Rework Book CoverThis is my quick book summary of Rework (by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson). This is a great business book for those interested in running simple and profitable companies. A breath of fresh air in a world obsessed with billion dollar startup “unicorns” funded by millions in Venture Capital. The book is available on Amazon.

Summary notes below. All emphasis mine.

Ignore the real world.

The real world isn’t a place—it’s an excuse.

Don’t be insecure about small business – if it’s sustainable and profitable, be proud! Don’t be a workaholic.

You just need an idea, a touch of confidence, and a push to get started.

You want your customers to say: “this makes my life better.” Don’t sit around. Do it first.

Make something YOU want to use = best way. This lets you design what you know – and you’ll know if it’s good or not.

If you’re solving someone else’s problem, you’re constantly stabbing in the dark. When you solve your own problem, the light comes on.

Scratch your own itch and expose a huge market of people who need exactly what you need.

  • This lets you fall in love with what you’re making. You’ll know the problem & the value of its solution immediately
  • It better be something you care about. (You’ll be working on it for years to come!)

Ideas are cheap and plentiful! Nothing happens until you DO something.

Start NOW, because the “perfect” time never arrives.

Keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. You need to believe in something, have a backbone!

You need to know what you’re willing to fight for – and then you need to show the world.

When you stand for something, decisions are obvious. When you don’t know, everything becomes an argument or debate.

You need less than you think.

Start a business, not a startup.

Building to flip is building to flop. Selling out won’t make you happy. Don’t let a good thing get away.

Embrace constraints – they are advantages in disguise. Make do with what you’ve got. No room to waste, be creative.

Build half a product, not a half assed product. Start chopping. Cut out stuff that’s merely good.


Start at the epicenter – the stuff you absolutely HAVE to do. Which part of your equation can’t be removed? When you find it, you will know. Everything else you do depends on that foundation.

Ignore the details early on – you’ll figure them out later.

Making the call is making progress: decide on it and move forward. Commit to making decisions.

You’re as likely to make a great call today as you are tomorrow.

Be a curator – what makes a museum is the stuff NOT on the walls. Remove, simply, streamline.

It’s about quality.

Throw less at the problem: you’ll be forced to make tough calls and sort out what truly matters.

Focus on what won’t change. Focus on things that people are going to want today AND 10 years from now. Those are the things you should invest in. Fashion fades away – focus on permanent features. Examples:

  • Amazon focuses on: fast/free shipping, great selection, friendly return policies, affordable prices
  • Japanese automakers focus on: reliability, affordability, practicality
  • 37signals focuses on: speed, simplicity, ease of use, clarity

“It’s not about the bike.” What really matters is how to get customers and make money.

Sell your by-products – you always end up with something else in the process. There’s something you haven’t thought about. Lumber industry sells “waste” (sawdust) for a profit. 37signals wrote a book.

Launch now. Just make sure the product is actually good. Stop imagining what’s going to work. Find out for real.

Illusion of agreement. Get the chisel out and start making something real. Everything else is just a distraction.

Reasons to quit:

  • Why are you doing this? What is this for? Who benefits? What’s the motivation behind it?
  • What problem are you solving? Make sure you’re not solving an imaginary problem.
  • Is this actually useful? Cool wears off—useful never does
  • Are you adding value? Value is about balance. Make sure you’re not subtracting value.
  • Will this change behavior?
  • Is there an easier way?
  • What could you be doing instead?
  • Is it really worth it?

Interruption is the enemy of productivity. Get alone time. Use e-mail (non-disruptive communication). Your day is under siege by interruptions.

Meetings are toxic. Have a clear agenda, as few people as possible, have specific problem and end with a solution.

Good enough is fine. Deliver maximum efficiency with minimal effort. Problems can usually be solved with simple, mundane tasks.

Quick wins. Momentum fuels motivation. If you aren’t motivated by what you’re working on, it won’t be very good. The longer something takes, the less likely it is that you’ll finish it. The quicker it is in the hands of customers, the better it will be. And better off you’ll be!

Don’t be a hero. If it’s taking too long, quit. Worst thing you can do is waste more time.

Go to sleep. Or else you’ll be stubborn, lack creativity, diminished morale, irritability.

