Ammar Mian

Company of One - Paul Jarvis


Defining a Company of One

I found there’s a silent movement to approach business in a way that isn’t just for cash-strapped tech startups or people who make just enough to scrape by. This movement includes individuals and businesses making six and seven figures and becoming happier than most businesspeople are with the work they do (loc 178)

The first trait that resilient people have is an acceptance of reality. They don’t need for things to be a certain way and don’t engage in wishful thinking (loc 243)

The second is a sense of purpose - being motivated by a sense of meaning rather than by just money (loc 253)

The last trait is the ability to adapt when things change - because they invariably do (loc 260)

What’s difficult to automate is exactly what makes a company of one great: the ability to creatively solve problems in new and unique ways without throwing “more” at the problem (loc 267)

Staying Small as an End Goal

Make sure you’re listening to, communicating with, and helping the people who are already paying attention to you (loc 431)

In a Startup Genome Project study of 3200 high growth tech startups, 74% failed because they scaled up too quickly. The Kauffman Foundation and Inc Magazine’s followup study of 5000 of the fastest-growing startings found that more than ⅔ of them were out of business 5 to 8 years later (loc 458, 462)

What if we set upper limits to our goals instead? For instance, “I want to make at least $1 million this quarter, but not more than $1.4 million.” If growth happens too quickly, problems can arise -- like not being able to hire fast enough to keep up, or not having enough infrastructure to handle increased volume (loc 639)

Socrates said that envy is the ulcer of the soul, meaning that we can easily become negatively affected by the success of others. We idolize people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Oprah and think that their path of success -- creating massive empires -- is our own key to happiness and career fulfillment (loc 666)

What’s Required to Lead

The time is at hand to embrace generalist thinking and the understanding of many things. A generalist company of one leaders needs to understand quite a few aspects of work to succeed. Not only do such leaders need to be masters at their core skill set, but they also need to understand how business works in general (loc 799)

Sukhvinder Obhi’s “power paradox”: when we gain power through leadership, we subsequently lose some of the capabilities we needed to gain it in the first place (loc 856)


Determining the Right Mindset

I started my own business doing web design only after I became an in-demand designer at an agency. I built up the skills as an employee until the clients of that agency wanted to leave with me when I quit (loc 1182)

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 (loc 1222)

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 (loc 1240)

Companies of one need to be adept at “single-tasking” -- doing one thing for an extended period of time without distraction. This capacity helps you focus on the right tasks, do them faster, and do them with less stress (loc 1249)

By keeping meetings and interruptions to an absolute minimum, Jason Fried of Basecamp has found that his staff enjoy their work more, can be more thoughtful about it, and spend more of their time solving problems that matter to the company (loc 1276)

Creating the image of busyness may be all the rage in startup and corporate culture, but the busier we are, the less space we have to think and be creative in solving the problems that companies of one need to solve (loc 1289)

Personality Matters

It wasn’t until I sent a survey to more than 10,000 customers asking why they bought my products that I realized that my personality was the number-one factor in their decision to purchase from my business and not from someone else (loc 1316)

While skills and expertise can be replicated, it’s damn near impossible to replicate someone’s personality and style (loc 1325)

The key is to unlearn being boring. You need to learn how to elicit a strong emotional response to your business, and the personality of your brand, because while it’s easy to forget or lose interest in information, it’s much harder to forget strong emotion (loc 1368)

Taking a stand is important because you become a beacon for those individuals who are your people, your tribe, and your audience (loc 1388)

The One Customer

You don’t get referrals by just meeting the standard expectations of customer service -- people rarely find it worth mentioning to others that a company did just enough to help them but nothing more (loc 1525)

Referrals work because they build trust by proxy. A referral is credible because someone you trust is telling you that they trust a certain company or product (loc 1535)

It helps to see patterns by organizing all feedback and suggestions in a central location (loc 1576)

You have to own your mistakes -- even those caused by someone else -- by taking personal responsibility for them before someone else blames you for them (loc 1643)

Acknowledgement of fault is powerful. It shows empathy, a willingness to own the problem, and a desire to then fix it (loc 1666)

Scalable Systems

James Clear’s first rule is that his products must take little to no management. The digital courses he sells have no ongoing live webinars or training sessions -- customers merely buy the content and then watch the prerecorded videos in their own time (loc 1753)

His second rule is to charge a onetime fee for everything he offers; he accepts no retainers and no ongoing consulting work. To give a keynote speech, he’ll fly in, give the talk, answer questions, and then be gone the next morning (loc 1753)


Properly Utilizing Trust and Scale

Companies of one can truly benefit from word of mouth because it’s easier for a company of one to create these kinds of personal relationships and stay more closely connected with customers (loc 2076)

If you ask for a testimonial as soon as a project is finished, the client has rarely had enough time to collect any results-based data. By following up a few weeks or a few months later, you can garner far better stories from clients. By creating a schedule for following up with contented clients, you can turn referrals into a real strategy (loc 2015)

Jason Fried told me that Basecamp recently flirted with paid acquisition by spending about $1mm on social media ads. They quickly stopped because they found that these ads weren’t as effective as what they were doing already: creating and sharing educational content (loc 2178)

Launching and Iterating in Tiny Steps

You don’t learn anything until you launch. A product is built to solve a specific problem, and you won’t know how well your product solves that problem until people are actually paying for it and using it (loc 2254)

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 (loc 2381)

The Hidden Value of Relationships

Andy Johns, head of Product at Wealthfront, found that startups that focus aggressively on exponential growth above all else will expedite their path to failure, exponentially (loc 2491)

Des Traynor, founder of Intercom, a messaging platform for websites, says that the Faustian bargain of the internet is that you can swap credibility with an audience for attention at any time (loc 2491)

The difference between relationship companies and companies that focus solely on growth is that the former recognize that real relationships are built more slowly, in more meaningful ways, without massive turnover (loc 2514)

Ensure that customers like your business. Respect must be present. Customers have to admire your work, what you offer, and how your company behaves. You build respect by doing things like following up, competently segmenting customers on your list, and working to be the best at what you offer (loc 2616)

Starting a Company of One - My Story

A funny thing happened the day after I quit. Clients from the agency I had just left were calling because they had heard I was no longer working there (loc 2693)

WIth my skill set, I’d start by listening to people who are looking to hire web designers or have already hired web designers, since that’s the most marketable skill I’ve got. How are these potential clients conducting their search for a designer? Where are they searching? What questions do they have about the process? If they’ve had a bad experience with a web designer, what went wrong? Then I’d offer to help with their questions. Do they want a second set of eyes to look at something? Do they want to brainstorm on what to do next? I wouldn’t be pushy about it -- I’d just look for folks who have questions I have answers to (loc 2744)

There’s a point where you realize that having more won’t affect your quality of life. When your “enough” happens, it should be liberating (loc 2995)