If I had to describe Buffer to someone that had been living under a rock since they launched in 2010, I would say this – Buffer sets the bar in everything they do and then they jump over it. They are single handedly redefining how business gets done.
Buffer has taken company transparency to an extreme. They have turned customer support into a sport – and they’re great at it. The culture that they are cultivating is incredible, especially when you consider that the team is a distributed one. If that’s not enough, their product is one heck of a social media sharing, collaborating, and analytics tool!
It goes without saying that we love Buffer and we’re in the process of integrating Buffer with Blitzen as we move towards a bigger and better product for our customers. More on that in future posts!
Let’s get started.
Buffer Loves Transparency
Company salaries are available for all to see
No need to thank me for digging up this goldmine of salary secrets because, well, they posted the spreadsheet on their blog for all to see. Honestly, this Buffer’s Open Salaries spreadsheet names all of the employees, how much they make, how many shares they have, what those shares are now approximately worth and more. What’s more amazing is that Joel and company aren’t a bunch of tyrants forcing employees to expose themselves to the world. Everyone agrees because transparency is a core value at Buffer.
Details on latest investment round
To anyone in a startup or SMB, you know that you’re just not supposed to share details around an investment round – especially one that hasn’t even closed yet. Many would argue that there’s no need to even discuss this among employees, period.
In a post by Buffer cofounders, Joel and Leo, they discuss the nitty gritty details about this 2014 investment round. I mean, they talk about things that would make anyone in business blush.
- They raised $3.5M
- They were doing almost $400k/month in revenue
- They had $1M in the bank
- Among the many reasons mentioned for raising, they explicitly said a good chunk of that money is going to the cofounder’s bank accounts to relieve the temptation to sell early.
You’re not alone if you just got whiplash by reading that last point. Who says that? Buffer does, and I’ll tell ya what – I respect them for it.
Realtime revenue metrics dashboard
You can see all of Buffer’s revenue metrics. Metrics such as monthly recurring revenue, average revenue per user, user churn, revenue churn, and everything else you’d want to know about how a company is performing financially. They even show how many subscriptions they are refunding! Is your head spinning yet?
Why does Buffer show up naked?
If you’re starting to think that they are just a bunch of startup hippies, you are completely missing the genius at work here. They are doing business in this way for some very good reasons, and it would be wise to take note.
- As a customer of Buffer, you can’t help but think they are always being open and honest with you. When they say their $10/month Awesome plan is awesome – you’re going to believe them. When something goes wrong and they say they are doing their best to fix it – you believe them. If they suggest that your needs would be better served by jumping up to one of their Buffer for Business plans – you’re more likely to make that jump.
- It protects them from investors that can mess with the culture they’ve worked so hard to build. If you’re uncomfortable with a company you invest in showing revenue metrics, salaries, and details around the deal you struck – go invest somewhere else. Buffer attracts investors that get what they’re doing.
- It improves their chances of attracting employees that will fit in and push their culture forward. If you use their product, read Buffer’s blogs and chat them up on social media, you will have a very good idea of what working there would be like. I know I could walk into the office tomorrow and name at least half of their staff. I have a good idea of who I’d get along famously with right off the hop. I know exactly what would be required of me in order to honour their push for transparency. I’d even walk in on day one knowing what my role would more or less look like before I started. I bet their applicant quality with regards to fit is better than average due to this approach.
- Perhaps most importantly, these open resources are valuable to Buffer’s customers. Many of Buffer’s users are small businesses like Blitzen. Seeing the metrics they track, what they consider good performance, how much they pay different employees and the equity they offer, how they value their company etc. helps us all. This information can be hard to come by. So, thank you Buffer.
Buffer’s Happiness Heroes = Amazing Support!
Customer support is half of their business
While customer support is all the rage these days, Buffer takes it to a whole new level. Joel and Leo have actually stated that customer support is half of their business. They have 6+ people devoted to customer happiness in a team that is under 40 people. Their Chief Happiness Hero gets paid like a CTO at $128,353/year and their lowest paid Happiness Hero is making $45,933. For those who don’t know, these numbers are well above industry averages for those in a customer support role.
Happiness Heroes are redefining customer support
These Happiness Heroes aren’t sitting in uninspiring cubicles wearing headsets and digesting verbal abuse all day. These are ambitious people looking to redefine customer support. They succeed in making you smile whenever you interact with them, even if it’s to discuss something negative. I suspect they make the money and command the respect that they do because they have a measurable impact on Buffer’s bottom line. Let that be a lesson to the many organizations that throw money at engineers and skimp on support.
