Jason Fried, co-founder and CEO of Basecamp, competes in one of the most competitive industries in the world.
It’s an industry—as pointed out on their website, that is “dominated by giants and frequent upstarts backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in VC money.”
But Jason—and Basecamp—remain different. They’ve taken zero dollars in VC money, for example.
“Where does our money come from? Our customers. They buy what we’re selling and we treat them exceptionally well. Call us old fashioned.”
Actually, you can call them modern. Thoughtful. Purpose-driven. Sustainable. And Calm.
Jason Fried was interviewed about some of his management philosophies by Bo Burlingham at this year’s Small Giants Summit held once again in Detroit, Michigan.
Jason’s main assertion was about why and how you can operate a calm company—one that chooses sustainable practices that can run for the long-term.
This is contrary to so many businesses today that operate in a culture of chaos, growth-at-all-costs, ego-driven decision-making. Fueled by stress and pressure, “calm” is entirely foreign to so many businesses today.
Catch up on two of the major lessons I took away from the Q&A session with Jason here. Then, consider asking yourself these questions that Jason indirectly lifted up at the Summit.
Are you chained to your work?
Many people are working longer hours, getting less rest, and yet at the same time getting less and less work done during the 9-5 hours.
This excessive, “hustle” mentality and endless busyness is glorified, but at what cost? And when does it stop?
In an age where constant, real-time, 24/7 communication is becoming the norm, people are increasingly becoming chained to their work…and that’s even true of remote workers, in some cases.
It’s worth asking whether or not you are chained to your work today.
ASAP requests, 24/7 communication, and constant chaos isn’t necessarily a healthy state. (Keep reading part one here for more on the opposite kind of a culture: one that’s calm, reasonable, and focused on sustainable practices that can thrive in the long-term.)
Do you see your company as a product?
One argument Jason has is that we all need to think of our companies as a product. “Why did you sign…a lifetime lease on this [one] idea?” he said, pointing out that instead, you can think of your company as a product that is continually improving and hopefully evolving.
“We look at our company as a product, and we say, ‘How can we improve the product?’”
This approach works for Basecamp because it encourages all team members to look for ways to make sure the company is usable. It also forces you to look at improvements and iterations you can make so that it becomes the best product possible.
Jason said this mindset requires you to continually….
- Ask, “How can we improve the product?”
- Question and challenge your strategy
- Recognize every decision you make builds or takes away customer trust in your product
Are you open to new possibilities for your company?
Jason is constantly
reflecting on what is working, and what may not be working at Basecamp.
His mindset seems to be that as a company evolves, sometimes what you put into practice can also evolve, for good reason.
For example, when the company only had 30 team members, they might have had very little policies. Ten years ago, that was possible, and his mindset was that “policies are organizational scar tissue.” Now, with almost twice as many people, they do have more policies, and he’s okay with that, and he sees value in that.
“I think it an important point is to reflect on these things. And some of them you stay true to because you really truly believe in them. Some of them you alter a little bit because of context, and others you can just flat out change your mind on.”
Another example: he saw that the unlimited vacation policy was leading to people taking less time to vacation, so they added more definition to it.
The takeaway: Are you also open to similar ways of evolving your business, when the time is right?
Are you hiring great writers?
As a remote company ourselves, Jason’s insights are always extremely relevant to our team and culture.
One powerful insight he briefly talked about is how he’s learned just how important written communication can be today for teams…especially remote teams.
Jason shared that at Basecamp, you need to be—or you need to work on becoming—a great writer, no matter your role. That’s one of the top things they look for when hiring, anyone, period.
For remote teams, he
explained, so much of the communication is written. “[Make] sure you hire great writers. That’s
such an important criteria for every job and every company,” he said.
“Even though a lot of companies meet face to face, the majority of the communication that happens in companies is still written—either email or text or whatever people use. It’s a lot of things that are written down, and if you have to communicate with the outside world, you have to write things down.”
Will some question Jason’s stance as being too idealistic? No doubt, but others will see practical, refreshing truths on how to run a company with employees who have balanced, healthy, fulfilling lives.
For me, Jason’s practical advice prompted important questions like the ones shared here, even though he never asked them directly.
If you are a business leader who, like Jason, puts people before profits, you may be interested in learning more about the Small Giants community.
On June 21, 2019, successful business owner, author and speaker Nick Sarillo—an active Small Giants community member—will be the next leader interviewed in our Small Giants Executive Breakfast Series at Cooper Creek on business culture, entrepreneurship, leadership and customer loyalty.
As the founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub and The Trust & Track Institute, his businesses serve as a great example of how living your company’s purpose and values creates a world-class culture achieving award-winning customer service, higher margins and an engaged, productive workforce.
Nick’s Pizza is one of the top ten busiest independent pizza companies in per-store sales, and has margins nearly twice that of the average pizza restaurant. Stay up to date on the latest speakers and events by EO and Small Giants here.
Want to learn more about some of these ideas and how to apply them? Click here to see the book, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.
Kim Sykes leads the eSign division at Edoc Service, Inc.