Company of One
Author: Jarvis, Paul
Notes by: Jacopo Perfetti.

Prologue
Page xvi · 237
the “company of one” model can be laid out in a similar fashion: “start small, define growth, and keep learning.”
BEGIN
1 Defining a Company of One
Page 5 · 269
Sometimes “enough” or even less is all we need, since “more” too often equates to more stress, more problems, and more responsibilities in both life and business.
Page 6 · 279
company of one is simply a business that questions growth.
Page 6 · 288
handling problems with the resources currently available.
Page 6 · 288
Although it can require a little more ingenuity, solving problems this way can set a business up for long - term stability, since less is needed to keep it afloat.
Page 7 · 303
The word “intrapreneur” points to one example of a company of one within a larger organization.
Page 8 · 318
It was a hackathon that led to the creation of Facebook’s “Like” button,
Page 9 · 324
If you’re a company of one, your mind - set is to build your business around your life, not the other way around.
Page 9 · 330
To this day, this strategy is considered what it takes to be a success in business — solving problems by adding “more” to the solution.
Page 10 · 335
So a company of one is not anti - growth, or anti - revenue, and it’s not just a one - person business either
Page 10 · 337
A company of one questions growth first, and then resists it if there’s a better, smarter way forward.
Page 10 · 338
the four typical traits of all companies of one: resilience, autonomy, speed, and simplicity.
Page 11 · 352
Being or becoming a company of one has a lot to do with resilience: the capacity and fortitude to recover quickly from difficulties
Page 11 · 357
resilience isn’t something that only a select few are born with. It can most definitely be learned.
Page 11 · 358
The first trait that resilient people have is an acceptance of reality.
Page 12 · 369
The second characteristic of resilient people is a sense of purpose — being motivated by a sense of meaning rather than by just money. Although purpose
Page 12 · 375
The last trait of resilient people in a company of one is the ability to adapt when things change
Page 15 · 414
companies set up ROWEs (Results - Only Work Environments), in which employees don’t have set schedules, all meetings are optional, and it’s entirely up to employees how they spend their time working.
Page 16 · 434
As a society, we’re gradually starting to view “work” not as a single place of employment, but as a series of engagements or projects.
Page 17 · 448
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.
Page 17 · 449
Whereas most normal corporate workers can be hyperfocused on a single skill, companies of one, even within a larger business, need to be generalists who are good at several things — often all at once.
Page 18 · 452
Companies of one work best under constraints — because that’s where creativity and ingenuity thrive.
Page 18 · 454
Companies of one question their systems, processes, and structure to become more efficient and to achieve more with the same number of employees and fewer hours of work.
Page 19 · 465
Another aspect of speed in a company of one is the ability to pivot quickly when a customer base or market changes.
Page 21 · 491
For a company of one at any size, simple rules, simple processes, and simple solutions typically win.
Page 21 · 496
mean simplifying rules and processes,
2 Staying Small as an End Goal
Page 27 · 573
A study done by the Startup Genome Project, which analyzed more than 3,200 high - growth tech startups, found that 74 percent of those businesses failed, not because of competition or bad business plans, but because they scaled up too quickly.
Page 28 · 583
The Kauffman Foundation study also illustrated that almost 86 percent of companies that succeeded in the long term did not take VC money.
Page 29 · 595
Companies of one instead focus on stability, simplicity, independence, and long - term resilience and rely on starting small and becoming as profitable as possible, without the need for outside investment.
Page 30 · 611
For companies of one, the question is always what can I do to make my business better?, instead of what can I do to grow my business larger?
Page 31 · 633
Starbucks was opening hundreds of stores around the world but decided that it could scale faster by adding sandwiches, CDs, and fancier drinks to its offerings. This rapid expansion ended up diluting the Starbucks brand, and in an equally rapid contraction, the company was forced to close 900 stores. Subsequently, Starbucks returned its focus to doing its one thing — coffee — better.
Page 35 · 678
WordPress, the software that powers 26 percent of all websites on the internet, closed its gorgeous San Francisco office, not because the company was out of money (it’s extremely profitable) but because employees were barely working at the office, opting instead to work at home.
