Work and Rework

I’m a fan of Basecamp, a web-based project management tool. It has just the right number of features, it’s simply structured, and, most importantly it’s effective. The same can be said of Rework, a book written by the creators of Basecamp, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

We could learn something from these guys
Fried and Hansson founded a small, Chicago-based web design company called 37signals in 1999. The team soon noticed the need for an online tool that would help people “get work done” without heavy investments in commitments, resources or time. Basecamp became that tool.

Throughout the growth of Basecamp and the development of subsequent products, Fried and Hansson kept their company small, lean and true to its character. Their business became very, very profitable, too.

Apparently, they’ve learned a few things in the past 15 years (sometimes the hard way). Lawyers interested in cutting through the reams of hyperbole-filled business publications will be encouraged by the straightforward advice in Rework.

Lessons from the book
The book is written as a series of short snippets grouped into chapters covering the practical elements of running a business that most of us in professional practice worry about – progress, marketing, competitors, promotion, damage control and hiring.

My own consulting work is a good example. I’ve been building my business for the past two years. I have a roster of nice clients who entrust me with rewarding work. I’m happy. My practice is at a point where I could evolve or expand into new markets and services.

Three pieces of wisdom in Rework felt especially timely for me:

  1. “Gear doesn’t matter”. Don’t obsess over tools. Instead, focus on what you’re going to do with those tools. Equipment cannot replace the hard work required to create substance and quality, although it might aid that work.
  2. “Don’t be a hero”. It doesn’t make sense to keep wasting time on a project or idea that is obviously not working. Better to call in reinforcements, step back for a reality check or quit. And there is no shame in quitting.
  3. “Why grow?” This advice was music to my ears. I wanted to expand the network of people I could do business with and to become more profitable, but I never wanted to build an empire.

If you’re looking for some light reading and a little inspiration during the holidays, you’ll probably enjoy Rework.

A version of this post was published on the Canadian legal blog, on December 3, 2014