be around, even in print.
Profile Image for Gio Lodi.
Author 1 book22 followers
February 5, 2019
In Company of One Paul Jarvis challenges the mainstream belief that for a company to be successful it has to grow and keep growing. Companies that question growth, whether made up of a single person like Paul's business, or by many employees like some of the ones profiled in the book, have strategic advantages compared to huge enterprises. No only they can be profitable, but actually thrive in the marketplace.

By focusing on serving existing users rather than investing in advertisement and paid acquisition, for example, a company of one can develop stronger relationship with its customers, retaining them and increasing their lifetime value. Moreover, happy customers can become the biggest advocates for a service or product. This removes the need for advertisement and paid acquisition, enabling even more focus on serving the existing customers, which creates a virtuous cycle of success and profitability.

Small companies have an advantage big ones don't have, they can show the real people behind the business and create an emotional connection with their customers. Moreover, being small means less overhead, which makes it easier to become profitable.

A key strategy to resist the need for growth is to create systems and automation to get more done in less time. This requires ingenuity and creativity, which I find intellectually stimulating.

Another powerful idea is that you don't need to run a company to be a company of one, you can be one within your own organization. Be the person who can get the job done with less resources, that introduces automation and processes to be more effective, that care about the relationship with the customers.

The book is written in an easy to read conversational tone. It never bores with tangents or repetition aimed only to hit the words count.

I appreciate how well researched the book is. While the idea of the company of one is based on Paul Jarvis' experience running his own business the majority of the examples and cases in point of the book are from a variety of businesses embodying its principles.

I'd recommend Company of One to every business owner, to people considering starting their on businesses, and to anyone who's happy working as an employee but longs for a more impactful and rewarding way of working.
Profile Image for Martijn Reintjes.
196 reviews6 followers
April 8, 2020
Company of one describes my way of entrepreneurship. I've always been different, as that I don't care about money or working long hours, I care about building cool things that people find useful.
It was refreshing to have a lot of my business practices put in some context.

Some quotes from the book:
- the “company of one” model can be laid out in a similar fashion: “start small, define growth, and keep learning.”
- Start out as simple as possible, and always fervently question adding new layers of complexity.
- Richard Branson summed up purpose nicely: “Success in business is no longer just about making money or moving up the corporate ladder. More and more, one of the biggest indicators of success is purpose.”
- Arthur & Henry’s metric for success is sustainability in all forms: earning steady revenues, raising money for charities, minimizing environmental damage, and maximizing benefits to all workers.

Profile Image for Mike Weston.
103 reviews6 followers
May 12, 2020
Enough and better are goals that should characterize our pursuits more than the endless passion growth. Love Jarvis’ challenge to begin with the end in mind and then create an organization with the strategies that allow you accomplish the life you desire.
Profile Image for Jacek Bartczak.
196 reviews61 followers
March 20, 2020
Book plenty of good business tips but none of them is new or spectacular. Or maybe it is about me - in last years I implemented many of those tips or told do so other companies (or I read about them somewhere else).

That book may be good for you if:
- didn't read much about the business yet - so you need to know basics quickly,
- your business knowledge comes from startup's "hustle and grow 10x culture" - so you will get to know the less crazy perspective
- you work in business but in a precisely specialized position - so you will learn how to look at the business from different contexts.

I don't think publishing this book in 2019 was necessary - it collects good practices that already spread out.
Profile Image for Zohreh Avatefi hafez.
121 reviews10 followers
January 19, 2019
The “company of one” idea is very exciting especially in this time that all business wants to be giant as a Amazon or Facebook or Star-box. If we use this idea’s principals in our company ,we can find very profits from ourself without hard work.

ايده "شركت تكي "يا همان company of one يك ايده جذاب براي شركت دارها و كساني است كه شركتي را مديريت مي كنند.اينكه به جاي گسترش هر روزه سايز شركت ها در يك اندازه خوب رشد را متوقف كنيم و به جاي آن از زمان آزادمان بهره وري كنيم. البته اصول اين ايده را بدون مطالعه و آموزش بكار برد كه در آن صورت خطا اجتناب پذير خواهد بود
Profile Image for Gabriel Hauser.
51 reviews
September 26, 2021
A good counter to the grow-grow-grow mentality that seems to always be taken as a given. Question assumptions - even that one.
March 12, 2022
This book questions the most common assumption in business, that growth at all costs is the way. Jarvis has done a fantastic job making the case for sufficiency and staying small. It should end after 100 pages though.
Profile Image for Ugis.
101 reviews33 followers
November 27, 2022
Quite good. Many ideas about business resonated with me quite good. Lot of lessons too. Definitely one good business read. [reading time: 8h49m]
Profile Image for smschumacher.
164 reviews12 followers
November 8, 2020
I guess this isn’t what I expected - I was hoping for practical application. He has questions at the end of each chapter (“start thinking about”) but otherwise it felt like a regurgitation of business concepts I’ve read elsewhere. I also didn’t need to be convinced; I’ve been running a company of one for years.