Page 43 · 799
there is one way that envy can be useful: as a tool to recognize in ourselves what we truly value.
Page 43 · 799
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.
3 What’s Required to Lead
Page 50 · 892
Autonomy can also be badly abused. The problem is not so much employees taking advantage of perks like flex hours or remote work, but leaders assuming that they need to give less direction. A leader’s job is to provide clear direction and then get out of the way.
Page 56 · 968
In saying no to anything that doesn’t fit, you leave room to say yes to those rare opportunities that do fit — opportunities that align with the values and ideas of your business.
Page 57 · 987
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.
Page 57 · 990
As leaders, our job is to be self - aware and to check in on ourselves regularly.
Page 58 · 1001
when people take the time to thank their contractors, employees, and coworkers, they become much more engaged and productive.
4 Growing a Company That Doesn’t Grow
Page 61 · 1032
growth as a one - dimensional metric for success is useless in the absence of real reasons for it or ways to support customers once they’re acquired.
Page 61 · 1037
user growth would cost more than user retention.
Page 61 · 1040
the number of renewing customers was a far more important metric for success (and far cheaper) than the number of new customers acquired.
Page 62 · 1046
Most companies grow for four reasons: inflation, investors, churn, and ego.
Page 63 · 1063
adding a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an existing one.
Page 63 · 1065
Ego is the final reason most companies want to grow.
Page 67 · 1112
Most of the time, in fact, waiting until everything is totally perfect can only hurt or delay your launch.
Page 67 · 1114
true “need to have” is whatever will make your idea fall apart if you don’t have it.
Page 67 · 1125
In short, start small. Start with just the smallest version of your idea and a way to make it happen.
Page 68 · 1131
Companies of one aren’t anti - scale; rather, they’re aware that they need to determine which areas of their business need to scale and when it makes the most sense to do so.
Page 68 · 1132
without business introspection, scale and volume could be chased as vanity metrics rather than as accurate measures that determine profit.
Part II: DEFINE
5 Determining the Right Mind-Set
Page 78 · 1221
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.
Page 79 · 1232
Your purpose is the lens through which you filter all your business decisions, from the tiny to the monumental.
Page 80 · 1247
John Kotter and James Heskett report in their book Corporate Culture and Performance that purpose - based, values - driven companies outperform their counterparts in stock price by a factor of twelve.
Page 80 · 1255
You can’t fake your purpose. Your gut and your customers simply won’t let you.
Page 81 · 1268
While purpose is based on a core set of values held by a company or even a business owner and shared with customers, passion is simply a whim based on what we think we enjoy doing.
Page 82 · 1276
passion came after her hard work — as a result of it — not the other way around.
Page 85 · 1323
“courage” and “passion” sound better and more romantic than “skills” and “viability tests.”
Page 86 · 1334
Passion doesn’t precede mastery, but follows it.
Page 86 · 1343
If you’re engaged by your work — for the independence it allows, for the sense of completion when you’re done, for its contribution to making the world a better place — passion is likely to follow.
Page 87 · 1352
Opportunities are just obligations wearing an appealing mask.
Page 87 · 1353
they always come at a cost
Page 87 · 1353
No matter how hard you try, you can’t scale the amount of time in your day. And since you can’t somehow buy more hours, you need to find ways to use those hours better.
Page 88 · 1359
A Microsoft Research study found that attempting to focus on more than one priority at a time reduces productivity by as much as 40 percent, which is the cognitive equivalent of pulling an all - nighter.
Page 88 · 1367
Companies of one need to become adept at “single - tasking” — doing one thing for an extended period of time without distraction.
Page 88 · 1369
for every interruption, it takes an average of twenty - three minutes and fifteen seconds to fully get back to the task.
Page 89 · 1385
Making yourself available eight hours a day on a chat leaves you no time to do focused, deep work.
Page 90 · 1388
create a “stop doing” list
Page 92 · 1421
your ability to focus drastically diminishes after fifty - five hours a week.
