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

Company of One: What is it?

In his book “Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business”, Paul Jarvis makes a compelling case for why businesses should focus on being better instead of bigger. Jarvis argues that staying small provides business owners and entrepreneurs with more freedom, flexibility and fulfillment.

The key points Jarvis makes in the book include:

  • Growth is not always the objective – building something slowly and methodically that is “remarkable and resilient” over the long-term is more important
  • Relationships with customers are critical, and staying small allows for more personalized service
  • Having a clear purpose and being focused in the moment are important traits for company of one entrepreneurs
  • Continuously engaging with customers directly is vital for a company of one
  • Staying small allows business owners to design a life they want outside of work, rather than having a life that exists solely to support the business

Jarvis himself left the corporate world to work for himself out of his home on a small island off Vancouver, living a more rewarding and productive life. He shows how others can find the same pathway by planning how to set up their own company of one.

The book has received praise from authors like Cal Newport, Chris Guillebeau, and David Heinemeier Hansson for its fresh perspective on business growth. It offers a minimalist approach centered on staying small and avoiding growth b ut achieving high profitability.

Main idea

The main idea of “Company of One” by Paul Jarvis is centered around the concept of building a business that prioritizes staying small as a deliberate long-term strategy rather than focusing on constant growth. The book challenges the traditional notion that success is solely tied to expansion and advocates for a business model where individuals can achieve fulfillment, autonomy, and profitability by remaining small and efficient.

By embracing the “company of one” approach, entrepreneurs can focus on becoming better in ways that do not involve the typical setbacks associated with rapid growth, such as increased stress levels and complexity.

This model emphasizes resilience, autonomy, speed, and simplicity, allowing micro-businesses to adapt quickly, maintain a clear sense of purpose, and have more control over their brand vision. Ultimately, the main goal of a “company of one” is to create a sustainable and rewarding business that aligns with personal values and lifestyle choices, offering a more meaningful and impactful way of working.

Benefits of a Compay of One

The key benefits of running a “company of one” business model include:

Resilience and Agility

As a small, nimble business, a company of one can adapt rapidly to changing market conditions and customer needs. The lack of bureaucracy and layers of management allows for quick decision-making and implementation.

Autonomy and Control

By staying small, the owner maintains complete control over the business vision, brand, and direction. They have the autonomy to make decisions that align with their personal values and lifestyle preferences.

Simplicity and Focus

A company of one keeps the business model, product offerings, and customer base simple and focused. This allows the owner to stay efficient, productive and avoid the complexities that come with growth.

Profitability and Sustainability

By deliberately limiting growth and overhead, a company of one can be highly profitable and sustainable. The owner can set revenue targets that provide the desired income without the need to constantly expand.

Fulfillment and Work-Life Balance

Running a company of one allows the owner to design their business around their ideal lifestyle. They can pursue their passions, spend more time with family, and achieve a better work-life balance. The business serves the owner’s needs rather than the other way around.

Strategies for building a successful Company of One

To build a successful “company of one” business model, several strategies can be implemented based on the insights from the sources provided:

  1. Start Small: Begin with the smallest feasible version of your idea and focus on making it happen quickly. Test the waters without a significant outlay of resources and pay attention to customer feedback.
  2. Define Growth: Instead of blindly chasing growth, define growth as doing more of what counts. Align your business with your purpose and values rather than solely focusing on expansion.
  3. Keep Learning: Continuously learn from customer feedback, iterate with new ideas, and build transparency and trust into your business from the start. Launch, listen to customers, and adapt to better serve their needs.
  4. Resilience: Develop resilience by accepting reality, finding purpose beyond money, and adapting to changes quickly. Resilience is crucial for weathering market shifts and challenges.
  5. Autonomy: Master your core skill set to achieve autonomy. Competence and autonomy go hand in hand, ensuring that you have control over your business while being proficient in what you do.
  6. Simplicity: Embrace simplicity in your business processes, rules, and solutions. Complexity can lead to inefficiencies and atrophy, while simplicity allows for faster task completion and client satisfaction.
  7. Efficiency and Speed: Focus on efficiency and speed in tasks, sales, marketing, project management, and client retention. Being able to pivot quickly and accomplish tasks with new and efficient methods is key for a company of one.
  8. Customer Focus: Prioritize existing customers and aim to transform them into repeat customers. Personalize interactions, provide exceptional service, and build strong relationships with your customer base.

By implementing these strategies, a “company of one” can build a resilient, agile, and profitable business that prioritizes personal values, customer satisfaction, and sustainable growth without compromising autonomy and quality of life.

How can a Company of One differentiate itself from competitors?

