Rework book summary
This popular book, Rework by Jason Fried, released in 2010, offers a clear and practical guide to entrepreneurship that’s different from the hype of some startups. Written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, successful entrepreneurs from the company 37signals, it shares their business approach in an engaging way. They’ve also received support from Jeff Bezos and run the well-known blog Signal vs Noise.
Jason Fried is the co-founder and President of 37 Signals, advocating for a straightforward approach to business. He’s a speaker on entrepreneurship, design, and management, and also writes for Inc. magazine.
David Heinemeier Hansson, Jason’s main partner, began his Internet career in 1996, with expertise in marketing, project management, design, and software development. He created the open-source software Ruby on Rails in 2004, used in building 37signals’ applications and many other websites.
- ASAP is poisonous
- Do LESS than your competitors
- Meetings are harmful
- Fire the workaholics!
- Act like drug dealers
- Choose your battles
- If you plan, you guess
- Inspiration can disappear
The words on the back cover of the book might sound strange at first, but they don’t come from a depressed executive or a law-breaking boss. The book, called “Rework,” is quite the opposite. It’s a small book with 270 pages filled with colorful comic book-style illustrations. It’s all about sharing radical ideas that can change how you approach work and starting a business.
In Rework, the book’s main message is that you should do less than your competitors, avoid unnecessary meetings, and not overwork yourself. It’s not about joining a cult or getting depressed; instead, it aims to make you more efficient and successful in your work. It received high praise and quickly became a top-ranked business book in The New York Times.
Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.com, “The wisdom in these pages is simple, straightforward, and proven. Read this book over and over again to give you the courage you need to think outside of the box and do something great.”
Jeff Bezos, Founder/CEO Amazon.com, “Jason and David started from scratch and rewrote the company rules. Their approach has proven to be as successful as it is counterintuitive“.
Seth Godin, Author, “Ignore this book at your own peril.”
Rework book summary: Chapter One – FIRST
The book starts by pointing out a new reality in the business world. In this reality, even small businesses can have millions of customers and operate with just a small team of about twenty people, without the need for meetings, big investments, PR firms, or large sales teams. You can grow your business without needing a lot of money or having to sell out to big corporations.
Some people doubt this is possible. They think you have to work extremely long hours, rent expensive offices, spend a lot on advertising, or hire lots of recruiters. However, in the book “Rework,” the authors show the opposite is true: staying small and efficient can actually be the key to success.
This Rework book summary is for everyone, whether you’re a natural entrepreneur, someone who’s always wanted to start their own business, a self-employed person running a small operation, or even an employee tired of the daily grind and dreaming of a new career path.
Chapter 2 – TAKEDOWNS
To make the right changes, the first step is to get rid of things that aren’t helpful and let go of the ideas you currently believe in.
One piece of advice from the book is to ignore the concept of “real life.” In reality, “real life” is where people often think your ideas are impossible and unrealistic. The story of 37signals shows that “real life” is not a valid excuse to avoid trying new things. Remember that!
Jason and David don’t place too much emphasis on learning from mistakes. In Anglo-Saxon entrepreneurial culture, there’s a strong emphasis on the value of failure – it’s seen as a positive because it means you’ve tried. However, they believe that failure isn’t necessary for success, mainly because it doesn’t provide clear guidance on what to do next. When you start a new venture, the most important thing is to keep moving forward and not dwell on past failures.
Planning is like making guesses because you can’t predict the future accurately. Business plans often promise big success in a few years, but it’s unrealistic because markets, technology, and customers change.
Instead of trying to predict the distant future, it’s better to focus on what you’ll do next week or next month based on the current situation.
Many believe that growing a company is essential, but the book questions this idea. Trying to expand too fast can lead to overwork and problems.
Once a company has over 100 employees, it’s hard to go back, and you might become a workaholic. The authors suggest that working excessively isn’t necessary for success, and you don’t need an MBA or to work super long hours to start a business.
Rework book summary: Chapter 3 – GO
Chapter 3’s first advice is to dig deeper. When starting a business, you should be eager and look at problems in a new way. Begin by addressing problems you personally face; essentially, become your own first customer. When creating your initial product, it should be easy for you to determine if it works well. This way, you can start building something without needing a big team.
