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

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

High-level thoughts

A great book that questions the need for growth in business – what other things we could focus other than growing the company?


The book started with the tagline – why staying small is the next big thing in business?

Most business books out there place focus on growing your company, for examples – growing revenue, system, clients, partners, etc.

This book does the reverse to question the reason of growth.

The ONE in this book does not mean one person, it means small, less and focus – stay small, do less and focus on a few things.

Many examples are given to support the idea of staying small and making it work. Companies like Basecamp, Ugmonk, HighRise, Hootsuite have adopted this approach in one form or another.

It is a book worth reading for many modern business owners to rethink the purpose of growth before growing rapidly without a solid plan behind.

The writing in this book is simple, straightforward and clean. And it has been translated to 18 languages as well.

Book outlines

The book is structure in 3 main chapters – Begin, Define and Maintain.

  • Begin
    • Defining a Company of One
    • Staying small as an end goal
    • What’s required to lead
    • Growing a company that doesn’t grow
  • Define
    • Determining the right mind-set
    • Personality matters
    • The one customer
    • Scalable systems
    • Teach everything you know
  • Maintain
    • Properly utilising trust and scale
    • Launching and iterating in tiny steps
    • The hidden value of relationships
    • Starting a company of one – my story

Who’s Paul Jarvis?

I subscribed to Paul Jarvis’s newsletter – Sunday Dispatch many years ago while I stumbled upon his article. He is the guy who I admired a lot for the work he does.

He is quite a solo-creator, designer, podcaster and author. He started two online courses including CreativeClass, Chimp Essential and also developed a fantastic Sass – Fathom Analytics. His career started

Why I started this book?

Before I decided to read his book, I thought it was a book that focuses on running the company as one person. However, as I mentioned, his definition is not just ONE person, but being small, less and focus.

Recently, I was questioning the growth of my own agency myself. I managed to sign quite a good sum of additional revenue for my agency, but I don’t know how to use such revenue in the most valuable way.

So I picked up the book.

What I learned?

The one thing I learned is to grow with purpose and question the reasons behind.

Understand the true reason why growth is required.

Stay small, stay focus and do less.

Keep the team lean, focus on making few clients happy and build systems.

Profit vs Growth

What growth actually means? With growth, it means temporary it will

  • Decrease in revenue
  • Increase in expenses
  • Increase in overheads
  • Increase in time-spent training new persons
  • Decrease in service quality for
  • Decrease in profit

My story

I have always wanted to run a small company that makes a good profit. Because I understand how tough it is to run a company with extremely high expenses.

In my past 5 years of running the agency, the whole focus has always been surviving. Only this year, we manage to breakthrough and plan for the future.

The past years were always trying to find revenue to feed the team. More projects mean more people needed, more people needed mean higher expenses, higher expenses mean need to acquire more projects.

So the loop has sucked my life, I could not breath most of the time, I have to finish from one project to another because I have to pay the team and many other things like software, rent, etc.

The book has many good points that I recommend to follow.

I wish I have learned many skills today then my business journey will not be so difficult. I learned the hard way.

Say no

I wish I have chosen wisely in careers to learn how to turn down clients so we don’t have to grow so rapidly.

Growth without purpose is scary. Hiring for the sake for fulfilling projects and more work are even scarier. Because this just shows that company has no plan.

For instance, hire to fulfil new client means you have to be prepared to find new client if this client drops, if not your new hire will become obsolete.

Grow responsibly

Don’t hire a full time until you know what you are doing, unless you have a huge fund behind:

These are my advise before hiring a full time employee:

  • Make sure you have 3 months of runway in total expenses
  • Make sure the person is essential, not good to have
  • Make sure you or your team have dedicated the time to grow this person, not just a person that is disposable

Focus on product, marketing and sales

In the early stage of your business, every single cent should be focus on improving your product quality, marketing and selling your product.

Everything else can be outsource: admin, HR, website design, legal, accounting, bookkeeping.

Pay all the attention in making sure that your revenue is more than expenses.

As a business owner, you should be the best person in selling your own services or products.

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