Interesting Business Authors Part 2: Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

April 10, 2015 | Kathryn

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Jason Fried  David Heinemeier Hansson  REWORK
Author photos courtesy of Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

If you read only one book about how to set up and run a business, make it REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. This book is jammed full of clever, sometimes funny, very practical advice that is easy to follow and carry through.

Fried and Hansson are the founders of a web application company called Basecamp (formerly 37signals) which they have deliberately kept small. The book is based on the authors' experiences running their business successfully through the ups and downs of the market. They are motivated to help aspiring entrepreneurs realize their dreams using a minimalist approach that produces maximum results.

They advise readers to rethink traditional business models that are bureaucratic and costly. Their theory is to keep things simple and streamlined--frugal even--and reject the advice of naysayers who claim you need to hire lots of staff, throw loads of money at marketing and expand your product base.  

By understanding your product or service and casting a laser-like focus on it, they say, your planning decisions will be obvious. Grow the business at your own pace in small increments and costs won't get out of control. In the end, your focus will become the completive advantage to leverage against the competition. 

In this vein, unlike many books on entrepreneurship that encourage business owners to work long hours, REWORK maintains that workaholism is "stupid". "Workaholics try to fix problems by throwing sheer hours at them," say Fried and Hansson. "They make up for their intellectual laziness with brute force. No one makes sharp decisions when they're tired."

To illustrate their ideas, the authors provide lots of real world examples. "Don't be afraid to give a little away for free, as long as you've got something else to sell," they advise. As an example, they discuss how drug dealers (who are astute business people!) give away free product samples, confident that customers will return with money in hand. 

  • Written in a minimalist style, REWORK often reads like a "to-do" and "to-don't" list for aspiring business owners:
  • Learn from your successes not your mistakes. Failure is not a prerequisite for success!
  • Long-term planning is essentially "guessing" and is inconsistent with improvisation--which you will need to do! 
  • Building a large company does not ensure success. "What's wong with finding the right size and staying there?" the authors challenge. "The bigger the organization, the harder it is to be flexible."
  • Make products YOU want to use, then you don't need to conduct studies to know whether they're good. Also, rather than one-upping the competition, try one-downing them--design products that are simple and then promote them as such.
  • Be frugal and embrace constraints.  Limited resources force you to do the best with what you have. Set up a home office, for example, or use Quicken instead of hiring an accountant.
  • Don't postpone decisions in the hopes that the perfect answer will come along. It won't!
  • You don't need databases to keep track of what people want--just listen to the requests you hear over and over from customers to know what really matters!
  • Premature hiring is the death of many companies. Hire when there's more work than you can handle for a sustained period of time.
  • It doesn't matter how long an applicant has been doing something, the important thing is how WELL they have done it.

With REWORK, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have given entrepreneurs a great method for achieving more with less! 

You may also enjoy these books by the same authors:

  Getting Real Remote: Office Not Required