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Book summary: ReWork

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The book in a paragraph

ReWork makes the case that many of the traditional approaches to work and entrepreneurship are wrong. In traditional workplaces it is common to see overplanning, excessive meetings, growth for growth’s sake, and entrenched bureaucracy. This can all be avoided through a more straightforward, efficient, and human-centred approach to work and business. ReWork gives practical advice on everything from productivity, marketing, hiring, and customer service, through a series of short, actionable and easy-to-read chapters.

Key takeaways from ReWork

This is my summary of the key takeaways from ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. The book offers a fresh perspective on work and business, challenging many traditional ideas. These notes are informal and may contain quotes from the book, mixed with my own thoughts.

Plans are just guesses. It’s good to think about the future, just don’t obsess about it.

There’s never a good time to start a business. Just start, in whatever way you can. A few hours a week will be enough to begin with. If you really want to do it, this is not a big sacrifice. If the business doesn’t work out, what have you lost? You remain where you were.

Ideas are cheap. Most people use lack of time as an excuse not to turn an idea into a business. Most of the time, this is fear of failure talking, and we use the excuse of time to soothe our egos.

Solve your own problems, then sell those solutions to other people. When you set out to solve other people’s problems from the start, you’re grasping in the dark. It’s much harder than solving your own problems. Your own problems are real.

Great businesses know why they do it. They have a point of view. They stand for something. They have a backbone and fight for their point of view.

When you stand for something, decisions become easy and obvious. When you don’t stand for something, everything becomes an argument, everything is debatable.

Standing for something is not the same as having a mission statement. Having a mission statement is worthless. Knowing what you stand for, and living and breathing that is what actually counts.

Don’t focus on the details early on. Broad strokes is good enough. Start defining the epicentre of the thing you’re building. Details can come later. A useful test: imagine what you could remove while still retaining the essence of the thing you’re building).

Be a curator. Don’t sell or promote everything. Actually try things out, and promote what really works.

People obsess over fancy tools, a nice office etc… none of this is actually as important as you think. It’s definitely not required to get started.

Sell your byproducts. Every time you make something, you make something else. One of the best examples of this is content – when you make a product, you generate writing which can be repurposed into content that you can share publicly.

Meetings have a huge cost. 10 people in a 1 hour meeting does not cost you 1 hour. It costs at least 10hrs of productive time. What could you get done in 10 hours of focussed work instead? Is the meeting worth it? Sometimes it is worth it, but less often than most people think.

Say no by default. Say no to additional projects, meetings, and tasks. This helps you maintain focus on the core activities that drive your business.

Let your customers outgrow you. If you try to accommodate every customer’s evolving needs, you’ll stop serving your target customers well. Be honest with your customers about what you can and cannot provide. If their needs exceed your capabilities, guide them towards alternative solutions.

Build an audience and out teach your competition. Don’t ‘sell’. Instead, build trust and respect. Creating fans by giving them free value. Big companies never do this.

Show people how you do things. The big and little things. People will see the sweat behind your products and services and appreciate you for it.

Hire when it hurts. Don’t hire for comfort. Hire when it’s absolutely critical that you need someone. When someone on your team leaves, don’t immediately rehire for that position. See if you can get away without someone in that position for a while.

Don’t try to hire your way out of problems. Instead, ‘learn’ your way out of problems. Even if you hire afterwards, you’ll be in a much better position.

Don’t hire professional delegators. Everyone needs to be able and prepared to do the work.

Hire managers of one. These are people who can set direction and priorities – for themselves. They are people who can build something from scratch, with minimal handholding. These people will allow your team to deliver more and manage less.

Hire good writers. If you can’t choose between candidates for a job, hire the best writer.

Good writing is about more than just ‘writing’. Clear writing = clear thinking, putting yourself in the audience’s shoes, and knowing what to leave out. These are great qualities in any position.

Don’t create policy and bureaucracy for everything that goes wrong. Policies are often codified over-reactions to things that are unlikely to go wrong again. This is how bureaucracy is born, one policy at a time. Policies are only meant for things that come up over and over again, and where the correct action isn’t obvious.

Sound like you. Legalese, artificial friendliness, and being overly professional makes you sound ridiculous, and sacrifices the ability to communicate simply and directly. Talk to customers how you would to friends. Explain things like you were sitting next to them. Avoid jargon, corporate speak and buzzwords. Just use normal words. Make your writing more conversational, less formal, don’t strip away personality. Throw away the rules and just communicate.

Don’t include legal disclaimers at the end of emails. It reads like “we don’t trust you and we’re willing to prove it in court”.

Inspiration is perishable. It goes stale on the shelf. If you’re inspired, cancel everything else and dive in. You can get two weeks of work done in 24hrs when you’re inspired.

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