What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from “Rework”


A couple of years ago there was a book that hit the bestseller lists of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Amazon and The Sunday Times. After having the first read, I couldn’t help advising it to everybody around.

It’s actually called Rework. A book by 37signals (Basecamp now) company, written by its founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. These guys gained success and big money starting and doing the business differently from so-called business standards. You’ve probably heard of at least one of the companies they created:

Already mentioned Basecamp – ultimate tools for managing any business project used by thousands of businesses.

Highrise – an instrument to efficiently work with your contracts, documents.

Backpack  – to store and share your business information.

Ruby on Rails – the server-side web application written in Ruby (I constantly notice various information about it across the net).

And more successful projects. Pretty impressive list, agree?

This book covers a success story of one company and in our days is becoming more and more in-demand, predictive, and game-changing for both corporations and skeleton start-ups. It’s a high time to get this book off the shelf. If you did not get one, I’ll try to share its key ideas in this post.

The authors set a fine line between theory and practice as their advice are based on own everyday work and experience of using own products in building a fast-growing business project. We all love to dive into and learn from real example, so let’s not waste time!


Who can benefit from this book? The answer from the authors:

  • Active born entrepreneurs
  • Intense small business owners
  • Corporate world employees who don’t like their boss and dream to have their own business
  • Everybody who thinks that business is not for them, did not think of it at all or even consider business as a “dirty world”.

As I cannot and should not retell all the book, let’s focus on some key points only:

“Ignore real world”

Don’t feel depressed when they say “it’s not for you”, “you gonna lose”, “you are crazy, nobody needs it“, “it won’t work in the real world”, etc. Just start doing what you are passionate about, be unique and create new tendencies for the “real world”, not adjust yourself to them. This exactly craziness is something that one day can make you memorable. Rely more on your serendipity than on advice from “experienced professionals”.


Every marketing guru will tell you that a detailed business plan is what you need for a long run. Actually, it doesn’t even bring you closer to the reality you’ll deal with. Moreover, planning and improvisation are two opposite things. And the latter is very often a way to creativity. A general plan is okay, just don’t dwell on it. All in all, the authors advise you to act more and to plan less.


The book sets out one clear thought – don’t let yourself or anybody in your team to work more than necessary. Working more doesn’t mean you’ll achieve better results of faster success. It only means you work more. Actually, increasing odds to be get emotionally and physically exhausted. And in this case, you may say goodbye to creativity, new ideas and inspiration because of the overstrain. If a workaholic has nothing to do outside their work, they are less likely to be able to make right decisions and conclusions at work.

MBA degree and why it’s not necessary

It’s not a proper degree in business administrator that makes you able to start and run your business. It’s perfect if you got one, but if not, it’s not necessary. As well as perfect garment, suitcase or high risk-taking abilities are not necessary. These are stereotypes many business advisors still tend to praise. Citing one sage, “the only person impressed by your PhD is your mother.” No matter what your qualification is, your skills and ambitions matter.

Create something you would like to use yourself

Of course, create something that solves a real customer’s need. Something you would happily use yourself. Something that makes your own life easier. This is exactly the strategy Basecamp follows – they always use their own software for managing business projects. When you try to solve someone’s problem you have never dealt with, it’ll take much more time and efforts to understand it, to find the right ways and create the right strategy around it.

How to start

This is an especially painful question for perfectionists who are always looking for the only “best” day, time and place to start making their ideas real. The priceless advice from Rework – just start doing. Anything. If it fails, you try another variant. Don’t look for excuses – just start trying. There are a lot of cool real examples in the book of how famous people, in business and creatives, achieved popularity after getting this rule into a habit.

Have clear and strong concept

Without a strong philosophy and concept, which are your further integral parts of a brand building, you won’t be able to create a clear memorable image of yourself  in people’s heads. You need to have this concept and fight for it. There is always someone who is going to get their claws out when they notice a strong competitor; there is always someone who’s ready to support and love you in the long run. Would Apple be so popular without its genial marketer? Just stay in harmony with yourself and protect your concepts.

You need less than you think

Do you really think you need 10 employees or 2-3 should be enough? This is a question the mantra-paragraph starts. You more likely don’t need that huge sum of money; don’t need so much time to start; don’t need an office or a storehouse and you can start from home. Are you sure you need to pay for tons of inefficient ads or PR agent? Or probably you know your product or service much better and can genuinely tell about it without a marketer? Minimalism is the best trend not only in web design, so that’s a good food for thought.

