October 20, 2023 was Rob & Shane’s last day at CampBrain. That same week, we welcomed clients back to Toronto for the return of our user conference, BRAINSTORM – attendees had the chance to celebrate and connect with our former CEO & founder one last time.
Our team gathered again last month, this time for our biannual full-company gathering, State of the Brain – our opportunity to get aligned, connect, and celebrate milestones. At State of the Brain, Brainers had the chance to celebrate with Rob & Shane and their families; to reflect, share gratitude and stories, and wish them well.
At BRAINSTORM, Rob had a message to deliver about the origins of the company, and what’s carried us forward through almost 30 years of CampBrain. He’s put those words into one final blog post, and as we close the year out, we wanted to share those words with you.
With the departure of Rob & Shane, CampBrain begins a new chapter. Every team has traditions – some evolve over time, some new traditions emerge, and some remain the same. Rob closed every State of the Brain with the same words, and along with his message below, those are the words we will carry forward into what’s next:
As you are most likely aware, Shane and I sold CampBrain to Clubessential Holdings (Vermont Systems) in April 2023. We continued to work with CB for 6 months to assist with the transition and gracefully exited in late October. At BRAINSTORM 2023 (our popular user conference hosted in Toronto), I was asked to share the opening words with Patrick Hayden, CB’s current President, and focus on our past, our journey to date.
How does one summarize 30 years of a company’s growth and transformation? Rather than get into the details and share some “war stories”, I chose to remain high level and focus on what I felt was most important – our original foundation. When I joined Shane, one of our first tasks was to agree on some guidelines/values/principles that we felt were key to us. When in doubt we could look at this list and it would guide us. These items would provide the base, the foundation, the infrastructure upon which we would be able to build the company.
We called this foundation our “4 Pillars”. These pillars guided us for many years and, eventually, became the core to our company’s values. As we exit CampBrain, I think it is appropriate to reflect on those pillars:
In the late 90’s, the decline in client service was well underway. Seen as a cost center that required reduction, it was commonplace for companies to frustrate the ability to access a real person or simply not provide that option. Accessing great service was increasingly rare. Our aim was simple: re-center the client, listen closely, care personally and solve the real issue. We wanted our clients to feel amazing after communicating with us – respected, valued and cared for. Pillar #1.
Shane already had V1 of CB in the field with 15-20 clients. His emphasis (passion? obsession?) centered on usefulness, intuitiveness, simplicity. He had an exceptional knowledge of the camp administrator’s tasks and built software that was truly a pleasure to use and made a difference in one’s day (i.e. focus on the small things). This became our mantra: make software that was intuitive, handled the small details and was a delight to use. One of our questions that we would ask ourselves when reviewing the software: “Would we be proud to use this software?”. Pillar #2.
We did not have a team yet but we knew that for this venture to go anywhere we would need great people, consistently. We also knew from our prior experiences the type of environment that we wanted and ones that we did not. We prioritized good people and, by “good”, we meant “good character”. We wanted to work with caring, thoughtful, smart and fun people. While we did not likely use the word “culture” at that time, that’s what we were defining for our young selves. Our aim: build a team of “good” people” and create a fun environment. Pillar #3.
This pillar emerged from witnessing behaviour that we did not like: companies speaking so generically that they were not saying anything at all; avoiding responsibility; using gimmicks to sell; promising features in the sales process that were simply not there. Our aim: speak plainly, directly and clearly, describe what we do in straightforward terms…and treat everyone this way (clients, prospects, team, vendors, partners). When you think of it, this is pretty simple – be a good person/company. Pillar #4.
No one can claim that any of these pillars are revolutionary or magical. The special part is in defining them for ourselves, writing them down and sticking to them. It is the long-term consistency that matters the most. We genuinely hope that if you have interacted with CB that you recognize these pillars, that they resonate in a meaningful way, that they “ring true”. Over the years, we crafted the company values in slightly different ways, but you will recognize the pillars in our values.
As we pass the baton to the next generation of leaders at CB, we know that the pillars have been firmly rooted as a foundation and will continue to play their important role.