In business, does growth equate to bigger means better? What if you could scale your business and find more freedom and success with a company of one mindset? Today’s guest has a lot to share on this topic. Paul Jarvis is a designer who likes writing. Paul has been working for himself since the 90s. He is the creator of the online courses Creative Class and Chimp Essentials. 

He is also the author of Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business and the co-founder of Fathom Analytics

His work has been featured in WIRED, Fast Company, and more. He has been noticed and mentioned by Ashton Kutcher and Arianna Huffington. 

Some of his clients include Microsoft, Danielle LaPorte, Mercedes-Benz, Maria Forleo, and too many to mention. He is here with us today to share the mindset of a company of one. We talk about what it means to scale your business, be profitable, and find freedom. We’ll learn that sometimes in business, bigger isn’t always better.

Show Notes:

  • [03:31] Paul wasn’t planning on being an entrepreneur. He worked for an agency in Toronto. He loved the work and the clients, but he didn’t like the company. 
  • [03:57] When he left the company, clients started calling him. He then realized that he might be able to do this on his own.
  • [04:30] Paul became an entrepreneur by accident. His planned trip to the library to learn how to write a resume turned into a trip to learn how to start a business. 
  • [05:20] The biggest benefit of running his own business is being able to have a direct client contact. It’s a lot harder to get a new customer than to keep an existing one.
  • [06:03] He preferred to focus on retention as opposed to acquisition by offering excellent customer service.
  • [07:35] One of the biggest client misconceptions is that they will let you know when they need more work done. Paul started contacting his clients and discovered that they did want more from him.
  • [08:07] Keeping in touch also keeps you top-of-mind.
  • [09:50] Paul can run a business with a very small group of people and outsource things without having everyone on the payroll.
  • [10:24] Paul doesn’t want to run a big company and manage other people. He doesn’t want to build a business that will put him into that role.
  • [11:36] It’s hard to be skilled at every area of a business. Focus on what you are good at and get others to help with the other stuff. 
  • [14:17] Paul is extremely driven when he decides to do something. He didn’t plan to be a writer, but he enjoys it, and it’s a great way to share ideas. 
  • [15:22] Paul’s favorite story is about his friend’s dad who was an architect that started working at home. Above his computer he had a sign that said “overhead equals death.”
  • [17:08] Expressing personality is attractive to clients. Sharing your personality can draw in the people who are the right fit and push away the people who aren’t.
  • [20:51] People buy based on how they feel they are treated. Fostering success and making customers happy is the best way to sell. 
  • [22:34] One of his friends encouraged him to start a podcast. He now has two shows and is starting another one. 
  • [24:29] A business has to make enough to keep going. Helping people also makes you feel really good. 
  • [26:31] We often put self-inflicted pressure on ourselves in business. 
  • [28:07] Growth is beneficial in the beginning of starting a business. People are happier if they make more money, but only up to a certain point. 
  • [30:18] Freedom is important, so working 16 hours a day isn’t a requirement.
  • [31:05] Doing less is Paul’s biggest productivity hack. He also turns off distractions. Take on less stuff. 
  • [32:10] “No” should be the default for everyone. This way you only do what needs to be done. 
  • [34:50] Find the types of projects and clients you enjoy working with and that can really move the needle. Say “no” to the other stuff.
  • [35:22] Overtime you can narrow your niche down. In the beginning, you may have to be more open to trying different things.
  • [36:04] Paul likes routine. He wakes up early. He makes himself a coffee and then goes on to work on creative stuff. After that, an hour or two on admin. Then he’ll garden or exercise. 
  • [38:05] Paul’s biggest “aha” moment was when he wrote an article about why he doesn’t put growth at the top as priority for his business. He got 1,200 or 1,300 replies from people who had the same sentiment. He realized that there was probably a book that could focus on this topic.
  • [39:48] The byproduct of business success isn’t growth it’s freedom.

Links and Resources:

Paul Jarvis

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

Fathom Analytics

Creative Class

Chimp Essentials

@pjrvs on Twitter

Sunday Dispatches

Company of One, the podcast

Invisible Office Hours


Watch the interview here.