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“A.S.A.P. is poison. Underdo the competition. Meetings are toxic. Fire the workaholics. Emulate drug dealers. Pick a fight. Planning is guessing. Inspiration is perishable.”
And that’s just the back cover of Rework, the new book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. The two founders of Chicago software firm 37Signals turn Management 101 on its head, where it gets a well-deserved headache. Their book is a manifesto for the new way work is getting done by small businesses, combined with a manual on how to do it.
And it’s really a relief. When I was in corporate America back in the day, we spent most of our time working brutal hours so we could be seen working brutal hours; obsessing about our competitors (I never really cared what they were doing but everyone else did, so I feigned equal paranoia just to get along); piling meetings on top of useless meetings, bemused that the CEO who called the meeting was always seriously late. That was the Eighties and Nineties. If you’re starting a business in 2010, consider yourself fortunate because you have much better models to emulate.
Rework is great on so many levels, from the economy of the writing to the great illustrations by Mike Rohde, which make the lessons it teaches resonate in a part of your brain the words don’t necessarily touch. There are scores of takeaways you can use right now. Just a couple of examples:
- Resumes are pretty meaningless when it comes to hiring people. Customized cover letters that are crafted just for your company and perfectly executed are the things to look for. Then have a candidate work for you for a day or two and see how she behaves. That’s a much better indicator of future results than all the references and resume highlights in the world.
- Hire people only when you are feeling the pain of the work. Remember the Internet era heyday when companies hired just so they could have really smart people? Fried and Hansson caution that bringing on people when there isn’t extremely important work for them to do right away is a disaster waiting to happen.
- I love this one: when you write a project or business plan, the authors suggest using a fat Sharpie on a big sheet of paper or whiteboard, rather than using a pen or a word processor. Get the big picture right before starting on the fine points.
- It’s a blessing that no one knows about your little company right now. Embrace obscurity rather than lament it, because your mistakes will only be known to a few. Later on, in the glare of the floodlights, you can’t hide.
- Corporate heroics are just plain stupid. We’ve all seen the unnecessary all-nighters and the people who pull them just so others will notice their work ethic. If they’d done real work during the day, they could have clocked out at 5. Less foosball, more work.
- About emulating drug dealers: you have to give them this — they know how to market a specific product, create demand through sampling, and assure repeat customers who they then supply with excellent customer service. An odd profession to model but an interesting point.
- People who just delegate and manage are pretty much washed out of the work force. Everyone has to do the work.
- Don’t miss the opportunity to sell your business’s by-products. (Did you know Henry Ford took the wood chip waste from making Model T’s and processed it into charcoal, resulting in the Kingsford Charcoal brand? (Am I the only one who didn’t know this?) Rework is a by-product of 37Signal’s experience creating and selling software. It’ll be a bestseller, and will fuel even more sales of their software. Pretty clever.
If you like Rework, also read Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin. (Godin is quoted on the cover of Rework: “Ignore this book at your own peril.”) Godin focuses on the new definition of work and the power of individuals and companies to make themselves indispensable. And if you want to do a deep dive on the relationship aspect of customer retention, add this one to your list: Who’s Got Your Back by Keith Ferrazzi. Between these three books, you’ll have a very forward-thinking template for success in entrepreneurship and small business management.
Written By Mitchell York, About.com Guide to Entrepreneurs