In my experience, this advice holds true. When I write for the blog “On The Road to Innovation,” the hardest part is often starting an article and putting ideas down. Not having enough time is not a valid excuse, as there are usually better uses of time than, for example, spending hours watching TV. The authors go even further, suggesting that people use the lack of time as an excuse because they’re afraid of failure.
To get started, set clear boundaries. Think of this as drawing a line in the sand. This line represents what you will or won’t do. It’s in the sand because you should be flexible and open to adjusting it. Knowing what you want and don’t want from the beginning helps you organize yourself.
In “Rework,” we move away from the world of startups::
- Don’t bother creating a “Mission statement.” These documents are meant to declare your professional intentions, listing what you want to achieve in the future and what kind of business you aim to build. But what’s most important is who you are right now, not what you want to become. So, don’t waste your time writing one.
- Avoid relying on other people’s money, like investors or business angels. If you need to invest in your business, use your own money. It leads to better decision-making.
- You need less than you think to start. All you really need is paper, a pen, and a computer.
- When you start a business, think about its long-term growth, not just selling it after a few years. Building a business is like a long-term commitment, not a quick sale.
- Don’t start a business with the sole intention of selling it in the future. It’s like beginning a relationship with the idea of breaking up.
- Having less capital, fewer employees, and a narrower focus on your products or services can be better for your business. In other words, lean and efficient companies tend to do well.
Chapter 4 – PROGRESS
In drama classes, there’s an exercise where you act out a scene while following a specific rule (like not moving an arm or not looking to the right). This exercise teaches you to stick to instructions for a certain time. It shows that limitations can be helpful. Similarly, when you start a new business, embrace limitations. If you can’t have everything you want, it forces you to be creative. It also prevents you from trying to do too much and getting overwhelmed.
Instead of creating a half-hearted product, focus on building half of something really good. Concentrate on the essential aspects, but don’t compromise on quality. Start with the basic features that people really need. Don’t get bogged down in minor details at the beginning.
Making decisions is progress. One valuable tip from the Rework book by Jason Fried is that we often create lists of things to consider, but it might be more productive to decide what not to do or plan it out. Making a decision allows you to move forward and share your progress, even if it seems counterintuitive.
“Rework” offers some straightforward advice about life principles, though it can be quite opinionated.
To make progress, focus like a museum curator, removing anything non-essential. Curators select pieces they love and recommend to others.
You can advance cautiously, spending less time on problems and rising to the occasion when needed. Concentrate on what won’t change to stay aware of your surroundings.
Good musicians know that their fingers control the tone, not just the instrument. Some people believe in miracle tools, but “Rework” suggests you shouldn’t rely on them.
“Rework” encourages you to start right away. Don’t wait for a perfect product; begin as soon as possible and gather feedback. Also, remember to utilize any by-products.
Rework book summary: Chapter 5 – PRODUCTIVITY
The Rework book is packed with tips to help you become more productive and efficient. It points out a common misconception: we often feel the need to impress potential clients even when they’re not ready to commit or pay for our work.
Instead of relying on shaky information, it’s better to make decisions based on solid facts. Keep in mind that there are valid reasons to consider giving up and exploring alternative paths.
The authors take a strong stance on meetings, labeling them as counterproductive and costly due to the time and people involved. This perspective might seem extreme, and we’ll discuss it later.
“Good enough” is sufficient. Prioritize simple solutions that work for your current problem over striving for a “perfect” solution that takes longer to develop. Celebrate small wins because they boost your motivation and keep you moving forward.
Enthusiasm can fade quickly, so it’s important to pace yourself
You don’t need to be a hero or work excessively. Instead, take breaks, seek help from others, and get enough rest to stay energized.
Human predictions are often inaccurate, so it’s better to focus on small, manageable steps rather than long-term forecasts or three-year business plans. Long to-do lists can feel overwhelming and lead to guilt when left incomplete.
Take a cue from the book’s example of Ben Sauders, who reached the North Pole alone. His approach was simple: make a decision to reach the next goal in front of you and repeat it day by day.
Chapter 6 – COMPETITORS
Competition is a good thing because it keeps market leaders on their toes. But to succeed, you need to stand out and not just copy others.
