Company of One
Company of One

Company of One

Traditionally in business, growth has always been seen as a by-product of success. But Tom doesn’t care much for how things are supposed to work. He knows the rules of business—he studied at one of the top schools in the world, then put that knowledge to work at a massive corporation. He just wasn’t interested in following those conventional rules. (Location 144)

He hires outside people only when a paying project requires them, and they too have other clients and other work; they can fend for themselves when they’re not working on a job for Marketoon. (Location 157)

If you’re a company of one, your mind-set is to build your business around your life, not the other way around. (Location 210)

Work can be done at a pace that suits my sanity rather than one that supports costly overhead, expenses, or salaries. (Location 212)

A company of one questions growth first, and then resists it if there’s a better, smarter way forward. Next, let’s look at the four typical traits of all companies of one: resilience, autonomy, speed, and simplicity. (Location 223)

She brought on a new team of A-players, created a website within a few weeks, and figured out the fastest way to start making money on her own with a new business that she had full control over. (Location 233)

The first trait that resilient people have is an acceptance of reality. (Location 244)

The second characteristic of resilient people is a sense of purpose—being motivated by a sense of meaning rather than by just money. (Location 254)

The last trait of resilient people in a company of one is the ability to adapt when things change—because they invariably do. (Location 261)

This is why so many people are choosing this path: being a company of one lets you control your own life and your job. (Location 286)

For entrepreneurs or those working for themselves, autonomy may seem easier to achieve but can come with several pitfalls. (Location 305)

But bear this in mind: achieving control over a company of one requires more than just using the core skill you are hired for. It also requires proficiency at sales, marketing, project management, and client retention. Whereas most normal corporate workers can be hyperfocused on a single skill, companies of one, even within a larger business, need to be generalists who are good at several things—often all at once. Speed (Location 334)

Speed is not merely about frantically working faster. It’s about figuring out the best way to accomplish a task with new and efficient methods. (Location 344)

Another aspect of speed in a company of one is the ability to pivot quickly when a customer base or market changes. (Location 352)

So speed works to the advantage of companies of one not only because they’re able to pivot when needed, and far faster, but also because they have less of the corporate mass that often gets in the way. (Location 353)

The fewer staff and less external funding involved, the faster a company can move, whether forward or in a new, more promising direction. (Location 363)

By contrast, growth for a company of one can mean simplifying rules and processes, which frees up time to take on either more work or more clients, because tasks can be finished faster. (Location 383)

do. Is this process efficient enough? What steps can be removed and the end result will be the same or better? Is this rule helping or hindering our business? (Location 384)

Typically awake by 4:00 AM—no alarm clock required—Sean goes to work early from a small office located in his backyard. By starting this early, Sean can record audio for his podcast before the world around him becomes too noisy. It’s an idyllic life filled with hourlong walks and ample coffee breaks. (Location 425)

Too often businesses forget about their current audience—the people who are already listening, buying, and engaging. These should be the most important people to your business—far more so than anyone you wish you were reaching. Whether your audience is ten people, a hundred people, or even a thousand people, if you’re not doing right by them, right now, nothing you do regarding growth or marketing will make a lick of difference. Make sure you’re listening to, communicating with, and helping the people who are already paying attention to you. (Location 430)

When a friend of Sean’s had a remarkably profitable year, they cracked open the champagne (possibly pink champagne, on ice) in a meeting and vowed to double that profit in the following year. But Sean is absolutely certain that his end goal is to keep his business small. (Location 443)

Like Sean, Ricardo Semler, CEO of Semco Partners, has found the right organic size for the businesses he owns and invests in. And it’s working for him, as he’s grown Semco into a business worth more than $160 million. He believes that companies need to focus on becoming better instead of simply growing bigger. (Location 452)

A study done by the Startup Genome Project, which analyzed more than 3,200 high-growth tech startups, found that 74 percent of those businesses failed, not because of competition or bad business plans, but because they scaled up too quickly. Growth, as a primary focus, is not only a bad business strategy, but an entirely harmful one. In failing—as defined in the study—these high-growth startups had massive layoffs, closed shop completely, or sold off their business for pennies on the dollar. (Location 460)

When the Kauffman Foundation and Inc. magazine did a follow-up study on a list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies five to eight years later, they found that more than two-thirds of them were out of business, had undergone massive layoffs, or had been sold below their market value, confirming the findings of the Startup Genome Project. (Location 464)

Venture capital can be a quick way to infuse money into a company to help it succeed, but it’s not a requirement and it definitely comes with certain pitfalls. The Kauffman Foundation study also illustrated that almost 86 percent of companies that succeeded in the long term did not take VC money. (Location 468)

Paul Graham, the cofounder of Y Combinator (one of the largest and most notable VC firms for startups) explains that VCs don’t invest millions in companies because that’s what those companies might need; rather, they invest the amount that their own VC business requires to see growth in their own portfolios, coming from the few companies that actually give them a positive return. (Location 473)

Many startups focus on growth, buyouts, employees, lavish offices with foosball tables and open-concept floor plans, and massive profits at any cost, and they tend to rely on investors for initial cash. (Location 480)

For instance, Buffer, a social media scheduling tool with more than three million users, has seventy-two employees and isn’t looking to grow that number quickly, unless it absolutely has to. Buffer wasn’t always in the mind-set of challenging growth—a few years ago the company got caught up in a hiring frenzy because it was looking to do a large round of raising capital. (Location 485)

The CEO wanted a more profit-driven, holistic, slow-growth plan and believed in hiring more employees only when the money was there, not in the hopes that it would materialize. (Location 492)

When businesses require endless growth to turn a profit, it can be difficult to keep up with increasingly higher targets. Whereas, if a business turns a good profit at its current size, then growth can be a choice, made when it makes sense to succeed, and not a requirement for success. (Location 495)

Danielle’s “Beast” was the system and structure (financial and technological) she created to match her grand vision for her business. She invested in a million-dollar website to take her business to the next level. (Location 502)

In “killing her own Kraken,” as she put it, she began to radically simplify. Her strategy shifted from “broadcasting light . . . to as many people as possible” to “broadcasting light . . . to the people with eyes to see it.” (Location 508)

She likens her decision to stop trying to reach infinitely more people through paid channels to feeding only those people who show up for dinner—the ones who naturally or organically find her work through word of mouth or who are hanging out where her business hangs out. (Location 511)

When you feel like you have to start out competing with the largest player in the market, you end up chasing your competitor’s growth instead of bettering your own offering. (Location 537)

Not everything needs to scale to succeed—as Leah Andrews, founder of Queen of Snow Globes, discovered almost by accident. She runs an extremely unscalable business: creating intricate and unique snow globes, one at a time, for her customers. (Location 541)

WordPress, the software that powers 26 percent of all websites on the internet, closed its gorgeous San Francisco office, not because the company was out of money (it’s extremely profitable) but because employees were barely working at the office, opting instead to work at home. (Location 565)

