For Best Results, Rework Your Sacred Cows

I saw Jason Fried of 37 Signals speak at Big Omaha last Friday. He had several interesting things to say, many of a contrary nature (and I love people with the ability to think, and work, against the grain).

image courtesy of Silicon Prairie News and Malone & Co

I have not yet read Fried’s new best-selling book, Rework, that he co-wrote with his colleague David Heinemeier Hansson, but I did pour over the free PDF sample 37 Signals makes available. Here are a few gems from that free offering:

Not only is this workaholism unnecessary, it’s stupid. Working more doesn’t mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more.

Amen to that. I don’t care what business you’re in, it’s imperative to work smart, which means creating efficient means of doing things.

Here’s Fried’s take on the must-have business plan:

Unless you’re a fortuneteller, 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. They just aren’t worth the stress.

As you might have guessed from Fried’s take on workaholics, he isn’t a big fan of overachieving either.

Do less than your competitors to beat them. Solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to the competition. Instead of one-upping, try one-downing. Instead of outdoing, try underdoing.

I think it’s all great advice, but this last one really resonates for people in marketing services. Most agencies get paid by the hour, so it’s natural for an agency to want to build something–a website, say–that will take hundred of hours. In some cases, that’s the right call. But in others, it’s overkill.

It’s important to be honest with ourselves and with our clients about what is truly needed to solve a marketing problem, and what’s merely window dressing/ego stroking/invoice padding.

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