We love to see a rock & roll attitude in business anywhere we can find it.
And we've found it at 37signals, a web application company that checks off on two key qualities we always look for in a team or organization: a distinct personality/identity and an anarchistic spirit.
37signals (named after the 37 radio waves detected from outer space that have never been explained) is a business that likes to keep things REALLY simple—and they’ve made it their signature.
Co-founder Jason Fried: “I like to make things easier for people. I love competing on easy.”
As 37signals says on its website,
We believe most software is too complex. Too many features, too many buttons, too much confusion. We build easy to use web-based products with elegant interfaces and thoughtful features. We’re focused on executing on the basics beautifully.
Fried and his partner David Heinemeier Hansson also love to blast away at what they see in business as an infatuation with planning and meetings. A sample of quotes from their best-selling book Rework:
Unless you are a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy.
The problem with abstractions (like reports and documents) is that they create illusions of agreement.
Workaholics aren't heroes. They don't save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is home because she figured out a faster way.
Decisions are temporary.
Meetings are toxic.
Their contempt for bells and whistles and for preparation and planning has drawn fire from critics who say this approach may be suitable for developing some web-based products but not for running a business and serving customers. (In live presentations Hansson used to have a response for detractors: a slide featuring in bold letters “F*ck You”—an example, perhaps, of a simple but elegant interface.)
Of course we can quibble with some of their patented hyperbole. Meetings, for instance, are a handy piñata for small businesses. But they’re only a problem IF you don’t know how to run them (or if you schedule them without reason).
But the lesson here is that 37signals stands for something that makes them distinct: keeping it simple, stupid! It’s also a reminder that a little ‘tude is a good thing. Says Fried: “Our company has opinions, and we build products and do business based on those opinions. We need more opinionated companies.” Rock and roll.