239: Paul Jarvis On Business, Happiness And Running A Company Of One

239: Paul Jarvis On Business, Happiness And Running A Company Of One

Today I’m thrilled to have Paul Jarvis on the show. Paul is an author, designer, podcaster, course and software creator. His works have been talked about by Ashton Kutcher and Ariana Huffington. He’s worked with clients like Danielle Laporte, Microsoft, Marie Forleo and Mercedes.

Now Paul is obviously a total stud. But the reason this interview is special to me is because his latest book “Company of One” has had a profound effect on me.

I rarely gush about business books but because Company Of One spoke directly to me and my philosophies, I’m going to recommend it to everyone I meet from now on. Enjoy the interview!

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What You’ll Learn

  • What exactly is a company of one?
  • What you should think about if you are already running a successful company
  • Some successful examples of entrepreneurs following the “Company Of One” philosophy
  • How to strike a balance between business and life

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Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and dig deep into what strategies they used to grow their businesses. Now today I have my friend Paul Jarvis on the show. And Paul’s an author, designer podcaster, who has worked with famous clients like Danielle Laporte, Microsoft, Marie Forleo and Mercedes Benz. Now, Paul is a stud, but none of that stuff matters today because we’re going to talk about business, happiness, and satisfaction today. And just giving you guys a heads up, this interview really spoke to me unlike any other.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prizes in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this and when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%. And just recently, I added Facebook Messenger into the mix as well which you can read about on my blog.

Now you can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pop ups and abandoned email sequences as well at one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full blown email marketing solution. So bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ For 15% off. Once again that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.

I also want to give a shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Always blessed to have them as a sponsor because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my e-commerce store, and I depend on them for over 30% of my revenues. Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought. So let’s say I want to send out an email to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, easy. Let’s say I want to set up a special auto-responder sequence to my customers depending on what they bought, piece of cake, and there is full revenue tracking on every single email sent. Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you could try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: And then we’ll be silent for five seconds and then I’ll just give you a quick intro and then we’ll see where the interview goes.

Paul: Perfect.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Paul Jarvis on the show. Now Paul is someone who my buddy Sol Orwell introduced to me completely out of the blue. And to be quite honest, I was actually thinking about brushing off the intro at first, but since Sol is a good friend, I took the intro and I’m so glad that I did because I feel like I hit the jackpot. Now before I tell you exactly why, here is a brief bio for Paul. Paul is an author, designer, podcaster, a course, and software creator. His works have been talked about by Ashton Kutcher and Arianna Huffington. He’s worked with clients like Danielle Laporte, Microsoft, Marie Forleo and Mercedes.

Now Paul is obviously a stud in this regard. But I actually interview lots of studs on this podcast. But the reason this interview is special to me is because his latest book Company of One has had a profound effect on me. And in fact, I rarely gush about business books, but because Company of One spoke directly to me and my own philosophies, I’m actually going to recommend it to everyone I meet from now on. And with that, welcome the show Paul, how are you doing today?

Paul: Hey, I’m great. What a great intro, good match.

Steve: Well, the book which I just finished this morning, for the listeners by the way was excellent. If I had more time and I didn’t have two kids, I would have just read it straight through.

Paul: So you’re probably fresher with the content of the book than I am at this point because I finished writing it over a year. Publishing is such a long, long game, right? So I finished writing it so long ago that I’m going to have to reread it again soon just to brush up on it as well.

Steve: Well, I’ll make corrections over the course of the interview. Well, that’s funny; I would imagine you have to read it like 100 times, right, when you’re publishing a book or?

Paul: Oh, yeah, so that’s the thing I had to, obviously it takes a while to write. But I have to go over it quite a few times with the copy editor, the editor, and then the copy editor. And then when I record the audio version of the book I’m going to get very familiar with it again, but there is actually quite a gap because the book is finished and goes to print for limited run for advanced copies, like the one you got probably about eight months before it comes out. So there’s a gap where I don’t have to do any reading of the book again, and we’re kind of in that gap right now.

Steve: Well, it’s fresh in my mind. And Paul, just for the benefit of the listeners who don’t know who you are, looking over your history, you’ve done a lot of different things. So can you kind of give my audience an overview of your background and what kind of led you to this point in life?

Paul: Sure. So I guess the main things that I do are design and writing. So I started designing in the 90s, I’ve actually worked for myself, or almost went for — it’ll be 20 years in this coming February.

Steve: Wow.

Paul: It seems like a long time.

Steve: It does yeah.

