Sunday, July 9, 2023

Let's make camp

If you are reading on a smartphone, use landscape / hold phone sideways. 

A base camp is a main encampment that provides supplies, shelter, and communications for people engaged in activities such as exploring, hunting, or mountain climbing. Base camps are temporary encampments used for storing supplies and preparing for a larger activity. For example, a base camp can be a staging area for mountaineers to prepare for a climb.

Basecamp by 37signals is a project management tool that helps teams collaborate and keep track of projects. It offers features like message boards, to-dos, schedules, file storage, real-time group chat, and automatic check-in questions. Teams can use Basecamp to track assignments, work on documents, plan projects, and chat.

Basecamp was founded in 1999 as 37signals, a web design company, by Jason Fried, Carlos Segura, and Ernest Kim. Jason Fried is the CEO of Basecamp.

If I was starting a business today, the first "thing" that I would buy is a Basecamp account. If I was forced to cut back, if I was in a situation where I had to cancel subscriptions, or cancel services, or cut costs, Basecamp would be THE LAST THING left in my lifeboat. 

I do not get paid to sell, or market, or promote, or evangelize anything in the portfolio. Trust me - I have tried! Just short of begging (I might have begged) the leadership at 37signals does not entertain an outside salesforce. In fact, it was only until very recently did I see them proactively sell and market all things Basecamp. 

"George doing the opposite" is a classic scene from the TV show "Seinfeld". In the episode titled "The Opposite", George Costanza decides to "do the opposite" because his life isn't going the way he wants. For example, when the gang is sitting at the diner, George orders "the opposite" of his usual tuna on toast and orders chicken salad on rye.

The episode is from season 5, episode 22. When George starts doing the opposite of everything he normally does, his luck changes and everything starts going his way. This includes getting a girlfriend, a job with the Yankees, and moving out of his parents' house.

When I think of 37signals / Basecamp I think of the "The Opposite" episode of Seinfeld. There are many examples of the leadership of 37signals doing "the opposite" of what might be considered normal business practice. They put their internal business playbooks on the Internet for all to see. They are very successful, and very profitable. They remind me of a magician - a "close up" magician who does sleight of hand magic. Sleight of hand is a collection of dexterous hand movements used to manipulate objects and deceive (entertain) spectators. It's also known as prestidigitation or legerdemain. A master of prestidigitation or legerdemain can SHOW YOU how the trick is done - but you still cannot do it. Unless, you really WANT to do it. To learn it, to master it. Ah, then you too - can "do the trick." 

When a position opens up at 37signals / Basecamp they get THOUSANDS of resumes. For a single job. I could be wrong, but I think that they have less than one hundred people in total, on staff. And, staff could be living in ANY time zone. Literally. 

"I know it when I see it" is a famous quote from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. In 1964, Stewart was asked to describe his test for obscenity. He responded, "I know it when I see it". 

When we start a new project or begin a new relationship with a customer, a client, a vendor - the first thing we do is we launch a new Basecamp. When something "is real" or is funded, or is proven to be more than a fleeting moment, it gets activated in our Basecamp. From time to time, for some odd reason, a customer, a client, a vendor pushes back on using our Basecamp tool. It does not happen often, but when it does, it makes us (especially me) pause

And when that happens, it is a red flag. Maybe they have a valid excuse, such as "corporate policy" against using external tools. But, unless there is a true valid reason for not using our Basecamp tool, that is usually a show stopper. NOT wanting to use our Basecamp is a signal, a warning, a canary in our coalmine. When you don't love using Basecamp, we are probably not a fit. A cultural misfit. 

"Canary in a coal mine" is an idiom that means someone or something that gives an early warning of danger or failure. The idiom comes from the practice of coal miners bringing canaries into mines as an early warning signal for toxic gases, primarily carbon monoxide. The birds would become sick before the miners, who would then have a chance to escape or put on protective respirators. Dying canaries would signal for the workers to leave the mine immediately.

AND: when someone "loves" using Basecamp - when someone recognizes Basecamp as a "must have" and the first thing they would buy, and the last thing they would cancel - they become our people. Our tribe. If you love using Basecamp, we will probably love working with YOU

What about you? What do you have in your life, in your business world, that is your "must have" ??? What product, what service, what tool do you use (every day) that - as a business owner - that would be the first thing you buy - and the last thing you cancel?

You should know this - and everyone in your company should know this, too. 


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