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Book Review: <em>Rework</em> by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

By Diane Danielson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I confess I love books that try to rock the business world. Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson fits that category because they definitely toss out the old business rules. While I liked a lot of Rework, it's likely because it applies to internet-based businesses like mine. Sure, many of their "new rules" will work in other industries, but some won't.

So much is packed into Rework, here are just a few of the book highlights that jumped out at me.

Long-term business planning is guessing. I couldn't agree more. I remember being told I had to make up a five-year business plan to get funding for the Downtown Women's Club. I thought that was ridiculous and a waste of time and resources, since who knew what technological innovations might affect it in six months. So I basically plopped in some random projections.

"The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use." While maybe not groundbreaking, it's something many of us forget when we get caught up in product development. Yet, it's definitely in line with my belief that the products that work best are ones that make something people already do easier.

No time is no excuse. "When you want something badly enough, you make the time--regardless of your other obligations." This is what makes for a good entrepreneur, and I get this, even if I'm guilty of it at times. However, sometimes delaying things can be a positive. I will often delay implementation of innovations for a few months and find that I stumble upon a better solution. I suppose this means that I likely didn't find them compelling enough to prioritize in their current form in the first place.

A strong stand is how you attract superfans. This is true of blogging and of business. Fried and Hansson recommend you draw a line in the sand and stick to it. In other words, if you try to be everything to every customer, then you won't please any of them. It's better to really please your base and forget the rest. Now this is one rule I do live by. At the Downtown Women's Club, we will get occasional complaints from individuals who want to contact someone by phone or don't want to pay online or who can't access our site from work and don't want to check their computers at their home, or they don't want to join Facebook to view our Facebook-only content, etc. My response? "Sorry. We can't create extra work for a few people who don't want to learn and use technology. We're all about the social media, and our time is better spent serving the needs of our core base."

Avoid outside investors. Most of the reasons listed here were obvious, but what I liked about the book is that in practically every section, the authors toss in a zinger to which I could relate. In this section it was--avoid outside investors because "you wind up building what investors want instead of what customers want."

Forget the exit strategy; you need a commitment strategy. They make a decent point. If you commit and make your company as good as it can be, you will have an exit strategy.
Don't delay a launch until everything is perfect. Or, think of it this way: "If you had to launch your business in two weeks, what would you cut out? You suddenly realize there's a lot of stuff you don't need. And what you do need seems obvious. When you impose a deadline, you gain clarity."

Break your estimates into smaller bites. That is, instead of one 12-week project, structure it as 12 one-week projects.

Underdo your competition. Why does the Flip camera work when it doesn't do everything its competition does? Because it does a few things well and targets a different market than its competition.

Focus on yourself and not your competition. Do you really run a company that changes plans based on what the competition is doing? Why waste time following them? Come up with your own fresh ideas.

I especially liked the sections on hiring and company culture, including how to write an apology and why years of experience are mostly irrelevant. While there is so much more than I can include here, I'll end with my favorite section of the whole book:

Press releases are spam.

"What do you call a generic pitch sent out to hundreds of strangers hoping that one will bite? Spam. That's what press releases are, too: generic pitches for coverage sent out to hundreds of journalists you don't know hoping that one will write about you."
I couldn't agree more and have written about this topic extensively. In my view, mass unsolicited e-mails are spam, especially if there is not an unsubscribe option. Right now I have my e-mail filters set so that anything with the word "press release" in it goes to a folder which each week I delete without reading (while I do scan the contents quickly just in case a real e-mail got in there by accident, I haven't read a single e-mail in that folder in more than six months).

The Book Review Bottom Line: Definitely a good book for anyone with an internet-based business and for a more traditional company that needs to shake things up.

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