Company of One Paul JarvisI’ve been trying to work my way through some of the older books on my NetGalley shelf as well as the older physical books on my actual TBR shelf, and this was the second-oldest on there. I do like a business book and as the owner of a small business myself, this was going to appeal.

So this is a book about the power of the small-scale business – whether, it turns out, that’s a true one-person business, one run by a person with a particular skill who outsources a lot of the actual work to contractors, or a person within a company who has the ability to take their own initiative and grow their role as they will. I’m very much towards the first of those: I only outsource my accounting to a professional accountant, although I have skill-swapped for an editor for my books and a graphic designer for some early images. The company which starts with big ideas and too much spend is the one that’s apt to fall over, whereas starting small and achievable with low expenses and growing slowly, if at all, sustainably and in profit rather than rushing to acquire customers will help you. There’s also much talk of the lower cost of keeping clients as against constantly acquiring new ones, and getting prospects by word of mouth, both things I subscribe to (so I could feel nice and smug reading this!). He talks about how important it is to let your company match your particular ethics and personality, the authenticity this gives it bringing clients that appreciate those qualities.

Jarvis does apply the theme to people working within companies to make it more widely applicable and he highlights some fascinating new examples of businesses (as well as the interminable South-Western who make it into every business book!) with flat structures and opportunities for “ownership” within the business. I really like how he shares his failures as well as his successes, taking his inability to be a classic charismatic leader and manager of people into a successful model hiring contractors who know what they’re doing who he can leave alone to do it. I also liked the section at the back explaining how to set up a business. Freedom of choice rather than huge profits is his motto (although obviously you need a decent profit to be free) and he introduces the idea of setting an upper limit on what you want to earn or how many customers you want to have.

Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for approving me to read this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. And this was my 100th NetGalley review!

I’ve written a companion piece to this on my business blog, if you fancy a read.