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

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

This book caught my eye in the online library even though I’m not much of a businesss book reader. I have a kind of imposter syndrome about the world of business. Firstly there’s the thing where I look up people I knew at school and college and find their profiles with high powered sounding roles listed. Then there’s the fact that whilst  I have successfully run a business for coming up on twenty-five years, I always feel we’ve not done things in a “business” way. What do you do for a living is a question I always struggle with a bit. There are times when I look at my life’s career path and it seems to veer wildly away from the norm, or the path I might have expected and sometimes I’m disappointed in myself for that .This book was very much the validation I needed. 

One of the reasons I picked up the book was just idle curiosity to see how narrow the author’s definition of “company of one” was. It’s pretty broad, it definitely covers the business partnership I’ve been part of and I’m pleased he also talks about being part of larger organisations even though that doesn’t apply to me. I did skim-read a fair chunk of the book as it’s aimed at people wanting to start their own businesses and that isn’t me, but I think it’s all pretty decent advice and there are lots of different companies used as examples and they are definitely not all the same type of business and there are contradictory stories here too, something which is always good. Especially when you are doing something a bit off the wall something that is a good idea can have an opposite that is also a good idea.

It was interesting to have a framework for a small company that isn’t focussed on growth presented as a good thing. I think I agree pretty much entirely with the author’s philosophy but there’s a lot here I hadn’t actively articulated to myself and the book has both made me feel better about choices I’ve made in the past and made me surer of the choices I’ll make in the future. For me the most important thing about running a small business has been that we get to say “no” a lot, we dont have to do things we’re not happy with or pursue relationships that make us uncomfortable. And I like the observation that this isn’t the path for everyone. At some point you have to be every department of a larger company – accounts, marketing, customer support etc – as well as whatever you actually want to do. I like that but I think the best advice I have is to be a company of two or three rather than just a company of one. Being able to delegate a task or talk things through are very useful weapons in your armoury. A second perspective is very useful. Some of the most useful conversations we’ve had a business are those that come down to “Why are we doing this? Why don’t we just not do this?”, which is the power of “no” all over again.

Anyway, this hit a spot for me that I didn’t realise needed some enlightenment and apart from that I think it would make a decent guide to getting your own small business up and running. 

More information about this book can be found on storygraph.

Read on July 26, 2022

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