Book Review: Rework by @37Signals

Book Review: Rework by @37Signals

The hilarious clip above was put together by @37Signals to promote Rework

This book was invaluable to me.  I come from a giant corporate background (IBM) and I work for a startup that’s going the glamorous startup route… taking on funding, building a dazzling product, making a world beater that will one day be an IPO, acquisition target, or plain old big company.  Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson run an entirely different kind of organization.  They built their company (37 Signals) as a web design firm (it still is by the way) and along the way created a suite of management software, a design tool for the iPad and a new web app development framework called Ruby on Rails.  I know what you’re thinking, who’s their VC?  How much are they valued at?  Any potential acquirers?  The answers: No one, they’re bootstrapped; No one knows, without an IPO or funding looming why bother to guess?; They’re not for sale.  In spite of that impressive list of accomplishments they’re still only 20 employees, only half of which live in Chicago (headquarters).  In this book they describe all of the reasons and the how-tos for starting a business their way.  I don’t agree with them that it’s right for every company, but if your background is in other types of companies and you want to start your own, it’s worth hearing what they have to say.

Here are a couple points I found especially interesting:

  • They point out that you should only make permanent decisions when you absolutely have to.  Hiring someone or moving in to a big office or taking on funding or signing along term contract all carry with them their own baggage.
  • They argue you should use your byproducts.  They point out that Kingsford Charcoal was actually Ford Charcoal originally, as charcoal was a byproduct of making cars in those days.
  • If you’re creating a product, make something YOU would use.
  • In one of my favorite quotes, “Long-term plans are really just wishes.”
  • When you make a product, make it intentionally simpler then your competitors.  Show how agile and intuitive it is, not how many bells and whistles it has.