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How Basecamp Became a 100% Remote Company

Written by Signal vs. Noise / Original link on Aug. 20, 2020

Moving is never fun. It’s bad enough when it’s your stuff, but ten years of stuff at an office you only spent two years in can be daunting! I’m Navid, and part of my job at Basecamp the last two years has been taking care of our office in Chicago. As folks outside of Basecamp learned of our impending office closure, I began to get some questions. The most common being “what did you do with the stuff? What about mail and important documents?” Of course we had to work out some logistical puzzles to keep things running smoothly. Here’s how we used Basecamp and a new service to bid adieu to our office, to make my job remote, and to become a 100% remote company.

We didn’t close down our office because of COVID-19, though it certainly factored in the decision. Basecamp has always been remote. Remote is Basecamp. We wrote the book on it, literally. Our lease was due to expire, and it just didn’t seem worth it to keep it going at the new price. We’d outgrown it as a space for meetups, and it was always too big for the number of Basecampers that reside in Chicago. On a busy day there’d be six people working from the office.

On the other hand, having an office afforded us the standard ways of handling a lot of day-to-day business items. Mail, packages, meetings, storage. It was simple, easy, and the path that most of the world has taken. Losing the office and going 100% remote would take us further down a path less travelled.

Once we came to terms with leaving the office, I got to work on figuring out what to do to meet this goal. I won’t bore you with the minute details that are common to every move, you want to know what we are doing now. How we got to 100% remote. The biggest hurdles to jump were: 1. Primary business address (as most government agencies require a physical address), 2. How to handle the mail/packages, and 3. How to manage key document storage.

I looked at a few options for our business address and for mail/packages. When the pandemic started, we re-routed our mail to a PO Box near my home. This eliminated the need for me to take public transit or a ride-share to check the mail. The PO Box would’ve been a great long-term solution if it weren’t for two things. 1) We need a new business address, and 2) it still ties me to Chicago.

I also looked at a UPS Store Mailbox. UPS is a great service! You can use it as your business address and they receive your mail and packages, then forward it at your request to anywhere you want. The drag on this is that all the mail will be bundled and shipped, creating further delays in getting the items. So if there is any urgency, you’ll need to get to the mailbox yourself.

In the midst of all of this, someone from Earth Class Mail (ECM) reached out to David via Twitter. ECM, like UPS, offers a business address and they receive your mail and packages. The main, and biggest, difference is that they scan all of your mail for you to review online. If you need any originals, they ship it to you. They also deposit checks for you via overnight shipping to your bank.

Of course, I opted for ECM in the end. They tick all the boxes to make Basecamp 100% remote, and they meet needs we hadn’t considered, like the check deposits. In the first few weeks, I have only tested the mail scanning service, which is working great. I’m looking forward to seeing how mail/package forwarding and check deposits go.

Another question I’ve answered recently is how we handle document retention. I’m definitely not holding onto these items in my home. We use Basecamp! Not long after I started here I began saving digital copies of everything important to Basecamp. I save each document in Basecamp with a name, the amount, and any relevant notes. Keeping only digital copies of invoices, checks, and tax paperwork saves on office space, a luxury we no longer have, and more importantly the documents are secure, searchable, and accessible to anyone who needs them.

When I’m not sure, I check in with our accountants about anything we should keep hard copies of. If there is any chance we would need an original paper copy, we keep it. At the moment we don’t have a permanent solution for these instances (honestly, it isn’t much), so they are locked up in storage. The goal will be to eventually not need a storage space.

That covers how we are remote now! Did I miss anything? Feel free to leave a comment.

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