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Summary: Rework by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

Starting a business doesn’t need to be intimidating.

The book “Rework” offers a refreshing approach to business that author Jason Fried and his team at Basecamp have validated over the last twenty years while running a successful software business. I’ve developed a three-part mantra from “Rework” to successfully start any business venture:

“Solve your problem, with less, then pick a fight.”

“Solve your problem”

When Bill Bowerman was a track coach at the University of Oregon, he looked for a lighter, higher- quality running shoe for his athletes. He couldn’t find any. He went to a local workshop and started pouring rubber in a waffle iron to create his own shoes. Years later, Nike was born.

Author Jason Fried and his team at Basecamp develop software applications for project managers. Each of their products is built on a simple question, “Is it something we need and would want to use?”

Book Summary: Rework

Fried says, “There was no need for focus groups, market studies, or middlemen. We had the itch, so we scratched it.”

By making a product or service to solve one of your specific problems, you will know immediately if what you are doing is any good. When you solve your own problem, you can make decisions faster and more effectively.

Your ability to build a successful business come down to the speed and quality of your decisions.

“With less”

When Basecamp was building their first software application, they did it on a shoestring budget and in far less time than they had originally planned. They shared office space with another company. They bought one server and had just enough storage to support the launch plus a few months. They didn’t hire customer support. The owners answered every customer email.

It would be nice to have an MBA or be the foremost expert in your industry before starting a business, but you might be able to get started with access to Google and a handful of trusted resources you can ask for help along the way.

It would be nice to develop a detailed business plan, but your time might be better spent building a solution that works and then seeing if ten people want to buy it. Once you’ve validated your solution, then you can build a detailed business plan.

There are so many things aspiring business owners think they need to start their business. Most of it fits in the category of nice-to-have or should have, not must have. You need less than you think.

“Then pick a fight”

Dunkin’ Donuts, a coffee shop in the United States, positions itself as the anti-Starbucks. They pride themselves on not having fancy names for cup sizes, like ‘venti’ or ‘grande.’ They even had a website called where visitors could send e-cards with messages like “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.”

Jason Fried says “Being the anti-________ is a great way to differentiate yourself and attract followers… Taking a stand always stands out. People get stoked by conflict. They take sides.”

However, since you’re starting on the cheap, you might think it’s hard to one-up your competition. Don’t. Instead, one-down them.

I recently went to a coffee shop in NYC that had four options: hot coffee, cold coffee, espresso, and espresso with milk. Their minimalist approach was their way of being the anti-mainstream coffee shop. They offered less, but what they did offer, was better than the competition. Their cold coffee was one of the best coffees I’d ever had. I’ll be going back.

The strategy is to see what the mainstream solutions are, then decide what few things you are going to do to do well, and purposely ignore the rest.

“What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.” – Jason Fried


Rework is a business book that challenges conventional wisdom about how to build a successful company. The authors argue that many of the traditional business practices, such as creating detailed plans, hiring a lot of employees, and chasing growth at all costs, are actually counterproductive. Instead, they advocate for a more lean and agile approach to business, focusing on simplicity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.

The book is divided into 12 sections, each containing short chapters that deliver one key point or lesson. The sections are:

  • Takedowns: This section debunks some myths and assumptions about business that can hold you back or mislead you.
  • Go: This section encourages you to take action and start making something instead of wasting time on planning or researching.
  • Progress: This section shows you how to measure your progress and focus on what matters most.
  • Productivity: This section gives you tips and tricks on how to work smarter and faster, not harder and longer.
  • Competitors: This section advises you to ignore your competitors and focus on your own strengths and customers.
  • Evolution: This section explains how to evolve your product or service based on feedback and experimentation.
  • Promotion: This section teaches you how to market your business effectively and authentically without spending a lot of money or time.
  • Hiring: This section tells you how to hire the right people for your team and how to manage them well.
  • Damage Control: This section helps you deal with problems and crises that may arise in your business.
  • Culture: This section describes the kind of culture you should create and maintain in your business.
  • Change: This section prepares you for the inevitable changes that will happen in your business and how to embrace them.
  • Conclusion: This section summarizes the main points of the book and inspires you to rework your own business.

