The Rebel Rules Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Rebel Rules shows you how you can run a business by being yourself, relying on your vision, instinct, passion and agility to call the shots, stay innovative and maneuver your business like a startup, even if it’s long outgrown its baby pants.

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The Rebel Rules Summary

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Maybe you’ve seen Chip Conley‘s TED talk, in which he explains his theory of emotional equations and how he integrated Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs into his business. That’s also what his book Peak was about.

But even before that, he laid out the things he thought made him and his chain of boutique hotels, Joie de Vivre, so wildly successful in the 80s and 90s. Let’s say if you like Richard Branson, you’ll also like him (he even wrote the foreword for this book).

Much like the founder of the Virgin empire, Chip believes in being a rebel, but not just for the sake of being rebellious. If you combine being a rebel with a few smart ways of encouraging emotions, creativity and spreading happiness among your staff, that’s a force to be reckoned with.

Here are 3 lessons from The Rebel Rules to help you infuse your business with purpose:

  1. Create your own, simple vocabulary to communicate your vision at all times.
  2. Use rules of thumb to help every employee think like the CEO.
  3. Show your employees how to deliver great customer service by playing a simple game with them.

Ready to unleash your inner rebel upon your business to make it better? Rock’n’roll baby!

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Lesson 1: Come up with your own, plain vocabulary to communicate your vision at all times.

A leader can only be a leader when he or she is guiding others towards something. That something is your vision. But the word vision itself already infers that while this is a goal you can see, it’s still far out of reach. Your best bet, therefore, to make sure you don’t lose anyone along the way, is to keep talking about and describing it, so everyone else looks in the same direction as you.

Your vision is unique to you, so it’s your job to make it accessible to others, or you’ll get very lonely in your quest very fast. Chip says a great way to do this is to come up with your own vocabulary for your business. It’s kind of like a set of inside jokes – something only you and your employees share, which makes you all part of an inner circle.

For example at Disney World, there are no customers, just “guests” and at Joie de Vivre, there’s no service staff, just “hosts.” Use words that describe the values of your vision and you’ll always know whether you and your staff are on the same page.

These words should be simple, because if with a little work, every parent can describe anything to their intelligent, seven-year-old son, you too can make your vision simple for your employees to understand.

Think of what Jack Welch did, when he took over GE: he said “we’re either going to be number one or number two in every industry we’re in – if we can’t be one or two, we’re out.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that, does it?

Lesson 2: Give your employees rules of thumb to help them think like you, the CEO.

Another challenge you’ll likely face is getting your instinct to trickle down your organizational chart. If your staff can’t make good gut decisions, you’ll never be able to give them the responsibility they need to treat your customers the best way possible (for example by issuing $100 gift certificates as apologies for mistakes on their own).

You want every single member of your staff to think like you, the CEO, in the way they make decisions. A great way to make this happen, according to Chip, is to use rules of thumb.

For example, Chip has made a rule to make the company’s finances and decisions in that regard public to all staff. Buffer is a great example of this too, with their Baremetrics public revenue dashboard.

One way Chip did this was to explain the impact a single receptionist can have on the company’s revenue by simply getting their guests to upgrade their rooms by an average of just $8. Given the hotel in question had fifty rooms, which were available five nights per week for 50 weeks of the year, that’s $8*50*5*50 = $100,000!

As a result of his transparency, all of Chip’s hosts worked even harder, increasing the average room upgrade to $12, not just $8. Transparency is motivation. Use rules of thumb to help everyone be as instinctive as you are.

Lesson 3: Ask your employees a simple question to help them deliver the best level of customer service.

Speaking of customer service, it’s the most important area of your business, because that’s where you get to make a human connection.

Chip says there are three levels of customer service:

  1. Expected – this is just the minimum you have to do in order for people to even be remotely satisfied.
  2. Desired – the level on which customers are likely to come back, because it’s just the way they want it to be.
  3. Unexpected – this goes way beyond what anyone expects, feels special, like a gift and makes people come back again and again and even tell their friends about you.

Of course you’ll want to be in the “Unexpected” category. A simple way to get your staff there is to play a simple game with them. Ask them to name a place where they themselves received extraordinary customer service and what made it special.

By coming up with examples, they can directly emulate that behavior try to deliver the same level of service, knowing it’ll make the other person feel just as special as they did once.

The Rebel Rules Review

I’ll be the first to endorse The Rebel Rules and Chip Conley in general. We really don’t need more people following the rules, trying to fit in. We need those who “fit out,” live by their own values and run their businesses their way, because that’s what makes them set up for the long term. Definitely one of the best business books around!

Who would I recommend The Rebel Rules summary to?

The 26 year old with massive ambition to start a successful chain of hotels or restaurant, the 47 year old corporate manager, who sees her employees are in pain over all the bureaucracy they face, and anyone who’s working in customer service.

Last Updated on August 2, 2022

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!