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How One Entrepreneur Built a Big Career by Staying Small

Paul Jarvis shows that smaller can be better when it comes to business and personal happiness.

When entrepreneurs like Elon Musk tout 80-hour workweeks (minimum) as a prerequisite for changing the world, it’s no wonder people are burning out while burning the midnight oil.

The allure of building a BIG business can seduce even the most grounded person.

In spite of this, Paul Jarvis wants to change the narrative with his new book, Company of One. He challenges the belief that bigger is better and offers a smarter, smaller solution that replaces the hustle with happiness — while still being highly profitable as a business.

Jarvis is his own success story as a designer and writer who deliberately kept his business small over the span of two decades because of the personal freedom it gives him.

Still, he’s created several high-demand online courses, has a weekly newsletter with 33k subscribers, and has a portfolio that  includes corporate clients like Microsoft and Mercedes Benz and powerful companies of one like Marie Forleo and Danielle LaPorte.

I had the opportunity to talk to Jarvis about the concepts behind Company of One, and let me tell you: His mindset is as refreshing as a chilled glass of homemade lemonade with cucumbers and muddled mint leaves.

Here’s a highlight of the big ideas behind Jarvis’ small business.

1. Embrace the “company of one” mindset.

You can venture out on your own without having to adopt the hustler mentality where it’s all about scaling and 10x-ing (basically business growth on steroids).

There’s a group of people and business owners who are living this lifestyle of having a small, sustainable business that allows personal happiness. But it’s not being talked about enough in the entrepreneurial space.

“Build your business around your life and not the other way around.”

2. Value what’s important to you.

Remember why you wanted to work for yourself versus working for someone else (chances are you wanted more freedom and less stress).

“I value the ability to make a decision not necessarily based on profit or revenue but based on how I want to spend my day…what I know and like doing for my business.”

Since our routines dictate our hours, if you’re working 80 hours a week and seeing success, you’ll end up in a cycle of constant work to sustain that.

So, think about what “maintenance costs” are associated with opportunities that come your way. If we’re not conscious of the decisions we’re making, we can end up in the same place we were when we left the corporate world.

3. Choose how you prefer to engage with your audience.

You don’t have to be on all the social media platforms as a part of the whole growth mentality—choose how you want to show up.

“I’d rather run a very human business that’s small but treats people with respect and dignity.”

There’s a value in showing up for your audience and interacting and spending time with them by understanding their needs and showing empathy. As a creator, I feel like I should be able to pick how I do that, and for me that’s with my newsletters.

 “I will take a half a day a week to show up for the people who are paying attention to me in that way. If I limit the things I do, I can do the few things that I do with intention and with enough time to do them.”

4. Teach everything you know.

Ideas should be freely shared as much as possible. Because when people trust your point of view and experience, they’ll buy from you. (Getting more specific with products is where you generate income.)

Anybody who buys anything from anyone does so because they see some alignment in terms of style, personality, branding, and positioning. All of this is built via teaching, which is built through trust.

“It comes down to the idea that trust has to be present. You build trust by sharing the things you know.”

5. Know the difference between more and enough.

Having a growth mindset is crucial in the beginning of building a business, but there comes a time when more doesn’t mean better.

“I don’t want my business for the sake of staying small. I want my business to know what enough is and use that as a metric of ‘do I need more, or can I optimize from the place where I’m at?’ ”

When it comes down to it, money at some point becomes theoretical. So, it’s about defining what “enough” is for you.

It all circles back to knowing what you need to be happy: “Maybe I can let my life dictate my business instead of letting my business dictate my life.”

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