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Jason Fried is the co-founder and President of 37signals, the Chicago-based web-application company. He has co-authored all of 37signals' books, including the upcoming, "Rework," as well as the 'minimalist manifesto,'[…]

It’s best if people stay away from each other while they are working, because when people are all together all the time, they tend to constantly interrupt each other.

Question: What is 37signals? 
Jason Fried:rn The company started in ’99 as a web design company actually.  And we rnwere doing client work for hire, you know, redesigning people’s sites. rn And we started getting really busy.  In about 2002-2003, we needed a rnbetter way to manage our client projects, and so because we were rnshooting things back and forth via email, which is what people typicallyrn do.  And we said, you know, we looked around at some software that rnexisted and we weren’t really happy with what we saw, so we decided to rnbuild our own product internally to use with our clients to share rndesigns and ideas online with people. And it worked out pretty well. rn And we said, hey, maybe there’s a business here.  If we need this rnthing, someone else needs it.  And that was kind of the... that’s sort rnof what 37signals is all about, that we build stuff for ourselves and wern recognize that if we need it, other people probably need it too.  And rnso since then we’ve launched six different products, we’ve wrote a book,rn and we’ve done a variety of other things all based on the things that rnwe need or we want for ourselves realizing that we’re not special and rnother people would like it too. 
Question: How is your company different? 
Jason Fried:  We’rern kind of a virtual company and a physical company.  So we’re 20 people, rnhalf in Chicago and then half elsewhere in 10 other cities around the rnworld.  So we’re a little bit of a mix of the traditional and the sort rnof next-generation, new wave, or virtual sort of company.  Our general rnfeeling though is it’s best if people stay away from each other as much rnas possible, because when people are all together all the time, it’s rnreally easy to interrupt each other.  And we found that that’s kind of rnthe biggest problem with the traditional workplace... is interruptions. rn So we’re trying to avoid that at all costs. 
Question: How do you develop your ideas about how to run a business? 
Jason Fried:  Sure, well it kind of happened because originally, my partner in the business, a guy named David Hanssen—Heinemeier Hanssonrn actually is his full name—he was working in Denmark and I was working rnin Chicago.  And we got a lot of stuff done working together seven time rnzones apart.  And then eventually he moved to Chicago.  And we're like, rn"Man, he's in Chicago, this is going to be great, we’re going to get rnmore work done together."  And he comes to Chicago and we get less work rndone together.  And we start to realize that because we are both in the rnsame physical place in the same physical office, we’re just interruptingrn each other all the time by talking.  And there's something good about rntalking and face time, you know, but too much of it is a bad thing.  So rnwe decided that we’re going to try to simulate the old way of working, rnwhich was he was in Denmark and I was in Chicago, so we wouldn’t see rneach other very often. So he worked at home and I worked at home and if rnwe came into the office we came in at off times often.  And we found outrn that we started getting more work done again when we were split up. rn And so we’ve sort of carried that through, throughout the business now.rn  That, you know, we try to stay away from each other as much as we can.rn  We have a physical office, we just built a new office, and I can talk rnabout that a little bit ‘because we try to take this philosophy and rnbuild it into a physical space.  But most of the time, we don’t talk to rneach other.  We communicate over the Web using our products or email or arn variety of other tools you can use.  And then when you do that, someonern can hide the thing when they don’t want to be bothered.  But you can’t rnstop someone from like calling your name across the room, or pulling yourn into a meeting or something like that.  That’s hard to stop.  But if rnyou communicate virtually through, you know, Base Camp or instant rnmessaging or email, it’s easy for you to hide that and then get back to rnit later when you’re free.  So then you decide when you want to be in rncommunication with somebody else instead of someone deciding when they rnwant you to talk to them.

Recorded on July 22, 2010
Interviewed by Peter Hopkins