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VOL. 43 | NO. 9 | Friday, March 1, 2019

Grow or die? No, it might be better to go it alone

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

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A new building might be nice. Oh, not now but in the future, maybe. Right now, your business is a one-person operation, but you can dream, can’t you? You have plenty of great ideas but just be careful what you ask for, says author Paul Jarvis in his new book “Company of One.” Staying small might be better, he says.

Tucked in the back of your head is that proverbial pop-the-cork moment, and one day your business will reach that. It’ll take work but, Jarvis says, it might not take as much effort as you think, if you keep your company small.

While that might sound completely anti-business, Jarvis points out that “not all growth is beneficial.” Growth, in some cases, can be detrimental, leading to a business flash-and-crash that comes, at its core, from lack of control.

Overall, Jarvis says, companies of one have “four typical traits … resilience, autonomy, speed and simplicity.” Knowledge of these traits and the dexterity to use them properly are two of the keys to owning a company of one.

Entrepreneurs who stay solo accept reality and know how to adapt when roadblocks are hit. They build work into their lives and set their hours to utilize their own productivity habits.

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

by Paul Jarvis

c.2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
$26

250 pages

Companies of one enjoy increased flexibility, so they’re able to take smaller or short-turnaround projects from larger companies that work more ponderously. And they tend to shy away from complexities within their operations because “simple solutions typically win.”

None of this means you should avoid growth. Instead, it means you should think about it carefully and plan to cap it.

Growth should never get out of hand – more growth means more headaches – and it should never happen too quickly. Growing right is a process that requires a leader who’s “a sort of business MacGyver” and, sometimes, helpers.

It never allows passion into the equation before hard work is done. To be a company of one, own your mistakes. Keep your promises. Never stop “questioning the need for growth.”

Last year’s sales were down at your business, and maybe that’s a good thing, the author explains. And explains. And explains.

Indeed, while this book is intriguing and presents an excitingly different way of looking at generating revenue and controlling growth, the same basic idea – to wit, growth is not necessarily good, unless you do it right and never fast – is presented in many ways.

It’s true that readers are given tips on “staying small,” but that information floats amongst similar-sounding “rules,” and anecdotes that are admittedly entertaining, yet are also same. In the end, we’re given more specific and better-rounded advice but it, too, is mixed with what feels like more repetition.

And yet, by overlooking these head-scratchers, this book may ultimately be valuable to businesspeople determined to avoid mistakes at all costs. The sameness in “Company of One” might serve to hammer home the right guidance for seasoned entrepreneurs or anyone with a new business they’re building.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.

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