By: Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson



You can’t do that in the real world, they say. But what is the real world anyways? In the real world, you can’t build a company with millions of dollars in profits with just 16 people. In the real world your company doesn’t shun the wants and needs of the Fortune 500 for those of the Fortune 5,000,000.

In the real world you don’t create a business on the side and with a shoestring budget. And in the real world you certainly don’t let your employees come and go from the office when they feel like it. But that’s exactly how Basecamp operates

The problem with the “real world”, is that it doesn’t exist anymore. While most people who run businesses are busy convincing themselves that the old rules work, there are new rules being written. You can work a normal work week and still build an insanely profitable business. You can work off an insanely small budget and still get things done. You can win a market by under-doing your competition. This is a book about how you do that. Some of these new rules include:

You need less than you think.

Sell your by-products.

Launch now, not later.

Ignore what the competition is doing.

Let your customers outgrow you.

Act like a drug dealer.

These, and about 80 more insights are what you’ll get when you pick up a copy of Rework. It will challenge everything you thought you knew about how to run a business in this new world. Whether you agree with them or not, it will take your thinking in a brand new direction.

This is a book about changing the way you think about business. And when a book comes along that is able to take everything you thought you knew about how to run a business and flips it on it’s head, it’s a true gift.

Doing More with Less

When you ask most people what’s standing in their way to becoming a success, it’s usually some sort of variation of “I need more time, money and people”. But ask those people what they would do with that extra time, money and people and they’ll probably show you a plan that does more of what they are already doing. And that’s a recipe for failure. So, as the guys from Basecamp would say, stop whining. Being creative with the time, money and people you already have is the game you want to play.

When 37 Signals was building Basecamp, their flagship product that generates millions a year in profits, here’s what they had to deal with. They had to run an existing design shop that had existing client work. David, who developed the product, did it at night an on weekends, with a 7 hour time zone difference, and could only spend 10 hours per week devoted to it. Oh, and they had no outside funding. There goes your excuse that you can’t do something amazing on a shoestring budget. In fact, it’s more likely that you’ll create something great with a shoestring budget.

If that’s not enough for you, watch an episode of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey. Every single episode highlights the same problem with failing restaurants. There are too many dishes on the menu. Of course, we can all understand the decision of the restaurant owner to keep adding dishes because it’s likely to attract a wider range of people. But that logic is flawed because the end result is always a terrible menu.

Doing less and focusing on making what you already have insanely great? Now that’s a recipe for success.

Be More Productive

Doing more with less also means that you need to do more with less time. There are plenty of people who work an incredible amount of hours and still get nothing done. I used to work in a law firm where one partner would come in at 6am to start his day because that’s when he could get the most work done – before anybody else showed up to the office.

Why? Because most office environments are set up to maximise interruptions, not productivity. Sure, some of the interruptions are disguised as meetings, but as Jason and David say, “interruption is not collaboration, it’s just interruption”. Other interruptions throughout the day include answering email, checking Facebook, little impromptu get togethers in the hallway, and before you know it it’s 5pm and you’ve achieved absolutely nothing. Some people stay behind and get a few hours of real work in, and some people just go home and start again the next day.

How do you break out of this cycle? Create your “alone zone”.

Set time during the day where there are no distractions. You can be like the lawyer from my old firm and show up to the office early. But you don’t need to work at crazy hours to make this work either.

You can do this during the day, and just set up the rules so that there are no distractions for a few hours at a time. That includes email, phone calls, social media, or anything else that might take your attention off the task at hand. At first it will seem weird and you might even feel the exact opposite – that you can’t possibly be getting anything done because there is no “action”. But believe me, at the end of the day when you look at the scoreboard and see how much you’ve accomplished, you’ll be astonished.

One last point for being productive – avoid meetings. Jason and David give a bunch of reasons why meetings are the enemy of productivity, but here’s are the two that are most critical – they convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute, and they cost you an enormous amount of money.

If you really, really, really need to have a meeting, here are some rules to live by:

Set a time limit for the meeting. Less time is usually better than more.

Always have a clear agenda.

Begin with a specific problem.

End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it.

How to compete

We live in a world where we are taught that business must be professional, and that people don’t speak to the world, brands do. Here’s the problem with that thinking – it leaves out the only thing that your competitors can’t copy – you.

When you inject what you believe and your personality into the business, you’ve created something that your competitors can’t replicate. They can try, but they’d fail because pretending to be something you’re not is exhausting.

Tony Hseih from Zappos created a billion dollar online shoe retailer by injecting his passion for customer service into the company. His call-centre employees don’t run off a script or try and keep their minutes per call down to a company standard. They are tasked with creating an amazingly great customer experience for everybody who deals with Zappos. They don’t teach you this at business school.

You should not only inject your personality into your business, you should also aim to underdo the competition. While most people will be trying to outdo the competition, you’ll be busy focusing only on what makes you insanely great. Jason and David suggest that we “solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to the competition”.

You should also be wary of saying yes to all of your customer requests. Sometimes, the customer is NOT right. Remember, saying no is sometimes the right thing to do. Not every single request by a customer has to be implemented. And if it’s one of your largest customers doing the asking? Maybe it’s time to let them move on. One of the hardest things to do in business, but probably one of the smartest, is to let customers out grow you. 37 Signals does it all the time. Know who you are and don’t veer from your vision just because a few people said you should.

The result of these actions? You’ll have a product that 37 Signals would call “at-home good”. That’s the kind of product that seems just as good, if not better, than when you held it in your hands at the store. As they say, “you can’t paint over a bad experience with good advertising or marketing”. 

How to market yourself

Unless you belong in the categories of Apple or some other multi-national global brand the reality is that you are living in relative obscurity. And that’s ok, because it gives you the latitude to try a whole bunch of different things. Most people, when they think they’ve got an amazing product, will rush out and try to outspend the competition. They’ll hit the industry trade magazines, hit the conference circuit and throw a lot of cash at the problem.

However, the smartest companies today know that you don’t need to do that if you can build an audience on your own. You can literally get the same traction over time by spending almost zero money. Share information that’s valuable and eventually you’ll have an audience listening to everything you have to say.

So there you have it. Everything you need to know about how to rethink the way you run your business.