Pieter Levels is a digital nomad and Dutch programmer who is challenging the status quo of business tradition. Working from any location around the globe with an internet connection (currently in a village in Bali), he builds software that competes with VC-funded Silicon Valley companies with teams of twenty or more people. (Location 570)

Through careful planning and strategically executing personalized sales funnels, people like Brennan Dunn, who runs an email automation and training consultancy, are able to launch products without even lifting a finger. Brennan can leave home, not even bringing a computer, and still have record sales because he’s built a system that drives ideal buyers to his website, converts them into subscribers, sends them personalized emails that change content based on their actions or behavior on the site and list, and finally turns them into buyers. (Location 578)

But now that he’s scaled back to having no office and only a handful of remote contractors, he spends less time on work—and far less on overhead—and generates more revenue by using off-the-digital-shelf technology. (Location 584)

Risk isn’t just the name of a famous, amazing, and all-consuming board game—it’s what most people think is involved in working for yourself! And sure, there is definitely risk that can’t be mitigated in working for yourself, but we should challenge the idea that being your own company of one is riskier than working at a traditional company. (Location 593)

them. Since the company was just him, he was also able to pivot several times when shifts in the market and specific types of work he enjoyed doing led him to niches to focus on. Keeping his company of one small (just him) enabled him to set his own flexible hours, so he could coach Miranda’s swim and basketball teams on some days and then work in the evenings instead. (Location 610)

Her father’s “OVERHEAD = DEATH” mentality seeped into Miranda’s subconsciousness, and she runs her business as he ran his. She hires painters, movers, installation workers, and carpenters only as she needs them, and from a pool of trusted people with whom she’s worked in the past or who have been referred to her directly. (Location 617)

Her childhood vision of power suits in corner offices died off, not because shoulder pads are no longer in vogue, but because she realized that constant growth often brings on stress and anxiety. When you hire employees, you’re responsible for them. You’re their source of income that goes toward paying their mortgages, feeding their families, and even sending their children to college. That’s a heavy responsibility. (Location 622)

Most businesses set goals and targets, but few consider having an upper bound to them. Paying attention instead to the lower bound of a goal, they focus on ever-exceeding increases in areas like profit and reach and set goals like, “I want to make at least $1 million this quarter,” or, “We need to grow our mailing list by 2,000 people per day.” They set the minimum threshold they want to reach, with the implication that if more happens, that’s even better. (Location 638)

James Clear, a successful blogger on the topic of habits and productivity, tells the story of Southwest Airlines being faced with an interesting problem way back in 1996: the airline had methodically expanded from a tiny regional carrier to having a bit more of a national presence. (Location 648)

Sure, Southwest’s executives wanted to grow each year, but they didn’t want to grow too much. Unlike Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, and, they wanted to set their own pace, one that could be sustained in the long term. By doing this, they established a safety margin for growth that helped them continue to thrive at a time when the other airlines were flailing. (Location 652)

For some reason, when our business is just us, or when it isn’t growing, we feel a societal pressure to keep up with other, larger businesses in order to be seen as “making it.” (Location 671)

So far, we’ve touched on what a company of one is and why betterment of your quality of life should be valued above blind growth. Now we can turn our attention to who should lead a company of one and what specific traits are required—whether as an entrepreneur going solo, with no desire to hire others, or as the leader of an agile and autonomous team within a larger company. (Location 702)

Business and Hollywood share a prototypical vision of what a leader should be—a charismatic, dominant, type-A person (in most cases, a male) who commands attention simply by being the loudest and most vocal person in a room. That kind of leader can sometimes have a place, but it’s not the only possible kind of leader (especially the being-male part). Companies of one can be led and run by quiet, thoughtful, introspective folks, even when there’s a team to manage. (Location 707)

Companies of one do require leadership. If you work for yourself, you’ve got to be a leader to successfully pitch your services or products, as well as maintain relationships with clients or customers. (Location 711)

Charisma—the so-called X-factor that leaders are supposed to be born with in order to make compelling pitches, inspire urgency, and encourage cooperation—isn’t an innate quality that you either have or don’t have. (Location 714)

Another quality that helps is setting extremely high goals—for yourself and for others. Gandhi, in his famous “Quit India” speech, inspired an entire nation to liberate themselves from British rule without using violence. (Location 719)

He’s also been very competent at persuading other startups and their founders (typically very entrepreneurial in spirit) to join Facebook, by spending a lot of time with them and listening keenly. (Location 728)

That’s because a quieter, calmer leader is more likely to listen carefully, stay very focused, and not be afraid to work for long stretches of time without interruption. And they are able to lead a team of people who can do the same. Just as autonomy can only be of benefit once a skill set is mastered (as we discussed in Chapter 1), a company of one that operates as a small team requires real expertise from each member if they are to function both separately and as a whole without very much managing required. (Location 731)

Introverted leaders do have to overcome the strong cultural presumption that extroverts are more effective leaders. Although the population splits into almost equal parts between introverts and extroverts, more than 96 percent of managers and executives are extroverted. (Location 738)

Companies of one are sometimes quiet people who are internally motivated to make a difference in the world without shouting. Many people think they aren’t the type of person who could start and run a business or inspire others to work with them or buy from them. (Location 745)

Since my practically nonexistent ability to lead could easily be a detriment to my company of one, I only work with freelancers and contractors who don’t require management of any kind. They’re A-players who know exactly how to get their work done. I simply need to provide them with the parameters and let them do their work. I give the people I hire full autonomy to do their jobs so I can do mine, with no need for meetings, or check-ins, or management. (Location 752)

Leading a company of one that allows its workers to have autonomy isn’t as simple as removing all rules, processes, and prescriptions. The result of that would be anarchy, which would be terrible for profitability and sustainability. (Location 759)

A bit of each is required, both for starting a business and maintaining it. A leader of a company of one has the role of enabling autonomy while providing alignment-setting processes and making sure there are common goals. Achieving this delicate balance can be challenging. (Location 765)

A leader’s job is to provide clear direction and then get out of the way. Even companies of one require direction and set processes—it’s this common constraint that allows creativity to thrive and goals to be met. (Location 779)

In school and work, we’re often taught that specialization is better and a key to success. From a young age, we’re asked to pick a track that will lead us to a specific profession. In our jobs, we often use only one specific skill set to accomplish the tasks we’re assigned. This is helpful in gaining domain expertise in a subject, but companies of one truly need to be able to know and understand a multitude of topics and skills in order to be in control of their work. (Location 788)

According to Carter Phipps, author of Evolutionaries, generalists will continue to thrive in business as it becomes increasingly valuable to know “a little bit about a lot.” Where you fall on the spectrum of generalist to specialist could therefore be the most important aspect of your survival as a company of one. (Location 799)

A generalist company of one leader 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. (Location 805)

On Apple’s television show Planet of the Apps, one contestant admits, “I rarely get to see my kids. That’s a risk you have to take.” Is it really? That kind of hustling, putting work above everything else, is inconsistent with the mind-set of running a company of one—with working better instead of working more. A company of one who disagrees with this idea that workaholism is required to succeed in tech and big business alike is David Heinemeier Hansson, a Danish programmer who created the popular Ruby on Rails web framework and is a partner at the software development firm Basecamp. (Location 834)

