Tuesday, February 19, 2013 In Copy | trackback


Books 2012 in review

I read this book a year ago, and thought of reading it again because it did leave a very distinctive emotion of “where were you 10 years ago?” It s written by those behind 37signals; the company behind the great Basecamp application. Their Signal2Noise blog is rich and very interesting.

David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried | Notes here

Ignore the details early on

The authors advice that we should use a thick marker instead of ballpoint pen, to put ourselves in the mindset of “the bigger picture” and stop wasting our times in picking the tiles of the bathroom, of the building we intend to build. Build the damn thing first, then worry about details.

Meetings are toxic

Meetings are toxic

Amen! Those who know me well have given up trying to drag me into another useless meeting. From my experience, most efficient meetings are those unplanned, immediate, on the spot, and with at most three people, and one computer attending. The computer being their meeting facilitator.

They go on to give a powerful “capitalist” evaluation of the time really wasted in meeting, by saying a one-hour meeting of ten people is actually a ten man-hours for an hour’s worth. I didn’t like that, we are not cows!

But the biggest problem they mentioned was distraction. No, not during the meeting, before and after. Knowing that I must be in a meeting at 10 Am, there goes couple of hours from 8 to 10 doing nothing serious! What is worse? Cancelling that meeting!

Pour yourself into your product

Nice section, they give two examples of companies that stamped their businesses with their own identity making hard for it to be copied. Zappos and their love for customer service, and Polyface and their strong stand towards healthier meat.

These early days of obscurity are something you’ll miss later on, when you are really under the microscope. Now is the time to take risks without worrying about embarrassing yourself.

You do not want to start a business in front of an audience of one million! I’ve seen that happen many times, when a company starts out, it takes a lot of risks with little side effects, then it grows, and the boat becomes heavy, and rocking it becomes more dangerous! There is no magic solution for this problem (although big corps can afford to test the markets) but the authors suggest that you take advantage of the early days.

In web based applications, your first audience, if you have any shots at all, is in 100 of thousands suit, if not more. So start with invite-only, then beta, then soft launch, then launch. At least you can save face.

As a business owner, you should share everything you know too. This is anathema to most in the business world. Businesses are usually paranoid and secretive.

Most businesses tend to be secretive about their artifacts, or trade secrets. Authors are suggesting that the most well known businesses are those who share the knowledge, simply because they are confident that it isn’t enough to beat them at their own game. Of course, they state the book as an example, but I believe Hansson created Ruby on Rails and opened its source, right?

So hire slowly. It’s the only way to avoid winding up at a cocktail party of strangers.

So that you don’t end up year-round with polite people who are too shy to say “your idea sucks!”

If someone sends out a resume to three hundred companies, that is a huge red flag right there. There is no way that applicant has researched you. There is no way he knows what is different about your company.

They state the obvious, which every applicant must really know, that the cover letter is 10 times more important and revealing than your jargon-filled Word template resume. Always write a personalized cover letter to communicate with the business owners. If you do that, there’s noway you can send your resume to 300 companies.

That is because being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate.

I see this pitfall more often among Jordanian applicants. The IT business is an English-language business (unfortunately), so get your act together, learn how to speak it, and pay attention to your pees and bees.

You don’t need more hours; you need better hours.

So if you want something done, ask your busiest person. Those who have a life outside work tend to use their time more wisely at office. Or not! If they work in a 9 to 5 dull government job they wouldn’t care less about what gets done. That’s my take on the subject.

There are four-letter words you should never use in business. They’re not [*] and [*]. they’re need, must, can’t, easy, just, only, and fast. These words get in the way of healthy communication. They are red flags that introduce animosity, torpedo good discussion, and cause projects to be late.

They create black or white situations that aren’t accurate. Like: we need to add this feature now, or we can’t launch with that, that should be easy for you to add, right? In addition to “everyone, no one, always, and never.” Words that could be toxic if not used wisely. There isn’t much that we really need, or can’t do, there is no such thing as easy and fast, and everyone is not a person.


Reading this book and some other books, it is really clear to me that there is no one way to do business. You should stop following the trend and do it your way. If you are comfortable asking investors to exercise enough pressure to get things done, do it, more comfortable raising the money yourself? Do that! Perform better working from home? Go home. Find it distracting? Go to the office. But whatever you choose to do, always adapt. The market is changing constantly, and the audience of automobiles are nor the same as those of mobiles. You can afford to go beta with a web-service, but not with medication!

And, always get your pees and bees in order.


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