Free Surfer: The Company of ONE is the future
Surfing, Mavericks, and Business: Why the Free Surfer Philosophy is Making Waves in in the World of Entrepreneurship!
👋 Hey, I’m Felix and welcome to the latest STOKE & FOUNDER journal. With each edition I share surf-inspired startup wisdom I learnt running my startup studio.
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What is a Free Surfer?
Surfing is not just a sport, it's a lifestyle. And at the heart of that lifestyle is the free surfer - an individualist who embodies the true spirit of surfing. Free surfers reject the traditional rules and constraints of the surfing world, sponsors, competitions, and instead carve their own path through the waves of the world. They're like mavericks riding the ocean, unbound by contracts or teams, and free to express themselves in their own unique style. In many ways, the free surfer is a blueprint for the future of modern business. Just like the free surfer, a 'company of one' values independence, creativity, and simplicity over growth and scaling.
In this blog post, I’ll explore the concept of the free surfer and how their philosophy is influencing the world of entrepreneurship. Whether you're a surfer looking to live life on your own terms, or an entrepreneur seeking a new approach to making business, the free surfer might just inspire you to carve your own path and make a difference in the world.
And what can we learn?
Conventional wisdom tells us that companies should always strive to be bigger and constantly grow. What if it was possible to run a profitable company that doesn't scale, and is only run by yourself?
After reading Paul Jarvis' book ‘Company of one' it loomed me. He outlines a manual that flips the current ideas of running a business on its head and challenges the status quo. He advovcates that people should build their work lives around their personal lives and not the other way around, and that bigger is not necessarily better.
A 'company of one' isn't necessarily about starting a small business by yourself, as the title might quickly imply. A company of one in simple terms is a business that questions traditional growth and attitudes toward work, viewing growth as a barrier to creating a better business - if a small business was given an opportunity to grow, most would accept it with no hesitation, but a company of one may decline it. This leads us to a key differentiator, where companies of one would rather stay small compared to traditional companies that like to grow.
Companies of ONE share four typical traits:
Resilience - Resilient people are down-to-earth and are quick to adapt because they have a sense of purpose.
Autonomy and control - As a company of one, you are in control and are able to make the deadlines which can give you more autonomy and control over your own life.
Simplicity - by its very definition, companies of one demand simplicity over the complexity that larger companies may carry.
Speed - with simplicity comes greater speed by dealing with less of the 'corporate mass' that can sometimes get in the way.
Why they are the future?
Jarvis explains that "everyone should be a company of one", and certainly makes a compelling case for being better instead of bigger. Jarvis argues that companies of one are "blueprint(s) for growing a lean and agile business that can survive every type of economic climate, and ultimately leads to a richer and more meaningful life".
By keeping your company of one small and simple, you are able to add more value while being able to have autonomy over what you work on, when you work on it, and how you work, making work revolve around your life and not the other way round. Not being driven by sales and growth also means that you can also spend more time focussing on your customers and refining your product, which ironically will help your business grow. Or go for a surf ;-)
Interested? Let's start with some key lessons from blueprint:
A company of one is a business that questions growth. We've talked briefly about this, but this means that it encourages working at sustainable paces that don't compromise on personal life goals, ultimately keeping you happy. Growing a business can mean more complexity that takes up more individual time - this can be particularly true for freelancers where income can often be proportional to time spent. There are a number of methods to create value without necessarily 'growing' in investment and effort, but instead building and improving on what you can deliver - one way of doing this is to productise your services for example.
Evolve a company of one - start small. Like any other business, Companies of One can fail, and you don't want to bet your primary source of income on it till you're confident. Going big on investments early on may be a good idea to kickstart your business, but maybe a big risk to take. The rise of the gig economy enables you to start small and earn small profits quickly.
Be practical in pursuing your passions - not every passion can lead to a sustainable income source. While most of us encourage "following your passions", not every passion can turn into a successful income source. As an example, becoming a professional painter may be a difficult path to take given the difficulty in commercialising the service, but becoming a graphic designer may be a compromise.
The rise of the gig economy that has exploded over the COVID-19 pandemic is proof that companies of one can be sustainable and is growing in popularity - according to Upwork's 2022 Freelance Forward research, just over a third (39%) of the U.S. workforce are freelancing, with two-thirds of freelancers citing 'Career Ownership' as the biggest motivator for them.
Let’s get to an end…
In conclusion, the rise of the free surfer mindset or better the 'company of one' represents a new way of thinking about work and business. Just like the free surfer, a 'company of one' values independence, creativity, and simplicity over growth and scaling. By keeping things small and simple, you can focus on what really matters - adding value to your customers, refining your product, and creating a richer, more meaningful life for yourself.
This philosophy is at the heart of my micro startup studio, Stokeventures.co. As a surfer and entrepreneur, I understand the importance of carving my own path and creating a business that reflects my vision and values (…and yes - Stokeventures is closed when the surf is good). That's why I'm here, sharing my thoughts and try to inspire others to create lean, agile businesses that can thrive in any economic climate.
Whether you're a surfer looking to ride your own wave, or an entrepreneur looking to build a business on your own terms, the free surfer mindset combined with the 'company of one' approach offers a powerful blueprint for success.
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