6 Personality Matters
Page 94 · 1443
Personality — the authentic you that traditional business has taught you to suppress under the guise of “professionalism” — can be your biggest edge over the competition when you’re a company of one.
Page 95 · 1444
while skills and expertise can be replicated, it’s damn near impossible to replicate someone’s personality and style.
Page 95 · 1447
Your human characteristics are the way your brand speaks and behaves.
Page 96 · 1458
personality even creates and affects company culture.
Page 96 · 1466
don’t confuse the personality of your brand with “acting the part” — instead, the idea is to showcase those aspects of who you naturally are as they relate to building fascination with your intended audience.
Page 97 · 1479
attention can be instantly lost when trust is broken.
Page 97 · 1484
According to best - selling business author Sally Hogshead, the answer lies in developing fascination — an intense captivation and focus on a person or business.
Page 98 · 1488
the key is to unlearn being boring.
Page 98 · 1489
it’s easy to forget or lose interest in information, it’s much harder to forget strong emotion.
Page 98 · 1489
You can do this by allowing your business to have some aspect of your own innate personality or quirks.
Page 98 · 1490
Fascination in a product or service builds an emotional connection, and emotional connections hold attention.
Page 99 · 1501
Fascination is the response when you take what makes you interesting, unique, quirky, and different and communicate it.
Page 99 · 1508
taking a stand is important because you become a beacon for those individuals who are your people, your tribe, and your audience.
Page 99 · 1513
Products can be changed or adjusted if they aren’t functioning, but rallying points align with the values and meaning behind what you do.
Page 100 · 1516
because we can’t please everyone.
Page 100 · 1522
Guy Kawasaki, the well - known marketing specialist and venture capitalist, also thinks that we shouldn’t be afraid of polarization. Large companies search for the “Holy Grail” of products that appeal to every demographic, socioeconomic background, and geographical location, but this “one size fits all” approach rarely works and often leads to mediocrity
Page 102 · 1543
To be a polarizing company of one, you can look to three strategies.
Page 102 · 1544
The first is placation: trying to change the minds of the so - called haters, those individuals who don’t like your product.
Page 102 · 1546
The second strategy is prodding: by intentionally antagonizing haters, you may sway neutral customers into becoming supporters if they agree with your polarizing stance.
Page 102 · 1548
the third strategy is amplification: singling out a characteristic and leaning heavily on it.
Page 104 · 1574
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,
7 The One Customer
Page 106 · 1596
nine out of ten Americans were willing to spend more with companies that exhibited great customer service.
Page 106 · 1599
loyal customers, on average, were worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase.
Page 106 · 1600
only 4 percent of customers actually voice their dissatisfaction to a business: a whopping 91 percent of dissatisfied customers simply don’t ever return.
Page 106 · 1603
puzzling that some growth - centric companies care more about new customer acquisition than retention or customer happiness.
Page 107 · 1616
As companies of one, we are very much in the people - serving business. It’s critical that we listen to each of our customers and take full ownership in making sure they are pleased with our service level and then successful in their own lives.
Page 108 · 1635
70 percent of buying experiences are based more on how customers feel they are treated and less on the tangibles of a product
Page 109 · 1642
If customer happiness is the goal of customer service, your support center can become the main source of referrals. Referrals are a powerful way to gain new customers
Page 109 · 1653
the kind of customer service that builds reciprocity: your customer gets something unexpected and then feels the need to help your business, not only by remaining loyal but also by telling others.
Page 112 · 1688
The first step in treating customers empathetically is listening to their needs; with this knowledge, we can drive innovations or new product ideas.
Page 114 · 1715
If your customers feel that you are taking care of them, then they’ll stick around and they’ll tell others.
Page 116 · 1743
Some companies view some customers as too small to matter, especially when it comes to success. But if you take this shortsighted view, you may wrongly assume that your customer’s situation or size won’t ever change.
Page 117 · 1760
it’s equally important to be transparent outwardly with your customers. That doesn’t mean sharing everything, but it does mean being open about your company’s relevant highs and lows, as they could have an effect on your customer relationship.
Page 117 · 1762
If your business has been treating customers empathetically, they’ll tend to be more understanding when things go wrong — but only if you immediately work to fix or resolve issues.