Paul: So one I feel so old, but two, that’s like a really long time. So in the beginning, I was doing web design for clients, a lot of like fortune 100 companies. For a while, I was doing a lot of pro athletes’ websites like Shaquille O’Neal. He’s just random, doing a bunch of proactive websites for people in like the NFL, NBA, NHL, that sort of thing. And then I kind of moved from that because that wasn’t very interesting, and working with agents of athletes, oh no isn’t great. But I decided, hey, this internet thing is pretty cool. I’ve been doing websites for a while. There’s these people who are making money on the internet making businesses on their own. And so I kind of gravitated towards working with online entrepreneurs like Marie Forleo, Daniela Port, Chris Carr, those sorts of people, and they’re really smart.

And so I started designing websites for them. I was learning a lot about business. And then probably about six, five, six years ago, I decided to create my first products. And they were books. And from there, I’ve now sell a bunch of software products, a bunch of courses, a bunch of podcasts, I don’t actually do any client work anymore for design. All the product stuff has taken up all of my time. It does well for me financially, it gives me the space, and like today, I spent the entire day bike riding. I’m glad this call is at 5 pm tonight as it was a nice day outside. I was just biking with my wife in the woods for the entire day.

Steve: Nice.

Paul: Got fun. So yeah, I guess it’s kind of — I think that’s kind of where I’m at from start to finish.

Steve: Yeah. So Paul, before we move on, I kind of want to set the stage about the topic of today’s podcast by kind of telling a personal story before we talk about Company of One.

Paul: Great.

Steve: Now, you don’t know this about me. But for the past decade, I’ve been super focused on growing my two main businesses, which is Bumblebee Linens, and My Wife Quit Her Job like pedal the metal growth, right? And business has been good. And today I run two legit seven figure businesses. But here’s what hit me like a ton of bricks last year, growing these businesses further has not equivalently furthered my happiness and my wife and I don’t spend nearly as much money as we actually make. But even still, every year, we set a new arbitrary goal and then try to meet it and it’s getting really stressful. Every new product launch, every new sales channel that you want to add, it just adds to the stress.

And man over the holiday season since we run an e-commerce store, when the customers are coming in, it’s a mad rush to orders and it’s just not as fun anymore. And the money is good but it’s just not always a comfortable situation. But my wife and I made a pact last year to artificially limit our growth to a certain percentage. And we’ve actually been much happier since the pressure is gone and we’re just kind of enjoying just running the business more now. And here’s the thing though, I hang out with a lot of successful entrepreneurs. And I would say 90% of them are just so growth focused that I almost feel like an outlier now. And I felt that way actually, until I picked up your book this past week. So with that long winded tale Paul, what is Company of One?

Paul: Yeah, so many good things in there. I also don’t spend nearly as much as I make. And in the beginning in my 20s, I was like, I want to make a million dollars a year at whatever cost. And so I started to work on that. And after a couple, only like a few months, I was like, this is like, I’m making great money, but I’m also working like 16, 18 hour days, I have no weekends. It was just — I realized like why do I want this? And I couldn’t — like honestly, there wasn’t a good reason. So I was like, okay, how about I just work towards making enough money. So I put some money away, I can cover all of my costs. And that’s kind of — so Company of One is really just the idea that it’s okay if we question growth, because there’s no other, I don’t know of any other business books, or podcasts or blogs that say that growth isn’t always the best thing ever, right?

Steve: Yeah totally.

Paul: Everything is always like growth hacking and 10xing. And it’s like, but why? I feel like I’m the weird guy in the back of the room, putting up my hand like asking, but why, why, why? Why do we need this? And what I found through writing the book and interviewing dozens and dozens of people, poring through really, really boring research papers and business studies, is that the business doesn’t match up with logic always. Obviously, sometimes growth is bad. And I’m not even against growth in business. I’m just about questioning at first, does this make sense? Is this going to make my business better or worse? Is this going to make my happiness better or worse? Is this going to make my revenue better or worse, because sometimes more revenue doesn’t equal more profits, right?

Sometimes you end up spending more than you’re making, even when you’re making more. And there was a study done by I think it was a Copan Group and Inc Magazine, where they looked at like the Inc 5,000 list, the list that everybody’s like, oh, this is the best list ever. And the study found that, I think it was like five to seven years after, they looked at the 5,000 companies five to eight years later. And most of them had gone out of business for reasons not because of any other reason, other than the fact that they grew too fast, they took on too much investment that they couldn’t pay their investors back, they hired too many people, and they couldn’t keep that growth rate going. Because the problem with growth is that you always want more.

So if you’re making 5% more this month versus last month, you want to do 6% the next month or 7% and eventually gets to a place where it’s ridiculous. It just does not make sense. So that’s kind of where the book — the book, I think, is really an examination of what if we don’t look to growth for the answer? What if we look to better for the answer, because bigger isn’t always better, but better is always better, I think.

Steve: Can we kind of talk about your own personal views of happiness. You said a couple things there, like how do you know how much is enough? And then what is your own personal definition of happiness? Like, how do you look at your work?