I guess read this if you have doubts about the advantages of staying small, but personally, I would have liked to read more about how to manage subcontractors, strategies for determining what work to invest your time in vs. delegating, etc. Chapter 13, with his personal story, was the closest it got to practical advice along these lines, and that’s the book I’d like to read.

The Million-Dollar One-Person Business by Elaine Pofeldt is the book I wanted to read. I found it much more practical and applicable and would suggest reading it instead.

Profile Image for Taqiyya.
9 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2021
jujur ….. gue suka bgt buku ini karena easy to understand and easy to follow dan kayak relatable krn gue sering ngerasa with me & my small business suka bertanya2 “gue salah ga sih klo mau keep my business small?” Tapi di sekitar gue kyk selalu melihat bisnis yg sukses itu bisnis yg besar, udah bisa jualan dimana2, followers sampe K, buka cabang dimana2 ….. tapi selama ini gue DEEP DOWN ngerasa kyk “masa sih? ngga juga ah” also kyk “mang napa dah kalo gue pgn keep my business small? Yg penting kan masih bisa fulfill ur customers needs, pay overhead costs and get profit?” Trs buku ini kyk “ya bro lo bener!!! Emg gpp!!! Malah lebih baik!!!!” Kyk dapet validasi dari ke-konfyus-an gue selama ini. Quoted dr buku lupa sih tapi intunya “the idea of a successful business is a big in scale—is that what you really want or it’s only how people out there wants ur business to be?” Gt deh intinya successful business doesn’t necessarily have to be BIG in size .. sekian 🙏🏽
Profile Image for Bálint.
259 reviews32 followers
March 12, 2019
I honestly expected a lot more hands on stuff from Paul, but I understand he saved that up for the accompanying course. Smart move.

The book has a lot of stories, quotes, it's a well researched publication, without a lot of original thought. I'm not saying that is a bad thing, it's certainly valuable for business newcomers, but I found very few new things in it (which is of course is not the book's fault. well, no one's really).

For me, the power lies in the confirmation - a lot of things I've done instinctively have been confirmed. Always nice.

Style-wise, it's disturbingly motivational, I barf when I read such things as The first trait that resilient people have is an acceptance of reality. and the like.

Apart from that, I would definitely not re-read this book, but I did not regret reading it.
Profile Image for Mark Sylvester.
65 reviews6 followers
June 25, 2019
This book definitely made me re-evaluate a number of assumptions about what I thought a "healthy" business is and should look like. Author presents a broader, much more balanced picture of how growth can and should fit into your life (family, work, hobbies, desired lifestyle, serving customers BETTER vs. serving MORE customers), what steps to take to develop a "company of one" mindset, and questioning growth for growths sake! Definitely against the grain with regard to the current start-up/growth hacking cultural narrative.
Profile Image for Chris Raastad.
44 reviews2 followers
February 23, 2020
I love this book. Company of one brings to life the ideas brewing I've had brewing about business and companies for a few years now. The main idea is easily digestible in the first chapter: staying small is powerful. There is a way to build a career where your work works around life and life doesn't have to sacrifice for work. 9-5 and salary work does not incentivize productivity, does not incentivize quantifying "enough work is done today" and going home early. This book questions the entire venture capital startup mentality. Build an MVPr (minimal viable product with revenue) and you can let your customers dictate your growth. Sometimes growth is not the answer, enough is enough. The author brings many examples of small businesses and companies that grow in this company of one philosophy. The book is a pretty easy read.
Profile Image for Karen Chung.
391 reviews92 followers
July 3, 2021
Disclaimer: I only read about the first third of the book, then skimmed the table of contents for the rest. I normally finish books as a matter of course and stubbornness, but one's time left on earth grows shorter by the day and minute, and this one was so repetitive that I decided to move on to a book with a higher information value for me.

This is not to diminish the core message of the book, which is a very good one: in business, as in so many other areas of life, choose quality over quantity. You don't necessarily have to aim to grow a megabusiness. If you focus too much on growth instead of your product, your product will suffer. Focus on making and offering a really really good product, and your tribe will often find you. Charge more for quality, and let someone else serve the mass market.
Profile Image for Otavio Albano.
Author 34 books7 followers
May 24, 2019
Having a "company of one", I started this book really excited on reading about people that think like me: you don't have to have a never-ending growth to be successful and lead a well-balanced life. But the author contradicts himself many, many times throughout the book. Just to give an example, he starts talking about entrepreneurs that spend their afternoons surfing and enjoying life and then says that you should be available 24/7 for your clients to keep them happy... I expected much more from this book.
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