A couple of days ago I finished reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier, the founders of 37Signals. I’ve got to say I really enjoyed this book – it is a quick read and full of good practical advice for people running small companies, and more generally for people in business. Rework has its detractors and I can see why – the tone is a little smug and the advice is rarely backed up with case studies or real world examples – but the important thing for me is that the advice is good, and I can put up with a bit of smugness from guys who have built a business as strong as 37Signals. A lot of the advice is non-standard fare too, which is an added bonus.
This is the first book that I read on my iPad and iPhone. I bought the Kindle version from Amazon and downloaded the book easily to the Kindle app on both platforms which then stay in sync with each other. I read more on the iPad than the iPhone, but the iPhone was surprisingly satisfying to use and I love having a book to hand at all times without having to carry it around. It is often much more satisfying to read for twenty minutes than to clear off the top part of your email inbox.
The other thing I like about reading on the Kindle apps is that you can electronically bookmark your favourite bits and return to them later to, say, put them in a blog post. The four pieces of advice I like the most are:
- Build half a product, not a half-assed product – this advice is in keeping with the Eric Ries lean startup, minimum viable product meme that is so prevalent at the moment but makes the point another way, arguing that very often small is beautiful and that startups need focus.
- Say ‘no’ by default – it is easy to say ‘yes’ to another feature, another meeting with a potential partner etc. and often hard to cut off an opportunity by saying ‘no’ – but that is exactly what good entrepreneurs do. As Jason and David say ‘soon the stack of things you’ve said yes to grows so tall you can’t even see the things you really should be doing’. And don’t believe that ‘the customer is always right’ thing either – as Henry Ford said, if he’d only listened to his customers he would have built a faster horse. Startups need to balance converting the world to their vision of the future with listening to customers.
- Out teach your competition – teaching your customers delivers real value and will create bonds you don’t get from traditional marketing and it is cheaper. Additionally, it is often easier for small companies to teach than large companies who have to filter their external communications through lawyers and marketing execs.
- Decisions are temporary (and you should make them quickly) – couldn’t agree more with this one, speed and agility are two of the most powerful weapons any startup has and without decisive leadership both are nullified. There is a balance to be struck between acting too quickly and thinking too much, but favouring speed over making sure all potential problems have been considered is the way to go for small companies. Bad decisions can be reversed but time spent considering options can’t be reclaimed.