Your estimates suck. Break the big thing into smaller things – will be easier to estimate.

Long lists don’t get done. They are guilt trips. Have 1 single most important thing to do at a time.


Don’t copy. You have to understand why something works or why it’s the way it is. If you’re a copycat, you can never keep up. You keep making a knockoff – that’s no way to live. Be influenced, but don’t steal.

De-commoditize your product. How to prevent copying: make yourself part of the product or service. Make it something no one else can offer.

Example: Zappos offers fanatic customer service that can’t be replicated.

Pour yourself into the product – how you sell it, how you support it, how you explain it, and how you deliver it.

Pick a fight. Being the anti-___________ is a great way to differentiate yourself and attract followers.

  • Audi: fresh luxury alternative to old, tired BMW/Benz/Rolls
  • 7up: the uncola
  • Apple: Mac vs. PC

Having an enemy gives you a good story to tell customers. Take a stand. People like conflict. They take sides. Passions are ignited. Great way to get people to take notice.

“Underdo” your competition:

  • Examples: fixed gear bicycles, Flip Mino (an ultrasimple compact camcorder)
  • Only do a few things & do them well.
  • Don’t shy away from the fact that your product/service does less. Highlight it, be proud of it.
  • Sell it as aggressively as competitors sell their feature lists.

Who cares what they’re doing? Don’t worry about them.

If you’re planning the “iPod killer,” you’re already dead. You can’t out-Apple Apple (their rules). You need to redefine the rules, not just build something slightly better. Even if you lose, it’s better to go down fighting for what you believe in than to imitate others.

“If I’d listened to customers, I would have given them a faster horse.” – Ford

Evolution – Say “NO.” It’s easy to say yes to yet another feature, an overly optimistic deadline, or a mediocre design. Make sure your product stays right for you. So you can always say: “I think you’ll love it because I love it.”

Let your customers outgrow you. Don’t just tailor your product/service to 1 customer.

  • Small, simple, basic needs are constant. There’s an endless supply of customers who want/need exactly that.
  • There are always more people NOT using your product than people who are.
  • People/selections change. You can’t be everything to everyone!
  • Be true to a TYPE of customer than to 1 customer with changing needs.

Don’t confuse enthusiasm with priority.

  • Enthusiasm you have for an idea is not an accurate indicator of its true worth. Just write them down, and then evaluate their priority with a calm mind.

Be “at-home good.” Have a product that’s more impressive when people actually use it. And they tell their friends about it, too. You can’t paint over a bad experience with good advertising/marketing.

Don’t write it down. How should you keep track of what your customers want? You don’t. The really important stuff doesn’t go away. If you forget it, it’s not very important.


Welcome obscurity. Try new things, experiment. Obscurity protects your ego and preserves your confidence. You’ll miss the days of obscurity later on. Now is the time to take risks without worrying about embarrassing yourself.

Build an audience. All companies have customers. Lucky companies have fans. Most fortunate have audiences.

“You waste half your ad budget. You just don’t know what half.”

Get readers to your blog. When you build an audience, you don’t have to buy people’s attention – they give it to you. This is a huge advantage.

Speak, write, blog, tweet. Share information that’s valuable. You’ll slowly but surely build a loyal audience. Then, when you need to get the word out, the right people will already be listening.

Out-teach your competition. Most businesses focus on selling or servicing, not teaching. Teaching is your chance to out-maneuver big companies. Big companies are obsessed with secrecy and lawyers.

Emulate chefs. The greatest chefs share everything they know. They put their recipes in cookbooks and show their techniques on cooking shows. What’s your recipe? Your cookbook? What can you tell the world that’s informative, educational, and promotional?

Go behind the scenes. Give people a backstage pass and show them how your business works. People are always curious about how things are made. They want to know how and why people make decisions. Letting people see behind the curtain changes your relationship with them – they’ll see you as human beings. They’ll develop understanding and appreciation for what you do.

Nobody likes plastic flowers. Keep things clean but not sterile. Don’t be afraid to show your flaws – imperfections are real and people respond to real.

  • Show the world what you’re really like.
  • There’s a beauty to imperfection. Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry.
  • It’s OK if it’s not perfect. Tell about your shortcomings. Reveal things that others won’t’ discuss.

