Forget Work, It's Time to Rework

Forget Work, It's Time to Rework

Recently I was on vacation and had the pleasure of reading 37 Signals new book: Rework. In short, entrepreneurs need to read this book. People in the corporate world need to read this book. YOU need to read this book. Rework challenges the status quo. Rework will force you to think about what you believed to be true in the business world. Best of all, Rework is broken down into easily digestible chapters that you can read in a matter of a couple of minutes.

Without further ado, I’ll discuss my favorite chapters:

Planning Is Guessing\ I recently had an angel investor say to me: “You know JP, I’m going to need to see projections, your five-year plan, and what the future of the market is.” A little part of me died inside. Fortunately for me, this angel thought that we were interested in investment and at this time we’re not.

The important points that Rework makes are this: 1) Unless you’re a fortune-teller, long-term plans are guesses 2) Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things that you can’t control such as competitors and market conditions. 3) Plans let the past drive the future. They are inconsistent with improvisation. 4) Before you’ve started a project, that’s the worst time to make big decisions.

Related Posts:\ Unicorns & Projections\ Throw out that five-year plan, build something now, and don’t take any money\ The only plan is to learn as you go\ When was the last time you looked at your business plan?

I think Rework would agree, but I don’t remember where I heard this quote, but I subscribe to it wholeheartedly: “The real value in planning is not the plan itself, but the actual planning.”

Scratch Your Own Itch\ This is one mantra I like to espouse to my business partners repeatedly. If we just solve our own problems, chances are that we’ll solve a problem that someone else has. Even better, we’ll be our own customers - we’ll probably know how best to solve the problem.

Rework claims that 1) The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to actually make something that you want to use. 2) When you build what you need, you can assess the quality quickly and directly instead of by proxy. 3) The “solve your own problem” approach lets you fall in love with what you’re making, you know the value of the solution intimately. Rework provides examples such as themselves (37 Signals), James Dyson, Bill Bowerman, and Mary Kay.

No Time Is No Excuse\ I wrote about this a before. Everyone has the same amount of time a day. It’s your priorities that need to change.

Rework suggests that 1) You don’t need to give up your day job. 2) Stop watching TV or playing games. 3) There is never the perfect time.

Draw a Line In the Sand\ This makes so much sense. Rework makes the points: 1) great businesses have a point of view. 2) A strong stand is how you attract super fans. 3) Strong opinions aren’t free. 4) When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes debatable.

When I listened to Jason Fried speak at Big Omaha he said “have an opinion!” and “Nobody gives a shit about Dell.” His point is clear: stand for something, anything. Let your business decisions and your designs be guided by what you stand for.

Outside Money Is Plan Z\ Oh man o’ man… I couldn’t agree with this more. Rework claims that 1) You give up control. 2) “Cashing out” begins to trump building a quality business because investors want a return usually within five to seven years. 3) When you’re just beginning, you have little leverage. Therefore, it’s a bad deal and a bad time to enter into a financial transaction. 4) Raising money is distracting.

I won’t claim that you should never raise money. I think it makes sense in two cases:\ 1) You have a proven business model and are making good profits (greater than one hundred thousand). You know that if you had an influx of cash (typically greater than five million), you could scale your business.\ 2) You want mentorship. You’re willing to trade a small piece of the pie for mentorship and direction. A program like YCombinator seems like a good fit for this. It’s my understanding that you only have to give up 5% to 10% and they’ll give you about \$20k. Additionally, they’ll help you to succeed by mentoring you and introducing you to other contacts in the industry. That seems like a winning proposition to me.

Building To Flip Is Building To Flop\ I think that most entrepreneurs should consider this. If you’re building your business because you think that you’ll get acquired by Microsoft, Google, or some other large corporation, you’re building a recipe for failure. You need passion. You need drive. You need ambition. You need a real business model that you can commit to.

Rework claims that 1) your priorities are wrong if you’re thinking about getting out before getting in. 2) In a relationship, would you be thinking about the breakup right when you start? 3) You need a commitment strategy. 4) When you’re building to sell, you won’t focus on customers to love you, you’ll be focusing on companies to buy you.

