Inc. had a great profile on Jason Fried yesterday in their The Way I Work section. For those of you who don’t know, Fried is the founder of web company 37signals. The company is best known for their suite of easy-to-use project management and collaboration tools, as well as for their popular blog that has over 100,000 subscribers.
I encourage you to check out the piece and read it for yourself. It’s a great read on a very successful entrepreneur and someone that I’ve looked up to since we first started our web design firm in 2006. I’ve jotted down a few takeaways and thoughts.
1. Continue to evolve your business and look for new revenue streams. 37signals started as a web design firm in the services industry. They were beholden to deadlines and client approvals in order to get paid. They worked on their first products as in-house tools to be used for them, but then quickly recognized the revenue potential of these side projects. They started marketing their products to their customers and soon their product business overtook their services to the point where they no longer had to meet another client deadline. Many companies would build a tool in-house and not think to market it — 37signals continued looking for that next source of revenue and it totally changed their business model and lives. This is actually exactly what my company is doing with our new CMS for Designers, HiFi.
2. Don’t be afraid to give away content and “secrets” for free. 37signals has kept a detailed blog for years. Covering everything from their products to business strategy to actual revenue numbers. Some marketers may think its crazy to be so candid and give away the “secrets” of their business. However, it’s that very candor that has allowed 37signals to touch so many people. Due to their unfettered openness and quality content, the blog has close to 100,000 subscribers, most of whom are very excited to buy the next product the company pumps. Fried puts it best when he says you have to “out teach, out share, and out contribute,” just as celebrity chefs do. Share your “secrets”, but reap great rewards in the long run as you engage your target and spread your brand.
3. It doesn’t hurt to have a little attitude. No one has ever accused Fried of being shy or keeping his opinions to himself. However, it’s frequently this controversial attitude that cause people to read his every word. No one wants boring. The web loves some controversy. Fried’s certainly isn’t the only person in the world that values profit vs. user growth, simplicity in application design, and short work weeks. However, he definitely shouts these tenets louder than most other people. Whether he’s Tweeting, blogging, or speaking, he’s always on message. In the profile, he even notes that many of his Twitter followers are just their waiting to argue with him or say something hurtful. However, I’m sure that doesn’t bother him too much as he licks his wounds all the way to the bank.
I really encourage you to check out the article and learn from one of the web community’s best and brightest. Be sure to leave any other thoughts in the comments.