Summary of Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

  • Post category:Summaries
  • Post last modified:November 1, 2022
rework book cover

Summary: 6 min

Book reading time: 2h08

Score: 9/10

Book published in: 2010

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  • Build a company that makes money, not a startup that loses it.
  • Stay as small, agile, and lean as possible. You can better solve problems this way.
  • If your company works, don’t sell it.
  • Make products so good that customers come back asking for more.

What Rework Talks About

Rework was written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. It’s a collection of advice on building a tech company. Among the advice given are “stay as agile as possible”, “only acquire the tools and people that you absolutely need to work with because everything else is noise and a waste of time”, and “always make decisions based on reality.”

Summary of Rework, written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

You don’t need nearly all of the things you think you need to make it work.

Ignore the real world. People will tell you a lot of things that seldom apply.

Learning from success is better than learning from mistakes. Evolution doesn’t linger on past failure.

Planning is guessing.

Long-term business planning is a fantasy. Too many factors are out of your hand. Plans are guesses.

Figure out the most important thing you’ll do this week, not this year.

Make decisions before you do something, not far in advance.

Blindly following a plan which is not grounded in reality is dumb.

Growing your company is dumb. Try to reach the correct size instead.

It’s great to be small. Big businesses dream to be more agile and flexible.

Workaholism is dumb. It creates more problems than it solves. Workaholics don’t accomplish more.

Cancel the word “entrepreneur”. Be a starter instead.

Make a dent in the universe: do something that matters. The best way to do that is to make something you want to use.

Start making something. The only thing that matters is what you do, not what you say, plan or think.

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Dos and don’ts.

The real question when it comes to business is how well you execute.

“No time” is no excuse -> if you don’t make the time for it, you don’t want it bad enough.

Always have a “why”. Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or a service. You have to believe in something and know what you are willing to fight for.

A strong stand is how you attract the world.

Live it or leave it: there is a difference between standing for something and saying you stand for something.

Don’t raise money->

  • you give up control
  • seek to cash out which hinders growth
  • it is addictive
  • it is usually a bad deal
  • you end up building what investors want – not what customers want
  • raising money is distracting.

Do you really need everything you think you need?

Start a business, not a startup. A business without a path to profit isn’t a business, it’s a hobby. Building a company without taking care of profits is like building a spaceship without taking care of gravity. So act like an actual business and you’ll have a better shot at succeeding.

You need a commitment strategy – not an exit strategy. Would you go into a relationship…planning to break up?

If you do manage to get a good thing going, keep it going. Good things don’t come that often.

Have less mass. Mass is increased by ->

  • long-term contracts
  • excess staff
  • permanent decisions
  • meetings
  • thick process
  • inventory
  • hardware, software, and tech lock-ins
  • long-term road maps
  • office politics.

Less is a good thing: embrace constraints. Limited resources force you to make do with what you got. There’s no room for waste, which forces you to be creative.

Build half a product, not a half-assed product. Cut your ambition in half, you can’t do everything perfectly. Lots of things get better as they get shorter. Getting to great starts by cutting the stuff that is “just good”.

There is the stuff you could do, stuff you want to do, and stuff you have to do. Start with stuff you have to do, the epicenter. To find it, ask yourself this: “if I took this away, would what I am selling still exist?”

Forget about the details at the beginning.

image 3
Dos and don’ts.

Decisions is progress: make the call fast. You can’t build on top of “we’ll decide later”. But you can build on top of “done”.

Be a curator. Say no to what doesn’t work, keep the best. Constantly look for things to remove, streamline, simplify.

When there is a problem, don’t throw more at it (more money, more people, etc) as it makes the problem bigger. Cut back instead.

Focus on what won’t change. The core of your business should be built on things that last. Things people want now AND ten years later. Fashion fades. Don’t focus on fashion.

Gears don’t matter. It’s not about the camera, but about the photographer.

When you make something, you also make a sub-product. That’s something you can sell. You just need to look for it and find it.

Get it out there. Launch now. Once your product does what it needs to do, launch it.

Get real: don’t do abstractions.

Questions to ensure you’re doing work that matters.
– Why are you doing this?
– What problem are you solving?
– Is this useful?
– Are you adding value?
– Will this change behavior?
– Is there an easier way?
– What could you be doing instead?
– Is it really worth it?