Paul: So enough for me is covering my basis like for my family, for that kind of thing. It’s funny, there’s a study that a bunch of bloggers are talking about right now, that figured out the exact income where making more money doesn’t make you more happy. And I was like, that’s how much I pay myself a year. I was like, I’m right.

Steve: What is that amount by the way, do you know?

Paul: 75.

Steve: Oh 75, okay, yeah, right.

Paul: So I pay myself that and I my pay my wife as well. And so technically, our income is more than that. But individually, it’s exactly where we’re right on the money for that. And the study found that making, say you made 50,000, you’re happier if you make 75. But if you make 100, you’re no more happier and sometimes less happier than if you make 75 versus 100. And I’ve kind of the same like my business makes more than I need. I live a pretty minimal life. I still do a lot of fun things. But it’s like I don’t need that many things to be happy, especially the things that make me the happiest aren’t things that cost a lot of money like going for a bike ride today, it doesn’t really — like our bikes, mountain bikes are kind of expensive, but you buy those once and you maintain them and they’re good for quite a while.

So for me, figuring out what enough is is more important than figuring out how to grow bigger and bigger, like month over month, year over year and I can’t remember what the second part of the question was.

Steve: Yeah, I know. And just to like, for a long time I thought I was alone in this regard. Do you happen to know any popular entrepreneurs that are actually following this philosophy other than like you and me?

Paul: Yeah. So Sean D’Souza on Psychotactics.com, you actually mentioned that putting a limit on growth, he does this; he doesn’t want to make more than 5,000 dollars a year. So he limits that. So he has like a certain number of spots open up in his courses, or he takes on a certain number of clients. So he doesn’t make more than that, because he’s found if he makes more than that, he has to work more than that. And then he’s not as happy, he can’t, I think he helps tutor his two nieces, and that sort of thing. So like, he likes his life the way that it is. And if he makes more than that, it doesn’t make any sense. And that’s business revenue not per — I don’t know how much he pays himself, but for his business making 500k a year is enough. And that’s the limit that he sets on it.

There’s — oh man, in the book there’s tons of examples as well. [Inaudible 00:14:42] is an illustrator. And he would rather find good paying clients than all of the clients because he wants to sit — he lives in California, like you. And he wants to sit in his studio in his backpack yard and draw, and his two daughters come and they draw as well with their dad in the afternoons after school. And it sounds kind of like an idyllic life to me.

Steve: It does. I mean, but it’s so hard, though. And so the next topic I kind of want to ask you about is, let’s say you are kind of running a successful company, it’s growing, it’s doing great, how do you come to this conclusion whether growth is beneficial or not? What are some questions that you should ask yourself?

Paul: Yeah, I think I come at it very much from a nerdy perspective. My background is like web and software. So I always try to think of, for anything concerning growth, I try to think of what the maintenance costs are. And what I mean by that is — and this relates to everything, not just software. But I’ll start with software then relate it to everything. So for software, if you add a new feature, that could be great, it could be something that all your users are asking for. But it could mean that now you have to charge more, because it costs that much development time to build it. It could mean you need to hire more support staff, because this feature that everybody said they wanted is a feature that requires a lot more support, because some users may not get it.

So, I always try to think of the maintenance costs of that. And that’s actually why I sell the products that I sell, because they require — like writing a book has no tech support. So, I don’t have to do a whole lot other than the marketing and the promotion and I like that kind of stuff anyways, but the book can exist as a product that’s making me money every single month that I don’t have to do — like it’s not taking me eight hours a day to maintain, right?

Steve: Paul by the way, how do you make money? I actually don’t even know.

Paul: So number one is courses. I sell three courses right now. Number two is probably books like advances from publishers. Number three is probably software and then podcasting. Those are the main ones.

Steve: Okay. And then for your courses, is there some amount of support involved with those?

Paul: Yes and no. So the way that I look at courses, so I approach courses like satisfy everything relates to software for me. But I approach courses like software. So I’ll release a very small alpha version to just a few of like the people in my audience who would just buy everything from me. So I’ll give a few people access. And I want to see with their access, where they have questions, especially in on-boarding. So when somebody buys the course, what happens next and what questions do they have? And so whenever I’m building a course, I always try to look at how I can pre answer questions that people might have, but won’t have once I answer them.

So I’ll do things like introduction videos, and all the introduction video will be is talking about all the things that the alpha users, the beta users, or the first people in the first run of the course had questions about. So every time I get a support request or a question for a course I note it. And then when I start to see patterns in that, I’ll make a video or I’ll make a blog post, or I’ll record some audio for it. So I try to answer things in volume. Same with software, I make videos for all the software products that I have for support, because I want people to be able to get the answers they need without having to talk to me. And then if they do have to talk to me, I’m like, okay, good. This is a new question. I can note this in my spreadsheet. And if I start to notice a pattern, I can make a video or a blog post or something like that for it.

