ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

modified 2018/11/02

Review

I was not enjoying this book at first. I was leaving snarky notes in my highlights about how it should have been a blog post. It grew on me though. The obvious criticism of the book is that saying ‘look, it worked for us’ does not mean that it will work for someone else. If almost everybody does something, you should probably do the same in most cases (sure, not all, see Inadequate Equilibria for example). On the other hand, it is interesting to see what worked for them, and that this way of doing buisness can work for some.

The other issue I had that much of the advice felt cliched, heard so many times before. Things like “scratch your itch”. This is often true of good advice, so I tried to pay attention regardless. “Eat healthy and exercise” seems cliched, but it is good advice, it works, people fail to do it. Aphorisms are not wrong for being old and familiar, they are often true.

Highlights

Loc:87 This book isn’t based on academic theories. It’s based on our experience. We’ve been in business for more than ten years. Along the way, we’ve seen two recessions, one burst bubble, business-model shifts, and doom-and-gloom predictions come and go— and we’ve remained profitable through it all. We’re an intentionally small company that makes software to help small companies and groups get things done the easy way.

Loc:93 Five years later, Basecamp generates millions of dollars a year in profits. We now sell other online tools too. Highrise, our contact manager and simple CRM (customer relationship management) tool, is used by tens of thousands of small businesses to keep track of leads, deals, and more than 10 million contacts. More than 500,000 people have signed up for Backpack, our intranet and knowledge-sharing tool.

Loc:101 These critics don’t understand how a company can reject growth, meetings, budgets, boards of directors, advertising, salespeople, and “the real world,” yet thrive. That’s their problem, not ours. They say you need to sell to the Fortune 500. Screw that. We sell to the Fortune 5,000,000. They don’t think you can have employees who almost never see each other spread out across eight cities on two continents. They say you can’t succeed without making financial projections and five-year plans. They’re wrong. They say you need a PR firm to make it into the pages of Time, Business Week, Inc., Fast Company, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlantic, Entrepreneur, and Wired. They’re wrong. They say you can’t share your recipes and bare your secrets and still withstand the competition. Wrong again. They say you can’t possibly compete with the big boys without a hefty marketing and advertising budget. They say you can’t succeed by building products that do less than your competition’s. They say you can’t make it all up as you go. But that’s exactly what we’ve done. They say a lot of things. We say they’re wrong. We’ve proved it. And we wrote this book to show you how to prove them wrong too. > Maybe they are right, that this is not optimal, and you are a fluke! I do not feel that the book proves this can be replicated (although I think it probably can)

Loc:123 It’s even for people stuck in day jobs who have always dreamed about doing their own thing. Maybe they like what they do, but they don’t like their boss. Or maybe they’re just bored. They want to do something they love and get paid for it.

Loc:129 There’s a new reality. Today anyone can be in business. Tools that used to be out of reach are now easily accessible. Technology that cost thousands is now just a few bucks or even free. One person can do the job of two or three or, in some cases, an entire department. Stuff that was impossible just a few years ago is simple today. You don’t have to work miserable 60/80/100-hour weeks to make it work. 10–40 hours a week is plenty. You don’t have to deplete your life savings or take on a boatload of risk. Starting a business on the side while keeping your day job can provide all the cash flow you need. You don’t even need an office. Today you can work from home or collaborate with people you’ve never met who live thousands of miles away. It’s time to rework work. Let’s get started. > Yes!

Loc:169 Unless you’re a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy. There are just too many factors that are out of your hands: market conditions, competitors, customers, the economy, etc. Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control. > Yes

Loc:176 And you have to be able to improvise. You have to be able to pick up opportunities that come along. Sometimes you need to say, “We’re going in a new direction because that’s what makes sense today.” The timing of long-range plans is screwed up too. You have the most information when you’re doing something, not before you’ve done it. Yet when do you write a plan? Usually it’s before you’ve even begun. That’s the worst time to make a big decision.

Loc:198 Grow slow and see what feels right—premature hiring is the death of many companies. And avoid huge growth spurts too—they can cause you to skip right over your appropriate size. Small is not just a stepping-stone. Small is a great destination in itself.

