Book Review: Rework

I admire 37signals because they make simple, easy to use web applications and because of their unique perspective on business.

Rework is a collection of short essays by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, focusing on doing less and embracing constraints.

Jason Fried co-founded 37signals and David Heinemeier Hansson later joined the company as a partner. Jason and David frequently write and talk about their business philosophy on marketing, hiring, culture, and productivity. If you haven’t read their blog, Signal v. Noise, I recommend that you do so.

If you’re looking for a business book on writing effective business plans or about strategies for finding investors, this isn’t the right book for you. Much of the advice in the book is contrarian to how most people think about startups and business. For example, while most entrepreneurs want to deliver more than their competition, Jason and David suggest you focus on delivering less.

The book is a short, quick read. The tone is confrontational and is far from the academic, dry tone you’ll find in most business books. It’s about 270 pages (the margins are fat and there are lots of pictures and white space). You can finish most of it over lunch.

A friend who has not read Rework but who skimmed a few chapters referred to Rework as a “fortune cookie approach to business advice.” Although I don’t completely agree, this isn’t far from the truth in one respect. The essays in Rework aren’t focused on giving you practical, step-by-step advice about what to do. Instead, Jason and David offer their perspective on business – a perspective that can change not only your attitude, but everything you do in your own business.

Bottom Line: Rework is an outstanding book for anyone who wants to learn about a fresh approach to business not found in other business books. If you’re looking to shake things up and to follow a path rarely traveled by Internet companies these days, you’ll learn a great deal from this book.

  • http://Twitter.com/marshallhaas Marshall Haas

    I’m curious, as someone who raised money for their business, would you have first tried to start crowdSPRING without outside funding had you read this prior to your start? (Maybe boostrapping it somehow as a 1st option and then outside capital as plan B.)

  • http://twitter.com/monocat Mosses Akizian

    Marshall +1. I was wondering the same. I’m running/building an ecommerce site, but an idea has been bouncing in my mind for the last couple of weeks. It doesn’t take much to build it, but I don’t have the skills (not a programmer) or the resources (money) to work on it.

    I don’t think it would require much $$. What would be your advice?

  • http://www.rosskimbarovsky.com Ross

    @Marshall – For the first year before raising a single penny, we bootstrapped. Once we understood our business model and what we needed to accomplish to bring the product to market, we built a financial model that helped us assess how much money we’d need prior to profitability. It was much more than we could invest ourselves and so we decided to raise funding from angel investors.

    I think you’re nearly always (there are exceptions, such as when you need connections or experienced guidance and you simply don’t have access to those otherwise) better off first starting out without outside investors – because it lets you focus on your product, make quick changes, and not have someone peering over your shoulder. But when your funding requirements far exceed what you can yourself fund via bootstrapping, you either must slow down or get outside funding (which is what happened for us).

    @Mosses – Take a look at the bootstrapping video I listed above in response to Marshall’s comment. Although it’s difficult to suggest options without knowing more about your situation, you have at least several different options: find a technical partner, build something simple for low $$$s and once validated, consider a larger raise, or find someone who will help you for a reasonable share of the business (typically not a great idea – unless you find someone who’ll bring a lot of value). There are many more options – I’d encourage you to figure out how you can build a simple version with small dollars that you can fund yourself…that will let you test your idea and will give you the most flexibility going forward.

  • http://wooshii.com fergus

    I think Sean Ellis over at has a nice related take on this over at the Start-Up marketing Blog

    “He simply suggests that lean shouldn’t be the end goal. Instead, he recommends startups should be focused on survival and market leadership – both of which benefit from more money. ”

    Anyway thought it might be of interest

    http://startup-marketing.com/a-lean-start-is-smart/

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