And then the only other thing for my courses is there’s a slack group for each of them. And that really, it’s like 10, 15 minutes a day. I like the P — I really liked my audience. So I like the people in my courses. And so I really like interacting with them. And so that really doesn’t take up a whole lot of time, like I’ll login about 10, 15 minutes every other day or so, maybe sometimes every day but it’s not a whole lot of work.

Steve: So what is your formula, then? Your own personal formula, I guess, since everyone’s going to be different for this threshold of support, and how to fix your happiness?

Paul: Yeah, so I always look at what I’ve currently got on the go, because I do have a lot on the go of like three courses, a bunch of podcasts, a bunch of software, books. And so I look at, well, how much time do I want to spend working in a day and it’s usually no more than six hours because I don’t feel I’m productive past that. But I also feel like there’s so many other things in my life that I like doing that I wouldn’t have time for those things if I had to work, like if I was in my 20s when I was working like 16 hours, just ridiculous hours. I didn’t have time to go to the gym, or go out or do yoga, or like make fancy meals. And so I look at what space do I have to add, and I look at is there anything not working that I can remove?

So I like to do this even with like household items. So if my wife or I want to buy something, we’re like, okay, we’re bringing something into the house, maybe there’s something that we can get rid of in the house so we don’t end up with a house full of stuff. So I kind of look at my business the same way where it’s like, okay, if I really want to make this piece of software, what’s it going to cost in terms of maintenance time? But is this even going to fit because I don’t think a lot of people think about that, like they have — a lot of entrepreneurs have lots of great ideas are always wanting to make new things or different things, but they don’t think about how much time it’s going to take to do those things. And everybody is like, oh, I can get stuff done really fast.

And everything takes longer than you think it does. And we’re all awful at multitasking. So I always try to figure out like, okay, what the balance is, because I think there is a balance. And it’s hard sometimes to find that balance.

Steve: So it sounds like you want to work six hours per day. And then you just kind of do some rough calculation to see if you can take on something and if you can’t, you’ll throw away something perhaps.

Paul: Yes.

Steve: Right okay.

Paul: And that’s why I’ve sunseted a bunch of software products, probably about four courses. And I’ve just taken them and some of them could have been making some money. I was selling WordPress themes for a while that were making decent money but they required so much support that I couldn’t do anything else. So I got rid of them because it wasn’t worth it to me. There’s other things that I can do that could make the same amount of money with less work and maintenance on my end.

Steve: Interesting. So that means you must be pretty good at time management because I always have problems too like whenever I start a project, I’m really poor at estimating how much time it’s going to take me.

Paul: Yeah, it’s tough. Especially I think the pedigree that I have of doing client work was really, really helpful because the reason that I got hired, like when I was hired by Microsoft or Mercedes Benz, they weren’t hiring an agency that I owned or worked at, they were just hiring Paul Jarvis to do just design work. And so, the way that I could get clients like that was to always be 100% accurate with my time management skills. So if I said, I need to get this thing done for you in two weeks, you would have it in two weeks, no questions asked. I would not ever miss a deadline. And that’s how I built such a name for myself in the client work design world that kind of carried over to products where I figured like, okay, in my mind, I’m the client, I can’t let my client down even though the client is me.

And so I’d be like, okay, I have to get this thing done in this amount of time. I know approximately how long things take. And typically I padded because life always gets in the way of productivity, or especially like whenever you’re in the flow, something will happen. So if I know writing a piece of software is going to take writing like a feature of software is going to take me eight hours, I don’t put an eight hour chunk in my calendar. I’m like, okay, it’s probably going to be about 16. So eight hours of actual work. And then another eight hours of interruptions or phone calls, or maybe the power goes out, or maybe my pet needs to go to the vet or something like that. So I always kind of double the actual time I think it’s going to take because it always works out for some reason that bring in is always the actual amount of time it takes.

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So Paul, like one of the tenets of your book that I could really relate to, was paying more attention to your existing customers, as opposed to putting all of your research on new customers. And just a quick aside here, like with my store, I found that B2B customers were converting a lot higher meaning like, once you got one of them, they ended up purchasing on a regular basis. Whereas I was spending all sorts of money on ads to get these new customers and oftentimes, these new customers were just like single purchases and done. And so, can you just talk about some examples, maybe whether with some of the people that you talked about in your book, or for yourself, where actually paying more attention to your existing customers actually paid off?

