Just finished reading the new book Rework written by the founders of the very successful software company 37signals, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. If you are unfamiliar with 37signals and their blog, then this business book will be a very interesting read for you. Their take on business is very unorthodox to say the least. That said I think many will find it very useful. It’s also a very short read. It’s less than 300 pages of essays punctuated by illustrations capturing the concept covered.
I’ve heard Jason Fried talk about the book twice: once at the Chicago Tech Meetup and once again at SXSW Interactive at his book reading. I would say this book doesn’t apply to everyone. If you are running a consulting company with thousands (or tens of thousands) of employees, this book is probably not for you. In fact you’ll probably come of thinking this book was a huge waste of time for you. Jason and David’s perspective comes from owning a small but highly scalable and profitable software as a service (SaaS) company.
Let’s get on with the book review. Rework aims to dispel some myths in business and entrepreneurship as well as rituals in companies that have been taken for granted. Here are some examples.
Planning is guessing. Let’s just call planning what it really is – guessing. So instead of saying business plan, it’s a business guess. When startups write business plans, they typically write one before they’ve started their business so everything’s just a guess at best. I couldn’t agree more.
Start a business not a startup. This idea comes from their belief that you need to charge for your product and stop giving it away for free. A lot of startups believe that the laws of business physics do not apply to their business. Let’s just get eyeballs and give away our product and somehow we’ll make money. By calling a startup a business it’s clearer as to what it should and shouldn’t do.
Focus on the core of your business. A business has to think about a ton of things all at once. When deciding what to do and what not to do, one should focus on the core. A good analogy that the book gives is the hot dog stand. What is the one thing that a hot dog stand must have in order to be in the hot dog business. It’s not the stand, the bun, the ketchup or the mustard. Absolutely focus on the hot dog because without it, it’s not a hot dog stand.
Be a curator. Your product should be like a museum. If a museum had every piece of art in the world, it’s not a museum, it’s a warehouse. The museum is a museum precisely because it turns down most of the pieces of art and curates only the best ones. Likewise, learn to say no to feature requests.
Sell your byproducts. Every business produces products, but they also produces byproducts. The lumber industry produces wood, but also sawdust which it can then sell. 37signals produces their software but in the process, what they’ve learned, they’ve turned into blog articles and their books.
Interruption is the enemy of productivity. The work day is full of interruptions. Creatives need uninterrupted spaces of time in order to do their best work.
Innovation is overrated. Useful never goes out of style. Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s norm. By focusing on useful, you’ll create a longer lasting business. Ex – PostIt notes will still be around 10 years from now.
If some of these ideas appeal to you, then you owe it to yourself to check the book out. It’s a fast read and should take you less than 3 hours. 37signals has also released a series of commercials to promote the book. This one below is my favorite.
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