Page 117 · 1764
The first step is apologizing like a real, empathetic human, not a corporate PR - sounding robot.
Page 119 · 1782
doctors who are transparent about errors and offer apologies to patients are actually sued far less for malpractice than doctors who deny wrongdoing and defend mistakes.
8 Scalable Systems
Page 124 · 1842
When growth in profit, customers, or reach is needed, however, companies of one can look to simple and repeatable systems to facilitate scale, with no need for more employees or resources.
Page 126 · 1864
The Need / Want model is growth based on realized profit, not growth based on potential profit (the model adopted by most startups or VC - backed companies).
Page 126 · 1869
A / B tests let a company test a few variations of a small subset of a list, see which variant performs best, and then send the winning variant to the rest of the list.
Page 129 · 1911
a company of one can scale its connection with customers without actually scaling its business.
Page 129 · 1912
the majority of connecting can be done en masse. A perfect example is email marketing.
Page 129 · 1915
With an average return on investment of 3,800 percent, according to the Data & Marketing Association, email marketing is a valid model for scaling without scale.
Page 130 · 1922
Using personalization and segmentation in connection channels like email is key. You want to send the right email, to the right person, at the right time.
Page 132 · 1949
Working for yourself doesn’t necessarily mean working by yourself. Even if your company of one is just you, there are still times when you’ll need to collaborate with others
Page 132 · 1951
But collaboration is a double - edged sword: technology allows us to easily connect with each other in real time, but at the expense of focused, deep work.
Page 132 · 1957
Real - time messaging can turn into all - day meetings, every single day, with no set agenda.
Page 132 · 1961
Real - time collaboration can be very useful when a whole team is required to brainstorm or solve a problem together, but it can also be completely distracting if it’s expected most of the time.
Page 133 · 1973
Hackathons work because they are focused collaboration, not 24 / 7 “be available at all times” collaboration.
9 Teach Everything You Know
Page 138 · 2024
To stand out and build an audience as a company of one, you have to out - teach and outshare the competition, not outscale them.
Page 138 · 2024
This approach has several positive outcomes.
Page 138 · 2025
The first is that creating a relationship with an audience that sees you as a teacher sets you up to be perceived as the domain expert on the subject matter.
Page 138 · 2028
The second benefit of out - teaching your competition is the chance to show an audience the benefits of what you’re selling.
Page 138 · 2033
The third reason teaching works is that by educating new customers on how best to use your product or service and showing them how to get the most out of it or how to be the most successful with it, you also ensure that they’ll become long - term customers and tell others about their positive experience.
Page 138 · 2035
The final reason teaching works for a company of one is that, except for certain proprietary information — like your unexecuted ideas, business strategies, or patentable technologies — most ideas or processes don’t need to be kept under lock and key.
Page 139 · 2043
The purpose of the copyright is not to protect the idea
Page 139 · 2044
but to protect the execution
Page 140 · 2052
At the core of many massive, profitable, global companies is an old idea executed exceptionally well. Facebook is just a better MySpace, and both are essentially digital meeting places.
Page 140 · 2054
Taxis take people from point A to point B. Uber / Lyft just figured out how to make this service more convenient.
Page 142 · 2081
these days, more and more consumers are demanding honest and straight information about products, so they can make their buying decisions at their own speed.
Page 143 · 2100
As a company of one, what you teach people about your product can and will set you apart. So, for example, if you sell mailing list software, be sure to teach your clients about the importance of email marketing.
Page 144 · 2108
what we’re talking about is creating an environment where customers respect and value your opinions because you’ve demonstrated consistent competency by educating them.
Page 145 · 2129
They don’t worry about whether someone will steal their innovation for a product, a service, or a book — they just work at executing and sharing ideas faster and better than anyone else, in their own unique style and with their own unique personality.
Part III MAINTAIN
10 Properly Utilizing Trust and Scale
Page 150 · 2156
In some industries, like airlines and cell phone providers, trust either doesn’t exist or is routinely broken. Cost pressure and consumer preference for the lowest price have forced these industries to cut costs to the bone, even to the detriment of how they treat their customers, which has created a huge lack of consumer trust.