Loc:239 TO DO GREAT work, you need to feel that you’re making a difference. That you’re putting a meaningful dent in the universe. That you’re part of something important. This doesn’t mean you need to find the cure for cancer. It’s just that your efforts need to feel valuable. You want your customers to say, “This makes my life better.” You want to feel that if you stopped doing what you do, people would notice.

Loc:242 You should feel an urgency about this too. You don’t have forever. This is your life’s work. Do you want to build just another me-too product or do you want to shake things up? What you do is your legacy. Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to make the change you want to see. And don’t think it takes a huge team to make that difference either.

Loc:253 The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use. That lets you design what you know—and you’ll figure out immediately whether or not what you’re making is any good. At 37signals, we build products we need to run our own business. For example, we wanted a way to keep track of whom we talked to, what we said, and when we need to follow up next. So we created Highrise, our contact-management software. There was no need for focus groups, market studies, or middlemen. We had the itch, so we scratched it

Loc:292 The most common excuse people give: “There’s not enough time.” They claim they’d love to start a company, learn an instrument, market an invention, write a book, or whatever, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Come on. There’s always enough time if you spend it right. And don’t think you have to quit your day job, either. Hang onto it and start work on your project at night. Instead of watching TV or playing World of Warcraft, work on your idea. Instead of going to bed at ten, go to bed at eleven. We’re not talking about all-nighters or sixteen-hour days—we’re talking about squeezing out a few extra hours a week. That’s enough time to get something going. > Yes!

Loc:297 Once you do that, you’ll learn whether your excitement and interest is real or just a passing phase. If it doesn’t pan out, you just keep going to work every day like you’ve been doing all along. You didn’t risk or lose anything, other than a bit of time, so it’s no big deal.

Loc:300 When you want something bad enough, you make the time—regardless of your other obligations. The truth is most people just don’t want it bad enough. Then they protect their ego with the excuse of time. Don’t let yourself off the hook with excuses. It’s entirely your responsibility to make your dreams come true. > !

Loc:312 Lots of people hate us because our products do less than the competition’s. They’re insulted when we refuse to include their pet feature. But we’re just as proud of what our products don’t do as we are of what they do. We design them to be simple because we believe most software is too complex: too many features, too many buttons, too much confusion. So we build software that’s the opposite of that. If what we make isn’t right for everyone, that’s OK. We’re willing to lose some customers if it means that others love our products intensely. That’s our line in the sand.

Loc:322 Another example is Vinnie’s Sub Shop, just down the street from our office in Chicago. They put this homemade basil oil on subs that’s just perfect. You better show up on time, though. Ask when they close and the woman behind the counter will respond, “We close when the bread runs out.” Really? “Yeah. We get our bread from the bakery down the street early in the morning, when it’s the freshest. Once we run out (usually around two or three p.m.), we close up shop. We could get more bread later in the day, but it’s not as good as the fresh-baked bread in the morning. There’s no point in selling a few more sandwiches if the bread isn’t good. A few bucks isn’t going to make up for selling food we can’t be proud of.” Wouldn’t you rather eat at a place like that instead of some generic sandwich chain? > Long term thinking, good. But could the bakery not bake twice a day?

Loc:344 It’s like when you’re on hold and a recorded voice comes on telling you how much the company values you as a customer. Really? Then maybe you should hire some more support people so I don’t have to wait thirty minutes to get help. Or just say nothing. But don’t give me an automated voice that’s telling me how much you care about me. It’s a robot. I know the difference between genuine affection and a robot that’s programmed to say nice things. Standing for something isn’t just about writing it down. It’s about believing it and living it. > yes

Loc:427 Embrace the idea of having less mass. Right now, you’re the smallest, the leanest, and the fastest you’ll ever be. From here on out, you’ll start accumulating mass. And the more massive an object, the more energy required to change its direction. It’s as true in the business world as it is in the physical world. Mass is increased by … Long-term contracts Excess staff Permanent decisions Meetings Thick process Inventory (physical or mental) Hardware, software, and technology lock-ins Long-term road maps Office politics > Same in life. Youth tends to be lower mass, no family, debt, house, car. Easier to make sudden changes

Loc:434 Huge organizations can take years to pivot. They talk instead of act. They meet instead of do. But if you keep your mass low, you can quickly change anything: your entire business model, product, feature set, and/or marketing message. You can make mistakes and fix them quickly. You can change your priorities, product mix, or focus. And most important, you can change your mind.

