"Company Of One" by Paul Jarvis

Review by Borodutch

I've been on both sides of whether to grow as a company of one or take funding and grow faster. The author severely oversimplifies the matter to fit a given narrative. The real world is so much more complex, and when examined closer, companies of one and rapidly growing externally funded companies look very similar. Both can succeed, and both can fail. Both require a lot of stress and upfront work.

Here are the author's main points:

  • Being a company of one is less stressful (no need to manage employees or large user bases) and more sustainable (having revenue from the beginning should help in theory)
  • To succeed as a company of one, one needs to deliberately limit growth (for instance, setting maximum profit per year to $500,000)
  • Small audience allows for easier go-to-market and higher chances of success
  • In the 21st century, many things handled by separate people before can be managed with technology (e.g., digital calendars, sharing software, etc.)

Paul juxtaposes companies of one and larger companies with employees. However, both have employees or contractors; both can succeed and fail; both require a lot of effort upfront; both can be limited in growth; both are stressful up to a point when they aren't; both require delegation skills; both need to preferably make revenue from the start (especially in bear markets); both can require a lot of time upfront and close to no time afterward.

There are a lot of similarities — and the reason is simple: business is business. Also, almost every business is unique; hence, writing a one-size-fits-all business book is challenging. Unfortunately, business is dealing with chaotic systems in the world that requires much luck. Choosing a company of one or a rapidly growing business is a false dichotomy. There are many in-between types of businesses, as well as full hybrids.

However, the lessons from the book can be beneficial no matter what route you choose. Any business should reduce managerial overhead — and the time the founders need to spend on it. Because if you think your business will earn more if you spend more hours — then you don't have a business. You have a full-time job.