Rework: the book that most consultants won’t recommend

Rework is the ideal book for every small to medium sized business and is loaded with practical advice. Consultants and VCs won't be recommending it.

I have just finished reading Rework for the fourth time and thought I would write a few words about it. Rework (which I picked up shortly after it was published in 2010) is full of practical advice on running a business. It’s not a book that most management consultants or venture capitalists will recommend, but I do.


Rework authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson founded their company 37signals over 20 years ago while scratching itches they experienced when developing software. They built Ruby on Rails, an open source development framework. ‘Rails’ is used by popular web applications such as Airbnb, GitHub and Shopify, and has attracted over 5000 contributors. The itches ended up as commercial products such as Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire. Rework became the businesses’s valuable playbook.

Jason and David grew 37signals slowly and in 2014 they focussed efforts on Basecamp, stopping development on their other products. So 37signals is now Basecamp. The company has over 3.3 million customer accounts and is growing by 4000 new accounts every week. They employ 57 staff who work remotely (Jason and David wrote a book on that too). Basecamp pricing is simple, with a flat monthly fee for unlimited users, making it the ideal project collaboration tool for most businesses. However, I’m not reviewing their product and I want to focus on their operational play-book, Rework.

The book

Rework is an easy read, broken into well-structured chapters such as Culture, Hiring and Damage Control. Each subsection is no more than two pages long. Examples include Start a business, Not a Startup and Hire when it hurts. Like I said, Rework provides simple advice on running a business and will not be on most consultants’ reading lists.

Meetings are toxic

In the productivity chapter, the authors eliminate waste and distraction by avoiding meetings. Their playbook outlines reasons why meetings are time-wasters and gives advice on best practices.

They [meetings} are usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things.

convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute.

…drift off subject easier than a Chicago cab in a snowstorm.

…require thorough preparation that most people don’t have time for…” 

Rework, Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Jason and David also question why meetings have to be 30 or 60 minutes long and why scheduling software doesn’t have a seven minute meeting slot for example. The playbook advises that meetings should have as few people as possible in attendance; always have an agenda; and always start with the problem.

Don’t confuse enthusiasm with priority

Rework is filled with simple rules to operate a successful business. For example, I liked the rule of confusing enthusiasm with priority. The book discusses how new ideas give us a rush of excitement and a tendency to drop everything to focus on the next big thing. Again the advice here is simple – write down the new idea and percolate on it for a few days. Then you will know if the new idea is worth prioritising over other important work.

Why this book is relevant?

Small and medium businesses make up a large part of our economies. Many businesses are self-funded, focus on a core activity and grow slowly. Rework provides the ideal playbook for these businesses. I use Rework as a handy reference to develop my own operational best practices. I recommend keeping a copy of Rework as a go to ‘mentor’ that can be referenced when a new business challenge comes up.

If you want to build a rocket ship, then chat to the Venture Capitalists. Solving a complex problem or growing rapidly? Then you might need a consultant. Book a complimentary discovery session with Saltwater Consulting. We’ll help you navigate change. 

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