He believes that companies need to stop hustling and should encourage their employees to focus on accepting that there’s life outside of work, that there’s real usefulness to sleep and recuperation, and that their work habits should be much calmer. (Location 840)

As the leader of a company of any size, you’re subject to the myth that you’ve got to be indefatigable. Entrepreneurialism idolizes workaholism and sacrifice of anything in service to the work and the company—and puts the weight and responsibility of the entire business squarely on one person’s shoulders. (Location 862)

By recognizing that we are all human—and that all humans are imperfect—we can break down and debug this idea that leaders have to be infallible. As leaders, our job is to be self-aware and to check in on ourselves regularly. (Location 875)

If excessive and blind growth are the main causes of business failure, then how do we start and run a business to avoid all of that? Growth can definitely be enticing and exciting. Making more money, increasing a customer base, garnering national media attention—none of these accomplishments are inherently wrong or bad. They just need to be balanced with meaningful, long-term strategies. A lot of “growth-hacking” (a Silicon Valley term for the kind of exponential growth that tech folks salivate over) employs pushy and even sometimes shady tactics to keep growing in spite of the excessive churn that’s produced. (Location 903)

A company of one would have a mind-set more in line with providing a great newsletter with lots of valuable content of interest to the people it wants to attract; its overall subscription rate might be lower, but the open-rate and retention would be higher. (Location 910)

Kate’s superpower is being able to look at data and then apply it to the human experience. She’s noticed a pattern where growth-hacking companies focus on exponential user acquisition. They prioritize attracting customers, not determining the type of customers they want or the experience they want to give people once they become customers. (Location 915)

Companies like Airbnb have to start with a huge inventory—Airbnb needed to amass places to stay before it could make a dent in the market—but most companies don’t require so large a market share to start. (Location 919)

It seems counterintuitive, but starting—and then staying—small requires examining growth from the outset. If a new company of one begins by looking at why most companies grow, it can determine whether those avenues are the correct course for it to take. (Location 931)

Inflation is as close to a constant as you’ll get in business. Everything eventually costs more. The five cents your grandparents paid for a soda is not the same price that you’ll pay at a vending machine today. (Location 935)

The simple solution is to raise your rates each year to keep up and then invest any extra profit in those places that pay out higher than inflation (in other words, don’t keep the bulk of your business profits in a bank account that earns 0.001 percent interest). (Location 938)

Investors, even if they own the company, are the biggest reason businesses want to grow. If a VC firm puts $1 million into your company today, it will want to see a return at least three times that much (and more if they’re early-stage investors) within a few years. (Location 940)

Most of the time, companies try to fix churn, as we saw with Kate O’Neill, by focusing on adding more customers to the mix instead of working at reducing the reasons existing customers are leaving. According to the Econsultancy/Responsys Cross-Channel Marketing Report, adding a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an existing one. (Location 947)

As Gary Sutton, author of Corporate Canaries, says, “You can’t sell your way out of an unprofitable business.” So starting your own company of one with a focus on profitability right from the start, when you’re at your leanest, is imperative. (Location 959)

People sometimes tend to focus on the wrong things when starting a business, like office space, scaling, websites, business cards, computers. You can add expenses or bigger ideas later, once revenue is coming in. But if your idea requires a lot of money, time, or resources to start, you’re probably thinking too big too soon. Scale it down to what can be done right now, on the cheap and fast, and then iterated upon. (Location 964)

To start a company of one, you should first figure out the smallest version of your idea and then a way to make it happen quickly. Automation can happen later. Scale, if desired, can happen later. Infrastructure and process can happen later. (Location 970)

To emphasize that last point, customers really don’t care if you’re profitable. But if what you sell them can help them become profitable, they’ll never want to leave your business. They’ll stay on as customers and then probably tell others to become your customers too. (Location 974)

advance. She didn’t start with a vision for growth and profit or a vision of what the next several steps would be—she began with what could immediately result in paying customers. Then and only then, based on profit, did she increase her expenses (but only a little) and make some business purchases. (Location 986)

Starting a company of one requires that you embrace working on what’s achievable now, which usually means embracing less than your vision for your ideal future. (Location 993)

We need to reexamine our relationship with thinking big and success. Questioning growth—or at least, not scaling—isn’t the same as staying static and unchanging. Even a business that doesn’t want to grow much needs to constantly learn, adapt, and refine. The cost of living, labor, equipment, materials, travel—all increase year over year. (Location 1014)

Peldi Guilizzoni founded a wire-framing company called Balsamiq in 2008. Before that, he was a senior software engineer at Adobe. Balsamiq has always been privately owned, profitable, small, and focused on being better instead of bigger. (Location 1027)

Each year Peldi takes out $1 million personally, keeps an eighteen-month runway in the company (in case anything bad happens), and pays out the remainder to his twenty-five-employee team (which grows by only two to three people per year). (Location 1031)

For Peldi and his team at Balsamiq, focusing on better, not bigger, removes any pressure to take shortcuts in software development. He gets to spend his time talking to customers instead of in board meetings or at investor pitches. Moreover, Peldi says, “I’m Italian. Italians measure things in generations, not quarters.” (Location 1039)

It takes even less to start a company of one within an existing organization, like a team at a corporation. Although it’s not been my own path, working at a larger company does have its benefits—for instance, not having to worry, for the most part, about insurance, administrative work, or covering your expenses. (Location 1054)

Regardless of whether or not your company of one is just you or is part of a larger organization, with greater autonomy comes greater responsibility to do the work expected of you. How you think about work is important to how work gets done. (Location 1092)

Seventh Generation is another business that’s built around purpose—so much so that the purpose is part of their name: they consider the impact every product they create will have on the next seven generations. (Location 1107)

Virgin founder Richard Branson summed up purpose nicely: “Success in business is no longer just about making money or moving up the corporate ladder. More and more, one of the biggest indicators of success is purpose.” (Location 1121)

What happens if you build your business without ever thinking about your purpose? What if you’d rather focus exclusively on acquisition and higher profits? Those activities can definitely seem more rewarding. But the more we busy ourselves with work and fail to consider why we’re doing it in the first place, the more likely we are to realize (often far too late) that we’re not enjoying what we’ve worked so hard to build. (Location 1127)

John Kotter and James Heskett report in their book Corporate Culture and Performance that purpose-based, values-driven companies outperform their counterparts in stock price by a factor of twelve. They have found that, without a purpose, management has a harder time rallying employees to increase productivity and customers have a harder time connecting to the company. Their decade-long research shows that purpose creates positive outcomes far greater than the sum of its parts. (Location 1132)

Defining your purpose has more to do with your personal values and ethics than with business plans or marketing strategies. You can’t fake your purpose. Your gut and your customers simply won’t let you. And really, why would you want to? You’ll get so much more enjoyment and satisfaction from running your business in alignment with your purpose. If you don’t feel a deep connection to your purpose, no one else will feel it either. (Location 1138)

