COMPANY OF ONE by Paul Jarvis


Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business
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How to stay small and succeed in business.

“Blind growth is the main cause of business problems,” writes online-tech veteran Jarvis (Everything I Know, 2013, etc.), whose corporate clients include Microsoft and Mercedes Benz. “What if you worked instead toward growing smaller, smarter, more efficient, and more resilient?” In this upbeat, anecdote-laden how-to book, he draws on some 20 years of experience (and steadily increasing income) to describe the advantages of running a “company of one,” whether as an independent business person or an autonomous, innovative corporate employee who deliberately questions growth and stays “lean and agile” on purpose. The payoffs are many: A marketing vice president becomes a cartoonist (his lifelong hobby) and earns three times as much income; the owner of Milkwood Designs makes regular retreats to a Sierra Nevada yurt. It all takes hard, focused work characterized by resilience, autonomy, speed, and simplicity. “There’s a silent movement to approaching business in this way,” writes Jarvis, emphasizing the importance of staying small, with set yearly profit goals. Many of his examples are modern, often dot-com businesses run by individuals unafraid of celebrating their quirkiness as a way to build trust and relationships with customers. They eschew obsessive growth (occasioned by inflation, investors, churn, and ego) and instead work to keep existing customers by getting better (rather than bigger) and offering “a real relationship” based on “trust, humanity, and empathy.” “Companies of one can be led and run by quiet, thoughtful, introspective folks” who are bad at managing others, writes the author, a self-confessed “awkward geek.” He notes federal records show that in 2015, more than 38,000 “companies (of one) were bringing in seven-figure revenues, doing everything from the usual high-tech and scientific fields to equipment repair and laundry services.” Many such firms “share and give away their ideas freely,” becoming trusted advisers to their customers through teaching, podcasts, and other means.

A bright, useful entry in the small-is-beautiful genre.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-328-97235-4
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2018


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