in Entrepreneur Radar

Rating: excellent

Useful for: everybody

“Rework” is an excellent book to read while traveling, in the bathroom or during short work breaks since it is separated into short, interesting paragraphs that are usually not longer than a page.  This book came highly recommended and out work library has no less than 3 copies of the book in English and German. We are also using some of the products the authors have developed: Highrise (CRM) and Basecamp (Project Management). Since both applications are very useful for a small to medium business I was wondering what the people behind these products had to say.

Since the book is split into several main sections, which consist of a catch-phrase and a quick explanation I am going to highlight the ten “commandments” I found to be most interesting.  This is a highly subjective view and each of the short sections will probably be of varying interest depending on a reader’s perspective.  Most importantly you can tell that these guys are strongly product focused and therefore some sections apply less to other business models such as service businesses.

These ten principles highlighted below really hit home for me and I will be integrating them into my daily business routine.

Learning from mistakes is overrated (p. 16)

I love this statement. I guess in Germany people take this approach anyhow since an entrepreneur who has failed will very rarely gets another chance. Nonetheless, I believe that celebrating mistakes will often lead to not fully understanding why a business failed. This is especially true in the US / venture funded start-ups where burning through millions of investor money seems to be a rite of passage for an entrepreneur. Being good at spending money is very, very easy – being good in making money is a totally different game.

Why grow (p. 22)

We have scaled down whenever we could. Each time we got to be more than 20 people we founded a new business with a separate CEO who would focus on growing a specific aspect of our business. We are currently again downsizing from 30FTE to less than 4 FTEs and I honestly believe that building a valuable and lasting business has nothing to do with growth. Profitability and client satisfaction are the only measure that counts. If you cannot profitability keep one client happy you will also not keep 1000 clients happy – and should you?

Outside money is plan z (p. 50)

I could not agree more. Lots of post on my blog deal with sources of capital and honestly bootstrapping or “robbing through the mud” (as we call it) still has the greatest appeal to me. Who do you respect more: the elite single ninja who relies on his skills and resourcefulness to reach an objective or an over equipped tank that just drives somewhere through pure scale?

Interruption is the enemy of productivity (p. 104)


Say no by default (p. 153)

The hardest lesson we learned so far. As an entrepreneur you will tend to see opportunities everywhere and you will always be excited about following up on them.  It will almost always turn out to be a disaster. Focus, focus and more focus will lead to success and focus is only possible if you say “no” to almost everything.

Welcome obscurity (p. 167)

Haven’t been famous yet but I sure know that being outside of the limelight while testing our business model and various ideas has been a blessing.

Hire when it hurts (p. 204)

Not a second earlier. It is always easy to hire but damn hard to fire. Not having external financing helps with taking this commandment serious.

Decisions are temporary (p. 250)

Nothing is forever… keeping enough flexibility to change decisions is a key aspect of being an entrepreneur.

What do I not agree with:

Planning is guessing (p. 19)

Deep down I am a CFO and I will always be a CFO – so please do not expect me to agree with this statement J I believe that over planning is guessing but coming up with a range of estimates to evaluate our day-to-day achievements is educated guessing and therefore legit.

Hire managers of one (p 220)

Well, if you are really not planning to grow this is the way to go. Yet I believe that these managers of one are very hard to find. Very, very few people are able to solely manage themselves without supervision. Most who do poses this skill will already be self-employed or entrepreneurs. So following this example will limit your hiring pool significantly.

So here is a quick impression of the book. My recommendation: MUST READ!

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