I just finished reading Rework for the 3rd time – from the guys at 37signals. My business partner, Wil, and I have been emailing each other quotes from this book since it came out. It’s about keeping your business model and products simple and focusing on what really matters. It’s about ignoring and doing less than your competition – not more. It’s also about bucking conventional wisdom and being unique in everything your do with your business. We have always felt that we were unconventional guys. We don’t like to follow too many “best practices”, we don’t agree with conventional marketing tactics and we always make decisions based on what our gut tells us – not someone else. It is cool to see other successful businesses operate this way…and then write a book about it that becomes a wildly popular best seller.
I’ve been highlighting snippets as I’ve been reading and thought it would be cool to pull them out into a blog post. The chapter name is in bold and the snippet that jumped out at me is below that. Honestly I really could have just dipped this entire book in bright yellow paint – it’s that good – but a few things stood out and seemed more relevant for us and our software.
Decommoditize your product
Pour yourself into your product and everything around your product too: how you sell it, how you support it, how you explain it, and how you deliver it. Competitors can never copy the you in your product.
Ignore the Real World
“This would never work in the real world”. You hear it all the time when you tell people about a fresh idea. The real world sounds like a depressing place to live. The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you.
Enough with “entrepreneurs”
Let’s retire the term entrepreneur. It’s outdated and loaded with baggage. It smells like a members-only club. Everyone should be encouraged to start his own business, not just some rare breed that self-identifies as entrepreneurs.
Underdo your competition
Do less than your competitors to beat them. Solve the simple problem and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to the competition. Instead of one-upping, try one-downing. Instead of outdoing, try underdoing.
Say no by default
Making a few vocal customers happy is not worth it if it ruins the product for everyone else.
Let your customers outgrow you
Adding power-user features to satisfy some can intimidate those who aren’t on board yet. Scaring away new customers is worse than losing old customers.
Build an audience
All companies have customers. Lucky companies have fans. But the most fortunate companies have an audience. An audience can be your secret weapon.
Draw a line in the sand
We’re just as proud of what our products don’t do as we are of what they do.
You need less than you think
Do you really need to buy advertising and hire a PR firm or are there other ways to get noticed?
Build half a product, not a half-assed product
Lots of things get better as they get shorter. Directors cut good scenes to make a great movie. Musicians drop good tracks to make a great album. Writers eliminate good pages to make a great book. So start chopping. Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good.
Be a curator
It’s the stuff you leave out that matters. So constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline.
Focus on things that won’t change
For 37signals, things like speed, simplicity, ease of use and clarity are our focus. Those are timeless desires. People are not going to wake up 10 years from now and say, “Man, I wish software was harder to use.” They won’t say, “I wish this application was slower.”
Tone in in your fingers
In business, too many people obsess over tools, software tricks, scaling issues, fancy office space, lavish furniture, and other frivolities instead of what really matters. And what really matters is how to actually get customers and make money.
Go behind the scenes
Letting people behind the curtain changes the your relationship with them. They’ll feel a bond with you and see you as human beings instead of a faceless company.
The myth of the overnight sensation
You will not be a hit right away. You will not get rich quick. Trade the dream of overnight success for slow, measured growth. It’s hard, but you have to be patient. You have to grind it out. You have to do it for a long time before the right people notice.
I’ll probably take a few weeks off and get some work done…and then read it again.