Key Takeaways:

  • Sprints and Focus: The authors advocate for shorter work sprints, typically lasting 90-120 minutes, followed by 30-minute breaks. This technique allows for heightened focus and more productive work.
  • The Flexibility of Work: The book emphasizes the importance of flexible work arrangements, including remote work, flexible hours, and the ability to work from anywhere. This approach allows individuals to balance their work and personal lives more effectively.
  • Saying “No”: The authors stress the importance of learning to say “no” to non-essential tasks and commitments. This helps individuals prioritize their work and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • The Death of the 9-to-5 Workday: The authors argue that the traditional 9-to-5 workday is no longer relevant in today’s fast-paced and constantly evolving world. They suggest adapting work schedules to suit individual needs and preferences.
  • Embracing Simplicity: The book encourages readers to embrace simplicity in their work and personal lives by avoiding unnecessary complexity and focusing on the essentials.
  • The Importance of Culture: The authors emphasize the importance of creating a positive work culture that values autonomy, flexibility, and collaboration.
  • The Role of Leadership: The book highlights the crucial role of leadership in fostering a productive and fulfilling work environment. Effective leaders create a culture of trust, transparency, and accountability.
  • The Power of Iteration: The authors stress the importance of iterating and refining work processes, rather than seeking perfection from the outset. This approach helps to identify and fix problems early on, leading to more efficient and effective outcomes.
  • The Benefits of Remote Work: The book explores the benefits of remote work, including increased productivity, reduced costs, and improved work-life balance.
  • The Need for Continuous Learning: The authors emphasize the importance of continuous learning and professional development, highlighting the need for individuals to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies.


“Rework” is a thought-provoking and insightful book that challenges many of the conventional wisdoms around work and productivity. The authors offer practical strategies and techniques for individuals and organizations looking to improve their productivity and well-being.

One of the book’s strengths is its emphasis on flexibility and adaptability. The authors argue that individuals and organizations must be willing to adapt to changing circumstances and embrace new approaches to work. This approach is particularly relevant in today’s fast-paced and constantly evolving world.

Another strength of the book is its focus on the importance of culture and leadership. The authors emphasize the need for effective leaders to create a positive work culture that values autonomy, flexibility, and collaboration. They also highlight the importance of trust, transparency, and accountability in fostering a productive and fulfilling work environment.

However, some readers may find the book’s emphasis on simplicity and the rejection of complexity to be overly simplistic. While the authors make a compelling case for the benefits of simplicity, they do not fully address the complexities and nuances of real-world work situations.


While “Rework” offers numerous valuable insights and challenges conventional thinking, it is not without its critics. Some argue that the book oversimplifies complex business scenarios, and its advice may not be universally applicable. The authors’ strong opinions and sweeping statements may not resonate with everyone, particularly those operating in more traditional industries or facing unique challenges.

Moreover, “Rework” primarily targets small businesses and startups, and its advice may not translate seamlessly to larger organizations or established companies. The book’s brevity and condensed format, while designed for impact, may leave readers craving more in-depth analysis and case studies.


“Rework” is a thought-provoking book that challenges conventional wisdom and offers a fresh perspective on entrepreneurship and productivity. It encourages readers to question established norms and embrace a pragmatic approach to business. While some of the book’s advice may not be universally applicable and its brevity may leave readers wanting more, “Rework” serves as a valuable source of inspiration and a catalyst for reevaluating common business practices. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or an established business leader, “Rework” provides valuable insights and practical tips that can spark innovation and drive success.

Overall, I highly recommend the book Rework to anyone who is looking for a different perspective on business. It’s a thought-provoking book that will challenge your assumptions and help you build a more successful and sustainable business.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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