Paul: Yeah, so the first thing is that it it’s more expensive to acquire new customers than to work at building more business with existing customers. And there was a study done, it was like five to eight times more for acquisition versus retention, which is mind boggling. And that was for big business and I mean for a business like mine where it is like literally just me at my home office, it’s just like I really enjoy talking to the people in my audience. And I don’t think a lot of people realize that you can kind of build the audience that you want to have, you’re not stuck with the audience you get. You can actively work at building a cool, interesting audience.

Steve: Give me some examples of how you do that.

Paul: So trying to trying to write for writers specifically, so trying to write in a way that’s going to resonate with a certain type of person, as opposed to trying to write in a way that appeals to everybody. So like, I swear in my writing, and I know that put certain people off and I know that the people that it puts off are the type of people who get angry at the products that I sell anyways, so it’s I swear naturally, so there’s swearing in my writing sometimes, not all the time, not a potty mouth, but like just things like that, or telling stories about my pet rats as business parables.

And some people are like, that’s so weird. Or the welcome email to my newsletter, the Sunday dispatches talks about how I was so excited that — a spoiler alert if anybody signs up for it now. But it talks about how I’m so excited that you signed up for my list, I went out, and I got your name tattooed on my inner left arm. And every time I raise my arm, I’ll think about the day that you sign up for my list. Some people hate tattoos, which is fine, but like I’m tattooed from my neck to my toes. So this is kind of on brand for me. But it’s fine that I put off certain people because it draws the people that are actually going to buy from me or stay customers a lot better.

I show people who I actually am as often as possible, which is very, very scary to do. But it also helps because the person that I am in the three things that I do like the podcast, or the writing of the newsletters, that’s the person who’s in the paid products, like even in my software products, there’s some silly jokes in the micro copy or in the videos. So I think that it’s okay to do that to really hone in on the audience that you want. Because like I think the last time I checked, more than half the people who bought one thing from me have bought more than one thing from me.

So like, I really like to have lifetime customers who buy all of the things because I think that builds kind of a relationship. And like these people, I know these people by name, because they email me, I see them when I get a Stripe receipt, or a PayPal receipt, and I talk to them on Slack. So I get to know them. And the more I get to know my customers, the more I can figure out what they need, what they need help with, what they value, and then I can make better products that are focused for that type of person. And then for them, it’s just like I don’t even need to read the sales page. I’m just clicking buy. And that’s a good position to be in for both myself and for them, because they’re getting things basically custom tailored to them.

Steve: So how do you balance I guess this more personal behavior with the need to reach out to colder customers? Like, let’s say you’re giving advice to a business that’s deciding whether to scale or focus more on their existing customers, how do you strike that balance?

Paul: Yeah, I mean, I would probably look at the data to see how — so I talked to somebody in Company of One. And she was working at a magazine and magazines are very much subscription based, right. And they were trying to figure out how to get more subscribers because they needed to increase their revenue. And not a single person in the company was thinking about how we can reduce the churn from existing people canceling their monthly subscription. And it’s like you already have this pool of people, if you decrease your churn rate by a certain percentage, it’s the same as increasing your profit by a certain percentage.

But it’s easier because those people bought the magazine because they liked something about it. So maybe you talk to them and find out what they like, or what’s no longer resonating with them because they’ve already given you money, they’ve already shown that something about your business or your product is valuable enough for them to open up their wallets to you. It just seems easier to me in a lot of cases, not all the time. But in a lot of cases, to look at the existing customers, because they’re the ones who’ve already found — they’re the ones who are already paying attention. They’re the ones who are already coming to dinner at your business, basically.

Steve: I mean, in your book, you talk a lot about doing things that don’t quite scale for your existing customers. And can you just kind of provide some examples of how you’ve done that to kind of make your existing customers true fans of your product?

Paul: Yeah, so the best example of that is for a book I wrote probably about four years ago. I was trying to figure out what specifically to write about. So I sent an email to my mailing list, which was probably around, I don’t know, 10 to 15,000 people at the time. And I was like, hey, I want to get to know you. I want to get to know what you’re working on, what you’re struggling with. Let’s hop on a Skype call for 10 minutes. And I put a link to like my calendar or my booking thingy. And I think I got like 40 or 50 people book calls with me and I was like, okay, I should probably turn this off now. That’s a lot. But so I spent a couple of weeks talking to subscribers just about themselves, their business, that sort of thing.

And in the beginning, I was floundering with like, okay, what do I want to write about, what should the next book be about? And I was like, oh, maybe it should be this, maybe it should be that. And then after I’d spoken to dozens of people on my mailing list, I was like, it’s absolutely clear, based on the patterns in what people are talking about, I know exactly what my audience is struggling with now. And you can’t — it’s really hard to scale like actual conversations on the phone. But it’s really, really useful. I can give one more example too. It’s is not me but it’s my friends who started another company called Crew. They are a freelance matchmaker service.

