Unorthodox But Excellent Business Advice

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Two recent posts — “Up, Up And Away!” and “Having A Theme Is Fun And Re-Enforces Your Goals” discussed re-working my business. Therefore, when a friend gave me “Rework”, I put it right on top of my pile of books to read.

It is written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Fried and Hansson’s company, 37Signals, develops software such as Basecamp, Highrise and Campfire. These products are extremely profitable having generated millions and millions of dollars.

By page 9, I was hooked. These guys espouse some truly un-orthodox business philosophies that all make sense. For instance, it is almost a cliché that you learn from your mistakes. However, in one section entitled “Learning From Your Mistakes Is Overrated”, Fried and Hansson ask “What do you really learn from mistakes?” They convincingly suggest that you only learn what not to do but that a mistake doesn’t help you figure out what to do next.

In contrast, they argue that success is a much better learning mechanism. Success allows you to know what works, gives you confidence to continue on your path and gives you experience to build upon it.

Another section entitled “Planning Is Guessing” debunks the importance of business plans and long-term planning. They argue that such efforts are actually just guesses and virtually impossible to execute without making adjustments. Further, they warn that rigidly sticking to your “guess”
discourages you from adapting to a better course of action, or taking advantage of opportunities which you didn’t original foresee. They add that long-range planning is done early on when you do not have all pertinent information. Over the course of a project, new and important information is
learned and being flexible allows you to better incorporate this information. They don’t argue that business owners shouldn’t plan but rather that they shouldn’t obsess over it or write more than a few pages.

Another one of my favorites is entitled “Why Grow?”. Here the authors discuss how many companies are infatuated with growth. They counter, however, that growth is over-rated, is often done to boost egos and that being small is a great destination. They point out that small companies are more agile, and can grow quickly if needed. In contrast, large companies can’t adapt as quickly and face problems if they have to downsize. They urge you not to make assumption about how big you should be. Grow slow and see what feels right. Indeed, Fried and Hansson practice what they preach
keeping 37Signals to around 16 employees.

These are just a few of the pearls of wisdom in Rework. Having read scores of business books which contain many of the same concepts, I can tell you that this one is well worth the time.

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