Company of One Summary

Why staying small is the next big thing for business. Solid case for questioning growth at all costs.

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The Scoop

  • Question the idea of growing at all cost
  • Build your business to fit the lifestyle you want
  • Set upper limits for growth
Start small, define growth and keep learning


Scaling is not the smartest solution to the most problems but most often the easiest
Blind growth is the main cause of business problems

1. Defining a company of one

  • Challenge the core assumption that growth is required for success
A company of one is simply a company that questions growth
More is generally the easiest way but not the smartest
  • More and more companies are starting to see this
  • Build your business around your life
  • You get to a point of diminishing returns when you always grow
  • Most people think if you can't add "more", you are not successful enough yet, this is not true
Resilience, Autonomy, Speed and Simplicity are the four typical traits of a company of one


  • Resilient people have:
    • An acceptance of reality
    • A sense of purpose
    • Ability to adapt

Autonomy and Control

Full autonomy but not a clue what you're doing is a recipe for disaster
  • You have to have a skillset that's in demand but also know what places for growth make sense and which don't
  • You want the freedom to not have to fill every minute of your life with work
  • You need people that are good at a lot of things often at once (generalists)


  • Work smarter not harder
  • Prioritize ruthlessly
  • The fewer staff and the less external funding involved the faster you can move


  • Don't get distracted from your business's primary focus and aim
  • Play the long game
  • Always ask:
Is this process efficient enough?
  • Work on automations when it no longer makes sense to personalize your interactions
  • Start out as simple as possible and always question new layers of complxity

Think about

  • Whether growth is truly beneficial to your business
  • How you could solve business problems without just adding more
  • Whether you really need funding or venture capital for your idea, or are thinking too big to start

2. Staying small as an End Goal

  • Pay close attention to your existing customer base
Your current audience are the most important people to your business
Spend your time making products better for your existing users
  • 74% of startups fail because they scale up too quickly (Startup Genome Study)
  • 86% of startups that were successful in the long term did not take VC money
Sudden and large investments turn companies into "armies of employees who sit around having meetings"
Decide what success means to your company, growth or sustainability
  • The question should always be: "What can I do to make my business better instead of what can I do to grow it larger"
  • Never spend based on growth you like to see instead of where revenue is currently at
  • You can always scale your prices to flatten demand so that you can handle it
  • Another pro: Spend less on overhead
Constant growth often brings on stress and anxiety
Each year it becomes less risky to work for yourself
  • Set some upper bounds for growth
If our goals were completely internaliezd at all times, we wouldn't chase growth as much as we do
Focus on moving towards better instead of more

Think about

  • Whether you are paying attention to existing customers or just potential customers
  • Whether you could make your business better instead of just bigger
  • Whether you really need scale to succeed
  • Where the upper bound of that scale might be
  • How you can turn envy of others into enjoying their successes

3. What's required to lead

  • Listen more than you talk
Servant leadership is very important
Introversion can be turned into a positive tool instea of an excuse for inaction
  • Enable autonomy while poviding alignment setting processes
A leaders job is to provide clear directions and then get out of the way
  • It becomes increasingly valuable to know a little bit about a lot


    • Understand how others think
    • Communication

    • Most of our day is spend communicating so you gotta be good at it
    • Resilience

      Much of business is a guess
    • Important to bounce back from failures
    • Focus

    • Become an expert at saying "no"
    • Decisiveness

    • Scale down large, stressful decisions into smaller, more digestible ones
    • Chose a direction more quickly with less stress
  • Turn down opportunities that are not a good fit
Self-awareness is an absolute requirement
  • Be self-aware and check-in on yourself regularely
  • Be empathic, practice gratitude

Think about

  • Where you could strike a balance between autonomy and guidance
  • What areas you could learn more about that would benefig your business
  • Steps you could take to strike a balance between hustlin and recuperation

4. Growing a company that doesn't grow

  • Always balance growth with meaningful long-term strategies
  • Think about the customer experience not how many customers you can acquire
  • Focus on Retention
  • Sacrificing Customer experience for acquisition doesn't work in the long term
  • Most companies grow for one of the four reasons: inflation, investors, churn, ego
  • Think small in the beginning
  • Automation can happen later
Focus on where you can test with low effort and investment
  • Increase your expenses based on profit
  • There's no need to be noticed faster than you can handle
Start with the smallest version of your idea and a way to make it happen
Grow when your revenue allows you to

Think about

  • How you can prioritize your existing customers
  • The smallest version of your business idea that you could start with now
  • How you want to grow as a business