Build a Half a Product, Not a Half-Assed Product/Throw Less At the Problem\ “You can’t do everything you want, and to do it well.” - Rework. The example of restaurant menus is used. I can relate, the Paradox of Choice takes hold of us. A menu with more items actually causes us more distress - ultimately feeling dissatisfied with any choice.

Sell Your By-Products\ The whole point of this chapter is to point out that chances are you are making something else that you could sell. The book gives the example of the book Rework itself as a by product, the lumber industry, Henry Ford and Kinston Charcoal. Find your by-product.

Reasons To Quit\ When do you quit a project? This chapter provides a lot of insight on when the right time to quit is. Most notably: 1) Why are you doing this? 2) What problem are you solving? Sometimes, you’ll find that you’re solving an imaginary problem. 3) Is this actually useful? Cool wears off, useful doesn’t 4) Are you adding value? Value is about balance. “Too much ketchup can ruin the fries.” 5) Will this change behavior? 6) Is there an easier way? 7) What could you be doing instead? 8) Is it really worth it?

“Don’t throw good time at bad work.” - Rework. Part of this chapter reminds me of the Sunk-Cost Fallacy: which is the fallacy of throwing more money into an investment (project, financial investment, real estate, game, etc) that you’ve already invested despite knowing that it’s a losing investment. Two good articles: Sunk Costs: An Invisible, Pervasive, Peril & The Sunk-Cost Fallacy: Good Money After Bad.

Interruption Is the Enemy Of Productivity\ I can relate to this chapter. I’m most productive after 10:30 PM. Most people are sleeping, no one is calling or texting me, no interruptions period. The main point of this chapter is to set aside alone time. Find some time each week to be alone - sans interruptions.

Meetings Are Toxic\ This chapter alone makes the book worth the purchase price. The main point is that meetings waste time because: 1) They drift off subject very easily. 2) They require thorough preparation. 3) They often include at least one moron who wastes everybody’s time by their lack of understanding of the problem. 4) Meetings procreate… one leads to another.

The book uses an example of scheduling a one-hour meeting with ten people. That’s at least ten productivity hours lost. More likely fifteen because of context switching.

Rework suggests doing the following:\ 1) Set a timer. When it rings, the meeting is over. I think this forces everyone to stay on task.\ 2) Invite as few people as possible. This will not cost as many productivity hours and their are less people that feel the need to “chime in with their thoughts.”\ 3) Have a clear agenda.\ 4) Begin with a specific problem.\ 5) End with a solution and assign responsibility.

Quick Wins/Your Estimates Suck\ These chapters are related. Quick Wins mentions that momentum fuels motivation, so you must focus doing smaller projects so that you can have smaller victories and in turn increase your motivation. Your Estimates Suck says that humans are awful estimators. You can Google for real-world projects that were notoriously late. The point of the chapter is to break your projects down into smaller projects so that you can estimate better.

The point is: break your projects down into smaller projects so that you can achieve small victories and estimate better. These chapters seem to mirror a subset of the Agile Principles, if you’re a software developer and you haven’t read the Agile Principles, I highly encourage you to do it now. Practicing the principles will revolutionize the way you develop and deliver software.

Don’t Copy/Who Cares What They’re Doing?\ According to Rework, copying in the business world is a recipe for failure. This is because it skips understanding. Rework goes on to claim that f you’re a copycat, you can never keep up. Focus on yourself instead. Your competitor defines the rules of their game. Make your own game.

Pick a Fight\ According to Rework, you should call out your competitors if they suck. Doing this will cause people to ally with your side. The book give examples of Dunkin Donuts vs Starbucks, Audi vs Mercedes, Apple vs Microsoft, 7UP vs any cola, and Under Armour vs Nike. Rework says: “People love conflict. Passions are ignited. This is a good way to get noticed.” I’ve always seen this behavior in political pundits. It seems to work very well.

Underdo Your Competition\ This chapter essentially is referring to the KISS principle (keep it simple and stupid). According to Rework, most people will claim that in order to beat your competitor you need to have more features. Rework states that it’s more important to solve the simple problems well. The book provides the Flip camera as an example.

