It's no secret to regular readers of this blog, and anyone who's worked with me, that I'm an operations wonk. Processes and systems are an important factor in the way I run The Word Factory. And they're the key to our ability to manage more than 100 projects a year -- on budget and on time.

A lot of my desire to keep things streamlined stems from my coming of age as a business professional. When I started working in 1983, you were excited if you had a correcting typewriter. Conference calls were considered pretty high tech and fax machines were down-right space-aged. Walking down the hall or driving across town for a meeting were just the way most business got done. It took a while to get things done, so making things go as quickly as possible was paramount. Time is money, after all!

But the advent of email and IM/chat changed that. And while I love a good face-to-face as much as anybody, I’m a heck of a lot more strategic about it these days. I’ll meet when it makes sense to, but if email or a call will do just as well, I’m going with technology over face time because it's more efficient and equally effective.

Over the last year, we’ve been using a very reasonably-priced product called Basecamp® that we just love. With our team based in four different states, partners in three more, and Steve and me traveling more than we’d like, this product has kept all our projects on track and on time. It allows us to communicate easily with each other – and archives those communiqués by project. It enables us to track different versions of documents or use the whiteboard function for group mark-ups. It’s got a milestones calendar feature (complete with reminders) and a nice to-do list function. So you can have everything you need in one virtual filing cabinet accessible by any team member any time.

Not only does Basecamp make team work easier, but it just plain makes us more productive and efficient. And that makes it easier for us to keep our clients happy.

Speaking of making things easier, Steve and I had a great time addressing the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' Blue Ribbon Mentor Commission Writing Camp yesterday. I talked a little about life as a freelance journalist and then took the kids through the CPA to show them how they, too, could write better, faster. Here's a link to the packet, in case you missed it yesterday: BRMC. The kids seemed to dig it, so I'm hoping we'll get asked back to do this kind of thing again.