Notes from Rework [raw]
Raw Kindle notes for Rework Jason Fried
We have something new to say about building, running, and growing (or not growing) a business.
The moment the first hunter-gatherer set foot on an Australian beach was the moment that Homo sapiens climbed to the top rung in the food chain on a particular landmass and thereafter became the deadliest species in the annals of planet Earth.
the first wave of Sapiens colonisation was one of the biggest and swiftest ecological disasters to befall the animal kingdom.
The First Wave Extinction, which accompanied the spread of the foragers, was followed by the Second Wave Extinction, which accompanied the spread of the farmers, and gives us an important perspective on the Third Wave Extinction, which industrial activity is causing today. Don’t believe tree-huggers who claim that our ancestors lived in harmony with nature. Long before the Industrial Revolution, Homo sapiens held the record among all organisms for driving the most plant and animal species to their extinctions. We have the dubious distinction of being the deadliest species in the annals of biology.
Many anthropological and archaeological studies indicate that in simple agricultural societies with no political frameworks beyond village and tribe, human violence was responsible for about 15 per cent of deaths, including 25 per cent of male deaths.
With the move to permanent villages and the increase in food supply, the population began to grow. Giving up the nomadic lifestyle enabled women to have a child every year.
Some people consider us an Internet company, but that makes us cringe. Internet companies are known for hiring compulsively, spending wildly, and failing spectacularly. That’s not us. We’re small (sixteen people as this book goes to press), frugal, and profitable.
First, we’ll start out by gutting business. We’ll take it down to the studs and explain why it’s time to throw out the traditional notions of what it takes to run a business. Then we’ll rebuild it. You’ll learn how to begin, why you need less than you think, when to launch, how to get the word out, whom (and when) to hire, and how to keep it all under control.
You don’t have to work miserable 60/80/100-hour weeks to make it work. 10–40 hours a week is plenty. You don’t have to deplete your life savings or take on a boatload of risk. Starting a business on the side while keeping your day job can provide all the cash flow you need. You don’t even need an office.
The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you.
With so much failure in the air, you can’t help but breathe it in. Don’t inhale. Don’t get fooled by the stats. Other people’s failures are just that: other people’s failures.
Unless you’re a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy. There are just too many factors that are out of your hands: market conditions, competitors, customers, the economy, etc.
Now this isn’t to say you shouldn’t think about the future or contemplate how you might attack upcoming obstacles. That’s a worthwhile exercise. Just don’t feel you need to write it down or obsess about it. If you write a big plan, you’ll most likely never look at it anyway. Plans more than a few pages long just wind up as fossils in your file cabinet.
Decide what you’re going to do this week, not this year. Figure out the next most important thing and do that.
Maybe the right size for your company is five people. Maybe it’s forty. Maybe it’s two hundred. Or maybe it’s just you and a laptop. Don’t make assumptions about how big you should be ahead of time. Grow slow and see what feels right—premature hiring is the death of many companies. And avoid huge growth spurts too—they can cause you to skip right over your appropriate size.
Don’t be insecure about aiming to be a small business. Anyone who runs a business that’s sustainable and profitable, whether it’s big or small, should be proud.
Our culture celebrates the idea of the workaholic. We hear about people burning the midnight oil. They pull all-nighters and sleep at the office. It’s considered a badge of honor to kill yourself over a project. No amount of work is too much work. Not only is this workaholism unnecessary, it’s stupid. Working more doesn’t mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more.
Workaholics make the people who don’t stay late feel inadequate for “merely” working reasonable hours. That leads to guilt and poor morale all around.
To do great work, you need to feel that you’re making a difference. That you’re putting a meaningful dent in the universe. That you’re part of something important. This doesn’t mean you need to find the cure for cancer. It’s just that your efforts need to feel valuable. You want your customers to say, “This makes my life better.” You want to feel that if you stopped doing what you do, people would notice.
As you get going, keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service. You have to believe in something. You need to have a backbone. You need to know what you’re willing to fight for. And then you need to show the world.
A strong stand is how you attract superfans. They point to you and defend you. And they spread the word further, wider, and more passionately than any advertising could.