Interruption is the enemy of productivity: isolate yourself to get sh*t done.

Meetings are toxic.

  • If you do need meetings, set a timer (when it rings, the meeting is over)
  • Invite as few people as possible
  • Always have a clear agenda
  • Begin with specific problems
  • Meet where the problem is, not in a conference room
  • End with a solution whose someone’s task is to implement it.

Good enough is fine: we love solving hard problems with complex solutions cuz it’s exciting. It’s also dumb. Find a solution with maximum efficacy and minimum hassle.

Accomplish small victories often and fast to keep the momentum going.

Sometimes, it is better to quit than to preserve and be a hero.

Go to sleep.

Your estimates suck. No one can predict accurately what will happen in the upcoming years. The solution? Break the big things into smaller things. The smaller it is, the easiest it is to estimate.

Long lists don’t get done.

Make tiny decisions that yield big results.

Don’t copy. It skips understanding of the business and understanding is how you grow.

To avoid being copied, make yourself a part of your product or service. Decomoditize your product.

Pick a fight: Under Armor attacked Nike, Dunkin attacked Starbucks, Apple attacked Microsoft, etc. Pick your competitor and if they suck, say so.

Underdo your competition: if your competitor’s product has got 4 features like you, don’t go to 5. Go to 3. Make less, simpler, cheaper products to undermine the competition. Not the opposite, as this is a defensive reaction, and defensive people don’t lead. They follow.

Focus on you, not them.

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Dos and don’ts

Say no by default. Use the power of no to get your priorities straight. You rarely regret saying no.

Let your customers outgrow you. Some of your customers will stop using your product at some point because they evolve and that’s ok. Make sure you keep your product for your current AND future customers. Scaring away new customers is worse than losing current customers.

Don’t confuse enthusiasm with priority: sometimes you get a brand new idea at night and abandon everything to focus on it. In the morning, the idea doesn’t seem as awesome anymore. We get a lot of ideas, but most of them suck despite original feelings about them. So write your ideas on a piece of paper and let them cool off. Look at them again in a few days to see if they are worth pursuing.

Be at-home good: sometimes you buy stuff in a shop and you’re excited, but then you unpack it and it sucks. Do the opposite. Make products that make people even MORE excited when they use them at home.

Don’t write customers’ requests down. They don’t matter. The ones that matter will be repeated over and over again and you won’t be forgetting them anymore.

Welcome obscurity. It’s when no one knows who you are that you can make mistakes.

Build an audience. So when you have something to say, people will come to you, instead of you going to them. Speak, write, blog, tweet, make videos. Share information that is valuable.

Out-teach your competition – don’t outspend it. Most businesses focus on selling or servicing, but no one thinks about teaching. Teach others, and you’ll have fans quickly. Do like chefs. If you cook, write a cookbook. Don’t worry about anyone coming to put you out of business. It just doesn’t work like that.

Go behind the scenes: Show people how things are made, they love it.

Don’t be afraid to show your flaws.

Press releases are spam.

Don’t focus on big publications. Write to specialized magazines, bloggers, etc

Emulate drug dealers. Make products so good that clients come back asking for more.

Marketing is everything and is permanent. There is no marketing department -> it should be the whole company.

The overnight sensation is a myth. No one cares about you. You are not special. Deal with it.

Never hire someone to do something if you have not tried to do it yourself first. That makes sure you know what the future employee will do, how to hire them, how to manage them. Hire when it hurts.

Resumes are ridiculous.

Don’t hire GPAs. Don’t hire delegators. Hire managers people that come up with their own goals and execute them.

Hire great writers.

Don’t hire on interviews. Hire on work.

Own your bad news. When something goes off, someone will say it. It’s better if it is you.

Speed changes everything. Answer your clients right away.

Get everyone in the company to be connected to the customer.

You don’t create culture. It just happens. Culture is a byproduct of consistent behavior.

It’s not a problem until it’s a real problem.

Most of the problems you worry about never happen anyway.

The environment is very important. Build a rockstar environment (trust, autonomy, responsibility).

Act on inspiration, as inspiration has a deadline.

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