It really doesn’t. At least that is what a book told me.

I just wrapped up reading It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, a new book by the co-founders of Basecamp. This isn’t the first book by these guys but it was the first one that I’ve read. I had been reading Jason Fried’s posts on Medium from time to time and really appreciated what he had to say. I figured I wouldn’t be disappointed by the book.

I wasn’t.

I really appreciated these two’s approach to business. They bootstrapped their business. They’re not into flipping their company - at least anytime soon. They run a solid business, have a healthy profit margin, and really focus on just being the best version of themselves. The Basecamp co-founders (at least have appeared to) built a company that is focused on…well…focus. Not shiny objects. Just doing solid work but not at the expense of their whole lives.

What were some of my takeaways?

Small meetings are best

I’ve read in several articles that Amazon has a “two pizza” meeting policy. Basecamp takes it to another level - they typically have less than four people in a meeting. From what I could gather, they don’t really do the full group “status meeting” approach. After all, their product Basecamp is designed to keep project teams in the loop at all times on project status. My guess is that this approach:

  • Provides for much more efficient and productive meetings

  • Cuts down on actual meeting times

  • Affords employees more time to get work done…which in turn gives them more time doing the things they love outside of work (family, hobbies, etc).

Don’t Rush Projects

This isn’t something they were admittedly good at. The authors share a story about promising a significant product upgrade by a certain date. Not because there was a strategic reason for that date, it just seemed like a good date to shoot for. As it turned out, the project kept getting put off for other priorities and they ended up having to rush a release just to hit an arbitrary deadline that they only had because they pulled it out of thin air in the first place.

It was a big lesson for them. As a result, they’ve taken an “under promise, over deliver” approach to product life cycles and project deadlines. It’s the same approach that was preached at DeMoss while I worked there. While that approach doesn’t necessarily build as much hype, it’s a much more sustainable approach to business. That approach also doesn’t downplay honestly great accomplishments in the event they don’t live up to the original hype.

Focus is best. It’s also hard.

Basecamp doesn’t appear to chase shiny objects as a company. They focus on being the best version of themselves possible and don’t appear to waste time on other things that aren’t priorities. This allows them to spend more time on the things that matter and have more time for real life.

However, focus isn’t easy. It wasn’t always easy for Basecamp. Reading the stories shows that the company had a long road and several mistakes made along the way that taught them what they believe about focus today. Reading their posts and the book today appears that focus is easy - almost like a productivity and work/life balance nirvana. It’s not easy. It’s hard work and takes a lot of discipline to accomplish. Hard but worth it.

Worth the read?

All in all? If you work in an office at all or lead a team, I highly recommend this book. It’ll make you more aware of little things that you think aren’t big deals that may have ripple effects on your team. I know it at least taught me a lot.