Rework – by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier
Date read: 8/4/18. Recommendation: 8/10.
Relevant to anyone building, running, or growing a business. Fried and Heinemeier offer valuable first-hand experience that goes against conventional, mediocre business advice. They discuss the approach and tactics they've used to grow their own software company, Basecamp, to reach over 3 million people around the world. Much of their advice centers around remaining small, frugal, and profitable. They caution against business plans, workaholics, and ramping up as an end goal. Instead favoring adaptability, hiring people who have lives outside of work, and simplicity. They even encourage letting your customers outgrow you, rather than altering your product to add complexity. Keep it simple and build something that makes it as easy as possible for new people to get on board (that's where the continued growth lies).
See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.
Plans let the past drive the future. They put blinders on you. "This is where we're going because, well, that's where we said we were going." And that's the problem: Plans are inconsistent with improvisation.
The timing of long-range plans creates problems because you're making decisions before you've begun, "You have the most information when you're doing something, not before you've done it."
Following a plan that has no relationship with reality is worse than having no plan at all.
Ramping up doesn't have to be your goal. Don't be insecure about running a small, fulfilling business.
-Try to make up for intellectual laziness with brute force = inelegant solutions
-"Workaholics aren't heroes. They don't save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done."
-"When people have something to do at home, they get down to business. They get their work done at the office because they have somewhere else to be."
-You want people who have a life outside of work and care about more than one thing -- shouldn't expect the job to be someone's entire life if you want to keep them around for the foreseeable future.
"The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use."
-Make hundreds of tiny decisions a day when you're building a product or service. If it's someone else's problem you're stabbing in dark. When you solve your own problem, the light comes on and you know what the right answer is.
"The original pitch idea is such a small part of a business that it's almost negligible. The real question is how well you execute."
"When you want something bad enough, you make the time–regardless of your other obligations. The truth is that most people just don't want it bad enough. Then they protect their ego with the excuse of time."
At Basecamp, they design their product to be as simple as possible because they believe software is too complex with too many features/buttons/confusion. They're comfortable with alienating certain people because the product from competition does more (but at the cost of being less intuitive).
Basecamp focuses on timeless desires (not trends): speed, simplicity, ease of use, clarity.
After their first product had been around for a while, a few early customers said they were growing out of the application and wanted them to change the product to mirror additional complexities and requirements. They said no. Justification: "We'd rather our customers grow out of our products eventually than never be able to grow into them in the first place."
There are always more people who are not using your product than people who are. Make it as easy as possible for those people to get on board. That's where your continued growth potential lies.
"Do less than your competitors to beat them. Solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to the competition."
Find the epicenter, ask yourself: "If I took this away, would what I'm selling still exist?" i.e. hot dog from a hot dog stand.
When things aren't working, don't throw more at the problem. Do less. Will force you to make tough calls and sort out what actually matters.
Content and putting in the work > tools
-Equipment is often a crutch for people who are desperate for shortcuts.
"Momentum fuels motivation." (and the same goes for inspiration)
-Get it out there, get feedback, don't squander your momentum/inspiration.
Inject what's unique about the way you think into what you sell - i.e. Zappos, customer service.
-Competitors can attempt to copy your product, but they can't copy how you sell it, support it, explain it, deliver it.
Enthusiasm for a new idea is not an accurate indicator of worth or priority. Let it marinate.
Build an audience/platform:
-Share information that's valuable to build a loyal audience. That way when you launch and need to build traction, the right people will already be listening.
"Instead of trying to outspend, outsell, or outsponsor competitors, try to out-teach them. Teaching probably isn't something your competitors are even thinking about."
-Forms a bond unlike traditional marketing tactics
-Teaching = loyalty, respect, trust.
-Share everything you know.
"Imperfections are real and people respond to real."
-Don't worry how you're supposed to sound, be real.
-Pare things down to their essence, but don't remove the poetry (too polished sounds robotic).
-Talk to customers the way you would to friends (explain things like you're sitting with them in person).
Give some away for free (free trials). You should be confident that the product/service is so great that people will come back for more.
"Trade the dream of overnight success for slow, measured growth. It's hard but you have to be patient. You have to grind it out. You have to do it for a long time before the right people notice."
Don't hire someone for a position until you've tried it first.
-Better understand the nature of the work, what a job well done looks like, know which questions to ask, and you'll be a much better manager.
"Don't hire for pleasure; hire to kill pain."
-Pass on hiring people you don't need, even if that person's a great catch. Worse problem to have smart people on board who aren't engaged/doing meaningful work.
"How long someone's been doing it is overrated. What matters is how well they've been doing it."
With a small team, you need people who are going to do work, not delegate. Delegators are deadweight. They love to pull people into meetings where they get to seem important.
Hire managers of one - people who come up with their own goals and execute.
-Look at background, have they run something on their own or launched their own projects?
-Great product advice: find someone who's capable of building something from scratch and seeing it through.
"Writing is today's currency for good ideas."
"Write to be read, don't write just to write."
-Think of one person then write for that person (not a mob).
"When something goes wrong, someone is going to tell the story. You'll be better off if it's you."
"When everything constantly needs approval, you create a culture of nonthinkers."