A “company of one” can differentiate itself from competitors in several key ways:

Focus on Existing Customers

Instead of constantly chasing new customers like traditional businesses, a company of one prioritizes building strong relationships with its existing customer base. By providing exceptional personalized service and transforming customers into loyal repeat clients, a company of one can thrive without the need for constant growth.

Agility and Resilience

Being small and nimble allows a company of one to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and customer needs. They can pivot and iterate based on customer feedback much faster than larger competitors. This resilience is a key competitive advantage.

Transparency and Trust

By being transparent in their operations and building trust with customers, a company of one can stand out in a crowded market. Customers appreciate the authenticity and personal touch they get from working with a small business.

Competence and Autonomy

To succeed, a company of one must master their core skills and achieve a high level of competence. This autonomy allows them to deliver exceptional work and maintain control over the business. Customers value working with true experts in their field.

Efficiency and Speed

By streamlining processes and avoiding unnecessary complexity, a company of one can complete tasks and deliver results faster than larger competitors. They can out-teach and out-share the competition through content marketing rather than outspending them on ads.

Alignment with Purpose

A company of one has the flexibility to align their business with their personal values and purpose. Customers are drawn to businesses with a clear mission and authentic brand. Staying true to one’s purpose is a powerful differentiator.

In summary, a company of one can stand out by building trust, delivering exceptional service, adapting quickly, and staying true to their purpose – rather than trying to outscale competitors. The personal touch and resilience of a small business is a competitive advantage.

How can a Company of One leverage technology to improve productivity?

There are several ways a Company of One can leverage technology to improve productivity:

  1. Automation and Task Management:
    • AI-powered tools and project management software can automate repetitive tasks, schedule appointments, handle customer inquiries, and help solopreneurs organize and prioritize their work. This frees up time to focus on core business activities.
  2. Data Analysis:
    • AI-driven analytics can process large amounts of data to uncover valuable insights that inform better decision-making for solopreneurs. This data-driven approach helps companies of one make smarter choices.
  3. Marketing Optimization:
    • AI can analyze user behavior and preferences, allowing solopreneurs to create more targeted and effective marketing campaigns. This helps companies of one reach the right customers efficiently.
  4. Personalized Customer Experiences:
    • By learning about individual customers, AI can help companies of one deliver tailored experiences that build loyalty and increase satisfaction. This personal touch is a key advantage for small businesses.
  5. AI-Driven Product Development:
    • AI technology can assist solopreneurs in ideating, designing, and prototyping new products and services by analyzing consumer preferences, market trends, and competitor offerings. This helps companies of one develop innovative solutions that meet customer needs.
  6. Scalable Systems:
    • Automation software and email marketing tools allow companies of one to scale their operations without adding significant resources, enabling them to grow revenue and impact without sacrificing efficiency.
  7. Content Creation and Education:
    • Solopreneurs can leverage AI-powered writing assistants and content generation tools to create educational materials that build authority, foster relationships with customers, and drive sales.

By embracing these AI-powered capabilities, companies of one can enhance their productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness, allowing them to thrive in the modern business landscape without the need for constant growth and expansion.


Some challenges that a Company of One may face when implementing technology to improve productivity include:

Initial Investment

Financial Constraints: Companies of one may have limited resources to invest in expensive technology solutions, making it challenging to adopt advanced automation tools or AI systems.

Technical Expertise

Lack of Technical Knowledge: Solopreneurs may lack the technical expertise required to effectively implement and integrate complex automation tools into their workflows.

Time Constraints

Time Management: Balancing the time needed to learn and implement new technologies with core business activities can be a challenge for solopreneurs who already wear multiple hats in their business.

Integration Issues

Compatibility: Ensuring that new technology tools integrate seamlessly with existing systems and workflows can be a hurdle for companies of one, especially if they lack dedicated IT support.

Data Security

Data Privacy: Maintaining data security and privacy while leveraging technology tools can be a concern for solopreneurs, especially when handling sensitive customer information.


Scalability: As a company of one grows, the technology solutions implemented must be scalable to accommodate increasing demands and complexity, which can pose a challenge for solopreneurs.

Training and Support

Training Needs: Solopreneurs may require training and ongoing support to effectively utilize new technology tools, which can be time-consuming and add to the learning curve.

Navigating these challenges requires careful planning, strategic decision-making, and possibly seeking external support or resources to ensure that technology implementations enhance productivity rather than becoming a hindrance for a Company of One.

Chapter Synopsis

Part 1 : Begin

1. Defining a Company of One

The opening chapter introduces the reader to the concept of a “company of one.” Paul Jarvis defines it as a business that questions growth and focuses on the idea that bigger isn’t always better. This approach emphasizes autonomy, resilience, and intentionality. The essence of a company of one is to prioritize quality over quantity, ensuring that business operations are manageable and aligned with personal values and goals.

