Business is often depicted as a struggle, a battle, a war. It's an apt description, if only because so many business owners spend their energy flailing against insurmountable forces that they can never reverse or defeat. But it doesn't make the outcomes for business ownership hopeless or even inordinately difficult.
How many business owners do you know who focusing on beating their customers instead of improving their offering? Or when failures occur, they look for who to blame instead of seeking root causes for future prevention? Were you taught that business is about prioritizing increasing sales or delivering more value? And in a world where your enterprise is just a cork in the ocean, are you fighting against the flow or moving with the market?
The narratives surrounding business owners encourage the idea of fighting to their last breath or drop of blood to achieve results instead of simply doing what they know to be required and being detached from the outcome. Are you reacting to the demands of your market or creating them? And do you put your thinking into developing strategy or instead developing the guiding vision?
Company of One by Paul Jarvis is a contrarian's message against the popular business mantra of growth at all cost. This growth message is ingrained in business but rarely questioned. We watch stock prices of public companies as if it is the national sport. But should we worship growth? Is growth always in the best interest of employees and the company?
Growth can be a curse when the focus moves from satisfying customers to arbitrary financial numbers that often reward wrong behaviors as opposed to continuously improving products and the customer experience. Jarvis asks, “What if you worked instead toward growing smaller, smarter, more efficient, and more resilient?”
Jarvis seeks to “build better, not bigger, businesses.” In the book, he says, “Staying small doesn’t have to be a stepping-stone to something else or the result of a business failure—rather, it can be an end goal or a smart long-term strategy.”
Company of One is a powerful message for a one-person business and a philosophy employees can use working for larger corporations. This book is an instant classic for any person making a living as a business or selling their skills in the marketplace.
Jarvis toiled for twenty years as a one-person business. Over the years, he worked with Warner Music, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, and was featured in USA Today, Fast Company, and WIRED. His online courses have helped over 13,500 students.
Jarvis earned his master’s the hard way, not as a freelancer exchanging time for money, but as a business satisfying customers one at a time. Operating a business is not easy, and doing anything well for a longtime commands respect.
Along his journey, Jarvis learned much about creating a sustainable business. And now he has something to share with you in his magnum opus: Company of One. Jarvis takes on questions about growth from his unique perspective.
Among the many offerings of CEDF’s business advisory services as explained on our website is this phrase: “…management of emotional components of business ownership.” This example serves not as a claim that our business advisors are miraculously competent clinical psychologists but to point out that one of the most under-appreciated and under-discussed challenges of small business ownership is handling the stress and tension of confronting the day-to-day problems.
It’s easy to admire an athlete playing well beyond the age of his teammates – he’s nearly the oldest player in the league. With that must come not just physical resilience but tremendous mental toughness to look beyond the crisis of the moment – 3rd down and 20, or whatever.
Notice how the man seems to become more inspiring to his teammates and more dangerous to his opponents when there is precious little time left on the clock and the game is on the line. But he always gets there by his own simple advice. If you haven’t clicked the link above to see what that is, do it now. Your game may be on the line soon.
There’s a well-worn business story, likely worked over by the internet to the level of urban legend. The tale’s wisdom makes it much too good to debunk. Thomas J. Watson, the CEO of IBM supposedly is confronting an employee over a very expensive mistake. The employee naturally expects to get fired, but Watson is said to have replied, “Fire you? I just spent $$$$$$$ (legendary amount of your choice) educating you.”
Small business owners aren’t usually the victim of an employee’s million dollar mistake. Or at least none survive to recount the story. But serious and costly errors do occur. The question is how to respond. Retribution? Sanctions? The options may be limited by employment law, if not practicality.
It may be hard to take much of a leadership lesson from an executive who last worked for the corporate giant in 1956. A more contemporary and easily appreciated storycomes courtesy of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. This article recounts how he counseled receiver Alshon Jeffery recently after he missed what could have been the game-winning catch. You don’t have to follow football or be familiar with the Cinderella story of the Eagle’s Foles to admire his reaction to his devastated teammate as he processed his own disappointment at losing the big game.
This episode allows business owners to ask themselves whether they could control their own anger and disappointment over a big loss and instead use compassion and long-term thinking in the recovery.
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