Strong opinions aren’t free. You’ll turn some people off. They’ll accuse you of being arrogant and aloof. That’s life. For everyone who loves you, there will be others who hate you. If no one’s upset by what you’re saying, you’re probably not pushing hard enough.
Standing for something isn’t just about writing it down. It’s about believing it and living it.
You need less than you think
Start a business, not a startup
Startups try to ignore this reality. They are run by people trying to postpone the inevitable, i.e., that moment when their business has to grow up, turn a profit, and be a real, sustainable business.
Build half a product, not a half-assed product
You can turn a bunch of great ideas into a crappy product real fast by trying to do them all at once. You just can’t do everything you want to do and do it well.
So sacrifice some of your darlings for the greater good. Cut your ambition in half. You’re better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole.
Most of your great ideas won’t seem all that great once you get some perspective, anyway. And if they truly are that fantastic, you can always do them later.
Whenever you can, swap “Let’s think about it” for “Let’s decide on it.” Commit to making decisions. Don’t wait for the perfect solution. Decide and move forward.
Making the call is making progress
When you get in that flow of making decision after decision, you build momentum and boost morale.
The problem comes when you postpone decisions in the hope that a perfect answer will come to you later. It won’t. You’re as likely to make a great call today as you are tomorrow.
When things aren’t working, the natural inclination is to throw more at the problem. More people, time, and money. All that ends up doing is making the problem bigger. The right way to go is the opposite direction: Cut back.
The core of your business should be built around things that won’t change. Things that people are going to want today and ten years from now. Those are the things you should invest in.
When you make something, you always make something else. You can’t make just one thing. Everything has a by-product. Observant and creative business minds spot these by-products and see opportunities.
When is your product or service finished? When should you put it out on the market? When is it safe to let people have it? Probably a lot sooner than you’re comfortable with. Once your product does what it needs to do, get it out there.
Think about it this way: If you had to launch your business in two weeks, what would you cut out? Funny how a question like that forces you to focus.
Don’t mistake this approach for skimping on quality, either. You still want to make something great. This approach just recognizes that the best way to get there is through iterations. Stop imagining what’s going to work. Find out for real.
If you’re constantly staying late and working weekends, it’s not because there’s too much work to be done. It’s because you’re not getting enough done at work. And the reason is interruptions.
The worst interruptions of all are meetings.
Find a judo solution, one that delivers maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Judo solutions are all about getting the most out of doing the least. Whenever you face an obstacle, look for a way to judo it.
Good enough is fine
That means there’s no glamorous work. You don’t get to show off your amazing skills. You just build something that gets the job done and then move on.
Momentum fuels motivation.
The way you build momentum is by getting something done and then moving on to the next thing. No one likes to be stuck on an endless project with no finish line in sight.
A lot of times it’s better to be a quitter than a hero.
The task was worth it when you thought it would cost two hours, not sixteen. In those sixteen hours, you could have gotten a bunch of other things done.
Forgoing sleep is a bad idea. Sure, you get those extra hours right now, but you pay in spades later: You destroy your creativity, morale, and attitude.
We’re all terrible estimators. We think we can guess how long something will take, when we really have no idea.
That’s why estimates that stretch weeks, months, and years into the future are fantasies. The truth is you just don’t know what’s going to happen that far in advance.
The solution: Break the big thing into smaller things.
Start making smaller to-do lists too.
Long lists are guilt trips. The longer the list of unfinished items, the worse you feel about it. And at a certain point, you just stop looking at it because it makes you feel bad. Then you stress out and the whole thing turns into a big mess.
Big decisions are hard to make and hard to change.
Instead, make choices that are small enough that they’re effectively temporary.
If you’re successful, people will try to copy what you do. It’s just a fact of life. But there’s a great way to protect yourself from copycats: Make you part of your product or service. Inject what’s unique about the way you think into what you sell. Decommoditize your product. Make it something no one else can offer.
If you think a competitor sucks, say so. When you do that, you’ll find that others who agree with you will rally to your side. Being the anti-______ is a great way to differentiate yourself and attract followers.
In the end, it’s not worth paying much attention to the competition anyway. Why not? Because worrying about the competition quickly turns into an obsession.
Focus on yourself instead. What’s going on in here is way more important than what’s going on out there. When you spend time worrying about someone else, you can’t spend that time improving yourself.