Barbara Corcoran, a real estate investor and a “shark” on the popular television show Shark Tank, said that she didn’t follow her passion; instead, she discovered it by accident as she worked her ass off. Her passion came after her hard work—as a result of it—not the other way around. Known for her shrewd pragmatism on the show, Corcoran says that it’s more important to focus on solving problems than on passion. Her problem-solving focus allows her to better evaluate new business ventures that are presented to her on the show. (Location 1159)

But what I’ve noticed is that there are two key ingredients that most successful businesspeople don’t talk about when they’re giving keynote speeches about how smart they were to make their leap into a more passion-filled work life. The first is that they were skilled at what they did before they took a leap—so skilled that they were doing well enough that if their leap to something new faltered, they’d still be okay. (Location 1176)

On the other hand, when I first tried back in the 1990s to pivot into business consulting without having any related, built-up skills, I had almost no bites from clients. (Location 1191)

In short, my business skills weren’t in demand at all back then, and I had never even tested them to see if anyone would pay for them before spending a ton of time updating my website to promote them. Doing well with business consulting didn’t happen until I had years of experience under my belt—both by working with clients and by running my own companies. (Location 1195)

Engaging work, not entitled work, can be anything from collecting garbage to serving coffee, to coaching billionaires, to becoming a company of one inside a large organization. (Location 1225)

Just as growth in revenue and employees should be questioned as to whether or not it will make things better or simply bigger, we must also question the idea that a busier life, with a packed schedule, is a better life. (Location 1235)

Jocelyn Glei, the best-selling author of Unsubscribe, is obsessed with avoiding distraction to do more work that matters. She works for herself now; previously she was the founding editor and director of 99U, so she’s experienced both leading an autonomous team and leading herself. In terms of productivity, she believes that the main difference is motivation and momentum. (Location 1246)

Companies of one need to become 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. (Location 1251)

Many large organizations have changed how they run fairly recently by adopting the startup ethos of flatter hierarchies, open workspace, multiple projects for every team member, and even asynchronous communication (like Slack). (Location 1255)

If you don’t have full control over your own schedule—if, for instance, someone is telling you what to do in your job—you have to be able to explain what’s currently filling your schedule and what tasks or responsibilities would need to be removed to make space for other demands. (Location 1264)

Jason Fried, a cofounder of Basecamp and author of the best-seller ReWork, says that it’s a manager’s job to protect the team’s time and attention. Many corporate workers end up putting in sixty- to seventy-hour weeks because so much of the standard forty hours is taken up by interruptions. (Location 1274)

By keeping meetings and interruptions to an absolute minimum, Fried 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. (Location 1278)

As a company of one, it’s easy to mentally beat yourself up for not accomplishing enough during a day. But how often do you take into account how rare it is, between doing your core work and managing your business, to have a full day, every day, to sit and work without interruptions? You may be failing to realize how much of your schedule is taken up with maintenance work or communication. (Location 1283)

week. The funny thing, though, is that any task will take up the time we give it. So if we give ourselves eight hours to work each day, our work will take eight hours, and if our tasks take less time than that, we usually fill much of the “extra” time with busywork. (Location 1300)

As a company of one that achieves ownership over your schedule and how long you allow yourself to work, you can be overloaded with the sheer number of tasks you need to do to keep your businesses running. (Location 1303)

For example, Harley-Davidson is a brand that connotes rebelliousness, while Snapchat is associated with being young and fresh (although calling it “young and fresh” probably means that I’m neither). If you don’t think about the personality of your business, your audience will assign one to you—because people relate to other people, and your audience wants to relate to your brand when they see it. (Location 1331)

As a company of one, your brand should very much represent some distinct aspect of yourself, while taking into account whom you’re trying to reach. Marie Forleo, founder of Marie Forleo International, runs an eight-figure business training company with her distinct personality front and center. (Location 1334)

Rand Fishkin says that newly formed companies tend to inherit the personality of their founders internally, and then externally. So personality even creates and affects company culture. (Location 1341)

Sally contends that the key is to unlearn being boring. That is, 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. You can do this by allowing your business to have some aspect of your own innate personality or quirks. Fascination in a product or service builds an emotional connection, and emotional connections hold attention. (Location 1371)

In an interview Sally did with Marie Forleo, she spoke about the tendency of large companies to be the vanilla ice cream of their market—they project a personality that’s universally acceptable, but bland. (Location 1379)

Fascination is the response when you take what makes you interesting, unique, quirky, and different and communicate it. When you start to understand how the world sees your business, you can amplify that understanding by featuring the specific traits that make you, you. (Location 1385)

Tom Fishburne, from Chapter 1, says that there’s power in polarization. If we try to appeal to everyone, we won’t appeal to anyone in particular, muddying our message. Creating indifference or simply being another boring small company in a crowded marketplace just won’t serve you well as a company of one. (Location 1401)

In my own business, the stance I take on business and even social issues puts some people off. For every email I send to my weekly newsletter, I get a handful of critical replies, ranging from the standard internet vitriol to comments such as “I don’t want to buy anything from you because you believe in [fill in the blank].” This is actually a good thing, as I don’t want to have customers who are so angry or who complain so readily; if they paid for one of my products, (Location 1446)

People can copy skills, expertise, and knowledge, which are all replicable with enough time and effort. What’s not replicable is who you truly are—your style, your personality, your sense of activism, and your unique way of finding creative solutions to complicated problems. So lean on that in your work. (Location 1457)

In short, helping your customers succeed and providing amazing service are good for business. A recent Harris Interactive survey showed that nine out of ten Americans were willing to spend more with companies that exhibited great customer service. The same survey showed that 79 percent of people bailed on a transaction or did not buy what they intended to because of a poor customer service experience. (Location 1478)

With these stats in mind, it’s puzzling that some growth-centric companies care more about new customer acquisition than retention or customer happiness. (Location 1486)

In my own service-based business, all of my leads came from word of mouth as well. Early on, I decided that instead of spending time and money on marketing and outbound sales campaigns, I’d invest those resources instead in making sure every client was absolutely happy about having decided to hire me. (Location 1543)

Even product businesses like Trello—a SaaS (software as a service) that lets you collaborate on projects online—have grown their reach and customer numbers, mostly through word of mouth. (Location 1547)

Kate Leggett of Forrester Research found that keeping customers happy and helping them succeed reduce churn, increase the likelihood of repeat business, and even help in winning new business. In other words, when your customers win, you do too. In truth, your customers don’t care if your business is profitable—but if you help them become profitable too, they’ll never leave you. (Location 1554)

There’s a common misconception that empathy is for weak, nonprofit, hippie-lifestyle businesses, but in fact it’s a most useful tool to drive real profit. This comes down to several simple facts: the more you understand your customers, the more you can tailor and position products that provide real value to them, the more you can help them with support requests, and the more you can learn from them, because customers understand buyers better than you do. After all, they are buyers. (Location 1567)

Understanding customers requires not just providing exceptional handling of their support requests but then gaining a bigger-picture idea about the types of questions and requests that are coming in. Even in a company of one, it’s important to recognize the general theme of each request and to manage it in a way that makes patterns and clues in the data discernible later on. (Location 1576)

