Home Weekend Reading: Rework, by Fried and Hansson

Weekend Reading: Rework, by Fried and Hansson

This week we’ve got a book hot off the presses for your weekly dose of entrepreneurial reading as 37signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are back with their second book. Released earlier this month, Rework, a no-nonsense rethinking of how to successfully start and run a business, is the second book from Fried and Heinemeier who earlier authored Getting Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application.

This time Fried and Hansson take a more general approach to business by examining the ways that new companies are disrupting traditional business practices and making a big splash. They cover their entrepreneurial bases by reminding us that “no time is no excuse” and that “a business without a path to profit isn’t a business, it’s a hobby,” but then also elaborate on less traditional practices that have helped them succeed.

The main theme of the book is to trim the fat and do fewer things better; simplifying every aspect of your business and doing a smaller number of things at a higher quality is far better than trying to do too much and a mediocre level. There were times when customers of their products wanted more features and they refused to comply because it would slow them down and decrease efficiency. They decry time-stealing meetings, lengthy contracts, childish office politics and bloated inventories because they weigh down companies from reaching their full potential.

Rework is a great read for entrepreneurs because it is very focused and doesn’t waste any time with lengthy use cases. The book itself is an example of the principals it teaches; the quality of a written work is not based on its length, so why should company be judged by how many features it offers? Fried and Hansson admit that the book, which comes in at a dense but brief 288 pages, was originally drafted to be nearly twice as long, but why say in 600 pages what you can say under 300? Another reason the book is a great read is because of the authors’ open and honest tone.

“Ever seen those weapons prisoners make out of soap, or a spoon? They make do with what they’ve got,” one passage humorously points out. “Now we’re not saying you should go out and shank somebody, but get creative, and you’ll amazed with what you can make with just a little.”

Other useful and easily digestible analogies for their unique business ideas include comparing your company to a hot dog stand. They advise that the best way to trim down an inflated company is to find the “epicenter” by asking yourself, “If I took this away, would what I’m selling still exist?” The best hot dog stand doesn’t worry about the decorations on the stand, or the condiments – it worries about the hot dogs.

There are dozens of other valuable pieces of advice in Rework that are sure to inspire any entrepreneur or small business owner. But as LeVar Burton famously said at the end of each episode of Reading Rainbow, you don’t have to take my word for it. Seth Godin, who has authored several books on business and entrepreneurship including The Dip which we profiled earlier this year, had nothing but high praise for Rework.

“Jason and David have broken all the rules and won. Again and again they’ve demonstrated that the regular way isn’t necessarily the right way,” says Godin. “They just don’t say it, they do it. And they do it better than just about anyone has any right to expect.”

This book is an obvious buy not only because the of the expert advice dispensed by the successful founders of 37signals, but also because the book is an easy, quick and inexpensive read. Personally, in a few short hours I was able to breeze through the audio version, which can be found online for less than $10. But if you prefer reading words on a page, the Kindle version is also $10, or a hardback copy is just $3 more at some online retailers.

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