Choosing enough over growth is hard. It means making harder decisions and doing the hard work of questioning your values. It means choosing first to build constraints, and then building value within them.

A photo looking down a two-lane road, bordered by guardrails on either side.
Photo by Hogarth de la Plante / Unsplash

Last time, I shared a review on a book I was reading called Company of One, by Paul Jarvis.

In the book, Jarvis talks about how to build and run a company that provides enough — the idea that by pushing back against growing for growth’s sake, we can deliver excellent value entirely because serving our customers excellently doesn’t scale.

(Related: I firmly believe that chasing 30–40% year-over-year growth necessarily comes at a cost to your customers, your colleagues, and your community. If you want me to write more about this, let me know.)

Every book, article, and podcast on building a business that I’ve consumed recently involved some measure of doing something that 99% of people won’t do. Avoiding growth-for-the-sake-of-growth feels like one of those 1% things.

“It’s the siren call of the cosmos … just grow. And new employees provide the illusion that you are expanding. You can see them in the halls of HQ. They build out individual fiefdoms of senior managers and produce more products, features, sales calls, and revenue. More of everything feels like … growth.”

– Scott Galloway, “Corporate Ozempic”, No Mercy/No Malice blog, 24 Feb 2024

Choosing enough over growth is hard. It necessarily means making harder decisions and doing the hard work of questioning your values. It means choosing first to build constraints, and then building value within those self-imposed constraints.

And that’s a good thing.

“Companies of one work best under constraints—because that’s where creativity and ingenuity thrive,” says Jarvis. I highlighted this in my reading because it reminded me of this particularly strong example of creativity and ingenuity blossoming because of constraints.

Take a few minutes to watch the video:

That comparison between the soundtracks in Paperboy and Donkey Kong Country on the Super NES really just brings the point home, doesn’t it?

Constraints mean starting with less money so you have to launch faster. I’ve earmarked a chunk of my business’ retained earnings to run Two Common Cents Club for a year, and not investing anything beyond that. If I can make it self-sustaining by then, it’s a success.

(I’ll share the tool I’ve created to do that kind of forecasting in the next article, by the way.)

But constraints also mean I launched the site having to make some very quick decisions about how it’ll become sustainable, rather than worrying about, for example, what the site’s logo should look like — something I could spend weeks iterating on.

The thing about guardrails is that they help you safely get from point A to point B at a higher rate of speed, regardless of the weather.

So: set the guardrails, then let your creativity and ingenuity run loose. I can’t wait to see what you make.

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February was another busy month. I wrote two things here:

I also restarted the business newsletter, where I’ll provide monthly updates. I have some customization work to do there, and I’ve had it replace the site’s blog (the newsletter’s web archives offer an RSS feed, and older links to the blog should still work).

You can read the latest newsletter here.

To disambiguate, you can read about how I’m running the business here, and read about product updates there.

Speaking of product updates:

A screen capture of a Mac app showing a small globe icon and the text "Hello, world!" centred in the window, overlaid with a screen capture from GitHub reading "Initial commit", overlaid on a Mac desktop. In the far right of the Mac's Dock is a placeholder icon for a new Mac app.

I’m developing a new project that I think will be really helpful for a group I feel particularly passionate about.

At heart, I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m especially interested in solopreneurs — tiny businesses that operate at a small scale, connecting directly with their customers, and that are often the economic lifeblood of their communities.

My skillset is in writing code. As the operator of a tiny business, I’m especially proud of the fact that I support other small, customer-obsessed, businesses that help me fashion software tools.

My other skillset is in understanding business financials. I understand that you can feel broke while your accounting software is telling you that you’re turning a profit.

I believe that the modern solopreneur has plenty of blind spots when it comes to their microbusiness’ sustainability. The tools we use for financial reporting (cf. accounting software), while necessary, are not sufficient for the kind of cash management that a microbusiness needs to survive and, more importantly, grow to the level of enough.

So that’s what I’ve started building. It’s early days and I still have a lot of market research to do, but stay tuned here for updates.

Anyways, I shared this across the Dropped Bits social channels. I am really bad at marketing this way because it’s so time consuming, and that’s probably a signal that I need to cull some of those channels.

Constraints, right?

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Jamie Larson