Best Buy is a stellar example of a company that doesn’t just listen to customers but actually takes time to understand customer feedback and put it to use. (Location 1581)

In short, customer happiness is the new marketing. If your customers feel that you are taking care of them, then they’ll stick around and they’ll tell others. This is the precise way in which companies of one can compete with behemoths in their market—by outsupporting them. (Location 1597)

Since financial success (i.e., profit) ensures longevity, most business owners naturally spend a great deal of time thinking about how they can make their businesses more successful. (Location 1601)

Focusing on customer success is a mentality and a way of doing business for a company of one that encompasses all aspects of a business. It begins before a product is even created, with planning to make sure everything is done correctly and is of the best quality. This way of doing business includes customer education (which we’ll talk about in Chapter 9) to improve their skill set and foster their success. (Location 1622)

Finally, to be the most helpful to your customers, you sometimes have to look beyond the problems they’re presenting to you. The underlying reason customers are asking for help is often not obvious: sometimes they’re looking for specific answers, but sometimes they’re asking for a certain feature without even being aware that’s what they’re doing. (Location 1631)

When I changed my sales pitch and began speaking about how good design could help a potential customer achieve more profit, the number of projects I landed from sales calls more than doubled. Listening to what your customers really need and want is key for companies of one. (Location 1636)

Just as the transparency discussed in Chapter 3 is important internally for both leaders and employees, it’s equally important to be transparent outwardly with your customers. That doesn’t mean sharing everything, but it does mean being open about your company’s relevant highs and lows, as they could have an effect on your customer relationship. (Location 1642)

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. The first step is apologizing like a real, empathetic human, not a corporate PR-sounding robot. Customers don’t expect perfect—they just expect problems to be dealt with fairly, empathetically, and quickly. (Location 1645)

Although technically it was the software vendor’s fault, since it was their software that had a bug in it, I took full responsibility—because it was my company’s name on the store that sold the product. I immediately emailed every single person affected—even those who didn’t yet realize they’d been double-charged—and informed them of the steps I was taking to prevent the mistake from happening again (switching vendors, at great cost to my company in time and money) and my plan to return their money as quickly as possible. (Location 1651)

This book is definitely not offering legal advice, but it’s worth noting here the 2015 New York Times report that doctors who are transparent about errors and offer apologies to patients are actually sued far less for malpractice than doctors who deny wrongdoing and defend mistakes. (Location 1664)

Nicholas says that people tend to evaluate each other based on two general dimensions: how interpersonally warm we appear to be, and how competent we seem to be. His work suggests that the way to be positively assessed by others is by making promises, and then keeping them. This advice is especially important to companies that serve customers, since customers who are treated with warmth, understanding, and competence turn into loyal customers. (Location 1686)

It doesn’t do you any good to overpromise the effectiveness of your products or pitch false information, even unintentionally. In these days when almost all information is available online, you need to be clear about what your business does and how you do it. (Location 1690)

If the point of a company of one is to question growth and challenge scale, the answer might sometimes be that growth is in fact required—when it aligns with your overall purpose. (Location 1721)

Marshall Haas, cofounder of Need/Want, used to think that a company needs to scale in proportion to the revenue it generates. Thus, a $100 million business needs to have at least hundreds of employees and several layers of bureaucratic managerial hierarchy. What he’s found in practice, though, is that, with fewer than ten employees, his company can grow very slowly and still increase revenue—which is currently at nearly $10 million. (Location 1724)

Need/Want uses scalable systems and channels to increase profits. They use prepackaged software, Shopify, to run their online store, which can handle anywhere from one order a day to over a million. They stay out of big-box stores, so they don’t need a dedicated outside sales team. They don’t do trade shows, and all their marketing efforts stem from a team of three who focus entirely on online channels, like social… (Location 1730)

In other words, Need/Want is a perfect example of a company of one that utilizes scalable systems. Its direct-to-consumer sales model keeps things lean and enables the company to really experiment… (Location 1735)

They treat their company like a tech startup, but instead of selling software, they sell products, relying heavily on technology, automations,… (Location 1740)

The Need/Want model is growth based on realized profit, not growth based on potential profit (the model adopted by most startups or VC-backed companies). They operate out of St. Louis, where it’s far cheaper to rent office space and to live,… (Location 1745)

They simply need increasingly effective messaging and positioning—which they’re always testing with tools like A/B tests in their ad campaigns and email campaigns. A/B tests let a company test a few variations of a small subset of a list, see which variant… (Location 1749)

James Clear—the author and photographer introduced in Chapter 2—has developed scalable systems in his own business, which creates and promotes digital products. With a mailing list that has more than 400,000 subscribers and increases by 1,000 new people per… (Location 1751)

James’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… (Location 1755)

To give a keynote speech, he’ll fly in, give the talk, answer questions, and then be gone the next morning. These two rules help James keep his business small, his overhead and expenses light, and, most of all, his time freed up to do what he wants to do: researching, writing, and sharing. By creating goods and offering services that are scalable without any… (Location 1758)

James believes that we should first think: What type of life do I want? and How do I want to spend my days? Then you can work backwards from there into a business model that allows you to create… (Location 1763)

It’s not news that companies separate product ideas, marketing, and sales from physical production. If done poorly, this practice can create problems ranging from low ethical standards and unfair wages to vast amounts of waste as a side effect of manufacturing. (Location 1767)

For example, trend-setting companies like Arthur & Henry advocate for “slow fashion” and encourage customers to wear their clothing longer, and in stages—first at the office when a garment is fresh and new; then casually on the weekend, rolling up frayed sleeves; and then, when stains and small tears appear, for garden work. (Location 1774)

By constantly working toward reducing one-to-one points of contact with customers and focusing instead on one-to-many relationships, a company of one can scale its connection with customers without actually scaling its business. (Location 1790)

A perfect example is email marketing. It requires the same amount of effort to send an email to 50,000 people as it does to send that same email to one person. This is precisely why most companies of one rely heavily on newsletters and email automation: these are powerful tools for building relationships, trust, and even revenue. (Location 1794)

Using personalization and segmentation in connection channels like email is key. You want to send the right email, to the right person, at the right time. Otherwise, you may be sending out a firehose blast of messages that may not even be relevant—like a sales pitch to a customer who’s already purchased the product. Tools like MailChimp are great for filtering and targeting an audience, allowing you to send emails with product pitches only to people who have not yet purchased the product, or notices of in-store sales only to people who live in the particular geographic location, or up/cross sells only to people who already own the relevant products. (Location 1802)

The Epsilon Email Institute found that segmented automation emails have a 70.5 percent higher open rate and a 152 percent higher click-through rate than “business as usual” firehose blasts. (Location 1807)

In my own business, email marketing accounts for more than 93 percent of revenue each year. It allows me to connect with thousands of people who have opted to receive updates, education information in the form of articles, and even product pitches. I can write a single email that is instantly delivered to 30,000 people. (Location 1811)

