Book Brief: Company of One by Paul Jarvis


company of one jarvisCompany of One:  Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing For Business
Paul Jarvis
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


The Idea

When business advisors talk about “scaling” and “VC” and “staffing up”, do your eyes bug out or glaze over… or both? Have you wondered if there’s something wrong with you if these aren’t ideas in your mission statement?

In his book, Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing, Paul Jarvis shares his strategy of staying small on purpose, creating a thriving business and a rich life. Or, as Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson, authors/ hosts of Being Boss said, “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.”

Recommended For

The professional who has marketable experience who wants to work for themselves, determine their own hour and develop a sustainable (and profitable) business. The person who can view their business from the “what’s enough” vantage point and is committed to doing it their own way (with some help from Paul Jarvis, of course) will appreciate this book.

The Pros

Jarvis has an appealing writing style. He uses relatable examples both from his own experiences and from others; companies like BaseCamp and MailChimp as well as those not immediately recognizable to most readers. The examples cross industries, illustrating that the Company of One model applies to many disciplines, not just the tech world (although all the successful companies use technology to reach their audiences).

I found myself taking notes while reading this book. I jotted down ideas that resonated with me as well as creating self-reflection opportunities. In the section where he talks about purpose, I wrote down the thoughts pertaining to my own business. I found tips that I could share with my own clients, ideas about brand personality, uniqueness and knowing your “why”.

With this information, I felt empowered as I read the book. I relished the linguistic pats on the back (“Yes, I’m doing that and it’s working”) and the challenges (get a product launched quickly so you can fix it and “to stand out and build an audience as a company of one, you have to out teach and out share the competition, not out scale them.” (p.138)). I also felt galvanized in my own choice to be a company of one. Ben Chestnut, CEO & Founder of MailChimp must have been reading my mind when he said, “My way has never been to “be big.” My way was always to “be useful.”

The Cons

As much as I liked this book, I encountered two clear negatives that lingered as I read. The first: Jarvis, even as a self-proclaimed introvert, is verbose. This 217 page book could easily be at least 20 pages shorter. While the anecdotes and examples helped support his ideas, he could have been more succinct. He used several examples multiple times (BaseCamp, MailChimp) in various chapters, but it still felt redundant. His writing style is conversational, but sometimes even the best conversations are a bit too lengthy.

The second negative I felt when reading this books was the feeling of being sold. Kudos to Jarvis for articulating and living the company of one concept. He could have written a great third-person read with all the examples and concepts, but as he used his own business within the models, the relationship got a bit sales-y. Perhaps, if Jarvis had a successful company of one in a different field, not online classes and website consulting as he does, the author/reader relationship could have been less awkward.

To Buy or Not to Buy

I borrowed it from the library and investigated purchasing it. I decided to wait, to evaluate the notes I took from the book to determine if I need more substantial back-up than the notes will provide.

Shared Insight

Curiosity got the best of me. I’ve signed up on Jarvis’ mailing list to see the strategies he uses, the email sequences he implements and how I could use them in my own business. I’ll let you know if I actually take a class.

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