So companies are like, I want to hire a designer developer, and they would go to Crew, and there’s already a vetted pool of designers and developers. They had a MailChimp mailing list in a spreadsheet to start, and they were like manually looking through it. And it wasn’t until they had a decent amount of revenue, that they actually built the software to run it. But they started out with a mailing list in a spreadsheet, and they grew it into — they sold for millions of dollars last year.

So things can start without — I think people are so obsessed with scale that you can go back to doing things that don’t scale. And it actually works fine. And a lot of times, you can do things that don’t scale until you can no longer do them. And then it might make sense to scale, or it might make sense to automate at that point. But in the beginning, I think getting to know your customers on a personal level is more important than having like a 36 email sequence if you’re just starting out, right. Maybe just get to know people and their businesses, then make this crazy automation sequence with segments and funnels and automation and all of that so yeah.

Steve: That’s actually a good segue. Like, let’s say, I’m working a full time job right now and I want to start something, how do you go about starting a company of one? Like, what’s some advice that you have, like, should I quit my job right away and go full bore? Like, what’s your advice there?

Paul: Yeah, I probably wouldn’t do that.

Steve: Neither would I actually.

Paul: Yeah, like, it’s funny, because a lot of people who aren’t entrepreneurs think that entrepreneurs are inherently risky. But then I look at my friends who are entrepreneurs, and I look at myself, and like, I’m so risk averse, it’s not even funny. So I’ve worked for myself since I was a teenager. So it’s really hard. But the way that I can relate to this is that I had a very successful client service business and I wanted to move into products. So products kind of became my side job. But I didn’t want to do products unless they were making as much or more money as the client services. So from day one, I kept the income stream separate. So I had my bucket of how much I was making doing client work, and my bucket of how much I was making doing products. And I started doing it on the evenings and weekends.

Like my first book, which is a vegan cookbook, which I never went any further into that niche or audience but it was a good first start. And I basically tried to start that, and this is really that Company of One model is I tried to start as quickly as I could for as little money as possible, and then doing it in gaps. So at that time, I was like, okay, I’m working at the time; this was after I was doing 16 hour days. So I was only doing like, eight hour days. And I was like, okay, I’m working eight hours, I’m sleeping eight hours. And that’s a non negotiable for me to sleep. So I think that’s important. People who hustle really hard really give up on sleep and I don’t think that’s a wise idea.

And then I was like, okay, so I can block my day in thirds, eight hours of sleep, eight hours of full time job work. And then I have eight hours of other. So obviously, I have some life commitments like things like eating, but I can take that time, maybe I can watch less TV. And for about 10 years, my wife and I didn’t even have a television or Netflix or cable, or anything like that. And we really just worked on those sorts of things. So I started my product business, very small. I traded so many things to get that book done. I spent I think zero dollars to publish that book other than…

Steve: Interesting, you didn’t have an editor or?

Paul: I did, but I traded her for web design work.

Steve: Oh, I see. I worked at a five star restaurant and my plates and bowls are ugly, they just look like normal plates and bowls. So I got all these because it was a cookbook. So it had to have nice food photography. I traded the photographer; she could eat all the food I made if she helped me do the photos. So I did everything for basically zero dollars because I wanted to see what can I do with — and the thing is, creativity thrives on constraints. And a lot of people like if I had all of the money and all the resources in the world, I don’t think I could have created as cool of a cookbook. I mean, it’s not even that great of a book. But if I had all the resources, I don’t know if I would have ended up with a better product.

I think the fact that it was so interesting and weird how I basically created a book and wrote a book that was professional quality for zero dollars actually made it a better book. So I think creativity can thrive on constraints. And I started like I made a decent amount of money with that book. And then I started spending money on my second book. So I actually paid my editor because she already had a website at that point. I couldn’t just trade her again. And then yeah, so I started to reinvest, so I’d only reinvest money in products from money that I already made from products. So in the beginning, I was working a couple hours on it a day, and then a bit more. And then I could scale back my client work, and then scale up my product work until eventually the client work scaled down to zero and the product work to 100.

Steve: You know, one of my favorite quotes in your book, and it wasn’t a quote that you necessarily wrote but it was part of a story was that overhead equals death. And I actually had this philosophy with my businesses that I want to keep it lean. So in case like, revenue goes to zero, I can spend like 50 bucks a month and still maintain it forever, or some really low amount of money and or even like I’m really — so I’m so anti SaaS that if I can write the code in like a week or so, I’ll sit down and write the code so that I don’t have to pay a monthly fee. So that’s as far as I go. I don’t know if that kind of correlates to your book, or the point that you’re trying to make. But that overhead equals death really resonated with me.