Automated updates and notes and even simple check-ins with customers after a set amount of time can also increase the likelihood that customers will keep using the product, as well as the likelihood that they’ll tell others about their purchase (for instance, via social media sharing buttons within the emails). (Location 1816)

By automating most of her onboarding process with automated emails that delivered information about her services and prices and setting up a calendar system that let people pick a date and time to speak to her (based on her own calendar’s availability), she cut down the amount of time it took her to take a lead and turn it into a paying project from between eight to sixteen hours to only one hour. (Location 1822)

Samuel Hulick, founder of User Onboarding, believes that tools like Slack are “asyncronish”: they’re neither truly real-time (you sometimes have to wait indefinitely for an answer) or asynchronous (meaning no immediate response is expected). While the use of messaging tools can seem like a truly great advance in collaboration, too often they lead to daylong half-conversations, like a slow-drip coffee maker. (Location 1838)

Brian Clark started out in the mid-1990s as a practicing attorney, with a great job at a reputable law firm. The only problem was that he wanted to be a writer—and not just any writer, but a writer with full control over what he wrote and how his writing was published. And he wanted to use this new medium called the internet to do it. (Location 1864)

Brian took the next step. Since he still had his law degree and was running out of funds, Brian started a website that combined his love of writing with his experience practicing law. In law school, he had been taught that young lawyers need to get jobs at established firms because it’s the more senior lawyers in these firms who have the clients. Having decided that he wanted to find his own clients instead, Brian decided to do so by teaching people who wanted to learn from lawyers about legal issues. (Location 1870)

However, Brian still didn’t want to practice law. Taking an interim step toward the business he now runs, he decided to focus on an industry that had both the money to pay well and a low starting point of knowledge about the internet: real estate. (Location 1876)

The problem was that, amid this great success, Brian was burned out. Although he was excellent at marketing and online education, he was a terrible manager for his growing companies. His two brokerages required a lot of work because, having never documented the processes involved in running them, he ended up just doing most of the work himself. (Location 1880)

Brian started CopyBlogger as a side business at first. He hadn’t saved enough money prior to his accident to go full-time with it, so he was doing a lot of consulting work just to pay the bills. But the internet was starting to notice how content, sharing, and education could come together as a legitimate form of marketing for any business. (Location 1885)

With his previous online real estate businesses, Brian learned that his competitive edge was in his ability to outshare his competition, and that’s what he did with CopyBlogger—he shared everything he knew about content marketing with a quickly growing audience. (Location 1888)

He learned from Seth Godin that selling to people who truly want to hear from you, because you’ve been sharing with them, is far more effective than interrupting strangers online who don’t even know you. Each year this idea was proven correct, as every product CopyBlogger launched was more and more successful. (Location 1891)

Of course, the stereotypical model for selling is manipulation: pressuring potential customers until they give in and buy, like the proverbial pushy used-car salesperson. But great salespeople—from car dealers to real estate agents to B2B sellers—know sales increase when you honestly evaluate what someone needs and then teach them the value of what you’re selling. (Location 1895)

Sharing content and information is an effective way to begin a sales process because it helps a potential customer see what they need, why they need it, and then how your products can help solve their problem. (Location 1898)

To stand out and build an audience as a company of one, you have to out-teach and outshare the competition, not outscale them. This approach has several positive outcomes. (Location 1904)

The second benefit of out-teaching your competition is the chance to show an audience the benefits of what you’re selling. For example, if you’re selling a plug-in electric vehicle, teaching people the benefits of this type of vehicle—how much they’ll save by not buying gas each year, why and how it’s safer than a gas vehicle, the vehicle’s reduced environmental impact, and so on—shows them all the reasons they’d want to buy from you, without overtly selling to them. You’re simply giving them the information they need, in a genuine, compelling, and educational way, and letting them come to their own decision about whether such a purchase is right for them. (Location 1908)

Sharing your ideas far and wide helps build not just a following for what you’re selling but a movement around the core values and thinking that your product stands for. Having even more books, research, and ideas flowing around the idea of questioning growth ultimately helps both this book and others like it. (Location 1926)

Eisingerich and Bell surveyed 1,200 clients of an investment firm and found that the more those clients were educated on the pros and cons of the financial products the investment firm offered, the more they trusted that firm, the more loyalty to the firm they developed, and the more appreciative they became of the firm’s customer service for taking the time to educate them. (Location 1958)

Let me give you an example of how this works. Casper, a new breed of mattress company that’s focused entirely on direct sales and internet marketing (similar to Need/Want), uses sleep education to indirectly sell its product. In the past, people who wanted to buy a mattress would go to a mattress store and test out several mattresses by lying on them, then choosing the one that felt the most comfortable. (Location 1964)

A company of one would be smart to follow this new trend of educating customers. Sharing vital information on a product or a service provides a new customer with key insights into how to use it and get the most out of it; you may even show people ways to use what you sell that they hadn’t thought of. The lack of this kind of sharing can lead to customer frustration or distrust. They may even opt to buy a replacement product from someone else, all because they just didn’t know how to properly use what they bought from you. (Location 1972)

Clearly, a major driver in all of this is the internet, which has democratized education. Businesses should take notice—customer education is the new form of marketing. Education makes a real difference between a product that people perfunctorily buy for utilitarian reasons and a product they are truly eager to purchase because it adds real purpose to their lives. As a company of one, what you teach people about your product can and will set you apart. (Location 1978)

If you’re a company of one, asserting the authority of your own domain expertise becomes paramount, as there’s nothing to hide behind. It’s just you. When it comes to selling and marketing, consumers are easily tempted to go with a larger company, which seems “safer” simply because it has more people and infrastructure to support it. Authority is the countermeasure to this instinct, as you can assuage any concerns from customers by making them feel that you are an authority on what you’re selling. (Location 1983)

Teaching your expertise positions you as an authority simply by virtue of the fact that you’re showing someone else how to do something. People can be guarded if they think they’re being sold to. But more often than not, customers will engage and open up if they feel like they’re learning something useful. (Location 1998)

A study done in 2009 by neuroscientist Greg Berns at Emory University found that the decision-making centers of our brain slow down or shut off when we are receiving wanted advice from experts. Customers consistently rate experts as the most trusted spokespeople, far above typical CEOs or celebrities. (Location 2001)

These events, called “The Basecamp Way to Work,” share everything Basecamp has done to become a successful company, from internal communications to management organization. Nothing is held back or kept off the table. These $1,000 workshops sell out typically within minutes. Because of teaching what they know, and by showing others how they successfully run their company, they are the go-to experts for a tech company that isn’t hell-bent on growth. (Location 2005)

Teaching builds trust and expertise like nothing else for a company of one. When someone’s receptive to what you’re teaching, they inherently trust the information you’re sharing. If you can consistently give your audience useful, relevant, and timely knowledge (through your mailing list, speaking events, website, and so on), they’ll begin to lean on you for more information (which you can then charge for). (Location 2012)

