Reviewing Rework

Last March,  I read another book from Basecamp (formerly 37Signals) called Remote. Well, more accurately, I started it and about 20 pages in I was bored of pithy statements about the state of remote work.

So what about Rework, which I had read when it came out and remembered it to be a similar format. Have I simply outgrown books written in this fashion and am I looking for more substance and action plans?

Was Remote just a bad book or did I miss how bad Rework was?

Enter Rework

Rework has lots of chapters though few of them are more than a page and I don’t think that any were more than 2 pages.

The chapters are separated into 11 chunks, focusing on certain aspects of running a business. Out of those 11 chunks, 2 stuck out as my favourites. They really made me think about how I’m doing business.


This section centers around the things you really need to do to make progress on projects, like Embrace Constraints or the thought that long projects zap morale.

Bigger budgets and more people won’t get your product/site done. What’s going to get it done is building only what you really need (identified not by what you could do or what you want to do, but what you have to do) and making decisions instead of deferring them.

My experience holds up to both of those things. The more decisions we leave till later, the more likely we are to never finish the project. Tossing in all the really cool stuff in a project is a sure fire way to just let the launch date creep.


Meetings aren’t that productive. By the time you got 10 people in a room for an hour, it was a $1000 (at least) hour. Was that really the best way to spend $1000?

How about interruptions, we know they’re productivity killers, right? We know that you need to say no lots to get things done.

You can launch your product when it’s good enough. Sure maybe the search doesn’t have autocomplete yet, but really, is it worth it? Are you going to sink a bunch of productive time in to a feature that simply has an internal ‘wow’ factor? Is that really what you should be doing with your time?

When you read this chunk you’re going to nod your head a lot and agree with what they are telling you about being productive. Make sure you stop and take real stock of yourself though.

Are you just nodding your head then continuing to be unproductive, or are you checking yourself and revamping the things you’ve let slide?


So really what it comes down to is, do I recommend this book? Yup.

It’s not going to give you a killer strategy to build your business, but it is going to align your thinking with what really matters.

Staying aligned is a continual process for a business owner. Put Rework on your list to come back to every couple years to help you align. It’s only a week long read anyway.

Rework is good, Remote was just a bad book.

Forget about the trenches and ruin your team

One of the things I look forward to as I hire people and start building a bit of a team is not being in the trenches daily. A good business owner should be stepping back to work on the business. That’s how you’re going to keep all those peope employed.

There is some danger in stepping totally away from the day-to-day operations though.

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark still answers support emails today (sometimes within minutes) – Rework

Do you still understand?

Back in my high school years I ran a live performance theater. I was a registered pyrotechnician and had experiences building sets, with lights and sound and running all types of electrical equipment.

Then I was put in charge for a few years of the whole show. We traveled around Ontario competing in drama festivals and sold out shows (and added shows) in our town.

It was fun and helped keep me out of a bunch of trouble in high school, but I was a bad leader.

When I was put in charge I mostly stepped back to giving orders, especially when it came to clean up.

I’d walk around pointing things out for people to do, while rarely bending down to do it myself. I mean, I was in charge, why should I do that?

One day it came to a head and my assistant stage manager started yelling at me. I mean spittle flying profanity laced screaming. At the time I thought that he was simply wrong to treat me that way, I mean I was in charge and had been for 2 years at that point. You don’t treat someone in charge that way.

Now I look back and see that I was too proud to do many of the tasks that needed to get done and that pissed people off.

With every able-bodied man present, including VPs, EVPs, CFOs, and the CEO, the work only took about thirty minutes. Yes, you read that right. I was in the truck helping unload and load. I never thought it was a big deal, but one day a new team member wrote me a long e-mail afterward, saying he had never worked in a place where the boss was a real leader. He had been with us less than two weeks and looked up in the truck and realized that the guy handing him boxes was the owner and CEO. After having that experience, the guy will find it hard to cop an attitude about anything he is ever asked to do while he works on my team. The work I did that day took me just thirty minutes, but for years now it has had an impact on my relationship with my team. – EntreLeadership

As you scale your team, make sure that you’re not too proud to get back into those trenches as needed. No you shouldn’t be in them daily, but when things need lifting, go lift.

A few times a year when some code needs to be written, jump in and write it.

Stay in touch with the trenches and your customers and really be a good leader.

photo credit: ✠ drakegoodman ✠ via photopin cc

They can’t because they’re lazy

You simply can’t live healthy in Ontario.

Or at least that’s what the guy riding his bike beside me in the group said.

Then we kept talking and a bunch more can’t came up.

The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you. – Rework

The can’ters

Starting and running a successful business is a lot of hard work. You need to stick with hard times and keep going.

There are going to be a lot of people around you that use the work “can’t”.

They will tell you that you won’t succeed and that your ideas are dumb and you should just jump back in with the other corporate fish and swim the same way.

What they’re really saying is that they can’t concieve of it and aren’t willing to do the hard work anyway.

They can’t do it because they’re not willing to give up TV hours at night and read about how to run a business.

They can’t do it because they’re not willing to set a business (and personal) budget and deny themselves instant purchases.

They can’t do it because they’re not going to save money for taxes plus 5% so that they’re prepared for taxes.

They just can’t.

Don’t listen to the can’ters. Set up a solid plan for your business.

Stick to it.

Then reap the rewards of ignoring them.

They’ll still be swimming with everyone else while you continue to prove them wrong.