Page 150 · 2167
A trust - based company of one begins with creating something that genuinely solves a problem;
Page 152 · 2183
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”).
Page 152 · 2187
the power of recommendation — or word of mouth — lies in its ability to create trust by proxy.
Page 152 · 2187
If your good friend tells you that a product is worth buying, you’ll listen because you trust your friend;
Page 153 · 2204
while 83 percent of customers are willing to provide referrals, only 29 percent actually do so.
Page 154 · 2211
Incentives are another way to evangelize users, but they can be tricky. Sometimes offering cash incentives reduces trust
Page 155 · 2235
Word of mouth can also be incentivized through the scalable system of segmented automation
Page 156 · 2248
No company or product is too good to not have to consider and utilize marketing.
Page 157 · 2252
Where companies of one can use their focus on betterment over growth in marketing is by focusing on a specific niche instead of a massive market.
Page 157 · 2254
In recent years, 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.
Page 157 · 2259
Having 100 passionate fans of your business who are eager to buy anything you release is exponentially more effective than having 100,000 followers
Page 158 · 2269
The more specific you are with who your products or services are for, the more you can build trust with that particular audience.
Page 159 · 2285
you don’t need Super Bowl ads. Instead, as a company of one, you can be more effective by writing guest articles for websites and blogs, creating incentive programs for existing clients,
11 Launching and Iterating in Tiny Steps
Page 164 · 2347
As a company of one, you need to reach profitability as quickly as possible.
Page 164 · 2348
So getting your product or service released as soon as possible, even if it’s small, is both financially wise and educational, since a quick release can also serve as a perfect learning experience.
Page 165 · 2352
the lower the number, the quicker you can reach it. So it’s important to scale up your timelines and focus on core features only,
Page 166 · 2372
A company of one begins quite small (one person, no office required) and spends only when profits allow it. Growth is much slower because it’s incremental from zero
Page 168 · 2397
finding a simple solution to a big or complicated problem is your strongest asset as a company of one.
Page 168 · 2398
Your ability to problem - solve with simplicity will keep you and your skills relevant in any market.
Page 168 · 2402
There are three elements to the psychology of simple, according to Harvard professor George Whitesides: predictability, accessibility, and serving as a building block.
Page 168 · 2403
Being predictable means that simple products are easy to instantly understand.
Page 168 · 2405
Being accessible means being honest:
Page 169 · 2407
Finally, to serve as a building block is to build on an existing and understood concept
Page 173 · 2474
By starting out small, a company of one can put all of its energy into solving problems for real people rather than into growing large enough to maybe solve problems for people one day.
Page 174 · 2481
Instead of developing a product, which can take a lot of time (and sometimes cash) to develop, new founders can start almost immediately by offering their product idea as a service first.
Page 175 · 2490
most launches aren’t massive successes. Yes, they can be slightly profitable (if everything goes right), but often things don’t pay off as quickly as we hoped,
Page 175 · 2497
Launching isn’t a onetime, singular event, but a continual process of launch, measure, adjust, repeat.
Page 175 · 2501
Jim Collins, best - selling author of Good to Great, studied 1,435 companies over a forty - year span. He found that every great company that’s very profitable and successful started out as simply good enough to launch. These companies focused on one thing and let go of the rest.
Page 176 · 2505
Many companies try to be foxes, doing everything for everyone or launching products full of bells and whistles, but successful companies that thrive over the long term work at a single task and master it. You still need a varied skill set to build a company of one, but your focus on serving customers needs to be singular.
Page 176 · 2517
Companies of one need to continually iterate on their products to keep them useful and relevant to the market they’re intended to serve. So launch quickly, but immediately start to refine and improve your product.
12 The Hidden Value of Relationships
Page 180 · 2566
it’s much easier to sell to people with whom you’ve already built a relationship because they know that you actually care about them personally and their betterment.
Page 180 · 2567
In this kind of relationship, selling doesn’t have to be pushy. It’s based entirely on a cultivated friendship.