Loc:469 These days, we have more resources and people, but we still force constraints. We make sure to have only one or two people working on a product at a time. And we always keep features to a minimum. Boxing ourselves in this way prevents us from creating bloated products.

Loc:480 Lots of things get better as they get shorter. Directors cut good scenes to make a great movie. Musicians drop good tracks to make a great album. Writers eliminate good pages to make a great book. We cut this book in half between the next-to-last and final drafts. From 57,000 words to about 27,000 words. Trust us, it’s better for it.

Loc:486 The stuff you have to do is where you should begin. Start at the epicenter. For example, if you’re opening a hot dog stand, you could worry about the condiments, the cart, the name, the decoration. But the first thing you should worry about is the hot dog. The hot dogs are the epicenter. Everything else is secondary. The way to find the epicenter is to ask yourself this question: “If I took this away, would what I’m selling still exist?” A hot dog stand isn’t a hot dog stand without the hot dogs. You can take away the onions, the relish, the mustard, etc. Some people may not like your toppings-less dogs, but you’d still have a hot dog stand. But you simply cannot have a hot dog stand without any hot dogs. So figure out your epicenter. Which part of your equation can’t be removed? If you can continue to get by without this thing or that thing, then those things aren’t the epicenter. When you find it, you’ll know. Then focus all your energy on making it the best it can be. Everything else you do depends on that foundation.

Loc:501 When we start designing something, we sketch out ideas with a big, thick Sharpie marker, instead of a ballpoint pen. Why? Pen points are too fine. They’re too high-resolution. They encourage you to worry about things that you shouldn’t worry about yet, like perfecting the shading or whether to use a dotted or dashed line. You end up focusing on things that should still be out of focus. A Sharpie makes it impossible to drill down that deep. You can only draw shapes, lines, and boxes. That’s good. The big picture is all you should be worrying about in the beginning.

Loc:511 When you put off decisions, they pile up. And piles end up ignored, dealt with in haste, or thrown out. As a result, the individual problems in those piles stay unresolved. Whenever you can, swap “Let’s think about it” for “Let’s decide on it.” Commit to making decisions. Don’t wait for the perfect solution. Decide and move forward. You want to get into the rhythm of making choices. When you get in that flow of making decision after decision, you build momentum and boost morale. Decisions are progress. Each one you make is a brick in your foundation. You can’t build on top of “We’ll decide later,” but you can build on top of “Done.” > Yes!

Loc:529 What makes a museum great is the stuff that’s not on the walls. Someone says no. A curator is involved, making conscious decisions about what should stay and what should go. There’s an editing process. There’s a lot more stuff off the walls than on the walls. The best is a sub-sub-subset of all the possibilities. It’s the stuff you leave out that matters. So constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline. Be a curator. Stick to what’s truly essential. Pare things down until you’re left with only the most important stuff. Then do it again. You can always add stuff back in later if you need to. > Book is growing on me at this point. Lots of good advice. It seems ‘too obvious’, but good advice is often like that. Aphorisms are not wrong for being old and familiar, they are often true.

Loc:578 People use equipment as a crutch. They don’t want to put in the hours on the driving range so they spend a ton in the pro shop. They’re looking for a shortcut. But you just don’t need the best gear in the world to be good. And you definitely don’t need it to get started.

Loc:594 Our last book, Getting Real, was a by-product. We wrote that book without even knowing it. The experience that came from building a company and building software was the waste from actually doing the work. We swept up that knowledge first into blog posts, then into a workshop series, then into a .pdf, and then into a paperback. That by-product has made 37signals more than $1 million directly and probably more than another $1 million indirectly.

