How McKinsey slides were made in the 80s and 90s. Really miss my stencils!
Since Rework was published three months ago by the 37Signals guys, it’s soared into the Amazon Top 100 list and is in the top four under the Management and Self-Help categories. No wonder there are over a hundred placed holds at the SF public library.
So, I spent two hours at Borders reading it and taking notes on its 27,000 words, and thought I’d distill it even further for our team and anyone else who wants the snippets. Clearly, this will be one of my longer posts, but short, organized bullets should be more digestible.
Be a “Starter” - forget the lofty word “entrepreneur”.
Build what you like, need, and would use regularly.
Forget the business plan — documents become archaic after you write them.
Instead of describing it, draw it and show it.
A 40-hour work-week is feasible if you eliminate distractions/multi-tasking/meetings.
Eliminate interruptions, and random thoughts you want to discuss with officemates.
Get stuff done fast and move onto the next task.
Make decisions. Make choices. Build on them.
Get into a rhythm of making choices, and build your foundation.
It’s OK and easy to change your mind.
Make mistakes when small — you can change/fix stuff later.
No one knows you right now — so feel free to tinker and make mistakes.
Have a Backbone.
Draw a line for what you’ll build and what you won’t.
Show what you stand for. Be proud of what your product doesn’t do.
Be proud of your mission statement (live and breathe it).
Take as little outside cash as possible — you need less than you think.
Stay lean. The more massive an object, the more energy required to change its course.
Act like an actual business — a biz w/o a path to profit isn’t a biz, it’s a hobby.
Building to flip is building to flop.
Worry about getting customers to love you, don’t worry about who’s going to buy you.
If you do manage to get a good thing going, keep it going, and don’t sell out.
Good things don’t come around that often.
Constraints and limits are a good thing — look at Southwest Airlines.
Southwest’s entire fleet is Boeing 737s.
All pilots, ground crew, and flight attendants can work every flight.
All parts work on all planes. So many efficiencies.
Sacrifice some of your darling ideas for the greater good.
Write them down for later.
Nail the basics first — worry about details later.
Start at the epicenter — “If I took this away, would what I’m selling still exist?”
If you’re a hot dog stand, don’t worry about condiments first. Worry about the dog.
Be a curator — pare things down until you’re left with the important stuff.
Remember, fashion fades away — focus on substance (things like speed and reliability)
Once your product does what it needs to do, launch it.
Your estimates suck.
Don’t make long lists — you never get to everything, and they just become a guilt trip.
Look for by-products that you can sell.
Teach users about your space and products.
Share your knowledge like chefs and their cookbooks.
Let people know how things are made — get them behind the curtains.
Today’s Apple iPhone 4 video sold me flat out.
Marketing is the Sum Total of Your Activities.
Forget the press releases — it’s another version of spam with all those canned quotes.
Marketing and communication is the sum total of what you do and say.
Don’t strip away your personality in writing — don’t be formal, but clear and conversational.
Never hire anyone to do a job that you haven’t tried to do first.
Own your bad news — take control of the situation.
“What if…?” “What happens when…?” — don’t make up problems that don’t exist yet.
Having an Enemy Gives You a Target — Much Like Deadlines.
Never copy — always lead.
Don’t be commoditized — put yourself and your passion into your product.
Having an enemy gives you a great story to tell customers.
People get stoked by conflict — they want to take sides.
Instead of outdoing a competitor, underdo them.
Don’t shy away from the fact that your product does less — be proud of it.
Focus on you — not others.
Companies need to be true to a “type” of customer — not to an individual customer.
Give users a free, quick, and easy taste upfront w/o much time or money invested.
No Means No.
You rarely regret saying no — remember that line you drew? Don’t cross it.
Let me be honest. Getting comfortable at blogging has not been an easy task for me. I managed to update my Kiva Fellows blog on WordPress a total of 9 times when I was down in Ecuador for 3 months. That was primarily due to a requirement that all Kiva Fellows blog from the field to discuss the Kiva mission, projects, the local partner organization, and daily life — among other things.
That comes to 3x/month. My aim for this new startup blog will be to do it once a week, but I think 3x/month and 3 paragraphs max (since I’m an avid tweeter) is more than sufficient. Why? Because I like the “Rule of 3”. You scoff? The “Rule of 3” has been a friendly companion to many circles, schools of thoughts, and industries for centuries. Its root is the rule of any good storyteller — where tension is created, built up, and then released. Ever wonder why there are 3 strikes in baseball? Wonder no more.
So, that brings me to three guidelines I’ve learned, loved and latched onto over the years when it comes to the art of communication (in ascending order):
1. Strive for zero-email status — Do, Delegate, or Delete. (Thanks, Gokul!)
2. Whether it’s email, chats, or public speeches, use Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
3. The Zoroastrian philosophy to daily life — Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds.
Up until last week, I avoided any consideration for living in SOMA (South of Market). Too sterile and new. Not really a walkable neighborhood. And, not the authentic, early 1900s version of San Francisco that I’ve come to love over the past 3.5 years. All told, I felt SOMA had a poor brand. Yet, my co-founders and I signed a lease in SOMA this past weekend, and we couldn’t be happier. Why the change of heart?
Here are just a few reasons why I think startups choose to operate in SOMA:
Cheap and plentiful office space
- Recession hit commercial real estate harder than the residential space in some markets, especially SF
- Simple economics: with the supply of small offices being very high, prices are fairly low
- Caltrain, BART and Muni lines are all accessible within walking distance
- Highway is right off of King Street, accesible to the Bay Bridge and south of the city (Palo Alto, Menlo Park, etc.)
- Double-pane windows + noise-canceling flooring = a warm and quiet workspace (vs. early-1900s construction in most of SF)
- More amenities, typically, such as security, package delivery, gym, etc.
- Especially between April and September when the Giants are playing in town
- Safeway, Borders and countless other retail locations such as grocery stores, restaurants, bars and coffee shops (i.e. Crossroads)
- SOMA is actually a rather central neighborhood in SF
- Union Square, Financial District, Mission and Noe Valley can all be less than a 10-minute drive or $10 cab ride
- Learn from fellow entrepreneurs who already have established offices in SOMA
- Take the initiative to give and ask for support from the community
We decided on the live/work option since we were able to find a spacious loft with a good-sized office. I’ll certainly miss my bachelor pad in Russian Hill after 3.5 years, but given these reasons, I’m ready for the move!