Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Rate: ****

Read: Cover to cover

Category: Small Business, Entrepreneurial

Twitter Review: A take-no-prisoners approach to running a business in the 21 century

A friend and I were talking about books over a delicious hot cup of coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop – no Starbucks for us.  I asked him what his favorite book for small biz was and he didn’t hesitate, didn’t waffle, didn’t look toward the ceiling – nope.  He said it right away.  Rework.  And then he smiled and said, “I just love that book.  It’s my bible.” Now, I’m going to backtrack a little (no I’m not going to talk about religion) and say that I find two approaches to business – one is hip and the other is hip replacement.  Chris Brogan – hip.  Donald Trump -hip replacement. Guy Kawasaki – hip.  Jack Welch – hip replacement.  Jason and David, co-founders of the remarkably successful 37 Signals (and if you don’t know the company, watch those stairs) definitely fall into the hip category.  They crush the old knee joint of business methodology, replacing it with a new, shiny, technologically advanced titanium implant.  Run faster, jump higher, feel better.  They write like they have a stop watch tied to their ass.  Each thought comes with a hastily rendered illustration and then a page or two on expanding the idea.  Business growth?  Overrated.  Mission statement?  Yawn.  Press releases?  Spam.  Advertising?  For suckers.  They reject growth, meetings, budgets, boards, salespeople and almost everything else in the “real world.”  But you can’t argue with their success.  In 1999 they started out as a three-person Web-design/consulting firm.  Unhappy with the project management software available, they created their own and named the company 37 Signals.  Five years later, they have generated millions of dollars in profit a year and continue to make boatloads of money to this day, with a very small staff.  In Rework, they take the model home of business and in their words, “take it down to the studs,” rebuilding in a new way.  This isn’t an autobiography (Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, Zappos or the Method Method by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry) – this is an advice book.  Easy to read, outrageous, funny and double espressoed, these two absolutely make you believe even if you know nothing about business (or everything), you can build your dream if you just do it.

My Takeaway

Let me just say, my knees ache a little in the morning, so I know what the old boys say and do in business.  And it served us well.  But so did coupons in the mail (replaced by Groupon) and the good old boys network (replaced by, LinkedIn).  Time to put the old dogs down.  Humanely, of course.  But down nevertheless.  I like their advice.  I think it democratizes business – who can get in, who can succeed, what you have to do to succeed.  They say nonsense to the old standard practices and I agree.  I want to put in a caveat here – I think their advice is for people who don’t anguish over keeping their desk clean, order their closets by color or arrange their spices alphabetically.

Elaine Joli

all things Jason Fried


6 thoughts on “Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

  1. Elaine

    I like your Hip – Hip Replacement. Yes my knees ache a bit in the morning too.

    I am reading Rework now – it arrived at my home on 24th december and I was more excited by it than the rest of my ‘scheduled’ christmas presents. It doesn’t disappoint.

    I do however live in two worlds – a connected, human, entrepreneurial community online and IRL – and here I find Rework to be of the same mindset. And on the other hand, a world is outside the front door – doesn’t do social, fears for its future and is suspicious of the current zeitgeist.

    I try to avoid too much contact with the later – but at the same time the latter group are more than likely to be your consumers and clients.

    I wonder if the latest business skill is to be a rework-er without making the non-rework-ers feel unsettled?


    • Hi James,
      So true. You have hit the nail on the head – there are many more people who have no interest in changing, adapting, engaging in change than those who embrace it. I have a many friends, in fact, who still won’t buy something online. I know. Crazy.
      I think the idea of providing a great product then engaging and ‘enchanting’ (read Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment) clients, customers, vendors and partners is the business skill you are talking about. I have an interview article with David Heinemeier about how his cleaning lady was inspiration for his business model that you might enjoy.
      Thank you so much for your terrific comments.

  2. Hi Elaine

    I actually had a strange experience with Guy Kawasaki’s book.

    I followed Guy on Twitter when I first joined the service – he is one of my heroes – but his tweet rate was like staring straight into the firehose.

    I wanted to hear all about Enchantment but could not cope with his twitter style so I ordered the book from Amazon and then unfollowed him!

    He bombarded me so much I gave his 10 bucks just so I could get some calm. Not sure I was enchanted but I was ‘converted’.


    • Ha! There’s more than a few “do as I say, not as I do” authors out there, I’m afraid. You know, I was a fan of Seth Godin – his little books were very good. So I followed his blog but I got so sick of his pontificating, holier than thou approach. He got to be less and less inspirational and more depressing. Had to let him go.

      • Fantastic – Im still with Seth but Mark Scheafer made a good point the other day on how Seth is a channels man – broadcasting and not doing any engagement.

        He has that choice with his huge following and he does still hook up with and advocate some great projects (He blesses the Rework book for instance)

        Its always good to see there are exceptions to the rules we all try and follow 🙂

      • I think Seth doesn’t engage because he has no time for “Great post, Seth. Thanks.” “Really insightful Seth. Love your blog.” I think he succeeds primarily because he actually cares about “movements”, ideas and change at the 10,000 foot level and I’m absolutely positive he hates the word “followers”. I have watched several video interviews with him and he is really “enchanting”, incredibly smart and really comes across with absolutely no arrogance at all. He is never “selling” anything. He is authentic and very focused on making a difference while he is here on this earth. I just can’t read about it every day.
        On another point, there was a book I just reread published from his Domino Project – It had the most bizarre title – End Malaria – I bought it because Seth had been promoting it and I really would like to help fund a cause that ends malaria. But I thought it was book about ending malaria which I presumed I would never read. When I got the book, I was totally flabbergasted. It is an outstanding compilation of business people sharing a business lessons. Totally awesome.
        So, I think Seth has his heart and mind in the right place, and thank God he has the Internet, but I agree with Mark’s advice; I don’t think I can use his model for my blog either:) Ha!

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