Small business consultants know that people talk about 90% of the time and communicate about 10%. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is one of those rare books that flip the two.
The authors get right to the point. Each chapter is at most a quick and conversational three pages, but this is not to say that it’s lightweight. Instead, it quickly and efficiently states its position on a wide variety of topics with such clarity and conviction that it’s hard to disagree.
Consider the following statement on employees in a chapter titled “They’re Not 13:”
"When you treat people like children, you get children’s work. Yet that’s exactly how a lot of companies and managers treat their employees. Employees need to ask permission before they can do anything. They need to get approval for every tiny expenditure. It’s surprising they don’t have to get a hall pass to go take a shit."
In almost all business books, this would seem jarring and contrived, yet in Rework, it fits the tone and the voice of the authors; this makes sense since a follow-up chapter is entitled “Sound Like You.”
And Fried and Hansson have been honing their voice and business theories via their popular blog Signal versus Noise for years now. The blog is based on the authors’ own work with their successful web-based programming firm, 37signals—and the book, in turn, is based on their blog.
As such, some of their opinions run counter to generally accepted ideas of business management, such as their early chapter entitled, “Learning from Mistakes Is Overrated.” There, the authors argue that success is a much better teacher than failure, but they back up their premise with a Harvard Business School study that supports their point of view, concluding that that “Success is the experience that actually counts.”
Bold statements to be sure, and at times, these and other statements come off as a bit too pat. Mistakes are indeed overrated as learning experiences, but they are nonetheless learning experiences.
Still, both authors aren’t business philosophers writing a book based upon theoretical research; instead they are businessmen—and successful ones at that—who deal with the daily pressures and demands of running a vibrant technology company. Their experiences and insights are hard-won and this is the essence of why Rework . . . works.
The ideas and concepts espoused in the book are wholly appropriate for other innovative companies that want to know how to run a small, frugal, and profitable business for the long term.
If this sounds like you, Rework should be your next read.
Reviewer Logan Lo is a small business consultant under the guise of an intellectual property attorney and a certified general real estate appraiser. He is currently an associate at the commercial litigation firm Woods & Lonergan in their Intellectual Property and Real Estate Practices.