Avoid copying because it’s lazy and doesn’t add value. Consumers eventually get bored with copies and look for something different.
Make your product unique. In a world where everyone seems to do the same thing, find and showcase what sets your product apart. Don’t let it become just another commodity.
Don’t be afraid to pick a fight or express your honest thoughts about competitors or issues. Having a strong personality and clear stance can make you more visible and show where you stand.
Contrary to the norm, some advise underperforming the competition and not worrying too much about what they do. By keeping things simple and streamlined and avoiding excessive complexity, you can focus on what really matters.
Chapter 7 – EVOLUTION
The authors advise making “No” your default answer, cautioning against uncontrolled growth. Avoid unnecessary expansion or overcommitting to a client’s demands. Instead, carefully consider each request.
Some clients may grow faster than your company, but that’s okay. Rapidly growing clients often have specialized needs. You don’t have to keep up with all of them. Catering too much to one client’s unique demands can make your product overly complex and less suitable for the majority of your customers.
When planning your products and services, don’t mistake enthusiasm for prioritization. Sometimes, you can get caught up in small details and forget about the important aspects that add value to your product. Consider factors like ergonomics and practicality, and gather customer feedback to improve your product continually.
Chapter 7 emphasizes “Don’t write it down”
In both professional work and daily blog management, the author doesn’t record every suggestion or comment. Instead, decisions are guided by experience, instincts, and considering one step at a time, often driven by financial or human factors.
Chapter 8 – PROMOTION
Chapter 8 of “Rework” starts by saying, “Welcome to obscurity.” It means when you start a new business, nobody knows about you, which can be an advantage. You can experiment and make mistakes without harming your business. So, get started!
As your business grows, you need to build a loyal customer base. Jason Fried, who has a popular blog, has done this by providing high-quality content to attract and retain readers. These readers can become potential customers and spread the word about his ideas.
Another rule is to outperform competitors by offering more advice, tips, and ideas to your followers. Build trust by giving before receiving orders, similar to chefs who share recipes in cookbooks.
“Rework” suggests going beyond and letting customers see behind the scenes. Show how your products or services are made and introduce them to your team. This personalizes your company and makes it more appealing.
Embrace imperfections that reflect your personality instead of trying to look overly professional. Let potential customers experience the uniqueness of your products. The book even mentions that drug dealers use a similar strategy by offering a small amount for free to entice people to become customers (note: drugs are harmful!).
The idea is to engage with customers and build trust through authentic and personal approaches.
“Rework” strongly criticizes certain aspects of the business world and media:
- Press releases are considered spam. Instead, be sincere when making announcements, like Google does on its blog.
- Don’t rely on serious business newspapers like the Wall Street Journal.
- Marketing isn’t just one department; it involves everyone. It’s about explaining a product’s use, value, and sharing compelling stories about it. Everyone connected to the product can contribute to its marketing.
- The book debunks the myth of overnight success stories often glorified in Western media. These stories are inspiring but can make others feel like failures. Don’t be discouraged by them.
Chapter 9 – HIRING
Hiring the right people is crucial for your company’s development, and bad hires can be harmful. “Rework” suggests a practical approach: start by doing the job yourself, especially for roles related to customer interaction like support or sales. This hands-on experience helps you understand the job better. When it becomes too much for you alone, that’s when you should consider hiring someone else. This might sound obvious, but it’s not what most people do.
Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, was known for working with exceptional people and making quick hiring decisions. “Rework” takes a different stance. It recommends being cautious even with exceptional candidates. However, it also advises against being insincere or fake when building your team. It’s important to have a diverse group of individuals with strong personal beliefs.
The Rework book agrees that it’s essential to assess candidates based on their personalities and skills rather than relying solely on traditional criteria like CVs or years of experience. Understanding what a candidate has done and the results they’ve achieved is more relevant than just how long they’ve worked in a particular field.
“Rework” emphasizes that degrees and diplomas primarily show past, often rigid skills. In small teams, productivity is key, and everyone should contribute.
- When hiring, look for managers who can think independently and take care of themselves.
- Talent can be found anywhere, thanks to the internet. Consider remote workers from around the world.
