15 Lessons from 'Rework'

EMBRACE. FOCUS. EXECUTE. Build your 2019 roadmap to success with 4,000+ real estate leaders.
Inman Connect New York | January 29 - February 1, 2019

Exactly as I Tweeted below, almost literally everything I do runs through Evernote and or Basecamp.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/VerifiedAgent/statuses/176999126507073536″]
I’ve already covered Evernote in this forum.

Today, I’m going to shift gears and focus on Basecamp. Actually, not Basecamp itself, but the big takeaways from a book written by one of the co-founders of Basecamp, Jason Fried, called “Rework.

There are many lessons in this excellent book that I think are applicable to real estate. The purpose of this post is to identify a few of the more relevant of those lessons and share them with you, hoping that you might be able to apply them into your business right now to either make more money or do things more efficiently.

So, without further ado, here we go:

1 | Long-Term Planning Not That Important

Here’s how Fried says it:

“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,” and “Give up on the guesswork. You decide what you’re going to do this week, not this year. Figure out the next most important thing and do that. (Make) decisions right before you do something, not far in advance.”

And let me be clear: Personally, I am a hyper-planner on many levels. But if I am honest, Fried is absolutely correct when he goes on to write this:

“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 the plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control.”

2 | It’s Not the Idea … It’s the EXECUTION 

Fried writes:

“What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan,” and “Ideas are cheap and plentiful. The original pitch idea is such a small part of the business that is almost negligible. The real question is how well you execute the. …”

This is so true. So many of us fall in love with the development (me) and the infinite perfection of the idea (me again), whatever it may be, rather than the simple execution of the idea. Seth Godin refers to this as “shipping.” Here’s a funny little video I found that conveys the idea:

3 | Priority Trumps Time

We all make excuses, don’t we? And one of the most popular excuses throughout the course of human history is this one: “I just don’t have enough time to do that.” Here’s how Fried says it:

“When you want something bad enough, you make the time — regardless of your other obligations. The truth is most people just don’t want it bad enough. Then they protect the ego with the excuse of time.”

What are you not doing that you know you should be doing, hiding behind the pretense of not having enough time? Learning new technologies that you know deep down you need to learn to stay competitive? Reassessing old strategies that no longer work that you keep doing simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”?

We’re all guilty of this one, aren’t we? Recognize it and react accordingly.

4 | You Need Less Than You Think

Great businesses can start with modest beginnings. Here’s Fried:

“There’s nothing wrong with being frugal. When we launched our first product, we did it on the cheap. We didn’t get our own office; we shared space with another company. We didn’t advertise; we promoted by sharing our experiences online. And everything worked out just fine. Great companies start in garages all the time. Yours can, too.”

Is there some larger business initiative you’ve been thinking about? Let’s be honest: There has never been a better time to start a business in terms of barrier to entry. With Skype, Google Plus (I now live on Google Plus Hangouts, by the way, Facebook groups, Basecamp, Evernote, the ubiquity of Wi-Fi, etc., you can work from anywhere, anytime, and with anyone you want.

You need less than you think to pursue your dream. Pursue it.

5 | Commit

Fried: “You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy.”

I’m not going to taint this one with my words. I’m just going to let it hit you however it hits you.

6 | Less Mass

God, do I love this one. Here’s the key quote:

“Huge organizations can take years to pivot. They talk instead of act. They meet instead of do. But if you keep your mass low, you can quickly change anything: your entire business model, product, feature set, and/or marketing message.”

This is really more applicable to brokers (and brands) than agents — the key point being to keep your overhead as low as possible to stay nimble and maximize profits — but it’s a good lesson for all. As we live through one of the most brutal stretches in the history of the American real estate industry, running our businesses as efficiently as possible on every level is absolutely crucial.

7 | Start at the Epicenter

This one is all about priority, and it is so applicable to all of us in this amazingly distracting “Era of the Shiny Object.” Here’s the key thought from Fried:

“There are forces pulling you in a variety of directions. There’s the stuff you could (do), the stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do. The stuff you have to do is where you should begin. Start at the epicenter.”

I struggle with this one every day. I have to consciously stop myself — many times, every day — and ask myself these questions:

  • “What am I doing?”;
  • “Why am I doing it?”; and
  • “Is this the thing I should be doing?”

Very often, I find that I am not doing the things I should be doing.

