Rework: Great Companies Start In Garages All The time

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Jan 7, 2014

The approach to building and running a company has been changed. Now we have more choices than anytime before. But there are traditional ways of doing things that confirms the status quo. And if you defy that conventional wisdom, not to say outdated, you will meet skepticism.

You can start a company without external money, you can run a company having team sitting all over the world, you can keep your company small, and manageable, you can avoid hefty advertising, and still make progress, meet competition and win over customers.

But they say you could not do that, do this and so on.

The founders of 37 signals, now Basecamp, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson wrote a revolutionary book, named Rework, to help us to understand how to build a company outside of conventional wisdom. They went on:

This is a different kind of business book for different kinds of people--from those who have never dreamed of starting a business to those who already have a successful company up and running. It's for hard-core entrepreneurs, the Type A go-getters of the business world. People who feel like they were born to start, lead, and conquer. People who are looking for an edge that'll help them do more, work smarter, and kick ass.

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Don't be the guy with the next big idea

Everybody has the next big idea. But that does not make any difference. If you don’t take action no amount of great ideas will help. Echoing Kristen Bergman~“You have the great idea, best team, all the money you need, and then you do nothing-that’s not entrepreneurship. Start. Take action” Jason and Hansson went on:

We all have that one friend who says, “I had the idea for eBay. If only I had acted on it, I'd be a billionaire!” That logic is pathetic and delusional. Having the idea for eBay has nothing to do with actually creating eBay. What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan. Ideas are cheap and plentiful. The original pitch idea is such a small part of a business that it's almost negligible. The real question is how well you execute.

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Why is the most important question

“Love is the killer app” ~ proclaimed Tim Sander. Just because you have an idea and you are on to execute it does not mean that you can make a difference. You have to do it with love, passion and feeling.

To do great work, you need to feel that you're making a difference, that you're putting a meaningful dent in the universe and that you're part of something important.

This doesn't mean you need to find the cure for cancer. It's just that your efforts need to feel valuable. You want your customers to say, “This makes my life better.” You want to feel that if you stopped doing what you do, people would notice. What you do is your legacy. Don't sit around and wait for someone else to make the change you want to see. And don't think it takes a huge team to make that difference either.

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Be humble

And while making a difference be humble and down to earth. There is nothing to be too boastful of your contribution. You are here today because lots of people have paid price for your progress.

There's a new group of people out there starting businesses. They're turning profits yet never think of themselves as entrepreneurs. A lot of them don't even think of themselves as business owners. They are just doing what they love on their own terms and getting paid for it. So let's replace the fancy-sounding word with something a bit more down-to-earth. Instead of entrepreneurs, let's just call them starters. Anyone who creates a new business is a starter.

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Build something people want

What to start with is a common question and building a wrong product is a common problem as well. You need to be more careful while making something. The problem is while starting opportunity to know what other people are thinking, or what other people need is very slim. But you know best about yourself, your team, or your team community. Focus on unfulfilled needs that you know better.

The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use. That lets you design what you know--and you'll figure out immediately whether or not what you're making is any good.

If you're solving someone else's problem, you're constantly stabbing in the dark. When you solve your own problem, the light comes on. You know exactly what the right answer is.

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Now is the right time to start

To start something, anything ‘now’ is the right time. Everything will never be perfect. Obstacles will always be there. Money will always be a scarce. But you have to start. That’s what makers do. Makers make, all the time!

The perfect time never arrives. You're always too young or old or busy or broke or something else. If you constantly fret about timing things perfectly, they'll never happen.

“Taste like chicken” is not a compliment said Seth Godin. Anything that is remarkable has a point of view, has something extra. If you just make products then you make products but if you are in the game to change the game that’s different. Remember what Tony Hsieh said “we are in the business of delivering happiness”.

Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service. You have to believe in something. You need to have a backbone. You need to know what you're willing to fight for. And then you need to show the world. When you don't know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.

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Don't raise money, earn money and spend less

Raising fund has become a fashion in the startup scene. Startups are becoming news not because of their extraordinary products but because of the amount of money they raise. That’s a destructive way to looking into business. In business taking other people’s money is a bad idea. It’s a bad idea for several reasons. Jason and Hansson went on to show us why:

We're in a service economy now. Service businesses (e.g., consultants, software companies, wedding planners, graphic designers, and hundreds of others) don't require much to get going. If you're running a business like that, avoid outside funding. Spending other people's money is addictive. There's nothing easier than spending other people's money. But then you run out and need to go back for more. And every time you go back, they take more of your company. You wind up building what investors want instead of what customers want. Raising money is incredibly distracting. Seeking funding is difficult and draining. It takes months of pitch meetings, legal maneuvering, contracts, etc. That's an enormous distraction when you should really be focused on building something great.

Starting a business is not rocket science. It does not require hell lot of money. Don’t buy in conventional wisdom of PR, media, promotion, big decorated office. Instead use shared office, use social media for free, use public transport and build something that works at a minimum budget. It does not need that much.

There's nothing wrong with being frugal. When we launched our first product, we did it on the cheap. We didn't get our own office; we shared space with another company. We didn't get a bank of servers; we had only one. We didn't advertise; we promoted by sharing our experiences online. We didn't hire someone to answer customer e-mails; the company founder answered them himself. And everything worked out just fine. Great companies start in garages all the time. Yours can too.


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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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