Say No By Default\ Have you ever regretted saying no? I bet you’ve regretted saying yes. That’s the premise of this chapter. Be gentle, but be firm when customers ask for new features. Tell them no. Rework says “Your goal is to make sure that your product stays right for you. You’re the one who has to believe in it the most. This way you can say: ‘I think you’ll love it, because I love it.’”

Don’t Confuse Enthusiasm With Priority\ Rework states that “coming up with a great idea is a rush.” I wholeheartedly agree. Everyone loves brainstorming ideas. It feels like you’re bringing out your inner-artist. When Reflect7 meets, ideas always come up. Often times we all get jazzed up about these new ideas. Rework states that we should calm down and sleep on these ideas and then assess their priority with a clear mind.

Build An Audience\ According to Rework, the most fortunate companies have an audience. One has to look no further than Apple to discover this truth. Every time Apple schedules a new keynote to announce a new product or an upgrade, millions of people tune-in to watch/listen live to what Apple has to say. The main point being: that when you need to get the word out, you won’t have to spend a lot on advertising, you’ll already have a bunch of people ready and willing to listen. Speak, write, blog, tweet, or make videos. Get your word out.

Out-Teach Your Competition\ Teaching will help you to build an audience. Teaching will help others to be successful. The best example that is presented is that of Chefs. Chefs often will share their greatest recipes on TV. Are they scared that you’re going to go out start a restaurant to compete with them? Of course not. Teaching has an added bonus of establishing credibility to you and your company. But most importantly, you’ll be building an audience.

Marketing Is Not A Department\ Everything you do is marketing. From error messages in your software, the way you send emails, to the words on your website… it’s all marketing. I think the main point is that word of mouth is very easy to spread these days. I believe it’s important to make your business perfect and personal. Not perfect, as in without errors, but perfect as in consistent with who you are and what your philosophy is.

Hire Great Writers\ “Being a good writer is more about writing, it’s about clear thinking. The best writers are great communicators.” - Rework. I couldn’t agree more.

How To Say You’re Sorry\ The whole point of this chapter is to encourage you to stop making crappy apologies. Sound human. “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused…” Stop now. I like this one better: “I’m so sorry for the problems we have caused.” Put yourself in the customers shoes, how would you feel at the end of your apology. This chapter alone makes the price of the book worth it. Apologies are so underrated. This chapter will get you to consider your apologies and how to improve.

Sound Like You\ This chapter brings us entrepreneurs back to earth when we think that we need to sound “big & professional.” It’s fine to sound small. People like what they can relate with. Here’s good insight from a successful software entrepreneur: You’re a little company, now act like one.

Inspiration Is Perishable\ I think this might be the most important chapter. Work on your great idea now. If you wait two months, you won’t be excited about it. Inspiration won’t wait for you. You must act now!

Conclusion\ It probably seems like I listed most of the chapters in the book as my favorites. While it’s true that I listed it a lot, there are still a lot of chapters that I wanted to list, but I couldn’t for the sake of brevity (so maybe not brevity, for the sake of not writing a blog post as long as the book). But, yes, 37 Signals new book: Rework is that damn good. You must read it.

If you’ve made it this far, congrats, you’ve endured my longest blog post. Since I think that 37 Signals has had one of the greatest impacts upon me as entrepreneur, I want to pay them back. I also want to share this book with other entrepreneurs. So, if you are one of the first five people to post a comment on what your number #1 business philosophy is, I will send you my copy of Rework or I will buy you a copy of Rework all at no charge to you.

To Recap:\ 1) Be one of the first five to comment.\ 2) Post your own #1 business philosophy. It can be anything.\ 3) You must promise that after you’ve finished reading the book, you’ll give it someone else.\ 4) You must not have ever met me personally.\ 5) Send me an email to jp at reflect7 dot com with your name and mailing address (US Only) and a link to your comment.

I promise this book will change the way you approach business.

5/5 gone.

You can follow me on Twitter @jprichardson


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