Paul: Yeah, that’s definitely one of my favorite stories in the book. And I’m kind of the same way, like I would rather figure out how to run my business on — because I think a lot of people don’t look at the lower number, like the expenses of a business, they only focus on the profit, and that the higher number, the above number in the business. And it’s like, if I can run my business for as little as possible, I don’t need more customers to make more money. I can have the same amount of money coming in, but I can end up with more of it if I just spend less. So I’m the same. I’m relentless with spending money. I’m like it’s funny, nowadays it’s trendy to be a minimalist, but before that, it was just cheap.

Steve: So for me, at least my thought process is like let’s say I wanted to take a month off, I don’t want like all this overhead keeping me up at night. Like, let’s say, I had a whole bunch of employees, I got to pay them no matter what. Or have to pay these SaaS apps, no matter what, whether I’m doing work or not. And so the less I guess monthly recurring expenses I have, the more peace of mind I can have at night when I sleep.

Paul: Exactly. Yeah, it’s exactly the same for me where I don’t want more responsibility than I need in my business. And that’s one of the main reasons why I don’t want to hire employees, because I would feel responsible for them. Like if they have kids in college, I would feel responsible for their salary. And I’m okay with responsibility; I’ve run a business that has endured for two decades. But I don’t want more than I have to have. Because then that feels stressful to me and that impedes on my happiness a little bit more than I want it to.

Steve: This is like a therapy session for me by the way Paul. So the last topic I did want to touch upon was, you talk a lot about relationship wealth and how that’s helped you over the years. Can you talk about what that is exactly?

Paul: Yeah, so social capital is almost like a bank account. If you think about it, kind of like that, where I think a good example is if you go to somebody’s website, and they’re like buy now, like you just clicked on it from Google and there’s just like, buy now, buy now, buy now. And it’s like I want to learn a bit first about this. Like, there’s no capital built, there’s no trust built. And I think that if we take a step back, and we look at, like all of my customers, I would rather have some kind of relationship with, like a long term relationship with where they’re supporting my business, I’m supporting them than just like quick sales, like high retention or high churn kind of thing, where like maybe I’m selling — and I’ve talked to some people who sell like way more courses than I do, but their refund rate is like 30%.

And for me, like, first that would crush my ego. My ego was far too fragile to refund a third of the people who buy anything from me. And I think I can probably count on both my hands how many refunds I’ve had to give in for things that I sell, because I don’t want that to happen because I really try to work hard with my existing audience and pay attention to them. But I think that’s yeah, it’s difficult for sure.

Steve: So, for some reason when I was reading the book, I took your relationship wealth to talk about like the colleagues that you’ve met who have actually helped you along with your business.

Paul: Yeah.

Steve: And you didn’t really go into specifics in the book, actually. But how did those relationships actually help you get to where you are now?

Paul: Yeah, so I’ve kind of been of the mindset that I really like interesting people. Interesting people are interesting; I think that makes perfect sense. And so I would always kind of approach relate like I look at the emails that show up in my — like today, for example, I probably got like five pitches from people I don’t know, deleted every single one of them, I do not care. But I look at the people who connect with me on Twitter, or that sort of thing where they’re just like interesting people doing interesting things, and I just want to talk to them. So the person that I teach one of my courses with, her name is Kaylee Moore, she contacted me about a year and a half ago. And she was a student of one of my courses, creative class at the time.

And she was like, hey, I would love to get together for a virtual coffee with you for 10 minutes to talk about what you’re working on, what I’m working on. I have nothing to sell you. I just think you’re interesting. And let’s have a talk. And I wasn’t sure. Her and I now work together. And she’s my partner in creative class because we got to know each other, we figured, oh, we can both kind of balance each other skill sets out. It makes sense to work together. But in the beginning, there was no — I think a lot of people look at relationships now, especially online relationships, where it’s like, what can I get out of this person? Other people can smell your intentions and can see your intentions even if you think you’re trying to hide them.

So a good example is even the person that connected you and I, Sol Orwell, I think that he is like a master connector. He is like really he knows everybody. But he doesn’t know people. I’ve talked to him on the phone a bunch of times and like, neither of us have a business that could benefit from each other’s businesses. He’s just doing really interesting things, knows interesting people, I probably the same. And so when — he’s on my mailing list as well. And he saw that my Company of One is coming out soon. And he was like, hey, let me know who I can connect you with to like be on their podcast or to interview you or that sort of thing. And I was like, that’s awesome. Like, I didn’t have to ask for that. My first email to Sol wasn’t, hey, I’ve seen that you’ve been on some great podcasts, can you introduce me? He would have deleted that email, right.

