As a big fan of the 37signals blog, I’ve had REWORK on my “to read” list since it was released. After I heard what seemed like never-ending rave reviews from acquaintances, I suggested it to the Philly Startup Leaders Book Club (a book club I started at the beginning of the year) and it was voted as March’s pick.

The book ditches the traditional steps of starting/running a business such as writing a business plan, studying the competition, raising money, etc. Instead, it debunks them and provides insightful but concise advice on how to start your project(s) quickly.

My feelings about this book are torn. Although I think it’s a good read, I felt the lessons were choke-full of common sense. Also, I was already acquainted with most of the material from being an avid follower of their work and from my experience with running an agile company. There were a few chapters I didn’t agree with (more on that later). Overall, I enjoyed it as a refresher. I would specifically recommend it for non-business/marketing people who want to create lifestyle businesses and are not familiar with the lean startup methodology.

Some of the highlights:

  • Scratch your own itch – this is how I started 123LinkIt and I wholeheartedly believe in the concept of creating something to solve a problem you’re personally experiencing.
  • No time is no excuse – I used to say that a lot until someone told me that if you want something bad enough, you’ll make the time.
  • Good enough is fine – this was hands-down my favorite section of the book. As a perfectionist, I constantly struggle with the little details. Their main feedback is “when good enough gets the job done, go for it…you can usually turn good enough into great later.”
  • Hire great writers - this section discusses how great writers are instrumental because they know how to communicate effectively and clearly, something you need in every part of your business.
  • Decisions are temporary – the authors state “Don’t make up problems you don’t have yet. It’s not a problem until it’s a real problem. most of the things you worry about never happen anyway.” I learned this eventually on my own. I would have saved a lot of time and headaches if someone would have said it to me sooner.
  • Sound like you – …as simple as that. Users expect formal language from big companies, we startups can take advantage of it.

A list of the sections I disagreed with or I felt were contradicting with other material:

  • Planning is guessing - I appreciate the idea of making decisions as needed. The main advice of this chapter boils down to “decide what you’re going to do this week, not this year.” While I can see how it applies in some cases, I’ve personally found it gets you in a trap of working in the business instead of ON the business.
  • Why grow? – This is one of the reasons why I felt this book is geared towards lifestyle entrepreneurs. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but it depends on the goal of the business.
  • Pick a fight – This is a tactic marketers know grabs a lot of attention and it coincides well with the David and Goliath stories. However, I’d rather get along with my competitors then start a conflict war.
  • Say no by default – The idea here is to not document features users request and to automatically decline them. The notion is the best ones will be repeated over and over. While I understand that logic, I feel you end up missing trends and other critical information.

While I had higher expectations for REWORK, I still enjoyed it especially because it was a quick read. It’s a book I would check out from the library (which I’m glad I did), not purchase for my bookshelf.

Thanks to Tom Ciavarella for discussing it with me.