5. Determining the Right Mind-Set

  • To succeed as a company of one you have to have a real purpose
More and more consumers make purchases based on shared values
  • Doing business boils down to serving others in a mutually beneficial way
  • Your purpose serves as a test for all your business decisions
Purpose-based, values-driven companies outperform their counterparts in stock price by a factor of twelve
A lack of focus = short term gains over long-term stability
  • Purpose ≠ passion
  • Simply work at getting good at something in demand and passion may follow
  • Feelings of entitlement often lead to problems in teams
Opportunities are just obligations wearing an appealing mask
  • Become adept at "Single-Tasking"
  • Become adept at communicating your workload
It's a managers job to protect the teams time and attention
  • Don't fall for busy-culture
What you should be bragging about is how to get your work done quicker and more productively
  • Piling on work comes at the price of our health

Think about

  • The true purpose of your business and if it shows in your actions
  • What you are skilled at that is already in demand
  • Where you could test your leap into something in a small way first
  • How you can align your day/schedule to be focused on single-tasking

6. Personality Matters

  • Your human characteristics are the way your brand speaks and behaves
People relate to other people
  • Build a brand personality based on personal contact and great service
  • Attention is worth more than revenue or posessions
These days buyers dictate what they want
  • Attention is instantly lost when trust is broken
Emotional connection holds attention
  • Gain attention by using and featuring personality
  • Start doing the kinds of unique and unusual things that attract attention
  • Always take a stand
Proudly exclude some people because you can't please everyone
  • A one size fits all approach rarely works and leads to mediocrity
Create products that make certain people very happy and ignore everyone else
  • Draw your own niche market close by showing them your understanding and sympathy for how they see the world

Think about

  • How you could infuse your own distinct personality in products and company image
  • Where you could lean on what makes your product quirky or different to garner attention

7. The one customer

  • Treating everyone as if they were your one and only customer drives value to your bottom line
Loyal customers are on average worth 10 times their intial purchase
  • Good customer service turns your customers into an unpaid salesforce
70 percent of buying experiences are based on how customers feel treated rather than the product
83% or new business come through word of moth referrals
  • Try to build reciprocity
  • Take time to understand your customer and their needs
  • Use empathy to drive real profit
Customer happiness is the new marketing
  • Small business can't compete on scale but on personal touches
Own you mistakes before someone else blames you for them
Acknowledgement of fault is powerful
  • We have to pay attention to our customers in the spaces they hang out
Your word is a contract
  • Having a process in place to meet promises is required

Think about

  • What you could do to ensure that your existing customers feel both happy and acknowledged
  • Where you could exceed expectations with customer service
  • How you can create opportunity for word of mouth referrals
  • How you own and fix mistakes
  • What you could do to ensure that your customers end up with wins

8. Scalable systems

  • Use scalable systems and channels to increase profit
  • James clear (atomic habits) has 2 rules:
      1. Products need little to no management
      1. One time fee for everything
  • Email marketing is a valid model for scaling without scale
  • Using personalization and segmentation in connection channels like email is key
  • Segmented automation emails have 70% higher open rates
Collaboration is the only area where companies of one should scale down (time drain)

Think about

  • Where you could use automation and tech to scale so your business doesn't have to
  • How you could outsource tasks that require massive scale
  • How you could add personalization and semgmentation to your one-to-many channels

9. Teach Everything you know

  • Focus on what your audience needs to learn and then teach it to them
  • Out-teach and outshare your competition
  • This can only help build trust with your customers
Execution is the only valid currency in business
  • There is no downside to sharing
The fear of customers using what you tell them to not buy from you is a myth
  • The more people trust your company the more loyalty they will develop
  • Teaching builds authority
It can be as simple as sharing what you know with the people who are listening

Think about

  • What you could begin to share with or teach your customers/audience
  • How you could focus more on executing ideas rather than protecting them
  • What investments you could make in consumer education as a marketing channel
  • What you could share that would position you or your company as an authority

10. Properly Utilizing Trust and Scale

  • Trust highly correlates to a person's propensity to try your product
  • Three aspects of trust
      1. Confidence (I believe what you say)
      1. Competence (I believe you have the skills)
      1. Benevolence (I belive you're acting on my behalf)
  • 92% of consumers trust friends and family recommendations
  • 82% of consumers are willing to provide referrals but only 29% do
  • E-Mail customers a week after purchase, if pleased to share with others
  • Use segmented automation to facilitate word of mouth referrals
  • Focus on existing loyal customers as brand advocates
Marketing is simply building trust and empathy
Consider "Connecting" over "Collecting"
  • Trust happens first, the commerce follows
Trust doesn't require a big budget
  • Suprising and delighting customers can go a long way

Think about

  • How you embed trust and honesty as a marketing strategy
  • The relationship you could foster with your customers to incentivize word of mouth sharing
  • How to ensure that you're always honoring social contracts with customers