So I just look at, like, all of the things that have come in my life and to my business from personal relationships weren’t because I wanted something from the other person. It’s that I like the other person and they like me, because there’s a relationship there. So I think that that’s really important. And then I look at, like, the growth hacker emails I get, which are the exact opposite of that, like, I’m a big fan of your show, I think I’d be a great guest. And like, my show has never had a guest on it in the length of the show. Like, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not a big fan of the show. So it’s just like, just, I don’t know, just get to know people. And people can be really, really interesting. And you don’t have to get something from them. But maybe in the future, if you’ve given a value to them, or you’re just friends with them, then maybe something cool will happen. Maybe it won’t and either way that that’s fine.

Steve: I mean that’s totally been my experience as well. And in fact, my business partner now is someone I met at a conference just kind of randomly.

Paul: Nice.

Steve: And it’s been many years now and it’s been a great relationship.

Paul: Cool.

Steve: But hey, Paul, we’ve been chatting for quite a while. This is actually been quite a good therapy session for me, because for the longest time, I thought I was alone in that just constantly trying to grow, grow, grow, grow, has had really been adding to the stress. And all these goals, for me, at least have been kind of arbitrary, right? Like I want to grow X amount next year, and I don’t spend a lot of money. I don’t buy anything really. I go on a vacation every now and then. But that’s about it. So it just makes life a lot happier when you can just cut back and think about what really makes you happy.

Paul: Yeah, it’s true, like, good question. I find that questioning things in general, like business life, whatever, it’s just a good idea to think like how does this benefit me? Or how would this not benefit me? Instead of just like blindly following like things you read on the internet.

Steve: I mean, the ego is a problem though, right?

Paul: Hundred percent?

Steve: I mean, I belong to this entrepreneurship program as part of Stanford, and everyone in there is they’re running these funded companies. And a bunch of my friends there have had exits, like nine and 10 figure exits. And man, it is really like, I go in there, and I’m selling handkerchiefs or selling courses and it’s just kind of intimidating. I don’t know.

Paul: No, it’s true. And I mean, I was talking to Jason Fried the guy who runs Basecamp, I interviewed him in the book. And he’s like at dinner parties, like you saying that you work at a company that’s like a couple of employees versus saying, like, oh, I work at a company with like 10,000 employees, it doesn’t — but then like, who are you trying to impress? What does it matter? And I mean, even like looking at Basecamp is a ridiculous example, because their profit per employee is way higher than any fortune 100 company. They make so much money comparatively to the number of employees that they have that is actually better than a lot of these massive companies. But just like the dinner party conversation, like, oh what do you do? I work for myself. And people automatically think like, oh, you like you sit in your underwear on the couch?

Steve: Exactly yeah.

Paul: No, dude. Like, I make money but I also have a life that I really enjoy. And I don’t need to hire people to sound good at dinner parties because I wouldn’t want to go to dinner parties where that was the only metric.

Steve: So Paul, where can people find you online? When does your book come out? I think it’ll be out by the time this interview goes out actually, but where can people find it?

Paul: Yeah, so the book is called Company of One. It’s available at every major retailer from Amazon to Target. It’s in or will be in pretty much all bookstores. It comes out on January 15th, but it is available for pre order on October 15th. And then the way that it works is the more books I sell between October 15th and January 15th, the higher it ranks because all sales count on the first day. So if this sounds like a book you want to read, then maybe buy it in that time. If this is coming out after that, then just get it if you like it, but…

Steve: I highly recommend the book. When I was reading it, I was nodding the entire time because it really resonated with me just the whole focus on happiness. I started my businesses originally, so I could spend more time with the kids. And over the years, I had kind of lost track of that. And it was just last year when I was having a rough year that it just kind of all hit me like is all this growth making me happy or not? And then your book basically just reinforced all of that for me.

Paul: I’m glad to hear that. Thank you.

Steve: So Paul thanks a lot for coming on the show. I really appreciate your time.

Paul: Thanks Steve.

Steve: All right, take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now, I really loved Paul’s book and I highly recommend it to all business owners. And the link to the book Company of One will be in the show notes. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode239.

And once again I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants and you can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post-purchase flow, a win-back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on autopilot. So, head on over to Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, once again that’s Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

I also want to thank Privy for sponsoring this episode because Privy is the email capture provider that I use to turn visitors into email subscribers. They offer email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it super simple as well. And I like Privy because it’s so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. If you want to give it a try, it is free. So head on over to Privy.com/Steve, once again that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.

Now, I talk about how I use all these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six-day mini course. Just type in your email, and I’ll send you the course right away, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

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One thought on “239: Paul Jarvis On Business, Happiness And Running A Company Of One”

  1. Natalie Sisson says:

    Enjoyed this interview too, less striving and more freedom and enjoying each moment. And the whole idea of limiting your income/salary to a point where you feel happy and fulfilled is definitely one I’ve been applying over the years and it has made me happier.

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