Two valuable pieces of advice:
- Hire the best storytellers. When choosing between candidates, go for the one who tells the most compelling story, whether in writing or verbally. This assesses their ability to communicate and adapt.
- Test your potential employees. Don’t rely solely on CVs or interviews. Put candidates in real-life situations related to the job to evaluate their skills. For example, if hiring a photographer, review their photos. Similarly, if recruiting a business hotline phone agent, have them answer a phone call to see how they handle it.
Chapter 10 – DAMAGE CONTROL
As a company leader, you’ll face problems and it’s your responsibility to address them, whether you run a big oil company or a small neighborhood business.
When things go wrong, it’s crucial that you communicate the bad news yourself. Being humble and sincere in your communication will show customers that you care. Act quickly and focus on the key issues. Responding promptly makes you more credible.
When apologizing, use the first person (“I’m sorry” instead of “We apologize”). Avoid empty phrases like “we’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause” and offer unconditional apologies by considering how the customer feels.
The Rework book suggests involving everyone in customer service. Not just sales or customer support, but even engineers or technicians who create your products should be aware of customer feedback. This prevents negative reviews about your company’s products and services.
Lastly, “Rework” advises staying calm when you receive the first critical feedback on a new product or innovation. Take a deep breath, remain composed, and distinguish between valid criticism and less valuable input.
Chapter 11 – CULTURE
Corporate culture isn’t something you create; it’s the result of everyday actions. In small businesses, focus on short-term decisions rather than distant planning.
Have open discussions with your employees and treat them like responsible adults, not teenagers. Encourage them to go home at 5:00 p.m. This approach promotes clear thinking in a creative and competitive economy.
“Rework” breaks away from traditional corporate culture by suggesting:
- Avoid establishing strict yes-or-no rules.
- Be yourself rather than an idealistic or artificial boss.
- Eliminate negative words like “need,” “can’t,” and “easy.”
- Reject the overused phrase “As-Soon-As-Possible.”
Chapter 12 – CONCLUSION
Inspiration can vanish into the air. You don’t think so? Then think: how many times have you been in a place that you don’t expect to find yourself or at an unusual time of day and thought of a new idea? An inspirational idea. And you’ve let that moment go by and poof… you totally forget about it.
We are not robots and our ideas or a moment of inspiration fades quickly. So when it’s there, grab it and then do whatever is necessary to hold on to that idea and pursue what it can lead to. More importantly, if you want to work at home, in the office or on the road, do it!
Jason Fried elaborated on this idea in a remarkable presentation at a TED conference.
Inspiration can be fleeting, like a passing thought in an unexpected moment or place. Often, these moments slip away, and the great ideas they bring vanish into thin air. It’s a reminder that we’re not machines; our ideas come and go quickly. So, when you have a moment of inspiration, seize it and hold onto it tightly. Work from wherever you feel most productive, whether it’s at home, in the office, or on the road. This idea was discussed by Jason Fried in a TED talk.
In conclusion, “Rework” stands out as a unique book. It offers an enjoyable weekend read and serves as a valuable reference for ongoing inquiries. One fundamental lesson imparted by the book is the importance of having confidence in one’s ideas and convictions. Prior to engaging with its insights, there was an overreliance on market feedback, client opinions, and competitor actions. While these external factors hold significance, the book underscores the greater importance of self-awareness and unwavering commitment to one’s beliefs.
“Rework” has also initiated a shift in perspective. We could see that a strong affinity for numbers was predominant. However, the Rework book has encouraged a more holistic approach, considering both quantitative and qualitative aspects of decision-making. It emphasizes the necessity of comprehending the underlying “why” behind the data. Furthermore, the book promotes an ongoing habit of questioning established norms and remaining vigilant against the influence of external voices professing superior knowledge.
However, “Rework” has its drawbacks. Some may find it too aligned with Anglo-Saxon culture, and its principles may not fully apply to Latin cultures, which tend to be more emotional and less stoic. Additionally, some of the book’s advice seems contradictory, such as discouraging work addiction but encouraging work when inspired. It’s important not to take every recommendation literally but rather draw inspiration from the Rework book’s overall spirit and strive for daily behavior changes.
Reading this Rework book boosts your self-confidence and belief in your ideas while keeping you attuned to your surroundings, which is crucial.