Listen or read? Hit the play button above to listen to me read you the book review that follows, in professionally recorded audio, or, read the review below at your own pace. Same content either way, simply your choice on form of consumption.
REWORK, an entrepreneurial business book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, gives entrepreneurs permission to shed the heavy burden of relentlessly seeking after hollow corporate business norms and walk confidently in the practice of fundamentally efficient and reasonable business practices, that while challenging the status quo, sew integrity into you and your business and arm you with the thought patterns to execute with excellence.
Fried and Hansson, best known for co-founding Basecamp (formerly 37signals) in 1999, have assembled a collection of short essays in REWORK that challenges entrepreneurs to rethink their approach to starting, scaling, and running a business.
REWORK: Short Book for Entrepreneurs
As a heads up, Amazon lists REWORK as a 288 page hardcover, but just to set expectations, you’re not getting into an Ayn Rand novel here.
There are 163 pages of actual written content, including pages that have only one or two sentences, and excluding the thank you page – yes, I counted, three times. There are 88 illustrations. The remaining 37 pages (that’s pages not signals) are non-substantive title pages and the like.
While some people have actually gotten ticked off that Rework is not more verbose, it would actually be hypocritical of Fried and Hansson to put out a lengthy run-of-the-mill business novel – for me, hearing someone complain that they need more content just for the sake of content conjures up Press Releases are Spam from page 185.
Fried and Hansson run a tight ship, even the standard copyright laden pages at the beginning of books are no where to be found in REWORK.
What I Highlighted in REWORK
When I read a physical book, I balance the book along with a thick pink highlighter in my left hand, pausing occasionally to highlight content I think is important enough to go back to or call out for later skimming.
In looking back at the highlighting pattern that emerged while reading REWORK, I now realize that I was completely engrossed in consuming the book’s early sections, as I didn’t highlight anything until page 171.
“…build an audience…when you need to get the word out, the right people will already be listening.”
Promotion | Build an audience (page 171)
There was absolutely content worthy of highlighting before page 171 in REWORK, I just didn’t slow down enough to uncap the pink highlighter.
When I read a hardcover book, I typically take the jacket cover off of it. Not long after starting to read REWORK, I recall my wife asked me what I was reading. My immediate response was to share an essay with her from the book, it was page 22 on growth. The essay really struck a chord with me having mentally wrestled with the drivers and merits of corporate growth for much of my adult life.
I applaud a good analogy.
An analogy that can describe my thought, quintessentially, is gold, as I have humbly come to realize how difficult it can sometimes be to appropriately and adequately articulate a thought or feeling on a particular subject.
Fried and Hansson absolutely crushed it in their clear discussion of growth.
“Why is expansion always the goal? What’s the attraction of big besides ego? What’s wrong with finding the right size and staying there?”
“Do we look at Harvard or Oxford and say, “If they’d only expand and branch out and hire thousands more professors and go global and open other campuses all over the world . . . then they’d be great schools.” Of course not. That’s not how we measure the value of these institutions. So why is it the way we measure businesses?”
Takedowns | Why grow? (page 22)
Wow, nailed it.
I for one am all about scale, but, there’s so much integrity in finding the right size and staying there. Now, perhaps there’s a tremendous amount of growth needed to get to the right size, but having the ability to rest and be content in what’s been built, executing with excellence in what’s been given to you and not being driven or manipulated because of what an analyst expects or says, there’s integrity in that.
What Entrepreneurs Should Remember and Put into Action from REWORK
“Teaching probably isn’t something your competitors are even thinking about.”
Promotion | Don’t out-spend out-teach your competition (page 173)
Education and understanding is at the heart of success.
It’s no surprise to see more and more firms spin up entire lines of business around Customer Success.
If you boil it down, I believe customer success is really about identifying and filling the gap between what you’ve sold to a customer and the value they’ll need to get from it in order to renew and/or make additional incremental investments with you.
If customer success, most often accomplished through teaching and enabling, is one of the fundamental reasons you do what you do, your success is nearly guaranteed.