What should be avoided

Small things are easily moved. Big things like big companies require a lot of energy. The authors advise staying as small as possible. Try to minimize too big staff, meetings, bureaucracy, resources accounting, software and hardware, long-term planning, office policy. All this is your burden.

Simple and quality product

Don’t go overboard – create something simple but useful. Don’t focus on ten things at a time when you can spend your precious time for perfecting and polishing just one. Don’t be afraid to cut off failed things just like famous film directors cut off good scenes from the films to leave only best ones.

Ignore details on early stages

Rework authors claim that if don’t follow this simple rule, all your project can simply deadlock. Create a strong foundation, implement it and don’t pay too much attention to unneeded details on early stages. You risk wasting too much time concentrating on unneeded things that can be actually further resolved by themselves (with a help of clients or due to the initial plan changes).

Focus on constant things

This statement implies that if you chase trends too much (for example, you want to have the only super modern website with all trendy effects to present your business) you risk losing the essence of ideas. It’s better to develop unique ways to conquer the clients and outperform the competitors rather than invest into transient fashion.

Pay attention to by-side products

And sell them. There are a lot of chances you’ll get by-side products when creating the main one. Whatever it’s a wood, plastic, book, blog, software, etc. “Rework” is actually a by-side product that brought not only good book sales revenue, but increased the overall popularity and clientele of the company.

Don’t postpone a product release

The book authors insist on early product release even if it’s not 100% ready. The shop showcase is not ready, the software is limited in functions?. Don’t worry. You need a kind of verification with your audience that this product will solve a real need, the verification that your product is required. This will give you more confidence, ideas based on feedbacks, and more practical vision an understanding of your own product.

Toxic breaks and meetings

All these are huge distractions. Do you have any colleague who likes to chat about this and that all the time, asks about personal life or invite for a cup of tea? Ten-minute everyday meetings and other unnecessary breaks are a big enemy of productivity. At the end, you can simply get no energy to work vigorously.

Go to sleep

If you don’t want to lose your creativity, become irritable and stubborn, go to bed. When your brain is tired, it prefers to switch to minor things, so in any case it’s better to give it some rest.

Small decisions are better

The main point of this paragraph is that small steps, small decisions are easier and more productive for any business project. When you make huge important decisions, it’ll be hard to remain objective and follow big goals in the long run. Let small decisions pave the way to the big one, so the latter come organically.


The right way to outperform the competitors is not copying them. There are a lot of companies that nervously monitor the moves of the competitors to copy them. Or even start their business with a copy. In this case you are doomed to run after someone all the time. Don’t exhaust yourself for competitors. Think about you and not about them. You better fulfill your products with your authentic self, your identity and unique ideas. Even if they seem crazy.

Of course, marketing guru will tell you to be very attentive to what competitors do – it will help you get advantages on the market. But this is the most true for the price only. People are selective, some spend days surfing the net and comparing the prices of similar propositions. This is where you should be mindful (read: not set the price $100 when the average is $10).

But it’s so much more exciting feeling to set the standard yourself instead of just chasing the competitors. What if one of these days they will start copying you? What’s worse, actually: to copy someone or being copied? Food for thought!

Say “no” to customers

Don’t sacrifice your product for one, even one of the most important clients, adjusting it to only their needs. Customer care guru will tell you that it’s a controversial statement. But if you add something to your product that is required for one person and will be unneeded for the rest, think about saying “no”. Just be honest. When reading this, I recalled one interview of Tom Hanks, who said that the word that brought him success and happiness in his career and life was this exactly “no” (to uninteresting, unneeded, tiresome projects).

Hire someone who can write

No matter what’s the actual qualification of this person. If they write correctly and creatively, they more likely can communicate well and connect with your audience on the highest level of understanding. Today good writing is a valuable currency for great ideas and attracting more people. Moreover, don’t limit yourself with your own location – the best employees live all over the world. Remote workers very often and do more and better that some of your locals.

Don’t create corporate culture

Corporate culture, white collars, team building, especially if they are quite forceful, is often the reasons for many employees to leave. You don’t need these conventions.

To finalize

And these are just a small part of the book stockpile of ideas. If you get the book, await for more intrigue and nontrivial entrepreneurial advice.

Hope this was inspiring. Hope inspiration for you means a reason to act!

If you’d like to share any ideas on the subject or probably ask the question, don’t wait, use the form for comments below.

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