Last week 37signals released Rework, their awesome new business book. I’ve long been a fan of theirs – I subscribe to their blog, follow David and Jason on Twitter, watch videos of their presentations at conferences, subscribe to their podcast, and have read their self-published web app book Getting Real many times over.
I don’t always agree with the way they do things – just last week I wrote about how our development process differs from theirs – but I really just love their authenticity. Their core business values align with mine. They preach self-funding your business, starting as fast as possible, creating a product that solves your own problems, etc etc. And I have a great deal of respect for how blunt they are with their opinions. They aren’t cocky (at least in my opinion), but they do say what they believe and don’t apologize for it.
The book itself quickly climbed into the Top 10 on Amazon. I had pre-ordered my copy several months before the holidays and was anxiously awaiting it’s arrival. It showed up Wednesday. I didn’t have a chance to pick it up until Friday night. By Saturday afternoon it was done, total reading time only ~1-2 hours. They do an amazing job of getting their point across without any fluff (which aligns with how they build their software). The book is comprised of short 1-3 page essays totaling just under 300 pages, each with original artwork from Mike Rohde. You can read a few of the sample essays to wet your appetite over on Tim Ferriss’ blog.
Having been a fan of 37signals for so long, I wasn’t sure if there would be anything “new” for me in the book. While I had heard many of the stories before, there were several essays that really got me thinking. Many of which were very timely for me, considering we’re working up to the launch of LockerPulse in a few months. The one that really hit home was in the Promotion section on page 173, Out-teach your competition. An excerpt:
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. 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. Teaching is something that individuals and small companies can do that bigger competitors can’t. Big companies can afford a Super Bowl ad; you can’t. But you can afford to teach, and that’s something they’ll never do, because big companies are obsessed with secrecy.
That really hit home. Detailed Image is successful in large part because we teach people how to become great detailers with our content, our email customer service, and with our interaction on forum communities. SportsLizard is successful because it teaches people how to value their collectibles, including pointing out all of the scams out there and how to avoid them. Hopefully, this blog helps our business because I can get a little transparent and share with everyone what works for us and what doesn’t. That’s something we’ll have to keep in mind with LockerPulse and all future ventures – teaching is where small guys like us can get a real competitive advantage.
Anyway, I’m a bit of a fanboy but I really loved the book. I’d recommend it to anyone, but I’d say it’s a must read for anyone in web business. Most definitely something I’ll pick up and re-read often.