2. Staying Small as an End Goal

In the second chapter, Paul Jarvis discusses the advantages of staying small. Contrary to the popular belief that businesses must grow continuously to be successful, he argues that remaining small can lead to more meaningful and sustainable success. By maintaining a manageable size, companies can focus on improving their services, maintaining high quality, and ensuring customer satisfaction. Staying small allows business owners to have greater control over their work-life balance and avoid the pitfalls of rapid expansion.

3. What’s Required to Lead

Leadership in a company of one requires a unique set of skills and attributes. Jarvis highlights that leading a small business is not about managing a large team or handling complex hierarchies. Instead, it involves self-discipline, effective time management, and a deep understanding of one’s own strengths and weaknesses. Successful leaders of small businesses are adaptable, resilient, and capable of wearing many hats, from marketing to product development to customer service.

4. Growing a Company That Doesn’t Grow

The final chapter in this section explores the paradox of growing a company without expanding its size. Paul Jarvis suggests that growth can occur in various forms other than increasing headcount or revenue. For instance, businesses can grow by improving their product offerings, enhancing customer experiences, or optimizing their processes. This type of growth focuses on depth rather than breadth, allowing businesses to evolve and improve continuously without the need for scaling up.

Key Takeaways

Intentionality: At the heart of the “Company of One” concept is the idea of being intentional about business choices. This means deliberately choosing a path that aligns with personal values and long-term goals rather than following conventional growth metrics.

Sustainability: Staying small allows for sustainable business practices. Small businesses can adapt more quickly to market changes, manage resources more efficiently, and build stronger relationships with their customers.

Quality over Quantity: A company of one prioritizes quality in every aspect of the business, from product development to customer interactions. This focus on excellence helps to build a loyal customer base and a strong reputation.

Personal Fulfillment: One of the most significant benefits of staying small is the potential for personal fulfillment. Business owners can maintain a healthy work-life balance, avoid burnout, and enjoy the work they do without the pressures of constant expansion.

Part I of “Company of One” sets the stage for a revolutionary approach to business that values sustainability, intentionality, and personal fulfillment over traditional growth metrics. By redefining what it means to be successful, Paul Jarvis offers a refreshing perspective for entrepreneurs and business owners looking to create meaningful and manageable enterprises. The principles outlined in this section are foundational for anyone considering the path of a company of one, providing a roadmap for building a business that is both successful and satisfying.

Part II : Define

Part II of the book, titled “DEFINE,” is about establishing the right mindset and implementing strategies that are crucial for running a successful company of one. This section is integral for understanding how to build a business that is not only sustainable but also aligned with personal values and goals.

5. Determining the Right Mind-Set

The fifth chapter emphasizes the importance of having the right mindset for a company of one. Jarvis explains that this mindset is characterized by a focus on resilience, self-reliance, and a willingness to challenge conventional business norms. It involves recognizing that success doesn’t necessarily mean constant expansion but rather creating a stable and fulfilling business. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to cultivate a mindset that values autonomy, embraces uncertainty, and is open to continuous learning and adaptation.

6. Personality Matters

In the sixth chapter, Paul Jarvis discusses the significance of personality in shaping a company of one. He argues that personal branding and leveraging individual strengths are critical components of a successful small business. Unlike larger companies where branding can be impersonal, a company of one benefits from the unique personality of its founder. This personal touch can differentiate the business in the market, create a strong connection with customers, and build a loyal following. Authenticity and transparency are key, as they help establish trust and credibility.

7. The One Customer

Chapter seven introduces the concept of focusing on “the one customer.” Paul Jarvis suggests that instead of trying to appeal to a broad audience, businesses should concentrate on deeply understanding and serving their ideal customer. This approach involves creating detailed customer personas, tailoring products and services to meet their specific needs, and delivering exceptional customer experiences. By focusing on one customer at a time, businesses can build strong, lasting relationships and ensure high levels of satisfaction and loyalty.

8. Scalable Systems

In the eighth chapter, Jarvis addresses the importance of implementing scalable systems. He explains that while the business itself may not need to grow in size, its operations should be efficient and capable of handling increased demand without compromising quality. Scalable systems include automated processes, streamlined workflows, and effective use of technology. These systems allow a company of one to maintain high standards and deliver consistent value to customers, even as the business evolves and adapts.

9. Teach Everything You Know

The ninth chapter focuses on the power of knowledge sharing. Paul Jarvis advocates for teaching everything you know as a way to build trust, establish authority, and create value for your audience. Sharing insights, expertise, and experiences can position the business owner as a thought leader in their industry. This approach not only helps in attracting and retaining customers but also fosters a sense of community and reciprocity. Teaching can take various forms, such as blogging, creating online courses, hosting webinars, or publishing books.