11. Launching and Iterating in Tiny Steps

  • Be profitable as quickly as possible
  • Be careful not to scale too quickly
Go for the Minimum viable profit as fast as you can (MVP)
  • Profit only happens when the business is making enough money for the owner to cover salaries
  • Exponential profits aren't core objective because profitability is usually enough
  • Launch quickly and build from customer feedback
Finding a simple solution to a complicated problem is your biggest asset
  • Launch should be simple in choice, messaging and hypertargeting one audience
Crowdfunding is more aligned with companies of one
Focus more on personal growth than on exponential profit increases
Customers don't ask a business to grow or expand, they just want to be served
Launch quickly, launch often
  • Continue the loop of: launch, measure, adjust, repeat
Work at a single task an master it
Without iteration and adjustment we stagnate and die
  • When to give up
    • Is your initial assumption still correct?
    • If you'd start today would you do the same project?

Think about

  • A new business or product could start right now by executing the smallest version of your idea
  • How to determine your MVPr, the steps that could be taken to reach it as quickly as possible
  • A product or service that would be the simplest solution to a problem your customers are having
  • Whether you could start your company without capital and what it would look like

12. The hidden value of relationships

  • Build long-term relationships with people based on mutual interest
  • Try to be seen as a trusted advisor by educating
Consumers trust smaller businesses over large corperations
  • Call out customers by name or speak directly to them
  • Connect with the community and make them feel a sense of reciprocity later
Churn and Burn doesn't foster personal connections
Startups that focus on exponential growth above all else will expedite their path to failure exponentially
YOu can swap credibility for attention at any time
Insert human relationships into your financial system
  • Three types of capital required
      1. Financial capital
      1. Human capital
      1. Social capital
  • Relationships are currency, make sure that you don't overdraw your balance
  • Your social capital depends on what you can provide to your audience
  • Devide your mass interactions with your audience in thirds
    • 1/3 Business or content
    • 1/3 sharing other people's content
    • 1/3 interaction and building relationships
Turn "What can I sell you" into "How can I truly help you"
  • Don't forget the people that buy from you
  • Get customers admiration so that they celebrate your successes instead of resentment
  • Work for yourself ≠ work by yourself → Full autonomy with the direction of the project lead can and does happen
  • Mixing skills leads to a greater outcome

Think about

  • How you can get to know customers as real people with specific problems
  • Where the true north of your business lies and what actions you can take to stay aligned with it
  • How you could build relationships wealth by increasing your value and social capital
  • The ways in which you can empathize with your current customer base

13. Starting a company of one — My Story

  • Run a business based on client relationships
Freedome of choice is my north star
  • I started looking for folks that asked questions I had answers to
  • Being helpful is a great lead generation funnel
I hit my MVPr offering services and then products
All you need is to be a decent human being with a valued skill and a willingness to share what you know to people who will listen

The setup


  • For companies of one expenses are as important as revenue
  • Reduce overall costs or raise your rates
  • Get an initial version to market quickly to start building revenue
  • It can take a few years to transition fully from services to products


  • Having legal systems in place right from the start is important
  • Get a lawyer that's happy to work with a business of your size and knows your type of business
  • Never a smart idea to be the biggest or the smallest client


  • Ask how to best structure your business to pay the least amount in taxes
  • Audit your bookkeeping


  • Base salary = Avg. Profit of last 12 months minus 25 to 30% for taxes
  • The more money you take out the more it's taxed
  • Build up a runway buffer of 3 to 6 months (savings that cover your ass)


  • Consider something like a 401k
  • Consider ETFs
Work your money in small steps
  • Make your money grow over decades not the short term

Health Coverage

  • Get it


  • Develop consitent monthly revenue to cover costs, runway buffer and investments
  • Then → You're presented with choices
  • Make more money or don't, you can make more time for friends and family etc.
Open yourself up to investing into enjoying your life

Think about

  • Your purpose or reasoning in starting your company and whether it will hold up over time
  • How you could start your own company of one right now with some first version of what you want to do
  • What you need to do to set up your company of one correctly and responsible, legally and financially

Afterword: Never grow up

90% of business older than 100 years are japanese
  • Most companies don't survive in spite of being small but because of it
Build something remarkable and resilient
Solving business problems by simply adding more is like putting a band-aid on a cut, it might stop the bleeding but not help you deal with why it happened
  • There is satisfaction in reaching the point of enough in your business and then knowing that you don't have to explore every new potential opportunity
There is a point for everyone where having more won't affect your life
In sum all business is a choice about the life we want outside of it
  • Stay attentive to those opportunities that require growth and question them before taking them