The Rise of One-Person Businesses (OPBs)
Weekly Review 014
We discussed Higher Purpose, Orca Protocol & Whale Wisdom in last week's review. This week, we'll look at OPBs (One-Person Businesses), why they matter, and what you can learn from them.
Last week’s premium newsletters:
After looking at last week’s posts, I realized how much of it was geared around sharing updates from the building of my business. Even though my main income stream is from helping companies build or manage blockchain-based communities (Web3/metaverse/etc.), there are other activities I perform outside of that.
I experimented with what I knew when I started building my own businesses. At first, it was as a sole proprietor (freelancer). Years later, it was as an agency owner. Then I tried my hand as a tech founder.
Unfortunately, none of these felt like I had found my place yet. However, after committing to writing every day (and publishing through this newsletter), I stumbled upon the work of Justin Welsh, and subsequently, the concept of an OPB (One-Person Business).
In this newsletter issue, I’m going to share with you:
What an OPB is
Why you should consider OPBs
Its relation to wolves and Polynesian Wayfinding
My strategy moving forward
What’s an OPB?
An OPB stands for “One-Person Business.”
OPBs = One-Person Businesses
This doesn’t mean they don’t work with others, use contractors, etc.
Also not just freelancers.
OPBs may have 100% ownership of a PHC, invest in other co’s, have multiple subsidiaries, or even be board members of other companies.
— George Siosi Samuels (@GeorgeSiosi)
Aug 5, 2022
Traditionally, OPBs may be considered sole proprietors (freelancers/consultants), meaning the legal entity is usually not a corporation. However, few know you can set up a corporation as a sole owner and member.
The reason most solopreneurs may not choose the latter is because of paperwork. However, as more and more savvy entrepreneurs venture out independently, an OPB mindset allows for much more exciting opportunities.
Most people don’t know about the OPB approach. Here are some reasons why:
Not yet a popularized term
Yet, there has been an interesting uptick in interest since 2016. Take a look at this Google Trends capture:
The blue line is "one person business." It surged during the pandemic, and of course has cooled down. But it has been trending upwards since around 2016.
You can find even more insights about this trend over on:
Below are my three reasons for you to consider a shift toward an OPB mindset over the next decade.
Reason #1: Freedom
Freedom means different things to different people. For me, in the context of business, it means being able to pick and choose who I work with, from wherever I want, anywhere I want.
The old way of working was to:
Go to where the work was (typically big cities)
Move your family or commute long hours
Be seen to be working more than actually working
Work from anywhere
Work closer to your home/family
Focus on results over appearances
You can catch a glimpse of the conflict this transition is causing on a LinkedIn thread here. Pay special attention to the comments.
But this decision for "freedom" allowed me to make wise business decisions, deal with the effects of Covid before it even hit, and not feel too stuck.
Reason #2: Flexibility
When I mention flexibility, I mean flexibility of time, location, companies I work with, and revenue streams.
In traditional workplaces, an employee would be expected to:
Clock in 9-5
Come to work
Stay loyal to the one company
Work for a fixed income
In a post-pandemic world, the trend is becoming:
Manage your own time (so long as you complete your work)
Get the work to find you
Work with as many companies as you can manage responsibly
Work for multiple revenue streams
The founder of Gumroad, Sahil Lavingia, wrote a brilliant article about how he grew a multimillion-dollar company but ended up back at the beginning as a one-person business. And was better off for it.
He now boasts no meetings, no deadlines, no full-time employees.
Yes, it’s possible.
It’s proof of this trend that there can indeed be million, maybe even billion, dollar companies with one single owner (or perhaps just a very small team of contractors). Advances in productivity tools and technology is enabling this, and I expect it to become the norm.
More than 7.7 million globally hold more than US$ 1 Million.
236,000 millionaire in China, 61,000 in India.
— Ch.Shakeel Gujar (@ChShakeelGujar)
Oct 19, 2013
Essentially, you don’t have to grow a successful business with many employees. You can grow one with just a few as Gumroad has.
Reason #3: Future-proofing
The biggest reason you should pay attention to OPBs is future-proofing.
If you haven’t seen the news, the middle of 2022 saw many layoffs worldwide - especially in the tech and crypto sectors.
This is no surprise, considering how tech and crypto companies soared in value during the pandemic while many others were forced to shut down or stay home.
So when dealing with uncertainty, OPBs can enable you to have more direct control over your future - a trend that started with the gig economy back in 2009 (right after the Global Financial Crisis).
At this point in time (August 2022), US Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, stated that he does not think the US is currently in recession. However, according to the official definition from the Oxford Dictionary, a recession is:
“A period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.”
If we use that definition, the US is already in a recession. However, due to politics, the government and other economists are downplaying it. So what this means is that now’s the best time to consider your options in case your job is indeed affected by potential layoffs.
An OPB mindset encourages you to think like an entrepreneur. Set up a corporation, possibly even a Personal Holding Company (PHC), and start considering diversifying your income streams.
An OPB mindset allows you to have ownership while choosing who you wish to work with and when. This can come in the form of clients (e.g. 12-18 month contracts), or customers (e.g. from online products or memberships). You could even build both.
Developments in blockchain technology (public yet private) and DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) are signals of this desire for collaboration and independence.
The idea is to not think that an OPB is about being a lone wolf but being strong on your own while also weaving in and out of other companies, teams, or communities as you choose.
The Lone Wolf Myth
Sometimes terms can be misleading. While an OPB may suggest someone who works independently, this could not be further from the truth.
An OPB may be the sole owner - of one or multiple companies - but this does not mean they work alone.
They may still hire contractors, work in teams, or even build up communities. But they do not entangle their energies from an ownership standpoint. They manage boundaries effectively.
I’ve created extensive content about wolves and their lessons for entrepreneurs/teams/communities, but wolves are pack-oriented by nature. Therefore, lone wolves don’t last long in the wild. But they still know how to survive independently if they need to. Most have not developed that type of self-discipline yet.
“The strength of the wolf is the pack. The strength of the pack is the wolf.”
The “Wayfinder” part of my nickname (The Meta Wayfinder) came about when I was researching wolves more than a decade ago. Some Native American tribes called Wolf the “Great Teacher” or “Pathfinder.”
I then discovered that Polynesians (my ancestors) had their own name: “Wayfinder.” While Native American "wolf clans" became adept at navigating paths on land, Polynesians became masters of ocean navigation using the wind, waves, and stars.
I then adopted the Wayfinder ethos to start forming an OPB around navigating a “meta(verse)” future, combining my love for communities + blockchain ("meta-communities").
But as aforementioned, the OPB path was not clear at first. It came as a result of trial-and-error.
Moving forward, I plan to create a “meta-community” portfolio of $10m+ as an OPB. This means building up a portfolio of companies or clients at the intersection of community + tech (blockchain), my passion areas.
Whether I hit the $10m is not important. It’s the journey over the destination for me. I want to see who I become as a result of challenging myself.
It’s a perspective very much shared with online personality Gary Vaynerchuk, who put out to the world that his big goal is to one day buy out The Jets. For him, whether he gets there or not is irrelevant. It’s the love of “the game” that does it. And that’s my aim: to enjoy the game, the journey, much like my Wayfinding ancestors might've.
Did you learn anything useful today? Would you consider shifting to an OPB mindset? Let me know in the comments or replies.
Until next week, remember: it will come.
PS. Want even more insights? Upgrade to a Premium membership and go even deeper into my journey, plus get access to all past premium issues.