Email Marketing is not dead! Try Probaho, a homegrown ESP from Bangladesh ▶ Join Now

Rework: Don't Start A Startup And Art of Building A Business

Rework Book (cover )
Rework Book (cover )

'Rework’ appears with business recipe that helps business remain small, frugal and profitable. No way to be upset with word small; when profit is guaranteed what to do with big! In this book, Jason Fried and David H Hansson come up with business recipe that makes them possible to build, a web application company, and reach millions of customers all over the world with work sites at eight cities with 16 employees (only!).

How Do I Evaluate it

Conventional business wisdom like planning, workaholic, startup mistake, exit strategy and phobia of real world is severely beaten in this book. Instead it shows a set of business styles that are simple, direct and humane. The set of styles works as a system. That is if you follow tips on hiring singly keeping tips on other business areas untouched may backfire.

The book reveals the true wisdom, business wisdom and life vision. Begin with TAKEDOWN, the book discusses each stage that a business enterprise or human life experience to bloom – i.e., GO, PROGRESS, COMPETITORS, EVOLUTION, PROMOTION, HIRING, and DAMAGE CONTROL. Until there is an inbuilt CULTURE available.

The Book Best Fits For

The book best fits for “hard-core entrepreneurs, the Type A go-getters of the business world, who are born to start, lead, and conquer.” Besides the management style can be followed by anyone of any profession. Tom Peters, New York Times bestselling author of IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE, THRIVING ON CHAOS and LEADERSHIP thinks if you are "House-husband, housewife, Fortune 500 CEO, cab driver, restaurateur, venture capitalist - this is 'the book for you”.

FIRST – Get Started

Forget the idea of miserable work (60-100 hour/Week), lifelong savings, and a boatload risk to make something. 10-40 hours a week is plenty. “Starting a business on the side while keeping your day job can provide all the cash flow you need”. You don't even need an office.

TAKEDOWN – Process Of Evolution Begins

Ignore the ‘real world’ dogma because “new ideas, unfamiliar approaches, and foreign concepts always lose” here. Real world is not a place but excuse. Likewise, no way to joy with startup failure; it is opposite to the process of evolution. A Harvard study finds successful entrepreneurs have 34% chance to be successful again while failure one has only 23% chance of becoming a success.

Long term planning is a limitation as it guestimates or takes decision for a period that is not clear now. Assuming that no amount work is much work, the authors consider workaholism is unnecessary. They think workaholic try to “make up for intellectual laziness with brute force”.

Land on Life Cover
Anything worth achieving takes 10,000 steps to realize. Click on the Image for More

GO: Built Your Dent In The Universe

If your customer says ‘this makes my life better’, you are building that dent. It requires “solve your own problem” approach with product. This lets you fall in love with what you’re making. Your great idea can’t remain waiting. ‘No time” is an excuse. It means you don’t want it bad enough.

As you get going, ask why question. Great businesses have “a point of view, not just product or service”. You have to believe in something. This believe doesn’t equals paper belief of mission statement. There is no chance to begin business with exit strategy as no one “meet with a divorce lawyer in the morning of his wedding”. Instead follow commitment strategy. Working on your ideas with outside money is “addictive, distractive and noose attached job”. Actually you need less than you think.

To be smallest, leanest, and the fastest “Embrace the idea of having less mass” – long-term contracts, excess staff, permanent decisions, meetings, thick process, inventory, technology loc-ins, and long-term road maps.

PROGRESS: Embrace The Constraints

Constraints – time, money, people, and experience – “are advantages in disguise”. It forces you to be creative. Think how prisoners make weapon out of soap or a spoon. Initially, you needn’t stuck with details of. Getting infatuated with details too early leads to disagreement, meetings, and delays. You get lost in things that don’t really matter.”

Waiting for perfect situation piled up the tasks. Pile up leads to ignore. So move forward. “Making a call is making progress”. But don’t work with all tasks; consciously say YES to tasks as curator does in museum. Focus on substances not fashion. As Amazon focuses on fast (or free) shipping, great selection, friendly returns policies, and affordable prices. You needn’t obsess with tools without minding what you are doing with those tools. Remember, with guitar “tone is in your fingers”.

Every business yields some by-products as this book is also a by-product of 37signals (now Basecamp). So sell the by-product.

PRODUCTIVITY: Skip Layers of Abstraction, Get Chisel Out And Work

The celebrity feel with documents and agreement is termed in this book as illusion. There have layers of abstraction in form of words, graphs, specs, etc. Instead “get chisel out”, as admired furniture craftsman Sam Maloof felt, “and start making something real”. “Meetings are toxic”. Meeting causes meetings, committee, reports, works, etc. if meeting inevitable begin with specific problem and end at scheduled time.

Ensure lasting period for doing a particular jobs keeping phones, email, meeting, discussion aside. Interruption in the middle causes the work slow. Don’t work for years. It’s boring. No rewards, no excitement. Divide work by days, week or month. Completion of each unit of work will trigger excitement.