Loc:611 Think about it this way: If you had to launch your business in two weeks, what would you cut out? Funny how a question like that forces you to focus. You suddenly realize there’s a lot of stuff you don’t need. And what you do need seems obvious. When you impose a deadline, you gain clarity. It’s the best way to get to that gut instinct that tells you, “We don’t need this.” Put off anything you don’t need for launch. Build the necessities now, worry about the luxuries later. If you really think about it, there’s a whole lot you don’t need on day one. When we launched Basecamp, we didn’t even have the ability to bill customers! Because the product billed in monthly cycles, we knew we had a thirty-day gap to figure it out. So we used the time before launch to solve more urgent problems that actually mattered on day one. Day 30 could wait. > Yes!

Loc:639 THE BUSINESS WORLD is littered with dead documents that do nothing but waste people’s time. Reports no one reads, diagrams no one looks at, and specs that never resemble the finished product. These things take forever to make but only seconds to forget. If you need to explain something, try getting real with it. Instead of describing what something looks like, draw it. Instead of explaining what something sounds like, hum it. Do everything you can to remove layers of abstraction. > !

Loc:695 Interruptions break your workday into a series of work moments. Forty-five minutes and then you have a call. Fifteen minutes and then you have lunch. An hour later, you have an afternoon meeting. Before you know it, it’s five o’clock, and you’ve only had a couple uninterrupted hours to get your work done. You can’t get meaningful things done when you’re constantly going start, stop, start, stop.

Loc:704 Your alone zone doesn’t have to be in the wee hours, though. You can set up a rule at work that half the day is set aside for alone time. Decree that from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., people can’t talk to each other (except during lunch). Or make the first or last half of the day your alone-time period. Or instead of casual Fridays, try no-talk Thursdays. Just make sure this period is unbroken in order to avoid productivity-zapping interruptions.

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The worst interruptions of all are meetings. Here’s why: They’re usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things. They usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute. They drift off-subject easier than a Chicago cab in a snowstorm. They require thorough preparation that most people don’t have time for. They frequently have agendas so vague that nobody is really sure of the goal. They often include at least one moron who inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense. Meetings procreate. One meeting leads to another meeting leads to another

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Don’t stretch seven into thirty. When you think about it, the true cost of meetings is staggering. Let’s say you’re going to schedule a meeting that lasts one hour, and you invite ten people to attend. That’s actually a ten-hour meeting, not a one-hour meeting. You’re trading ten hours of productivity for one hour of meeting time. And it’s probably more like fifteen hours, because there are mental switching costs that come with stopping what you’re doing, going somewhere else to meet, and then resuming what you were doing beforehand. Is it ever OK to trade ten or fifteen hours of productivity for one hour of meeting? Sometimes, maybe.

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Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room. Point to real things and suggest real changes.

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If you absolutely have to work on long-term projects, try to dedicate one day a week (or every two weeks) to small victories that generate enthusiasm. Small victories let you celebrate and release good news. And you want a steady stream of good news. When there’s something new to announce every two weeks, you energize your team and give your customers something to be excited about. So ask yourself, “What can we do in two weeks?” And then do it. Get it out there and let people use it, taste it, play it, or whatever. The quicker it’s in the hands of customers, the better off you’ll be.

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We’ve experienced this problem firsthand. So we decided that if anything takes one of us longer than two weeks, we’ve got to bring other people in to take a look. They might not do any work on the task, but at least they can review it quickly and give their two cents. Sometimes an obvious solution is staring you right in the face, but you can’t even see it. Keep in mind that the obvious solution might very well be quitting.