Page 180 · 2571
you are seen as a trusted adviser, not a shady or slick salesperson.
Page 181 · 2579
Smaller businesses tend to want to act like larger companies, which is curious, since many large businesses these days are trying to act like smaller ones.
Page 182 · 2599
To create an audience of people who are keen to support your business by purchasing from you, a real relationship is required first — one that includes trust, humanity, and empathy.
Page 183 · 2601
is not the same as growth - hacking. In fact, the overall concept of this entire book is antithetical to that practice.
Page 185 · 2637
A company of one finds its true north by working toward being better, not bigger, and the way to do that is to build long - term relationships with its audience and customers.
Page 186 · 2648
real connections are built when companies share a simple message, repeatedly, through their actions.
Page 187 · 2662
three types of capital.
Page 187 · 2662
The first is financial capital,
Page 187 · 2664
The second is human capital, which is the value that you (or your small team) bring to the business
Page 187 · 2665
The third type of capital required is social capital.
Page 189 · 2698
Social capital works because it fosters reciprocity. The more you share, provide real value and help, and connect with others, the more they’ll want to help you.
Page 191 · 2714
Abraham Maslow had it quite wrong in his pyramidal hierarchy of needs when he specified physiological needs and the need for safety as humans’ most basic needs.
Page 191 · 2715
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.
Page 193 · 2754
it’s important that you maintain the relationship over time, even with customers who haven’t financially supported your business in a while with a purchase.
Page 193 · 2755
Consistency and longevity are key.
Page 194 · 2766
just because you might work for yourself doesn’t mean you have to work by yourself.
13 Starting a Company of One — My Story
Page 198 · 2806
what exactly we can do to go from zero to start for a company of one.
Page 201 · 2848
The daily slog is what separates wannabe business owners from those who make it a reality.
Page 203 · 2870
This is how lots of people start businesses every day: knowing how to do something well (their craft), but without an existing group of people eager to work with them.
Page 203 · 2881
I’d start by finding a single person to offer my knowledge to. Then another. And another.
Page 207 · 2934
consider two questions: In the beginning, can you reduce any of your expenses so that you can do less work to be profitable each month? And how likely is it that you’ll get the number of clients or customers you need each month to be profitable?
Page 208 · 2941
how you spend your time. Every day you spend developing a product is a day you aren’t really making money from it, unless you’ve done preorders or crowdfunding.
Page 208 · 2947
having legal systems in place right from the start is important. You need to ensure, first, that your business entity is set up properly for the country and region you’re operating from, and second, that your business is removed by one layer from you personally.
Page 209 · 2958
The reason for having a business lawyer — and one who’s on contract, not an employee — is not so that you can sue everyone, but so that lawsuits rarely happen.
Page 211 · 2990
Another factor in how much you pay yourself is how much time off you’d like.
Page 211 · 2996
Alongside a salary and a runway buffer, I truly think companies of one should invest as much money as they can save up in passive investments like index funds.
Page 213 · 3022
The benefit of a company of one is that you can build your lifestyle around it, optimizing for both profit and your own happiness.
Page 214 · 3028
You will have the freedom to enjoy the benefits of having figured out how to make “enough.”
Afterword: Never Grow Up
Page 218 · 3074
you can focus on building something that, in effect, is too small to fail. You can adapt a small company of one to ride out recessions, adjust to changing customer motivations, and ignore competition by being smaller, more focused, and in need of much less to turn a profit.
Page 219 · 3093
The truth is, very few startups last for a long time. Most of them don’t even last a few years let alone fifteen years,
Page 219 · 3094
When they grew, many of them simply became too big to succeed. Big companies can find it so much easier to fail, with their higher burn rates, the rampant acquisition they require to hit profitable status, and their huge teams full of people you hope are pulling their own weight, but who knows? There are too many people on them to know for certain.
Page 221 · 3122
There’s a point — and it’s different for everyone — where you realize that having more won’t affect your quality of life. When your “enough” happens, it should be liberating
Page 222 · 3139
There’s only one rule for being a company of one: stay attentive to those opportunities that require growth and question them before taking them.