I am the founder and sole ‘employee’ of The Brandling. People sometimes sniff at that. If you don’t have a team of at least 12, you can’t be serious. I think that’s a rather funny assumption. Nor are many employees a guarantee for happiness. There is a Chinese saying: “I wish you many employees.” You don’t say this to people you like, obviously.
Just because I was the first Brandling, doesn’t mean I am the last.
There are lots of Brandlings in the world, but none of them are waiting for me to give them a monthly pay check and keep them busy from 9 to 5.
They are out there in the world doing what they do best, and are ready to dedicate their expertise when we have a project that requires it (Carlette, Janüska, Ton, Johanna: I see you). Others set up their own training events with our tools (Maria, Rene, Reem and the whole gang).
One of our independent trainers helps 200 people a week build stronger brands, and there is nothing I need to do for her to achieve that. She is simply empowered to run her own show as she sees fit (Clarissa: you shine).
We’ve got an amazing community of a few hundred people who all have their own jobs, companies or movements, and though we are not tied by any contracts, I know I can call on them for support, and in return I have their backs.
The only people who end up on the payroll are interns. I believe internships should be learning experiences that come with pay checks so young professionals get to build a resume while also being able to take a yoga class, buy their mom some flowers and go see a movie.
When I use the word ‘we’ in our stories or tweets, it is not because I want to make it out like my company is bigger than just one person. Nor do I speak in the majestic plural.
I use the word ‘we’ because nothing I do is done in isolation.
A lot of people contribute to my work, behind the scenes or in front. I want freelance colleagues and interns to feel ownership of the work we do together and ensure the success is not seen as one person’s accomplishment. This is probably the only case ‘we’ are truly ‘we’ in the oxford dictionary sense of the word.
I’ve noticed people find the one person business unsexy because it they think it is irreconcilable with the concept of scaling.
And now everyone from Stoke-on-Trent to Adilabad is eager to show that they too have the Silicon Valley mindset, there is this growing attitude that if your business is not scalable you just don’t count.
Again, funny. Three years ago I worked with 6 clients a year. These days, hundreds of people work with the resources I have developed, who are in turn working with hundreds of people. It might not fit the textbook definition of scaling, but it is the scaling of ideas from one to many. To me, that’s what counts.
To the people who are building companies with business models that scale and build big teams to accommodate it: I salute you. You have an amazing talent and I don’t underestimate the sacrifice it takes to make that happen.
To those who are talking the startup talk, do some walking and get back to me.
For those who are looking to build a business: consider the solo entrepreneur model. It has some benefits that don’t get a lot of press.
I built my practice around my strengths and a way of working that makes me happy. Travelling to places all over the world to work with people who make a difference. Saying no to requests I don’t believe in, which is easy when you don’t have twelve mouths to feed. Researching what works and sharing it with people. Slowly building a community of kindred spirits. Seeing my ideas spread and being inspired by hundreds of others.
I don’t think that is anything to sniff at.