COMPETITORS: Solve Simple Problem, Leave Hairy One To Competitor

Unlike art copying does not work in business. Copying misses something invisible – message and understanding. So, decommoditize your product through “pouring yourself” in product and all around product. Competitor can’t copy you from your product.

“Pick a fight” in competition. For example Audi, German automobile manufacturer, picks Rolls-Royce and Mercedes as ‘old luxury’ and ads Lexus, an Audi product, as luxury alternative. “Having an enemy gives you a great story to tell customer, too”

Cold war mentality of one-upping – i.e., beat competitor by time, money, and people - is a dead end. Rather “solve the simple problem and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to competitor”. There is nothing weakness that your product does less. Highlight it and be proud of it.

EVOLUTION: Believe In Your Product

Conventional business wisdom ‘customers are always right’ is not appreciated here. Henry ford built automobile instead of fasted horse saying NO to customer. Mind that you are also a customer of your product and you believe in it and you are in love with it. Another point “people and situation change. You can’t be everything for everyone”.

Try to differentiate between priority and enthusiasm. Don’t run on a treadmill, you are in a same place in result. Rather “write down your latest grand ideas and park them for a few days. Then evaluate their actual priority with a calm mind”

Let your customer feel good with your product at home not at store. Good at home dramatically increase you sales.

PROMOTION: Build Your Audience

Early time obscurity is fine. No one is aware of you. It the best time to “make mistakes without the whole world is hearing about them”. Broadway put a great example of testing ideas in a smaller city before coming to New York.

Don’t jump to hire PR firm. The authors preferred building audience to building customer and fans. Instead of buying people attention, the expensive and unreliable way, “speak, write, blog, tweet, make videos” to you audience. As have Signal vs. Noise blog with hundred thousand of daily readers.

“Emulate chefs”. There are a lot of great chefs but we know a few. Because they run TV shows, write cookbooks. Rework is a cookbook of It will “give people a backstage pass”. Other form may be DVDs, TV shows, etc.

Pursuit of perfectness in business – imposing uniform, other behavioral restriction – offer artificial presentation of human. That is not welcomed by real human (customer). Marketing is what everyone is doing 24/7/365; it can’t be department. Don’t misunderstand overnight success. It’s just take off stage. Dig into it, you will find long build up stage.

startup hiring mistakes
Startup Hiring Mistakes. Click on the Image For More

HIRING: For killing Pain Not Pleasure: Tell Don’t Hide

“Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first”. It will enable you to hire part-time, full-time, contract basis or outsource it. Besides, it will you best supervisor and understand the best what people is doing.

“Don’t hire for pleasure, hire to kill pain”. Don’t rush to hire on day pain arises; any single software may relive it. Similarly, don’t fill a vacant post immediately until it is proven again that it needs new man.

Don’t rush to ‘great’ people to hire, pass on hiring them.

Crash to well-structured resume, formal educational excellence, and years of experience may be horrible. Resumes tell nothing, “They don’t care about landing your job; they just care about landing any job”. About formal education Mark Twin’s attitude is enough as he doesn’t allow schooling to interfere his education. Years of experience is seen as years of irrelevance. Instead, hire them for mini-project, even for 24 hours project and see how they make decision.

Differentiating between to do work and to delegate work, the authors suggested avoiding hiring delegators who love telling others what to do. “Delegators cog the pipes for others by coming up with busy work”. Rather hire manager of one who come up their own goal and execute them. They “free the rest of your team to work more and manage less”.

DAMAGE CONTROL: A by Product of Consistent Behavior

Anything bad happens; find yourself to tell it first. If you hide it people will know it anyway but with exaggeration, rumor, and false information mixed with. Don’t depend only on your polite-tone-sorry-telling to express sorry. Instead take the responsibility. Express in details about what happens, what have done to manage it and what your next plan.

Cut person gap between you and your customer. Let everyone in touch with customer, market. Think you don’t have time? Craigslist founder Craig Newmark still answer support emails today. Why not you?


Culture can’t be created, it happens as byproduct of consistent behavior. If you encourage people to share, sharing will be built into culture. If you reward trust, then trust will be built in.

When you treat people like children – they need approval for doing anything - you will get children’s work. Give them rockstar environment – privacy, workspace, tools to work. It arises out of trust, autonomy, and responsibility. Talk to people not at people. Machine language in disguise of professionalism talks at people. Simply talk to them “Don’t be afraid to be you”. Similarly, forget formal dogma “write to be read, don’t write just to write.

Final Thought

Rework is a true jam in its entirety and utterly inspiring. But authors warn that “Inspiration is perishable. It has an expiration date”. Though it’s a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, and motivator but don’t wait for it. Get into work.

In-depth business & tech coverage from Dhaka

Stories exclusively available at FS

About FS

Contact Us