Urban’s research has consistently found that trust highly correlates to a person’s propensity to consider, try, or buy a product. This finding predates the internet and goes back to family-run stores where one-to-one relationships were built; since these stores could be trusted to keep their promise to provide a good product at a fair price, purchases became multigenerational business transactions built on personal relationships. (Location 2026)

Even wealth management services have been changed by the internet. As opinions and information are shared online, the model of high-pressure sales that prioritizes commissions over fund performance is being challenged by new robo-adviser services like WealthSimple. Traditional banks give 50 percent of their fee to a salesperson as a commission, but WealthSimple and similar robo-management services give bonuses to their advisers based solely on client feedback and happiness. Their fees are published on their websites for anyone to compare (Location 2037)

Urban has found that trust is a strategy that starts before a product is even developed. A trust-based company of one begins with creating something that genuinely solves a problem; then the company rigorously tests the product’s validity before honestly communicating its benefits and outcomes to customers. (Location 2045)

When dealers found out that people were sharing this information, their first thought was to stop it by any means necessary—but the internet being what it is, they couldn’t. Fast-forward to now, when car dealerships and salespeople mostly have embraced the new transparency and now work to get customers the right car for the right price. (Location 2052)

According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from family or friends over any other form of advertising. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association found that a word-of-mouth conversation drives sales five times more than paid online media and is responsible for $6 trillion in annual customer spending. A study done by Verizon and Small Business Trends found that small business owners rated referrals and recommendations as their number-one way to acquire new customers, and that they greatly surpassed acquisition of new subscribers through search engines, social media, or paid ads. (Location 2068)

That may be bad for a large business focused on exponential growth, but it’s fine for a company of one. You don’t need massive growth or scale to realize profits; since you can see benefits with much less mass, you can capitalize on products and consumer relationships that build referrals. (Location 2076)

So how do you turn your customers into brand advocates and fuel conversations in which they share your business with the people they know? A study at Texas Tech found that while 83 percent of customers are willing to provide referrals, only 29 percent actually do so. For most businesses, this represents a huge missed opportunity to push happy customers to actively promote what you sell. (Location 2081)

In my own business, I doubled the amount of sharing for one of my products by automatically sending an email a week after purchase asking customers, if pleased with what they purchased, to share their satisfaction with others—using links with prewritten content provided. (Location 2085)

Rewarding loyalty in your best customers is also a great way to incentivize recommendations. MailChimp is fairly well known for sending its loyal customers exclusive swag, like well-designed T-shirts (most don’t even have the MailChimp logo on them) or “Freddie” action figures (Freddie is the name of the chimpanzee in the logo). People then post photos on social media—tagging MailChimp—that show them wearing their new shirt or the action figure on their desk, for all their followers to see. (Location 2093)

Referrals are also useful beyond the realm of products. Services and service-based companies of one (from consultants to freelancers to client-focused agencies) can greatly benefit from word of mouth. In fact, a survey done by Drip (an email service provider like MailChimp) found that 50 percent of new customers for service-based companies came from word of mouth. That survey result is definitely worth keeping in mind. (Location 2103)

Second, by creating a schedule for following up with clients, you can then ask them (assuming the project went well) if they know of other businesses that could benefit from your services the way they have—or if they’re interested in arranging another project with you. By creating a schedule for following up with contented clients, you can turn referrals into a real strategy instead of simply refreshing your inbox and hoping each day that one will come in. (Location 2110)

The truth is, they really shouldn’t. Marketing is simply building a sense of trust and empathy with a specific group of people by consistently communicating with them. Trust has to be developed before anyone will buy anything. This is why ad-mail and cold-calling have such a tiny success rate and rely on massive volume—and conversely, why highly targeted cross-sell emails have a high success rate at a much smaller scale. (Location 2121)

Kurt Elster, instead of spending his time building an audience for general ecommerce consulting services, focuses entirely on Shopify store owners. (More than 400,000 businesses use Shopify as an ecommerce platform.) By using this niche to build trust in a smaller and more specific audience, Kurt has grown his revenue eightfold and made a name for himself as an authority in Shopify consulting; he was even featured on Shopify’s website. (Location 2152)

As noted earlier, education is a better and cheaper way to build your customer base. When you teach customers about how products like yours can be used or can benefit their own businesses or lives, trust is the natural outcome. (Location 2175)

Jason Fried told me that Basecamp recently flirted with paid acquisition by spending around $1 million 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. (Location 2181)

I know I have talked about Ugmonk a couple of times earlier in the book, but it’s such a fascinating and inspirational story of how a company of one got started that I want to return to it one more time and provide some more detail on how it began. (Location 2204)

As a company of one, you need to reach profitability as quickly as possible. Since you’re not relying on massive influxes of cash from investors, every minute you spend getting set up and started is a minute when you aren’t making money. So getting your product or service released as soon (Location 2225)

as possible, even if it’s small, is both financially wise and educational, since a quick release can also serve as a perfect learning experience. The first version of a product doesn’t need to be huge—it simply needs to solve one problem well and leave your customers feeling better than before they purchased it. (Location 2227)

Quickly becoming profitable is important to a company of one because focusing on growth and focusing on profit are nearly impossible to do at the same time. For big companies, traditional growth requires investing in the future, and that usually means spending money on a sales cycle with the bet that it will pay off at a higher rate . . . sometime in the future. A focus on growth may require spending money on sales staff, paid acquisitions, increased support teams, or even a larger technology infrastructure to handle the hoped-for growth. The assumption is that, eventually, more spending will generate more profit. (Location 2246)

With companies of one, exponential profit increases aren’t a core objective because just hitting profitability is usually enough. From there, you have choices—to grow, to stay the same, to take more time off, to scale systems—as well as the space to make those choices because your (Location 2253)

goal isn’t to make exponential profit, but simply to bring in profits greater than your expenses. (Location 2255)

Andrew Mason founded Groupon as a basic website where he manually typed in deals and created PDFs to email to subscribers from Apple Mail. (Location 2264)

Once these startups were up and running, they were able to build from customer feedback and make positive changes. In much the same way, companies of one need to continually iterate on their products to keep them useful, fresh, and relevant to the market they serve. So, launch your company quickly, but then immediately start to refine your product and make it better. (Location 2268)

Finally, to serve as a building block is to build on an existing and understood concept. Casper didn’t invent a soft and rectangular piece of foam to sleep on and call it a mattress. They simply built off an existing industry, an existing product, and made it better. Everyone knows what a mattress is, so Casper doesn’t have to explain that; they just have to explain why their mattress is better. (Location 2285)

And because he’d already spent a decade building an audience that was ravenous for his Ugmonk brand, Jeff’s Kickstarter campaign was able to generate over $430,000 (surpassing his original funding goal by 2,394 percent), garnering him more than enough to cover all the costs required to put Gather into production. (Location 2300)

Not surprisingly, crowdfunding, as an alternative to raising capital from investors, is a growing trend in new businesses. It’s far easier to access than VC money, and it puts your idea directly into the hands of potential customers—if they agree with your idea, they’ll pledge money as a preorder. If they don’t, you’ll only have wasted time developing the crowdfunding campaign (the marketing and possibly prototypes), not months or years in product development. (Location 2307)