It’s so easy to say yes. Yes to another feature, yes to an overly optimistic deadline, yes to a mediocre design. Soon, the stack of things you’ve said yes to grows so tall you can’t even see the things you should really be doing.
Start getting into the habit of saying no—even to many of your best ideas. Use the power of no to get your priorities straight. You rarely regret saying no. But you often wind up regretting saying yes.
Let your customers outgrow you
When you let customers outgrow you, you’ll most likely wind up with a product that’s basic—and that’s fine. Small, simple, basic needs are constant. There’s an endless supply of customers who need exactly that.
And there are always more people who are not using your product than people who are. Make sure you make it easy for these people to get on board. That’s where your continued growth potential
And there are always more people who are not using your product than people who are. Make sure you make it easy for these people to get on board.
Coming up with a great idea gives you a rush. You start imagining the possibilities and the benefits. And of course, you want all that right away. So you drop everything else you’re working on and begin pursuing your latest, greatest idea. Bad move. The enthusiasm you have for a new idea is not an accurate indicator of its true worth. What seems like a sure-fire hit right now often gets downgraded to just a “nice to have” by morning. And “nice to have” isn’t worth putting everything else on hold.
No one knows who you are right now. And that’s just fine. Being obscure is a great position to be in. Be happy you’re in the shadows. Use this time to make mistakes without the whole world hearing about them.
All companies have customers. Lucky companies have fans. But the most fortunate companies have audiences. An audience can be your secret weapon.
An audience returns often—on its own—to see what you have to say. This is the most receptive group of customers and potential customers you’ll ever have.
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. Most businesses focus on selling or servicing, but teaching never even occurs to them.
Teach and you’ll form a bond you just don’t get from traditional marketing tactics.
As a business owner, you should share everything you know too.
So emulate famous chefs. They cook, so they write cookbooks.
Nobody likes plastic flowers
Don’t be afraid to show your flaws. Imperfections are real and people respond to real. It’s why we like real flowers that wilt, not perfect plastic ones that never change.
Don’t be afraid to show your flaws. Imperfections are real and people respond to real. It’s why we like real flowers that wilt, not perfect plastic ones that never change. Don’t worry about how you’re supposed to sound and how you’re supposed to act. Show the world what you’re really like, warts and all.
Wabi-sabi values character and uniqueness over a shiny facade. It teaches that cracks and scratches in things should be embraced. It’s also about simplicity.
It’s a beautiful way to put it: Leave the poetry in what you make. When something becomes too polished, it loses its soul. It seems robotic.
Drug dealers are astute businesspeople. They know their product is so good they’re willing to give a little away for free upfront. They know you’ll be back for more—with money. Emulate drug dealers. Make your product so good, so addictive, so “can’t miss” that giving customers a small, free taste makes them come back with cash in hand.
You will not be a big hit right away. You will not get rich quick. You are not so special that everyone else will instantly pay attention. No one cares about you. At least not yet. Get used to it.
Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first. That way, you’ll understand the nature of the work. You’ll know what a job well done looks like. You’ll know how to write a realistic job description and which questions to ask in an interview. You’ll know whether to hire someone full-time or part-time, outsource it, or keep doing it yourself (the last is preferable, if possible).
Don’t hire for pleasure; hire to kill pain. Always ask yourself: What if we don’t hire anyone?
With a small team, you need people who are going to do work, not delegate work. Everyone’s got to be producing. No one can be above the work.
It’s crazy not to hire the best people just because they live far away. Especially now that there’s so much technology out there making it easier to bring everyone together online.
When something goes wrong, someone is going to tell the story. You’ll be better off if it’s you.
Getting back to people quickly is probably the most important thing you can do when it comes to customer service.
Getting back to people quickly is probably the most important thing you can do when it comes to customer service. It’s amazing how much that can defuse a bad situation and turn it into a good one.
We all have ideas. Ideas are immortal. They last forever. What doesn’t last forever is inspiration. Inspiration is like fresh fruit or milk: It has an expiration date. If you want to do something, you’ve got to do it now. You can’t put it on a shelf and wait two months to get around to it. You can’t just say you’ll do it later. Later, you won’t be pumped up about it anymore.