I have really enjoyed following Amy Porterfield for some time now. Amy has built an online platform largely based on creating valuable content that teaches and inspires. Amy creates extremely valuable content, gives a way a lot of it via her podcast and site for free, yet she complements that with paid online courses and programs. She absolutely does it right (I’m constantly enamored with how on point and actionable her podcasts are, all the time), and she’s fully transparent about the fact that online courses could be one of your biggest opportunities – it’s a multi-million dollar business for Amy, so, she knows what she’s talking about and no doubt has the disciplined follow through after launching a course her online friend David Siteman Garland talks about.
Fried and Hansson challenge us to out-teach our competition, and that mantra is one of the reasons I started How to FSBO, what I’d like to build into the best online FSBO education website. While REWORK largely talks about teaching in the context of small businesses outmaneuvering “big” businesses, and there’s truth in that, I appreciate the idea of teaching, and especially online courses, because it allows you to easily create a transformation in others with your knowledge and gives you the chance to leverage the building blocks of creating passive income by putting in hard work up front so it pays off later in not trading hours for dollars.
“…negative reactions are almost always louder and more passionate than positive ones.”
Damage Control | Take a deep breadth (page 244)
While Fried and Hansson are more focused here on the reactions of users and/or customers after implementing change into an offering, the truth resonates with me in the context of today’s entrepreneurs who are passionately devoting themselves to a cause, platform, or offering, and can easily (and understandably) become psychologically rattled by negative comments, especially those that are not constructive in nature.
As one of our style and fashion blogger clients, Carly from C Style, continues to become more popular, negative comments and trolls have become a growing reality. Just as negative comments are oftentimes more passionate than positive ones as Fried and Hansson cite, a single negative comment can stick with you much longer and have more impact on you personally than many positive comments.
In parallel to updating the comment flow and process at Carly’s popular personal style blog, I suggested that Carly might find value in hearing from Pat Flynn in a blog post, and separately a podcast, where the popular Internet-based entrepreneur and blogger discusses dealing with negative comments and trolls.
Depending on where you are at in your entrepreneurial journey, it may not be terribly relevant to hear about negative feedback, however, in calling out the gut punch negative comments can have on an entrepreneur, Fried and Hansson, in my opinion, subliminally arm entrepreneurs to better handle negative feedback and trolls when growing popularity reveals you (or your business) as a target.
“…packing a room full of these burn-the-midnight-oil types…lets you get away with lousy execution.”
Culture | Send people home at 5 (page 258)
For an entrepreneur, it’s counter-intuitive, or against the grain at best, to think that it’s ok to go home at 5pm.
But, Fried and Hansson spell it out.
You don’t want a job to be your life, you want people who care about more than one thing.
Stop measuring activity and start measuring results.
You’ll find that people who are busy (that have things going on outside of work) oftentimes have the intellectual horsepower and efficiency to make better use of the finite hours they have (in the office), and they’re often more likely to stay and grow with a company too.
I personally don’t think the overarching mantra of equating success and sheer activity / working all the time will change, at least not any time soon. Nonetheless, my respect for Fried and Hansson grew immensely with the reading of page 258.
REWORK Says Inspiration Is Perishable
I’m proud to have read REWORK and have it as part of my personal library.
It’s given me both perspective and permission from two entrepreneurs who have been there done that to build and scale businesses in a reasonable way, in a way I believe has integrity.
Fried and Hansson hit the nail on the head with so many of their simple and edgy essays packed with proven fundamentals from scaling a multi-million dollar business through a number of different horizons.
Much of what the two share is subtle, yet so poignant.
“Inspiration…has an expiration date…a magical thing, a productivity multiplier. But it won’t wait for you. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.”
Conclusion | Inspiration is perishable (page 271)
What did you take away from REWORK? No doubt I missed something.
Please give the gift of sharing something constructive about REWORK that challenged you or made you better! The social media sharing buttons on this page are a simple way to start and/or join the conversation, and it would mean a lot to me personally to hear from you!