37 Signals’ Rework Book Review

Posted on 3 January 2011 | by Ryan Battles

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37 Signals, teamed up to write Rework, a business book with fresh advice.  Overall it was a valuable read, and I have already seen the fruits of putting its advice to practice.

From the inside jacket of the book cover, you will find this quote, "Rework shows you a better, easier way to exceed in business."  Supposedly this book bucks all of the trends of other business books, and is finally THE ONE that you've been waiting for.  Funny, it seems that every business book starts off that way.

In fact, that is my only gripe with this book.  It gets a little annoying to constantly hear how everything many successful businesses do on a regular basis (meetings, dress codes, working 9-5) are all wrong.  I get it, 37 Signals is a non-traditional company, but ease up on the "Everything You Know is Wrong" mentality.

The Good Stuff

Okay, now that I've got that off of my chest, I do still highly recommend this book to any small business owner or manager.  It is truly an easy read, chocked full of good advice and wise insight. The chapters are each about 2 pages long, and I found myself going from one to the next pretty quickly.

3 Things I Took Away

My three favorite chapters from this book were:

Why Grow?

This chapter is about being comfortable in your own shoes as a business.  When I first started freelancing, I had grandiose dreams of owning a studio loft somewhere downtown with exposed brick, high ceilings, and bean-bag chairs everywhere.  I would have 10 of the hippest employees in town, and we'd all get sushi and mojitos on a regular basis.  Three years later, I have come to realize that it is better for me to remain as a freelancer with limited interaction with employees.  There are various reasons for this, but in the end, I actually make more profit, have less stress, and live the type of lifestyle I want with a smaller team around me.  I have learned to be content in being small, and have no more desire currently to grow larger than I now am. From the book:

Small is not just a stepping-stone. Small is a great destination in itself.


Normally we think that the one who works more hours cares more, is more effective, and gets more done.  This chapter puts that myth to rest by claiming that people who work more are less efficient.  From the book:

Workaholics aren't heroes. They don't save the day, they just use it up.  The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.

After reading this I resurrected my task tracking software, and recommitted myself to implementing the "Getting Things Done" methodology.  I am starting to spend less time on the things that don't matter, and more time on knocking tasks off efficiently.  Hopefully I'll have this down by the time the weather gets nicer so I can spend more time with my kids at the park, instead of working late and letting the babysitter raise my kids.

Sell Your By-products

Just as lumber yards sell their scrap wood and sawdust, the authors suggest that every business finds a way to resell their "waste".  From the book:

Our last book, Getting Real, was a by-product.  We wrote that book without even knowing it.  The experience that came from building a company and building software was the waste from actually doing the work.

This caused me to brainstorm how I can do the same.  This blog is the answer.  I have committed myself to writing more blog posts on the by-products of my learning.  Today I finished reading Rework, so tonight I am writing this blog post.  Last week I wrote a post on how to use Ajax technologies with a particular ExpressionEngine addon.  It wasn't anything earth-shattering, but a few people were helped out by it right away, and hopefully more will be helped by it in the future.  In fact, just today the article was linked to by EE Insider, an official news source for the EllisLab, the creators of ExpressionEngine. 

I wouldn't have written that post if it weren't for this chapter.


So yeah, I already said to go ahead and read this book if you are a small-business owner or manager.  If you're really short on cash, you can get some free chapters here:


Tags: small business, book, 37 signals

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