Basecamp, Baby!

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I’m super grateful for your existence in the world.” This is our Founder and CEO Sarah Hawley expressing her gratitude to Co-Founder and CEO of 37signals, Jason Fried. 37signals is the company that – amongst other things – brought Basecamp into the world, the project management tool that is literally our remote basecamp here at Growmotely.

If you are already using Basecamp in your company, you surely know how magical it is already and probably don’t need to keep reading. If you are not yet using this web-based tool, I suggest you do continue reading, as it will most likely serve you to learn what you’re missing out on.

37signals was founded in 1999 by Jason Fried, Carlos Segura, and Ernest Kim. The company launched it’s signature web application Basecamp in 2004, and is on its third rendition of the software…Basecamp 3! 🎉

Enough with the history and numbers on it, though. What do we love about it, you ask? And: how does it help shape our company culture here at Growmotely? Great questions. Let’s dive in and explore the answers…

➡️ We love that it almost completely eliminates the use of internal email.

One of the most basic things to note about this software, which people who have been using it for a long time will most likely ‘stop seeing’, is that it practically eliminates the need for internal email. In fact, as I was going through Growmotely’s onboarding process back in November of last year, I remember reading the document called Basecamp Use and this announcement jumped off the page and hit me in-between the eyes: “We use Basecamp as our main communication tool, please avoid internal emails as much as possible.” Wowsers! Please avoid internal email. (!) I had made a career of helping people tame the hairy beast that is email, and in one fell swoop, there was a piece of software that was making my career irrelevant. (I’m exaggerating a bit for flare; I hope you don’t mind!) And what about Cal Newport’s book, ‘A World Without Email‘; had Basecamp already built a bridge to this Future of Work that Mr. Newport has imagined for us?

Although there are certainly some positive things about email – and ‘push communication’ in general – the way Basecamp has made their ‘pull communication’ system makes for an extremely user-friendly engagement with projects and tasks, which renders the same workload somehow more manageable and less overwhelming. Thank you, Basecamp! 🙏🏻

➡️ We love the Basecamp feature called Boosts.

boost on Basecamp is when somebody leaves a pithy comment or drops an emoji or two to show support for a document, report or comment that his or her colleague has written. A boost can be up to 16 characters, and can contain text, emojis, or a combination of the two. 

To give you an example of this feel-good feature, I’ll drop a screenshot of some boosts that teammates left for a comment that our multi-talented South Africa-based software engineer, Rudolph de Kock, dropped for one of our automatic check-in questions last month: What are we celebrating this week?! 

Rudolph wrote, “We are celebrating the fact that if it was easy to create an amazing company like this, then everyone would do it… #push! #Rowland” (The little heads with the emojis and text to the right of them under Rudolph’s text are the boosts by the way!) ⬇️ 

These little boosts may seem to be but a simple accoutrement, but they actually play a significant role in fostering a culture of support and encouragement in our company. By building in a fun and easy way to do the remote equivalent of patting a colleague on the back and saying ‘Good job!‘, Basecamp has created a feature that allows us to carry the idea of supporting someone – or appreciating what someone does – over the finish line and truly facilitating a practically effortless execution on this front. We love to boost here at Growmotely, and although I don’t have the official numbers in front of me, I think it’s safe to say that we all do it multiple times per day. ✨

➡️ We love the cross-company transparency that Basecamp affords us.

You may or may not know that one of our five values here at Growmotely is Transparency and CandourWe love to be pioneers in this area, and Basecamp is a great tool to help us achieve our transparency goals. Whereas not all of our team members have access to all areas of Basecamp, each of us has access to the teams and projects that are relevant to us, and since we aren’t communicating via internal email, all communications live in the software – in plain sight for everyone to see. This article I’m writing included…

As is true with our ‘open meetings policy’, what this means is that all team members have the opportunity to educate themselves on what is going on in the company to the extent that suits their ambitions, since so much is ‘out in the open’ for everyone in the company to see. It’s not uncommon, for example, for me to get a boost or a comment on an article that I’ve written from an ‘occasional passerby’ who doesn’t necessarily need to be keeping up on blog articles that are being written (for example), but perhaps is simply interested in doing so or curious. It’s the equivalent in the in-person world of work, of someone sauntering by your desk, taking a look at what you’re up to, and then dropping a contribution or affirmation…like the time when our COO Cass Biyang ‘dropped in’ and was able to add a layer of authenticity and linguistic precision to a phrase I had written in Yoruba. (I was, fortunately, able to keep a lid on my enthusiasm about this contribution, as is evidenced by my boost…!) ⬇️

➡️ Beyond the software, we follow and draw inspiration from Basecamp’s Co-Founder and CEO, Jason Fried.

Many of us here at Growmotely follow and are inspired by Jason Fried’s thought leadership – not just around remote work, but simply around work in general. So much so, that we invited him – along with our CEO (naturally) – to be the opening act at our inaugural Align Summit back in February. (If you’re interested, we invite you to watch his discussion with Sarah here; the video is 45 minutes + 50 seconds long.)
Jason is a big advocate of remote work, and not surprisingly then, is running his company as a fully-remote organization; his team members are globally distributed across (approximately) 15 countries. He writes frequently, and often posts his missives on LinkedIn, where many of us enjoy chewing on and engaging with his content. To grace everyone with one example (heads up that many of us here at Growmotely are nature lovers!), one of his recent posts compared our role as knowledge workers with squirrels and how these animals move in the world, and how they get their work done. “Watch a squirrel make its way to a tree. It rarely runs from point A (current location) to point B (the tree). It runs in stutters. Staccato. Starts and stops. Looks around. Runs some more. Stops. Looks around. Measuring the moment, taking in the surroundings, the situation, the context. Sometimes the path alters depending on what’s now between its current location and its eventual destination. Sometimes it’s more of the same. But there’s always the start, the stop, the evaluation, and then what’s next.

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Hopefully this has whet your appetite – at least a bit – when it comes to learning about what Basecamp has to offer.

I think we can all agree that the software we choose to use, not only impacts the way we think and the way we do our work, but it can and does have a massive impact on our company culture. And if you follow what we do here at Growmotely, you will know that company culture – and the conscious cultivation of company culture – is of the utmost importance to us. It’s why we position culture tools as front and center when it comes to what we care about, and it’s why we champion a practice that we call culture-first hiring.

Although we have only scratched the surface when it comes to sharing all the reasons why Basecamp is an aligned and effective tool for us, we hope you will take our enthusiasm to heart when it comes to choosing the software for your current – or next – remote company.

We suspect that you won’t regret it.

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