"Rework" Your Business Acumen
June 11, 2010
I recently read the book "Rework" by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. It begins with this statement…
"We have something new to say about building, running, and growing (or not growing) a business."
Based on "Rework's" opening statement, I expected to read about ideas and concepts that would fly in the face of what we teach to some of the world's most profitable companies; that every business is the same inside and that there are universal principles of business that are the same whether you're a street vendor or you're running a billion dollar company. These rules vary of course, but they don't change… and they are certainly not new.
The ideas presented in "Rework" will make you rethink hiring, growth, profitability, productivity, and other areas of your business. But with every turn of the page it became clear that the authors intimately understand the principles of cash, profit, assets, growth, and people… the principles we teach in our Building Business Acumen course. That's not to say that all of their opinions on these principles are right. Nevertheless, the authors understand the principles.
Take Fried and Hansson's argument for doing less and their call for embracing constraints. This logic doesn't fit the image of the typical heads-down charging-forward business leader who is constantly pushing for growth. Our course teaches growth as an essential business driver, and one could easily conclude that we'd side with the heads-down charging-forward types. But really our teachings on growth are more closely aligned with Fried and Hansson. I've heard our owner, Kevin Cope, say a million times…
"The goal is not growth. The goal is profitable and sustainable growth."
Unconstrained growth isn't healthy, and it takes business acumen, or an understanding of the bigger picture, to truly understand why growth for growth's sake shouldn't be the goal of any business leader, employee, or entrepreneur. Growth must be balanced in relationship with the other four business drivers… cash, profits, assets, and people.
We echo the words of the authors: "A business without a path to profit, isn't a business."
Employees need to be taught how to think through their decisions, and clearly see how their decisions impact profits and the business as a whole, not just how their decisions impact what they're directly responsible for.
"Rework" takes aim at many traditional business ideas, but respects the essence of business. Some of the ideas are irreverent, and you may feel at times that the author's crosshairs are squarely aimed at you (or rather your long-held ideas about work). With that said, you'll close the book thankful for the author's willingness to share how they approach building, running, and growing their business. Their version of business acumen is unique and worth reading about.