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There’s a better way. Break that long list down into a bunch of smaller lists. For example, break a single list of a hundred items into ten lists of ten items. That means when you finish an item on a list, you’ve completed 10 percent of that list, instead of 1 percent. Yes, you still have the same amount of stuff left to do. But now you can look at the small picture and find satisfaction, motivation, and progress. That’s a lot better than staring at the huge picture and being terrified and demoralized. Whenever you can, divide problems into smaller and smaller pieces until you’re able to deal with them completely and quickly. Simply rearranging your tasks this way can have an amazing impact on your productivity and motivation. And a quick suggestion about prioritization: Don’t prioritize with numbers or labels. Avoid saying, “This is high priority, this is low priority.” Likewise, don’t say, “This is a three, this is a two, this is a one, this is a three,” etc. Do that and you’ll almost always end up with a ton of really high-priority things. That’s not really prioritizing. Instead, prioritize visually. Put the most important thing at the top. When you’re done with that, the next thing on the list becomes the next most important thing. That way you’ll only have a single next most important thing to do at a time. > Good idea, scheduling per-day helps keep todo list I’m actually working on small

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If you’re successful, people will try to copy what you do. It’s just a fact of life. But there’s a great way to protect yourself from copycats: Make you part of your product or service. Inject what’s unique about the way you think into what you sell. Decommoditize your product. Make it something no one else can offer.

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If you think a competitor sucks, say so. When you do that, you’ll find that others who agree with you will rally to your side. Being the anti-______ is a great way to differentiate yourself and attract followers.

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Don’t shy away from the fact that your product or service does less. Highlight it. Be proud of it. Sell it as aggressively as competitors sell their extensive feature lists.

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It’s a pointless exercise anyway. The competitive landscape changes all the time. Your competitor tomorrow may be completely different from your competitor today. It’s out of your control. What’s the point of worrying about things you can’t control? Focus on yourself instead. What’s going on in here is way more important than what’s going on out there. When you spend time worrying about someone else, you can’t spend that time improving yourself. > Stoicism is a deep idea, with echoes in many other texts (it could be seen as an echo of Buddhism I guess). Very worth while reading those deep ideas directly where they can be found

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if a few persnickety patrons tell you to add bananas to your lasagna, you’re going to turn them down, and that’s OK. Making a few vocal customers happy isn’t worth it if it ruins the product for everyone else. > !

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When you stick with your current customers come hell or high water, you wind up cutting yourself off from new ones. Your product or service becomes so tailored to your current customers that it stops appealing to fresh blood. And that’s how your company starts to die.

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After our first product had been around for a while, we started getting some heat from folks who had been with us from the beginning. They said they were starting to grow out of the application. Their businesses were changing and they wanted us to change our product to mirror their newfound complexity and requirements. We said no. Here’s why: We’d rather our customers grow out of our products eventually than never be able to grow into them in the first place. Adding power-user features to satisfy some can intimidate those who aren’t on board yet. Scaring away new customers is worse than losing old customers. When you let customers outgrow you, you’ll most likely wind up with a product that’s basic—and that’s fine. Small, simple, basic needs are constant. There’s an endless supply of customers who need exactly that.

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Smart companies make the opposite: something that’s at-home good. When you get the product home, you’re actually more impressed with it than you were at the store. You live with it and grow to like it more and more. And you tell your friends, too. When you create an at-home-good product, you may have to sacrifice a bit of in-store sizzle. A product that executes on the basics beautifully may not seem as sexy as competitors loaded with bells and whistles. Being great at a few things often doesn’t look all that flashy from afar. That’s OK. You’re aiming for a long-term relationship, not a one-night stand.

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How should you keep track of what customers want? Don’t. Listen, but then forget what people said. Seriously. There’s no need for a spreadsheet, database, or filing system. The requests that really matter are the ones you’ll hear over and over. After a while, you won’t be able to forget them. Your customers will be your memory. They’ll keep reminding you. They’ll show you which things you truly need to worry about.

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Today’s smartest companies know better. Instead of going out to reach people, you want people to come to you. An audience returns often—on its own—to see what you have to say. This is the most receptive group of customers and potential customers you’ll ever have. > Me with beeminder (and.. no other companies?)

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Instead of trying to outspend, outsell, or outsponsor competitors, try to out-teach them. Teaching probably isn’t something your competitors are even thinking about. Most businesses focus on selling or servicing, but teaching never even occurs to them.