Key Takeaways

Mindset is Crucial: Developing the right mindset is foundational for running a successful company of one. This involves embracing resilience, autonomy, and a willingness to learn and adapt.

Personal Branding: Leveraging personal strengths and authenticity can significantly differentiate a company of one in the market. Building a brand around the founder’s personality helps in creating strong customer connections.

Customer Focus: Prioritizing the needs and satisfaction of a single ideal customer can lead to stronger relationships and higher loyalty. Understanding and serving this customer deeply is more valuable than trying to cater to a broad audience.

Efficient Systems: Implementing scalable and efficient systems ensures that the business can handle increased demand without compromising on quality. Automation and streamlined processes are key to maintaining high standards.

Knowledge Sharing: Teaching and sharing expertise is a powerful way to build trust, establish authority, and create value. It helps in attracting a loyal audience and fostering a community around the business.

Part II of “Company of One” provides essential insights into the mindset and strategies needed to build a sustainable and fulfilling business. By defining the core principles of resilience, personal branding, customer focus, scalable systems, and knowledge sharing, Paul Jarvis offers a comprehensive guide for entrepreneurs looking to create a successful company of one. These principles are not just about business growth but about creating a meaningful and impactful enterprise that aligns with personal values and long-term goals.

Part III : Maintain

Part III of the book, titled “MAINTAIN,” focuses on how to sustain the success of a company of one. This section is crucial for understanding the long-term strategies that keep a small business thriving without succumbing to the pressures of scaling up.

10. Properly Utilizing Trust and Scale

The tenth chapter highlights the importance of building and maintaining trust while utilizing scalable systems effectively. Paul Jarvis emphasizes that trust is the foundation of any successful business relationship. For a company of one, maintaining trust involves delivering consistent value, being transparent, and fostering genuine connections with customers. On the other hand, scalable systems allow the business to handle increased demand without compromising quality. This balance ensures that the business can grow in terms of efficiency and impact without necessarily increasing its size.

11. Launching and Iterating in Tiny Steps

In the eleventh chapter, Paukl Jarvis advocates for a methodology of launching and iterating in small, manageable steps. This approach involves testing ideas on a small scale before fully committing resources. By launching minimally viable products or services and then iterating based on feedback, businesses can reduce risk and make more informed decisions. This iterative process not only improves the product or service but also ensures that it aligns closely with customer needs and expectations. Small, incremental improvements can lead to significant long-term success.

12. The Hidden Value of Relationships

Chapter twelve delves into the often-overlooked value of relationships in sustaining a company of one. Jarvis argues that strong relationships with customers, partners, and peers can provide invaluable support and opportunities. Building and nurturing these relationships requires genuine engagement, active listening, and mutual respect. By focusing on creating meaningful connections, businesses can benefit from word-of-mouth referrals, collaboration opportunities, and a loyal customer base. Relationships are a key asset that can drive long-term success and resilience.

13. Starting a Company of One—My Story

The final chapter of Part III offers a personal perspective as Pau Jarvis shares his own journey in starting and maintaining a company of one. He provides insights into the challenges and rewards of running a small business, offering practical advice and lessons learned from his experiences. This narrative not only humanizes the concepts discussed in the book but also serves as a source of inspiration and encouragement for aspiring entrepreneurs. Jarvis’s story exemplifies how the principles of a company of one can lead to a fulfilling and sustainable business.

Key Takeaways

Trust and Efficiency: Building and maintaining trust is essential for long-term success. Efficient, scalable systems allow businesses to manage growth in demand without compromising their core values and quality.

Incremental Innovation: Launching and iterating in small steps reduces risk and ensures that products and services are closely aligned with customer needs. This approach fosters continuous improvement and adaptability.

Value of Relationships: Strong, genuine relationships with customers, partners, and peers are invaluable. These connections provide support, opportunities, and enhance the business’s reputation and reach.

Personal Narrative: Learning from the experiences of others, such as Jarvis’s own journey, can provide practical insights and inspiration. Real-world examples illustrate how theoretical principles can be applied in practice.

Part III of “Company of One” provides a comprehensive guide on how to sustain the success of a small, intentional business. By focusing on trust, efficiency, incremental innovation, and the value of relationships, Paul Jarvis offers practical strategies for maintaining a company of one. His personal narrative adds depth and relatability to the concepts discussed, making this section an essential read for anyone looking to create a sustainable and fulfilling business. The principles outlined in this part of the book are not just about maintaining a business but about thriving in a way that aligns with personal values and long-term goals.