In the final of four experimental episodes, Jeff seeks out conversation with author Paul Jarvis in discussion of his book, “Company of One.” In the previous three episodes, Jeff discussed differing views on growth and sustainability in relation to Paul’s book.
Following these four episodes, a narrative type episode will be produced, culminating and analyzing the topics explored. Join Jeff and Paul for an intimate dialogue on their respective businesses, thoughtful growth, and serving clients well.
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 a while 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.
“The point of the book was never to be anti-growth – it was to have some critical thought about growth, because growth makes sense until it doesn’t make sense. Every business has to grow to a certain size, I just think that we shouldn’t put growth as the top metric for measuring success.”
Loving the Client
Since reading Paul’s book, Company of One, Jeff has really re-focused on loving his existing clients better but also struggles with delaying getting back with new inquiries – stretching from a 24-hour return email or call policy, to maybe waiting a day or two to get back with new inquiries.
Jeff asks, “Is that the courteous thing to do?”
“I’m Canadian. That’s my culture: being courteous.”
Paul says he always prioritizes what he’s currently working on, but being courteous is always a top priority for in-taking new business.
Some strategies that Paul has utilized include an automatic reply email with a PDF of his services offered, starting prices and services he doesn’t offer. The email also includes a link to a scheduler to book a time to chat more, for people who are still interested.
He says, most people are just happy that they got what they needed right away, and don’t care that it was automated. He suggests always setting aside a few hours every week for intake and new inquiries on the schedule.
“For example, every Tuesday from 2-4 I work on new business and that’s just part of my schedule.”
Being more transparent about pricing has also helped streamline his new client funnel. He describes a fine line between finding the right person in the right place, but also not correcting for not reading or paying attention to detail, which would eliminate clients that aren’t an ideal fit.
“When I started putting “prices start at __” on my website I went from 50% bad fits to 5-6% bad fits where the only way I found out they would be a bad fit was to have a conversation with them – and I couldn’t have removed them through automation or content on the site.”
He boils down business into two strategies: first, you can get the same people to keep buying from you, or second, you can continually find new people to buy from you.
He likes the people who have already bought from him in the past and just wants to continue serving them. Paul says more than half of his clientele have purchased more than one service from him. More than 25% have purchased almost all of his products and services.
But what happens on that fateful day that you aren’t at 100% capacity in your business? Is growth the only option?
Paul relies on his waiting list of clients – it is rare to not have someone waiting, however if that ever happens, he becomes his own client.
“What I am I going to do to make more income?”
If you’re not generating income from external forces, what you can make internally to increase that income? That’s how he describes getting started writing books – hiring himself as a client, writing a book, making a website, selling that book, etc.
“Growth isn’t the only way to make more money”
For the book, Paul did a lot of research on people who grew their businesses intentionally.
Jeff and Paul dig deeper into how businesses should approach growing intentionally by discussing issues that people should be looking for, or paying attention to, in order to continue growing in a responsible manner.
Paul says the biggest question business owners should be asking is, “Why?”
“Why [grow]? Is it purely financial? Do you want to reach more people? Or is to move more into the type of work that you’re really keen on?”
Paul suggests that when you’re at a crossroads of growing versus staying the same size, the two questions that need to be asked are, “How will this growth affect my employees? And then, how will this growth affect my existing customers?”
Some businesses are more effective if they’re larger. Airbnb is more effective because they have properties in almost every city in the world.
But, Paul says, having more people doing web design wouldn’t make him a better designer and it wouldn’t make the work for his clients better.
The better perspective is to recognize that we only have a finite amount of time to work so how can we make that the most valuable to the other party?
Does the growth make the purpose of your business better or worse?
Common business advice is to “charge what you’re worth,” which Paul says is “kind of a bullshit answer, because commerce involves two parties and charging what you’re worth only considers one of the two parties – you. You can only charge what the market can bear.”
Growth can essentially be a side-effect of focusing on profitability or excellent customer service, but a focus purely on growth isn’t the most desirable outcome for a business.
He says, it doesn’t make sense to chase these “unicorn ideas, like a million dollar business or having an IPO” because those ideas tend to have growth as their only target.
Jeff has worked to intentionally niche his business into one industry – podcast production – but still retains the flexibility of trying new things within that industry.
“I care a lot about what I’m doing. And I think it’s good work, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it,” Jeff says, “and it’s fun. It’s just fun, in general, to be able to produce audio. It would be very easy to own, say, interview-based podcasts. Or, we own only narrative-based podcasts. Right now we’re on both and it’s been working out very well.”
Jeff has further niched to mainly serving businesses in the podcast industry while Paul niched to serving people with online businesses.
“That’s not really an industry,” he notes, “but I niched to a type of person that had a business that generated revenue in a certain way. And that made sense to me. I didn’t care if the person was writing books or teaching courses – it didn’t matter. They way they made money was a pattern I could recognize and help. And they had the budget.”
Mission and Purpose
It’s obvious that we work to make money but there needs to be more – there needs to be a purpose – because the money alone isn’t strong enough to get us through the difficult times.
That WHY behind all of it is of paramount important, relating to any growth of the business. With growth, sometimes it’s hard to keep that original purpose and mission.
“To just make money isn’t a strong enough mission.”
When you have a mission, it is the driving force behind so many decisions – for Paul, his mission has always been to help people because he feels good if he’s helpful and valuable.
But, more intentionally, “I like helping people who are already good at what they do,” Paul says. “So I’m not very good at being the spark or the catalyst at helping people, I’m good at being the accelerant to helping people.”
While he recognizes that he can’t help beginners, he can help people who are a few steps into their business – people who know what they want, are good at it, and just need that little push to move a bit further.
By developing your mission and purpose, niching your business and loving your existing clients, Paul Jarvis demonstrates how growth should not be the only metric of a business’ success.
More About Paul:
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