Jason Fried is the founder & CEO at Basecamp. He’s the co-author of Getting Real, Remote, REWORK, and It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work.  Basecamp is a privately-held Chicago-based company committed to building the best web-based tools possible with the least number of features necessary.
Their blog, Signal vs. Noise, is read by over 100,000 people every day. Jason believes there’s real value and beauty in the basics. Elegance, respect for people’s desire to simply get stuff done, and honest ease of use are the hallmarks of Basecamp products.

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The Learning Leader Show

“You don’t want the best people.  You want the right people. People are not the place to save money.  They are the place to spend money.”

Show Notes:

  • Commonalities of leaders who sustain excellence:
    • Willingness/ability to know what’s the work worth doing
      • The skill to discern what’s important
    • How to develop that skill?
      • Must become a good auditor of your time.  Practice.  Look back on what you’ve done.  Analyze what you do? Discern what’s worth it.
  • Remote work:
    • Basecamp has 56 employees in 30 cities around the world… Why remote?
      • “You don’t want the best people, you want the right people.”  The odds of all the right people living near your headquarters is small.
    • The business started in Chicago with three people.
      • They hired DHH to be their first programmer.  He lived in Denmark.  Then they hired someone in Utah.  “It just worked.  We didn’t worry about where, just wanted to find the right people.”
  • Jason never writes a business plan — No 1, 3, or 5 year plan.  They work in six week project increments.
    • Why? “Planning is simply guessing.  Setting your course over a guess doesn’t seem like a good idea.  We have an idea of where we’re headed, but we work in six week chunks.”
  • What Jason learned from Jeff Bezos:  “People who were right often changed their minds.” –> Be willing to change your mind when better evidence presents itself.
  • The “anti-goal” mindset:
    • “(Financial) Goals are made up. There’s nothing about them that’s true.  They are guesses… Made up numbers.”
      • “Asking if I hit the goal is the wrong question.  Asking if I enjoyed the run is the better question.”
      • “One of the problems with setting goals is you are a different person when you set them than when they need to be met.”  You grow, evolve, and change.
      • “Too many companies focus on numbers instead of their customers.” –> That is because they have number based goals to hit.  It can ruin the customer experience (Jason had a terrible experience trying to cancel his satellite radio service)
  • Qualities Jason looks for when making hiring decisions:
    • Communicate clearly – “You must be a great writer.”  Much of their communication is done in writing.  “We look at the cover letter first.  That must be good.  If that’s not well written, then we do not look at the resume.”
    • Quality of character – “You must be a good person.  We hire people that we want to be with.  No ego.  We like to hire people that use “we” and “us” instead of “I”
    • Must be able to give and take feedback – Need to be coachable.  “For designers, we give them a project to do in the interview process and then we provide them feedback.  If they can’t handle it, we will not hire them.”
  • Transition from individual contributor to leader… How to do it well?
    • “It is REALLY hard. Very few people are born being good managers.”
    • “Come to terms that you can no longer do everything.”
    • Advice Jason got from Tobi (CEO of Shopify) – “As the CEO, you are working on longer term strategic initiatives.  You don’t get to feel the day-to-day progress that people lower in the organization feel.”  Need to get comfortable with that.
  • Some of the benefits at Basecamp: Fully paid vacation every year for all employees ($5K), 3 day weekends all summer, $1K/year in continuing education outside of your job, $100/month for a massage, $100/month gym membership, $2K/year charity match, paid in the top 10% of your salary range as if you lived in San Francisco (even though no employees live in San Francisco)
    • Why do it? “It’s the right thing to do.  I wanted to start a business that I wanted to work at.  We’re a company that cares about service.”
    • “People are not the place to save money.  They are the place to spend money.”
  • “Give people their time.  A contiguous block of time every day to do their work.”  Don’t muddle it up with meetings in the middle of that time.
  • “I’ll work hard now so I can relax later” is not the optimal way to live.  Create the habits now to enjoy it as you go.  “Later” is where intentions go to die.  “When calm starts early, calm becomes the habit.”
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea

“Doing the hard thing makes it easier in the long run, it accelerates skills more quickly”

More Resources:

More Learning:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 216: Jim Collins — How To Go From Good To Great

Episode #300: AJ & Keith Hawk – How To Instill Work Ethic & Curiosity In Your Children

Episode #303:  General Stanley McChrystal – The New Definition Of Leadership