Paul Jarvis knows high-pressure, high-profile corporate America. He’s had clients such as Microsoft, Yahoo, and even Shaquille O’Neal. In his traditional business experience, he realized that a deliberate approach to outdated assumptions about growth and scale made his work more rewarding.
“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.” -Edward Abbey
In this article, I’ll cover some of Paul’s best tips for scaling your business without adding unnecessary stress. To see my full interview with Paul, check out the video embedded below.
1. Question Growth. This is Paul’s philosophy in a nutshell. It’s the core message of his book, Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business, and it can be applied in any situation where you are considering scaling. Reject the assumption that growth is best and consider other options. Read on for specific questions.
2. Is Size the Problem? When faced with an issue, it’s easy to throw growth at the problem. For example, customers are waiting too long for customer support, so you hire more customer support staff. But, is the staff size the real problem? Instead, you may have an issue with user interface that is making the product challenging for your customers. Solve that core problem and you improve your product without the stress of scaling your staff. BONUS: you end up with a better product and happier customers.
3. Can I Hire on Contract? You recognize a need for more video editors, but that doesn’t mean you need to hire them and a new manager to keep track of them. Perhaps, your video project is short-term and you can hire editors on contract until the end of the project.
4. Is this My Job? Paul Jarvis is a person and a personal brand. It doesn’t make sense for someone else to write his emails or host his podcast. There’s a logic to limiting the flow of his content to what he’s capable of creating himself, because it is true to the brand. However, Paul admits that he struggles with technical aspects of writing. This is a perfect reason to hire an editor. Paul plays to his strengths without scaling, but he hires a freelancer to cover his weaknesses.
“If you’re running a business for how it looks for other people, it’s kind of a recipe for unhappiness.” -Paul Jarvis
5. Does this Help the Business and the Customer? For products that Paul sells, he often does his own customer support. This puts him in touch with the needs of his customer. As a result, he can make better products and help his customers feel connected to him at an individual level. Outsourcing to a call-center in another country would deny Paul’s business and his customers these benefits.
6. Is this a Good Hire? Maybe your freelance video editor is struggling to keep up with his workload. It looks like time to bring on another editor and a manager to track them. But what if you actually need a different editor? Could you get more from an expensive, but highly skilled editor? This saves the trouble of scaling. Plus, it is a joy to work with people who are great at their work. Paul says that hiring a good freelancer is his favorite expense.
“It seems like we can matter more to people if we have more.” -Paul Jarvis
7. Does it Hurt? Marshall Haas is co-founder of Need/Want, a company with fewer than 10 employees, but nearly $10 Million in revenue. In Company of One, Paul Jarvis sums up Need/Want’s approach to scale: “They hire only when it’s too painful or time-consuming not to.” By this logic, when you’re paying more for freelancers than the salary of a full-time employee, it’s a good time to hire.
For more questions and answers, check out my full interview with Paul Jarvis, author of Company of One.