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Book Review: ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

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I just finished reading a business book that was short and such a fast read. The book, ReWork by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, is a handy book for someone starting his or her own business. It goes against everything you ever learned in business school and offers tips and strategies on numerous business related topics from raising venture capital to hiring staff.

It only took me a couple of hours to read. Although it had no flow and practically every other page is a graphic followed by a short two-page chapter, it did offer some sound advice, including:

• Having a commitment strategy instead of an exit strategy. Fried and Hansson say, “Would you go into a relationship planning the breakup? Would you write the pre-nup on the first date? Would you meet the divorce lawyer the morning of your wedding?”

• Trim down your services and offer less. The authors say it’s better to do one thing well then a lot of things mediocre.

• They also say you don’t need fancy equipment to do your job well.

• Impose deadlines to gain clarity.

• Interruption is the enemy. They say to set at least four hours a day to “you” time with no emails, phone calls, instant messages or meetings.

• Don’t give big estimates. Break them into smaller projects so that the estimate is more accurate.

• Emulate drug dealers – make your product or service so good that people keep coming back for more!

I found that when branding your company, especially a small business, the CEO/founder should brand it. Fried and Hansson talk about Tony Hsieh of Zappos and how the company has nothing different to offer, but they do have Hsieh who values customer service.

I thought about my brand at my boutique PR firm. They are right. My brand starts with me. To take “me” out of the brand would be detrimental to my business, just like taking Hsieh out of Zappos.

The other thing that I found interesting was the section on “be at-home good.” In this section the authors talk about how when you take a product home it’s better than you thought it would be. That’s what every small and mid-sized business needs to strive for – to be better at home than in the “store.”

I also liked that they included the importance of social networking in your business. They suggest that you blog, tweet, make videos, etc. to get your word out to your audience.

I think they have a good point when they talk about how press releases don’t grab the attention of the journalist or blogger. They say that if you really want to stand out, you need to do something different like making a phone call, writing a personal note or just doing something out of the ordinary to stand out.

Although they offer some good advice, I found quite a few things controversial, like for example, dumping your business or marketing plan and just doing it. How could you operate a business without a plan of action? At least these plans are guidelines to follow. They aren’t set in stone. But, I still think they are important.

I also think it’s important to delegate work to vendors. You can’t possibly handle everything on your own. However, the authors seem to feel that less is better and that most of the stuff you would farm out could be done internally for less of a cost. That may be. However, I think there is value in perception, and if the media or bloggers think you are bigger than you are, that’s a good thing. It gives you a lot more credibility.

Another controversial issue they raise is not to hire unless you have to. There are times when you meet key people in your career that you know are right for your business and sometimes, you just don’t have a job for them. However, if that person is the right person, he/she can help you grow and therefore, I disagree with their statement, “if you don’t need someone, you don’t need someone.”

I met one of my staff members from a cold resume. I noticed that she was a graduate from Newhouse at Syracuse University. I was impressed and brought her in for an interview. I hired her right on the spot without having a job for her. Four years later, she still works for me and runs my Rochester office.

Although I don’t agree with the authors on some levels, I do think that the book is worth the two hour read. It’s a short book, but it is chock full of information that is valuable when starting or running a business.

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