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Teach and you’ll form a bond you just don’t get from traditional marketing tactics. Buying people’s attention with a magazine or online banner ad is one thing. Earning their loyalty by teaching them forms a whole different connection. They’ll trust you more. They’ll respect you more. Even if they don’t use your product, they can still be your fans.

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People are curious about how things are made. It’s why they like factory tours or behind-the-scenes footage on DVDs. They want to see how the sets are built, how the animation is done, how the director cast the film, etc. They want to know how and why other people make decisions. Letting people behind the curtain changes your relationship with them. They’ll feel a bond with you and see you as human beings instead of a faceless company. They’ll see the sweat and effort that goes into what you sell. They’ll develop a deeper level of understanding and appreciation for what you do.

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Emulate drug dealers. Make your product so good, so addictive, so “can’t miss” that giving customers a small, free taste makes them come back with cash in hand. This will force you to make something about your product bite-size. You want an easily digestible introduction to what you sell. This gives people a way to try it without investing any money or a lot of time.

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Every time you answer the phone, it’s marketing. Every time you send an e-mail, it’s marketing. Every time someone uses your product, it’s marketing. Every word you write on your Web site is marketing. If you build software, every error message is marketing. If you’re in the restaurant business, the after-dinner mint is marketing. If you’re in the retail business, the checkout counter is marketing. If you’re in a service business, your invoice is marketing. Recognize that all of these little things are more important than choosing which piece of swag to throw into a conference goodie bag. Marketing isn’t just a few individual events. It’s the sum total of everything you do.

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Problems start when you have more people than you need. You start inventing work to keep everyone busy. Artificial work leads to artificial projects. And those artificial projects lead to real costs and complexity. Don’t worry about “the one that got away.” It’s much worse to have people on staff who aren’t doing anything meaningful. There’s plenty of talent out there. When you do have a real need, you’ll find someone who fits well.

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Bottom line: The pool of great candidates is far bigger than just people who completed college with a stellar GPA. Consider dropouts, people who had low GPAs, community-college students, and even those who just went to high school.

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Managers of one are people who come up with their own goals and execute them. They don’t need heavy direction. They don’t need daily check-ins. They do what a manager would do—set the tone, assign items, determine what needs to get done, etc.—but they do it by themselves and for themselves. These people free you from oversight. They set their own direction. When you leave them alone, they surprise you with how much they’ve gotten done. They don’t need a lot of hand-holding or supervision. How can you spot these people? Look at their backgrounds. They have set the tone for how they’ve worked at other jobs. They’ve run something on their own or launched some kind of project. You want someone who’s capable of building something from scratch and seeing it through. Finding these people frees the rest of your team to work more and manage less.

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If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. It doesn’t matter if that person is a marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever; their writing skills will pay off.

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Interviews are only worth so much. Some people sound like pros but don’t work like pros. You need to evaluate the work they can do now, not the work they say they did in the past. The best way to do that is to actually see them work. Hire them for a miniproject, even if it’s for just twenty or forty hours. You’ll see how they make decisions. You’ll see if you get along. You’ll see what kind of questions they ask. You’ll get to judge them by their actions instead of just their words. You can even make up a fake project. In a factory in South Carolina, BMW built a simulated assembly line where job candidates get ninety minutes to perform a variety of work-related tasks.2 Cessna, the airplane manufacturer, has a role-playing exercise for prospective managers that simulates the day of an executive. Candidates work through memos, deal with (phony) irate customers, and handle other problems. Cessna has hired more than a hundred people using this simulation.

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“Your call is very important to us. We appreciate your patience. The average hold time right now is sixteen minutes.” Give me a fucking break. Getting back to people quickly is probably the most important thing you can do when it comes to customer service. It’s amazing how much that can defuse a bad situation and turn it into a good one.

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Have you ever sent an e-mail and it took days or weeks for the company to get back to you? How did it make you feel? These days, that’s what people have come to expect. They’re used to being put on hold. They’re used to platitudes about “caring” that aren’t backed up. That’s why so many support queries start off with an antagonistic tone. Some people may even make threats or call you names. Don’t take it personally. They think that’s the only way to be heard. They’re only trying to be a squeaky wheel in hopes it’ll get them a little grease. Once you answer quickly, they shift 180 degrees. They light up.