Press Releases are spam – a generic pitch is spam.

  • Instead, call someone. Write a personal note. Do something meaningful. Be remarkable. Stand out. Be unforgettable. That’s how you get the best coverage.

Forget about the Wall Street Journal. For direct, instant activity, go after niche bloggers – that’s where news comes from anyway.

Emulate drug dealers: make the product so good that giving customers a small, free taste makes them come back with cash in hand. You want an easily digestible introduction to what you sell.

Don’t be afraid to give a little away, as long as you have something else to sell. People will come back for more – if you’re not confident, you haven’t created a good enough product.

Marketing is not a department. Marketing is something your company is doing 24/7/365. It’s the sum total of everything you do, not a few individual events.

Myth of the overnight sensation. Trade that dream for slow, measured growth. You have to grind it out. You have to do it for a long time before other people notice. Start building today. Then keep at it. You’ll chuckle when people tell about your “overnight success.”

Hiring. Try doing the job yourself first. Learn first. Be intimately involved, otherwise you’ll be in the dark. Don’t hire for pleasure – hire to kill pain. You don’t need as many people as you think. The right time to hire is when there’s more work than you can handle. That’s when you’re hurting.

Don’t invent work/positions just for great people. If you don’t find someone, don’t hire.

Resumes are ridiculous – check the cover letter first. If the first paragraph sucks, chances are…

“5 years of experience” could mean 5 years of irrelevance. 6-12 months is enough to learn it. Measure by how well they’ve been doing it.

Forget about formal education. Don’t get caught up hiring people from the “best” schools.

Delegators are dead weight – everybody works. Delegators love meetings (where they feel important).

Hire managers of one. Someone who’s capable of building from scratch and seeing it through.

Hire great writers. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Writing is the currency for good ideas.

The best are everywhere. Geography doesn’t matter. Hire the best talent, wherever it is.

Test-drive employees. Probation period.

Damage Control. Own your bad news. When something goes wrong, make sure it’s YOU who tells the story. There are no more secrets. You can’t hide anymore. Be open, honest, public and responsive. “No comment” is not an option. Highest-ranking person should comment. Apologize the way a real person would. Honestly be concerned about the fate of your customers.

Speed changes everything. Answer as quickly as you can. Offer a personal response or “let me do some research and get back to you.”

Put everyone on the front lines. Everyone on your team should be connected to your customers. That way, they can feel the hurt your customers are experiencing. No one should be shielded from direct criticism.

Take a deep breath. People are creatures of habit – they push back/complain when there are changes. People will adjust eventually. And they’ll probably prefer the new way, too.

Culture. You don’t create a culture. It happens (not instantly). It’s the product of consistent behavior. Culture is action, not words. You can’t force it.

Decisions are temporary. What if? Don’t make up problems that don’t exist yet. Optimize for now and worry about the future later. Ability to change course is one of the biggest advantages of being small.

Skip the rock stars. Build a rock star environment instead. Offer employees: trust, autonomy, responsibility. Result of giving people the privacy, workspace and tools they deserve. Great environments show respect for the people who do the work and how they do it. Employees are not 13 years old – don’t treat them like children.

Send people home at 5 PM. You need BETTER hours, not more hours. They get work done at the office because they have somewhere else to be. SO they use their times wisely. Don’t expect the job to someone’s entire life. Don’t create useless policies for no reason. That’s for bureaucracies.

Sound like you. Sound your own size.

  • Instead of “monetization” and “transparency”, talk about making money and being honest.
  • Write to be read – make it conversational. Communicate!
  • When you’re writing, write to that 1 person. Don’t write to the mob – that leads to generalities and awkwardness

Don’t use 4 letter words: need, must, can’t, easy, just, only and fast. These words create black and white situations, which lead to tension/conflict. Watch out for these words too: everyone, no one, always, never.

ASAP is poison. Reserve your emergency languages for true emergencies.


Ideas are immortal, inspiration isn’t.

If you want to do something, do it now.

If you’re inspired, just do it now.

Inspiration is a new thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator, magical.

If it grabs you, grab it right back.

Read other reviews and notes on the book’s Amazon page.