They interviewed Jason Fried and David Hansson who created Ruby on Rails and co-authored Getting Real, amongst a range of notable achievements.
In their new book Reworking they attempt to debunk many business clichĂ©s, based on ten years of experience of running 37 Signals an internet based business.
They looked back over their first ten years of starting and growing
their business to see what lessons they had learned, and how they could
present the best of those ideas as succinctly as possible.
I tend to agree with them when they say that so many business books
donât really need to be more than 50 or 60 pages long, as their authors
arenât really saying very much. To generate enough content for 150 or
200 pages takes many years of experience.
Get more sleep
The first idea covered in the interview, Get More Sleep, may sound
obvious, but working extreme hours has become something of a obsession
especially with workaholics, and especially in the United States. But
as they point out, the practical result is that you just end up with
people being tired the whole time, and sooner or later it usually leads
to burnout. Also, you canât make up for the loss with an occasional one
nights good sleep. You have to be consistent about your sleep. I like
their quote, âyou have to sleep in order to do good work.â
Ignore your competition
The second is about not copying, or even bothering to find out what your competitors are doing.
As they rightly point out, running a business takes a lot of time
and you have to prioritise what you are going to spend that time on.
Given that fact, they feel you are better off spending it on your
customers and your own products, rather than what other people are
You canât pay complete attention to your competitors, and your
customers, and your products, and your employees, and your vision. You
have to make some decisions and prioritise. So David and Jason would
rather spend their time making the people who use their products very
happy, instead of worrying about customers they donât have yet, who
might be being approached by their competitors.
They quote Henry Ford; âThe competitors you should be worrying about
are the ones that donât care about you. They are the ones who are
focussed on building their own business.â
According to David and Jason there is a business cold war going on,
especially in the software industry, where everyone is spending their
time trying to get one-up on everyone else. âWe have to add two more
features to counteract the one new feature from our competitorâ. There
are very few winners in this world where companies try and outspend
their competitors, and everyone ends up looking the same.
Business is like software
They feel that businesses should be malleable, as we arenât building
bridges or skyscrapers. A company can change, it can try new things, it
can iterate. âWe try new stuff all the time, some works and some
doesnât. Our business itself has âbugsâ, and we fix them as we go.â
âWhen people think of a business as a monolith that has to have a
lot of structure and policies, then they are sort of screwing
âThere are few phrases I hate more than âthis is how we do things
around hereââ. It is such a wrong and circular argument, but you hear
it all the time.
The book has a simple structure with one idea every page or so. âThe
whole point of the book is that it is short, it is a quick read,
becauseâŠ arenât you supposed to be doing something? These business
books that take you a week or two to read, just seem like a waste of
Learning from mistakes is overrated
âThere is a weird obsession, especially in the tech world, where
everyone is telling you to fail early and fail often. What is that
advice, fail often?â
âOur take is that there is certainly some thing to be learnt from
failure, but you are better off learning lessons from things that work
well. Focus on the things that have gone right for you and try and do
those things again. If you think that failure is so natural it will
happen to you, you will start making really bad business decisions, and
not looking at the odds.â
The obsession with growth
âWhat is the point of everyone trying to build a billion dollar
company? What is wrong with a million dollars? When did a million
dollars become a small amount of money? When did running a business
that generates $10 million a year become not a good and cool thing to
âTypically what happens is that people arenât very happy working at
these big big companies, and they are very slow at innovation. They
have to acquire innovation by buying the small guys. The small guys are
where the innovation and excitement happens.â
âWhy not build a great little company that is doing incredibly well,
you can generate millions of dollars a year in profit. Who is going to
be ashamed of that? And you can enjoy it, and you can get to sleep.
That to me is really what it is all about.â
Entrepreneurs have a bad name
âThat word has so many bad connotations, it means risking everything,
including your family, because you have to go all-in, right away. Itâs
just not true. The way we build our software company was by doing work
on the side. You donât need to throw away all your safety nets on day
one and charge after this thing with a everything you have.â
âIn many ways I think the American dream has been perverted. I think
before, it was simply financial independence, and somehow it has become
this thing where you have to build a billion dollar company. It should
get back to the way it was.â
I will leave my favourite quote from their interview to the end.
âStarting a business does not have to be rocket surgeryâ. Iâm not sure
if this was a deliberate play on rocket science and brain surgery but I
would like to adopt it as a business start-up slogan.