Work smarter not larger!

As you may have seen in a previous post I’m currently reading Company of One by Paul Jarvis and I’ve found it a great source of inspiration and validation for our Happy Startups mission and so I’d like to share more of what I’ve read.

So what’s a company of one? It’s simply a business that questions growth. However, it isn’t just about freelancers and solo founders but more a set of principles to be guided by. These principles are based on the idea that while more is generally the easy answer, it’s not always the smartest.

If you’re a company of one, your mindset is to build a business around your life, not the other way around. Work should be done at the pace that suits your sanity rather than at the cost of your wellbeing. We would all like to grow our wealth there comes a point where more money doesn’t mean more happiness.

Society has ingrained in us a very particular idea of what success looks like. You work as many hours as possible and when your business starts to do well, you scale everything up in every direction. But what if we challenge this way of thinking in business? What if the approach to follow is working smarter not larger?

If you’d rather build a company of one then you’ll need to start cultivating the following traits.


No matter what size business you’re in, shit happens. Things take a wrong turn and don’t work out how you’d like them to. This is especially challenging for companies of one because more often than not you have to ride the rapids on your own. To survive you need to be able to accept reality for what it is. Don’t force things a certain way and don’t engage in wishful thinking. Rather than being too rigid and try to overly control the future, take a down-to-earth view, and accept that most of what happens in our lives is not entirely under our control. The best that we can do is keep the boat pointing forward as we float down the river of life.


If you want to work on your own terms then you need to be have the skills and experience that others need. This means developing mastery in whatever field or industry you choose. Competence and autonomy are tied together because when you know what you’re doing you don’t need to be told what to do. Mastery takes time and so choose something you love, that works to your strengths and gives you energy. You’ll then be more likely to put in the hours, achieve mastery and therefore autonomy. Also, as your expertise increases, your network will grow and you’ll be able to find better clients who value what you do even more.


Necessity is the mother of invention. When we have constraints we need to be creative and work quickly. But speed isn’t just about frantically working faster, it’s about figuring the best way to accomplish a task that’s new and more efficient. If we spend less time doing something we’ll spend less energy doing it. Another way to look at this is to think that work is about the result, not the effort. If you can complete a project in less time while delivering great results then that frees up more time do other stuff. Be aware of taking things on that slow you down. For instance, funding sounds attractive because it puts cash in the bank but having another person to be accountable to will mean things start taking longer. Always consider whether there’s a way to be creative with the resources you have so you can stay nimble and lean.


Often in business people think having more features and services is better. Typically, as companies gain success or traction, they grow by taking on additional complexities. However, that inevitably creates problems down the line. These complexities become distracting and you lose focus, which ends up with waste and loss of direction. How many times have you found yourself sweating over a detail that had no impact on the success of your business? Complexity can creep in right from the beginning, particularly if you have money to throw at problems. You’ll get distracted with office space, websites, business cards, computers and software. But in reality the only thing you really need to focus on is how to help a single paying customer, and then doing that again and again. Only add new processes or features when they’re absolutely necessary.

Bear these four things in mind and you’ll be on your way to building a business that aligns with what you really want and need without sacrificing your happiness.

On Tuesday 20th November at 8.30pm UK time I’m hosting a webinar with the Paul Jarvis himself. If you’d like to learn and discuss more about what it takes to work smarter and not larger then
sign up for the webinar.



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Carlos Saba

Carlos Saba

Co–founder of The Happy Startup School. Lover of learning and using that learning to help others.