Their response time is phenomenal. Buffer’s 2014 October Happiness Report shows that a huge portion of customers received a response to their inquiry in under 15 minutes. Pretty impressive when you consider that they have about one Happiness Hero per 5000-6000 customers!
My Mom loves Buffer Happiness Heroes
If you aren’t sold yet, below is an email I got from my Mom who uses Buffer for her Etsy shop. She was compelled to forward her communications with a Happiness Hero because her experience was so positive despite the fact that she had been talking to them about a technical issue she was having.
“This is my reply from Buffer about the problem I was having with connecting the new Facebook profile. It’s from the Happiness Hero of Buffer. LOL. Just wanted to share with you the awesome reply I got!
This email also came right after Buffer was hacked. In my Mom’s first email to Buffer, she finished by saying that they handled the hacking issue with “style and grace :)”. That smiley face is hers, not mine.
Here’s a woman in her 50’s, relying on Buffer for an important part of her business, it was hacked, and my Mom is still more than pleased by her experience!
Buffer Focuses on Culture
6 week Buffer bootcamp
Their first buffer (see what I did there) to improve the chances of attracting the right applicants is their transparency across their company and processes. If you still love what you see at Buffer and are one of the lucky few that makes it through the interview process, you enter Buffer’s 6 week bootcamp. This bootcamp is like a probationary period to see whether or not you are right for the role and perhaps more importantly, the culture.
Here’s some high level points to give you an idea of what bootcamp is like:
- One on one chat every other week with a team lead or Buffer CEO, Joel Gascoigne
- You are a contract employee for these 6 weeks. You get paid hourly, don’t get stock options, and aren’t eligible for retreats (more on this in a minute)
- You do get a Kindle Paperwhite and Jawbone UP right away though!
- About 70% of people get hired on full-time after bootcamp
- If you get hired, you get to partake in some of the things that makes Buffer’s culture something to aspire to
If you make it through bootcamp and get hired on, you’ll report to Buffer HQ. The amazing thing is that Buffer HQ is wherever you want it to be!
Work from wherever you’re most comfortable
This is more incredible than it sounds. In the tech sector we’re used to being able to have some days where we work from home or our favourite coffee shop. It’s different with Buffer though. They literally want you to work from wherever you are most comfortable – all of the time.
Love Buffer but love your family, friends, and hometown even more? You don’t have to put on a brave face and move out to San Francisco. You can work for Buffer while living smack dab in the middle of everything that’s made you, you.
The Buffer team has written extensively on the whys and hows of remote working.
Annual company retreats abroad
Currently, Buffer does three company retreats annually. These retreats go far beyond your night of bowling and pizza. We’re talking globetrotting retreats. In the past 3 years they have gone to Thailand, Australia and Cape Town and Buffer picks up the tab on absolutely everything. Air fare, accommodations, meals, fun and more – all paid for.
Why does Buffer do this?
Because Buffer people are working from wherever they’re most comfortable, they don’t actually work together in the flesh very often. While technology has come a long way, it’s still not the same as being in the same room and collaborating with your coworkers. You can’t bond over wifi in quite the same way. So, these retreats offer an opportunity for most of the Buffer team to get together, execute on important projects, and enjoy some adventures as a team.
Also, when you’re a company that strives for creativity, what better way to foster that creative mindset than exposing everyone to the cultures of the world that are vastly different than your own? I’d take the creative individual that’s spent time in 15+ cultures over the last 5 years over the one who hasn’t really left their hometown aside from a few trips to all inclusive resorts over that same time.
Buffer knows that a happy and connected team is a productive one, and productive teams make more money.
Buffer offers $1000 per year to travel
If the retreats are somehow not enough, Buffer offers a loose vacation policy and $1000 each year for every employee to enjoy some travel. So, in a given year, you’re looking at meeting up with your teammates in up to three exotic locations, plus any travel you choose to do on your own. Some of that travel wouldn’t even necessarily count as travel if you kept up your regular responsibilities from said locale since you’re encouraged to work from anywhere.
Buffer is putting all of their eggs into one basket – that basket being their people.
Buffer is a Fantastic Product
To be honest, I love how Buffer does business so much that even if their product was just okay, I’d probably still be loyal to it. Thankfully, Buffer’s social sharing web application is world class and only getting better!
What are your thoughts on how Buffer does business? Think it can scale as the company grows? Or, is this level of rebellion only feasible in a startup? Discuss below!
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