Jason Fried is the co-founder of 37signals, the web development company behind Basecamp. Although the latter would be the creation that put his name up in lights, Fried was already hugely successful prior to Basecamp with his multi-million dollar design agency.
In many ways, Jason Fried is best known for a particularly direct approach to communication and for this reason, he is often considered a virtual mentor by startups and entrepreneurs. On the other hand, the Chicago native has also published several books with his most famous being “Rework”.
But what advice has the Basecamp CEO got for startups and entrepreneurs?
Here are five rules from Jason Fried for successful startup founders and entrepreneurs in 2019:
1. Focus on the Job, Not the Consequences
When Fried first set out with 37signals, the company was contracted to create a website for HP. At the first meeting, they were asked about a specific that the company wanted to change but instead of allowing them to digress, Fried took out his laptop and made this change on the spot. When he refreshed the page, his clients were over the moon and agreed to make payment in full in spite of the job being such a minor task.
Jason makes this point to explain how too many startups get caught up in red tape and non-existent processes. Instead, he says that they should focus on how to get each and every job done before spending any time worrying about the consequences. After all, if you get the job done, this is most likely to result in positive consequences as opposed to the red tape that we sometimes worry about.
Takeaway – Most companies have a certain policy or route that they think needs to be taken. For startups and entrepreneurs, it’s important to know that the policies are only as good as the people who made them up. That is to say, ignore the small print when possible and focus on getting the job done.
2. Avoid Being Verbose or Overly Professional
As already mentioned, Jason Fried is a big believer in straight forward communication. For this reason, he suggests that startups and entrepreneurs should avoid trying to appear as something they are not. For example, if an entrepreneur is working as a one-person operation, they should resist the temptation of using “we” or trying to communicate like a big company.
According to Jason, being yourself is a much more effective tact and you stand a much better chance of gaining traction with this approach rather than lying and pretending to be something you are not.
Takeaway – Avoid trying to sound verbose or overly professional. Just be yourself.
3. Treat Your Services Like a Product
In the beginning, Jason Fried had created an express service which created websites for a very affordable $2,500. At the time, there were endless agencies charging 10, 20 and $30k for similar websites but Fried recognized that companies wanted a straight forward solution in the shortest time possible.
With this in mind, the CEO of Basecamp now recommends that startups and entrepreneurs not only treat their services as a product but sell them like products too. In the case of you having a product instead of a service, he still advises that the same principles apply in that most companies don’t want to deal with long term projects and appreciate when a business can put a simple deal on the table that tells them exactly what they will receive and when they can expect it to be finished.
Takeaway – Treat and sell your services like a product with short time frames and a precise outline of the work involved.
4. Exercise Patience
Even when Jason knew that Basecamp was going to move mountains, he took his time and waited patiently until the project was making more money than his other client work. At this point, he dropped much of his client work and began focusing on Basecamp. Needless to say, the risk of failure had subsided by then and making the full time switch to Basecamp was a no brainer.
With this in mind, Fried is always quick to tell entrepreneurs to slow down and take time to home the process. If a startup has several projects on the go they should wait until one of them is making enough money before committing 100% to the project.
Takeaway – Patience removes much of the risk involved with startups and enterprise in general.
5. Be Willing to Say Know to Clients and Money
As you know, it’s hard to turn down clients, especially in the early days of a business. However, Fried is adamant that some clients and projects need to be avoided at all costs. According to Jason, the choice of who you work with is a great privilege and every startup should exercise their right to say no to clients who incite unhappiness or wasted time in any sense. It sounds trivial of course but the Basecamp CEO says that this time is much better spent trying to find clients who respect your work.
As for how you can weed out this type of customer, Jason also goes on to say that this will often come down to budgeting. For example, he believes that every business owner should be ready and willing to ask a client upfront for the budget. If a customer refuses to give this budget for any reason at all, Fried advises they are mostly like best avoided. Also, one way to ascertain a budget is by suggesting a relatively high figure and the customer will usually respond with a lower estimate.
Takeaway – Every customer knows what they can afford to pay and sometimes money is not enough reward for the hassle than can come from certain customers.
For many people, Jason Fried has mastered the art of communication just as much as business and the CEO of Basecamp says that if startups and entrepreneurs can learn these same lessons, they can starting creating more, in spite of having to do less!