A couple of months ago, I made a big decision. I joined Basecamp as its first-ever COO. Once I came aboard, I was immediately reminded what’s tough about joining a new company.
There’s a lot about the company you don’t know.
And one of the hardest things is where to start.
Especially when you’re in a new role for a company like Basecamp.
I had a head start. Jason and David were clear and unwavering about the charter from the outset: We want to operate the company with as much love and attention and care as we already put into building our products. We want Basecamp the company to be outstanding at every level.
That still leaves a lot of wiggle room. Where do you start with a company that is already so great to begin with? A company that trusts its employees to choose and figure out what to work on. How I can I do that when I’m new?
But that’s the magic. I’m only going to be new once. Being new wasn’t the predicament, it was the breakthrough.
I came in with fresh eyes and an open mind. It was like wearing 3-D glasses. Everything was intensified. I had no pre-conceived notions and plenty of room for new thoughts. I had the gift of fresh perspective.
So what did I do with this gift?
I spent the first week going through our company basecamps. Luckily it was all waiting for me: The marketing basecamp, the team OMG (our support team) basecamp, the data basecamp and many others. They were all there with their to-do’s, message boards, documents and threaded discussions. It didn’t matter how long ago my colleagues commented in these basecamps. It was all there for me to see, review and learn from.
I asked for and received written responses from almost everyone in the company to a message I posted seeking advice for newbies. My colleagues were helpful, generous, funny and a little irreverent in their responses — just like our culture. Advice ranged from …and never, ever, drink the Malört to drink the Malört, it’s totally fine. It’s only gross when you can smell it, are drinking it and for a few short hours afterwards.
I was in several hang outs with my colleagues. Each hang out was different. I listened to their questions and asked where they thought I should start.
I went to our meet up. I got to meet almost everyone in the company face-to-face. It was great. I tried to speak everyone personally and asked them what they thought I should focus on first.
After that I asked questions. A lot of questions. Some were in one-on-one pings and others were in response to threaded discussions about specific topics.
I read books that were recommended to me.
I helped answer support tickets for our customers.
I listened in campfires and piped up when I had a question.
Then something magical happened. Big rocks (from Rockefeller Habits) started coming into my field of view. All the interlocking pieces came together in my mind’s eye. I chose (with a little help from Jason and David) and figured out which big rocks to focus on for Basecamp.
I’m new here and that’s a good thing! 😀