My Top 5 Takeaways from ReWork

ReWork book cover imageRecently I started listening to audiobooks during my commute (a great tip if you don’t have much chance reading/listening to books in your spare time), and I was recently recommended ReWork by Scott Sherwood (@scottsherwood) of TestLodge.

I’ve never agreed so hard with a book in all my life. I wasn’t joking when I tweeted that I was “screaming “yes yes YES!” after every sentence”

The best thing about ReWork is that it flies in the face of traditional business thinking – the authors are proof of it. If you do anything that isn’t truly ‘traditional’, don’t worry… and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing anything wrong.

If you’ve not yet read/listened to it, here are my top five takeaways from the book. I won’t lie… I really, really struggled to choose just five, but to be honest, if I included all of ReWork‘s best insights in this post, I’d probably end up just typing out the entire book – hah!

So here we go:

1) Other people’s failures are other people’s failures, not yours

If you’re thinking of starting a business, the classic “more than half of businesses fail within the first five years” stat (source) can be mighty intimidating. It might even put you off from taking the plunge because, y’know, what if you fail too?

But you know what? Why should it? What’s that got to do with you?

“If other people can’t market their product, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can’t build a team, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can’t price their services properly, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can’t earn more than they spend… well, you get it.”

…So why let it stop you?

2) Plans should be called “guesses”

Even back when I was learning about the wonderful world of business during A-Level Business Studies lessons, and despite having entrepreneur parents, I’ve never liked the idea of business plans, financial plans, marketing plans, or… well, any kind of businessy type plan. Why? Because you can’t predict what will happen years from now, and everything could radically change the moment that you action the plan, making it obsolete overnight. Don’t get me wrong… planning is important, but you shouldn’t take it as gospel and follow it blindly – it shouldn’t be set in stone. So it was a relief that ReWork echoed this way of thinking:

“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.

“Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses. Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses, and your strategic plans as strategic guesses. Now you can stop worrying about them as much.”

3) Everything you do is marketing

Despite the first line of this particular chapter being “Do you have a marketing department? If not, good,” which sounds like it’d be a bad thing for me given that I’m a marketer, in a twisted and ironic way it actually fits better with my approach to SEO when working with clients. I tell them that everyone and anyone in the company can help with SEO – not just the marketing department (if there even is one) or the owner. If it’s a tech startup, what’s stopping the development team from blogging about recent releases? Admin/data entry staff could be tasked with helping out with citation building during quiet times. Even the HR department can build links (when they post on job boards, for example).

“Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing 24/7/365. Just as you cannot not communicate, you cannot not market: 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 website 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.”

As a matter of fact, I’ve been meaning to blog separately about a recent purchase I made that had absolutely phenomenal post-sale marketing. Yep, you read that right: post-sale. And yet most people worry so much about getting the customer in the first place that they forget about wowing them in order to keep them coming back as a repeat customer. Even after they’ve bought from you, you’ll still be marketing to them – with every single action that you take.

4) Teaching is the best form of marketing

I can’t remember the conference now, but I remember a great keynote years ago where the speaker talked about how the old-school way of business thinking was to keep everything a secret – after all, you wouldn’t want your competitors to find out how you do what you do. Coca-Cola is a great example: its formula is top secret, even today. But when you enter business with that mentality, you’re limiting yourself from a marketing perspective. There’s not much you can do beyond just advertising, which a) can be expensive, and b) isn’t seen as the most trustworthy way that a business can get its name out there.

“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.”

That’s why I like blogging so much. It may be a hobby, and it may look like a waste of time to some people, but it’s actually earned me clients – in fact, a prospect who approached me just the other day said that he got in touch because he’d read some of my blog posts. Do I care that local competitors can see all of it? Nah. I’m happy to keep on doing what I’m doing.

5) Hiring for a role? Hire the writer

This is probably my favourite takeaway from ReWork, albeit for completely biased and selfish reasons (given that I blog n’ all)…

On the surface it might sound like pretty silly advice, especially if it’s not a writing role that you’re actually hiring for… but when Fried and Hansson (the book’s authors) explain it, it makes a lot of sense:

“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.

“That’s because being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.”

This also ties in with another point they make in a similar chapter: hire people who have interests outside of work (e.g. if they’re bloggers). Work and work alone shouldn’t be their sole purpose.

So there we have it! My top ten five* takeaways from ReWork, one of the best business books I’ve ever read.

* …Yes, I very nearly went with ten. Choosing just five was agonising.

Have you read ReWork? What are your favourite points from it? Be sure to let me know in the comments below – or feel free to tweet me! I’d love to hear from you.


  • Tom Buckland

    February 19, 2016 at 1:39 pm Reply

    Nice post, you “plans should be called “guesses”” point is huge, when people want to see business plans and 2 year cash flow projections it’s like – Well I can make a guess but it is just that! IDK where the business will be in 3 months let alone 2 years!

  • Dan

    March 1, 2016 at 4:28 am Reply

    That last point gives me hope, as writing has always been one of my strong suits … now, I will have to read Rework for myself!

  • […] from ReWork – including the above points plus more – on this very blog a few years ago: here’s the link). If Anti-Sell has resonated with you, and you haven’t yet read ReWork, pick up a copy. […]

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