In the first of four experimental episodes, Jeff seeks out conversation with author Paul Jarvis in discussion of his book, “Company of One.” In the following three episodes, Jeff will discuss differing views on growth and sustainability in relation to Paul’s book. Following these episodes, a narrative type episode will be produced, culminating and analyzing the topics explored. Come along for the ride as we experiment with this (temporary) new approach to the Jeff Large Podcast in the following episodes.
Paul Jarvis is a web designer and the author of “Company of One,” a book that centers around the idea that growth does not necessarily equate to success in business. Paul grew up in the suburbs of Canada and moved into the city of Vancouver with his wife. After awhile they found that big city life just wasn’t for them; there was too much noise, too much going on. Soon enough, they made the choice to scale back and found themselves calling a small town in the middle of the woods home.
Housing a population of no more than 900 people, this town works as a perfect example of just how much success can sprout from taking a moment to scale back—rather than growing for the sake of growth.
More Than a Surfer’s Mentality
After going surfing with a friend and chatting about business, Paul found himself really thinking about how he did things—especially in how he works. Suddenly, a question dawned on him: why is everyone in business so infatuated with the idea of growth?
“I felt like, at the time, it was just me who felt this way about business—that growth isn’t necessarily always good, or even needed or required.”
The next time he sent out his newsletter, he decided to focus in on this very idea. Where as his newsletters usually drew in replies of 150 to 200, this particular article was met with some thousand of replies.
He realized then, people felt the same way he did, he was not alone.
Seeking the Truth
A massive empire isn’t necessary, this much was clear to Paul as the idea for his next book took root in his mind. “Company of One” is based on the concept that growth does not always mean success. In the book he would record his seemingly “alternative” ideas on growth and business, which would be backed up with facts and information that Paul would draw from research and interviews.
Paul wanted to make it clear that this book was not a memoir, but a text with the goal to seek the truth. Any idea can be backed up with research, so one person’s truth could be totally different from another person’s—the same goes with experience.
Starting a Business
When one starts a business, they have a particular goal in mind. Many find that goal to be success. But success is nearly impossible to define. Just as with the truth, what one person views as such may be entirely different for another. Success could be defined by growth, by a certain number or variable, or it could be defined on another totally different basis.
Paul started his own business not with endless growth in mind, rather with endless freedom; choosing not to focus on an unattainable set rate or percentage that would only increase his responsibility and inevitably cause stress.
“I work for myself so I have as much freedom as possible and as little responsibility as possible.”
Stay true to what you want, Paul advises. Yes, you could grow and hire more people, but in addition to employees you would gain responsibility. You would be responsible for their paycheck, for managing them, for delegation.
In Paul’s mind, the greater responsibility and need for delegation, the less freedom that can be pursued.
If your goal is growth, why is that? Every business must grow at the start, but at some point stopping is necessary. If no barrier is set, growth becomes insatiable—and ultimately unsustainable.
“In nature, rapid unchecked growth is called cancer—and cancer is not something you want.”
Change must always occur, but change in the form of unchecked growth can result in consequences. An alternate, and more easily sustainable form of change: scaling back.
Love Your Client Well
A larger client base may create the illusion of success; however, forcing this growth by expanding your reach and scouting fresh leads could ultimately distract you from the clients you already have.
You should be prioritizing the clients you have already secured. These are the individuals with whom you’ve already formed a relationship, individuals who you trust and who trust you.
Tips on client communication:
- Stay in touch. Staying in contact with your clients helps you retain their trust and ensure they will be interested in continuing the relationship moving forward.
- Set boundaries. There is no way you can disappoint your client if you have initially set out boundaries for both parties to follow. If you have already informed your client that you will not be responding to their emails in the middle of the night, they cannot be upset when you don’t. Setting office hours can be a healthy way to fix boundaries and reduce stress for both you and your client.
- Teach your clients how to be “good” clients. You can do this by asking your clients for their feedback and forming a concrete system of communication from the beginning of the relationship.
Overhead = Death
Don’t buy or do things for the sake of buying or doing them. It’s that simple. You have to ask yourself: why are you doing what you’re doing? Are you doing it just because you can?
Have a good reason for your decisions and actions in business—and life in general.
Bigger isn’t Always Better
Throughout history, enormous and fierce predators have disappeared and gone extinct; meanwhile, the paranoid rodents, the cockroach, the “little guys” have remained resilient. Why is that? They may not be the biggest, but they stick around. Your business doesn’t have to be the biggest, the baddest, and the boldest to be successful.
It’s important to ask yourself, what is the cost of going bigger? What are you giving up? Is it worth it?
There’s no single way for anyone to do business. For this reason, bigger is not always better, and growth does not always equate to success. After all, even the Titanic sank.