8 | Decisions are Progress

This is a bit of a continuation of point 2 above (execution). Here’s how Fried says it:

“Whenever you can, swap ‘let’s think about it’ for ‘let’s decide on it.’ Commit to making decisions. Don’t wait for the perfect solution. Decide and move forward.”

Decisions are the engine that drives execution. Make more of them, and make them faster.

9 | Be a Curator

So often, it’s difficult to decide what to do, isn’t it? We’re so frequently overwhelmed with the seemingly infinite array of choices we have for doing just about everything we do these days. Sometimes, the easier approach is to start by eliminating the things you don’t want to do or clearly are the wrong options.

Here’s what Fried writes:

“It’s the stuff you leave out that matters. So constantly look for things to remove, simplify and streamline. Be a curator. Stick to what’s truly essential. Pare things down until you’re left with only the most important stuff. Then do it again.”

This is a genius point. Start developing the discipline of removing the things you know you don’t need or don’t want to do. You may be surprised at how much this helps you to figure out what you should be doing, merely because you’ve removed options and decluttered your thinking a little (or maybe a lot).

10 | Put a Gun to Your Own Head

Not literally, of course. To force decisions, actions and execution, you need to give yourself deadlines. Fried:

“When you impose a deadline, you gain clarity. It’s the best way to get to that gut instinct that tells you, ‘We don’t need this.’ “

Start giving yourself deadlines and then sharing them with people to make yourself accountable. I’ve used social media for this purpose, tweeting out things like, “I’m writing a blog post on X, read it on Friday!” knowing that in doing so I was putting myself in a position where I had to perform. This really works.

11 | Get Alone

I’ve been in real estate for 21 years. In all that time, I don’t think I doubt I’ve spent more than 30 entire days in any real estate office when working as an agent. Why? Because real estate offices are not where most agents go to actually do work. Yes, there are absolutely exceptions to that, but, for the most part, what I’ve experienced is that real estate offices are where agents go when in between work, or to socialize, or to hang out, or to kill time before doing something else.

There is value in that community aspect, for sure, but this is not the place to be if you want to be highly productive. As Fried says:

“Instead, you should get in the alone zone. Long stretches of alone time are where you’re most productive.”

12 | Meetings are Toxic

I agree with Fried that meetings are usually awful. Here’s what he writes:

“The worse interruptions of all: our meetings. Here’s why:

  • They’re usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things;
  • They usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute;
  • They drift off subject easier than a Chicago cab in a snowstorm;
  • They require thorough preparation that most people don’t have time for;
  • They frequently have agendas so vague that nobody is really sure of the goal;
  • They often include at least one moron who inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense;
  • Meetings appropriate. One meeting leads to another meeting …”

Fried goes on to talk about the right way to run meetings. I would buy and read “Rework” just for that information alone.

The point: Use meetings wisely, if at all.

13 |  Decommoditize your product

This is another one that is really applicable to the real estate industry, which has truly turned into one giant commodity in the eyes of the consumer. Here’s what Fried says we should do about it:

“Make you part of your product or service. Inject what’s unique about the way you think and what you sell. Decommoditize your product — make it something no one else can offer.”

I recently read two other books — Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” and Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness” — that echo the same sentiments. I cannot possibly convey all I want to say on this point in this small blog post, but I would highly suggest you get and read both of those books and take them dearly to heart.

14 | Build an Audience

This is another point that has much value in real estate. Here’s how Fried phrases it:

“Today’s smartest companies know better (than to blow money on traditional advertising that is scattershot at best). Instead of going out to reach people, you want people to come to you. An audience returns often — on its own — to hear what you have to say. This is the most receptive group of customers and potential customers you’ll ever have. When you build an audience, you don’t have to buy people’s attention — they give it to you. This is a huge advantage. So to build an audience: speak, write, blog, tweet, make videos — whatever. Share information that’s valuable and you’ll slowly but surely build a loyal audience.”

There’s all the motivation you should ever need to start doing more in social media, in my humble opinion.

15 | Out-teach Your Competition

Fried views teaching as one of the most powerful ways to differentiate yourself from your competition. Here’s what he says:

“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.”

When I look around the landscape and take note of the people who gain real notoriety and influence in my world, they all have one thing in common: They teach, they educate and they share. I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Conclusion

“Rework” is a great book. Get it. Read it. Apply it.