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“I’m sorry that you don’t feel we lived up to your expectations.” Whatever. A good apology accepts responsibility. It has no conditional if phrase attached. It shows people that the buck stops with you. And then it provides real details about what happened and what you’re doing to prevent it from happening again. And it seeks a way to make things right. Here’s another bad one: “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.” Oh, please. Let’s break down why that’s bad:

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“We apologize … ” If you spilled coffee on someone while riding the subway, would you say, “I apologize”? No, you’d say, “I’m so, so sorry!” Well, if your service is critical to your customers, an interruption to that service is like spilling hot coffee all over them. So use the appropriate tone and language to show that you understand the severity of what happened. Also, the person in charge should take personal responsibility. An “I” apology is a lot stronger than a “we” apology. “ … any inconvenience … ” If customers depend on your service and can’t get to it, it’s not merely an inconvenience. It’s a crisis. An inconvenience is a long line at the grocery store. This ain’t that. “ … this may have caused” The “may” here implies there might not be anything wrong at all. That’s a classic non-apology apology move. It slights the very real problem(s) that customers are experiencing. If this didn’t affect them, you don’t really need to say anything. If it did affect them, then there’s no need for “may” here. Stop wavering. > Yes! How many times have I said ‘we apologise for any inconvenience caused’. Sucky apology.

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Also, remember that negative reactions are almost always louder and more passionate than positive ones. In fact, you may hear only negative voices even when the majority of your customers are happy about a change. Make sure you don’t foolishly backpedal on a necessary but controversial decision.

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It’s easy to shoot down good ideas, interesting policies, or worthwhile experiments by assuming that whatever you decide now needs to work for years on end. It’s just not so, especially for a small business. If circumstances change, your decisions can change. Decisions are temporary.

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When you treat people like children, you get children’s work. Yet that’s exactly how a lot of companies and managers treat their employees. Employees need to ask permission before they can do anything. They need to get approval for every tiny expenditure. It’s surprising they don’t have to get a hall pass to go take a shit. When everything constantly needs approval, you create a culture of nonthinkers. You create a boss-versus-worker relationship that screams, “I don’t trust you.”

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When people have something to do at home, they get down to business. They get their work done at the office because they have somewhere else to be. They find ways to be more efficient because they have to. They need to pick up the kids or get to choir practice. So they use their time wisely. As the saying goes, “If you want something done, ask the busiest person you know.” You want busy people. People who have a life outside of work. People who care about more than one thing. You shouldn’t expect the job to be someone’s entire life—at least not if you want to keep them around for a long time.

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What is it with businesspeople trying to sound big? The stiff language, the formal announcements, the artificial friendliness, the legalese, etc. You read this stuff and it sounds like a robot wrote it. These companies talk at you, not to you. This mask of professionalism is a joke. We all know this. Yet small companies still try to emulate it. They think sounding big makes them appear bigger and more “professional.” But it really just makes them sound ridiculous. Plus, you sacrifice one of a small company’s greatest assets: the ability to communicate simply and directly, without running every last word through a legal-and PR-department sieve. > Yes!

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And when you’re writing, don’t think about all the people who may read your words. Think of one person. Then write for that one person. Writing for a mob leads to generalities and awkwardness. When you write to a specific target, you’re a lot more likely to hit the mark.

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WE ALL HAVE ideas. Ideas are immortal. They last forever. What doesn’t last forever is inspiration. Inspiration is like fresh fruit or milk: It has an expiration date. If you want to do something, you’ve got to do it now. You can’t put it on a shelf and wait two months to get around to it. You can’t just say you’ll do it later. Later, you won’t be pumped up about it anymore. If you’re inspired on a Friday, swear off the weekend and dive into the project. When you’re high on inspiration, you can get two weeks of work done in twenty-four hours. Inspiration is a time machine in that way. Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator. But it won’t wait for you. Inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work. > yes!