While VCs are interested in their own profits and partial ownership of their investments, crowdfunding seems more aligned with companies of one—if the product idea solves a problem for an audience, that audience will become customers. (Location 2314)

She’s also found that crowdfunding is more liberating for companies of one, as too many VCs tend to consider $500,000 or even $1 million companies just too small to invest in. (Location 2327)

And sometimes you should start a business only when people are asking you for something and are willing to give you money for it. (Location 2332)

Derek Sivers began CDBaby—which sold for $22 million in 2008, while it was doing approximately $250,000 a month in net profit—by accident when he began selling his own band’s CDs on the internet. (Location 2333)

Crew, back in Chapter 3, started with a one-page website and a form to collect information in order to manually match freelancers to businesses. When the demand became too large to handle manually, they invested in building custom software. (Location 2343)

Halley Gray, founder of Evolve + Succeed, has found that most people who start a new business by themselves make the mistake of believing the products should always come first. Instead of developing a product, which can take a lot of time (and sometimes cash) to develop, new founders can start almost immediately by offering their product idea as a service first. (Location 2359)

Jim Collins, best-selling author of Good to Great, studied 1,435 companies over a forty-year span. He found that every great company that’s very profitable and successful started out as simply good enough to launch. (Location 2379)

The idea that winners never quit is both overly simplistic and completely false. Most successful founders of companies have quit several times. In fact, it’s their quitting that led them to the success they found after they failed. (Location 2417)

In the early days of Behance, Scott Belsky and his small team were just a few months away from completely running out of money. Understandably, they felt demotivated quite often, but their vision of organizing the creative world’s work never got less interesting or less valuable to their customers. (Location 2425)

On the flip side, if your business is constantly selling and constantly pushing its wares, people instinctively start to avoid your business or stop responding to your emails. But if you use your platform to teach, empower, and make customers’ lives or businesses better (as we saw in Chapter 9), you are seen as a trusted adviser, not a shady or slick salesperson. (Location 2446)

The office supply store Staples, seeing that people have become less and less likely to visit its retail locations, launched a campaign called “Summon Your Inner Pro,” which focuses instead on cultivating business-to-business relationships. (Location 2460)

Building a genuine audience around your business, product, or brand is not the same as growth-hacking. In fact, the overall concept of this entire book is antithetical to that practice. (Location 2478)

The Circle, another app that focused on growth-hacking, spam-blasted its customers’ contact lists in hopes of gaining faster growth. CEO Evan Reas later changed his view on growth-hacking after it repeatedly backfired for his company; he came to believe that a business should grow as the result of great customer experience, not just grow for the sake of growing while taking away from great customer experience. (Location 2492)

On the flip side of vapid and ephemeral growth-hack relationship-building is a company like Kiva, a microlending service whose entire business plan is about fostering relationships, not to grow their audience overnight but to build connections between microlenders and microloan receivers. (Location 2503)

Remember, just because you might work for yourself doesn’t mean you have to work by yourself. Just as connections to an audience or paying customers are important, so too are relationships with your peers. (Location 2642)

Purpose is required in that you have to have a north star that will drive you long-term without blinking out. A desire to get rich quick or achieve business fame isn’t going to motivate you for long, since neither is quickly possible, regardless of who you are. (Location 2728)

While obviously the company-of-one method is to start with as little as possible and then grow it slowly or as needed, there are still some factors that need to be considered. (Location 2804)

Small businesses can be taken advantage of, ripped off, or screwed out of money they’re owed—sometimes by larger businesses, but sometimes by businesses the same size. This is why having legal systems in place right from the start is important. (Location 2822)

The reason for having a business lawyer—and one who’s on contract, not an employee—is not so that you can sue everyone, but so that lawsuits rarely happen. I pay my own business lawyer a small yearly fee as a retainer so that I can ask him a few questions now and then, as a preventive measure. (Location 2834)

I have a six-month runway buffer of liquid assets that I can easily and quickly access if I need to. Other people I know are comfortable with a three-month buffer, so just decide yourself what works for you. Personally, I wasn’t even willing to start working on my own full-time until I had a runway buffer saved up. (Location 2864)

Alongside a salary and a runway buffer, I truly think companies of one should invest as much money as they can save up in passive investments like index funds. If inflation is approximately 3 percent per year, then you’re losing money on any assets you’ve got that aren’t making at least 3 percent per year in returns. (Location 2872)

And just as I do with my salary, I have an automatic withdrawal set up to transfer money from my bank account into my investment account each month—in an amount that’s high enough to matter long-term but low enough not to affect my liquid assets. (Location 2878)

The goal here is to work your money in small steps. First, ensure that your company of one is making enough profit to cover your living expenses. Second, make sure you’ve got enough of a runway buffer built up to work full-time at your company of one, even if things get slow. (Location 2880)

The first step is to develop a consistent, healthy monthly revenue to cover costs, your runway buffer, and investments. Once you take care of those considerations, a beautiful thing happens: you’re presented with choices. (Location 2901)

The hotel’s focus, since the beginning, has been on customer service, not on growth or expansion. It’s stayed small because the top priority has always been making guests comfortable. (Location 2920)

Their downfall was putting growth above stability and profit. In Japanese, shinise is the word for a long-lasting company. Interestingly, about 90 percent of all businesses worldwide that are more than 100 years old are Japanese. They all have fewer than 300 employees, and the ones that still exist never grow quickly or without great reason. (Location 2935)

but rather in building something that’s both remarkable and resilient over the long term. (Location 2948)

With bigger scale come bigger dangers, bigger risks, and much work to become and remain profitable. (Location 2950)

Long-term, loyal customers will sometimes hang around for generations, continuing to financially support your business. (Location 2957)

Maybe you can create and sustain a tiny business that doesn’t overwork you or your staff and doesn’t ignore customers and still profits wildly. Maybe instead of taking investments to grow, you can remain the same size. (Location 2963)

My mind keeps coming back to the two studies showing that growth is the main cause of failure in so many startups, and even many top corporations. (Location 2969)

When you become too small to fail, you also become small enough to make your own choices about your work. (Location 2977)

This freedom allows you to run your company of one in your own way—a way that gives you a life you enjoy, fills your days with tasks you actually want to do, and brings you customers you actually want to serve. (Location 2981)

Companies of one around the world are starting to succeed, making substantial profits, without rapidly hiring employees or taking venture capital. (Location 2987)

Remember that technically everyone is a company of one—or at least, they should be. (Location 2989)

Yes, starting something on your own can be a little risky too, but I’ve found that most entrepreneurs are the most risk-averse people I know. (Location 2994)

What’s the difference, really, between having $90 million and having $900 million? (Honestly, I wouldn’t know.) If you’re not sure you’ve reached that point, question why you want more, or why what you have isn’t enough. (Location 3000)

Everything in this book derives from my belief that all companies, of every size, should be “lifestyle” businesses, not trapped in the paradigm of how “real” businesses operate. (Location 3008)