The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

The Buffer Culture Playbook

7 Slightly Crazy Ways To Build A Happy, Productive, And Transparent Company

So you just started launched your business. Why not create a culture you actually want to be a part of? Buffer's Leo Widrich explains how.

Building a “normal” startup was never something that excited us much at Buffer. After all, if you go ahead and start your own company, you finally have the chance to put all your ideas for how to build a great company into practice.

A few months back, we finally put the first ideas for the Buffer culture into words: You can see what we came up with in the above slideshow.

Of course, culture is much more than just a slideshow. Since we first started working on Buffer two years ago, we have been searching for the best process to make working every day as enjoyable and impactful as possible.

Here are the 7 top things we’ve been experimenting with and implementing:

Free Jawbone UP for everyone

What we’ve recently started is to give everyone that starts out at Buffer a Jawbone UP wristband. The band allows you to seamlessly track your sleep, your daily steps, nutrition and much more. Here is a screenshot of the Buffer team’s sleep habits:

Why try this?

One of our key values at Buffer is to work smarter, not harder. Together with an immense focus on personal improvement, giving everyone a chance to improve their sleep patterns seemed like a no-brainer. A few weeks in, this has already had an incredible effect. Browsing through everyone’s sleep patterns and discussing how to get more deep sleep over our virtual water coolers has an amazing effect on productivity.

Open Salaries

Something that was definitely very scary for us to do was to make all salaries public within the company. We created a formula to calculate everybody’s salaries and then went ahead to add it to our wiki page for everyone to see.

Why try this?

There are two key reasons we did this. The first and foremost is to truly commit to our value of transparency. Here is what Joel sent to everyone in the team in the announcement email:

“I truly believe that transparency breeds trust, that's one of the key reasons for this adjustment.”

The second element was that it made hiring new people for our team a lot easier and yes, you guessed it, more transparent. In fact, we could tell people how much they would earn, before we got into any details. We just ran through the formula and came up with the number.

The goal here is to eventually make all salaries and the formula publicly available.

Free Kindle books for all

Everyone on the Buffer team can grab any Kindle book they want, for free, at any time. There are no questions asked, you just drop the link to Amazon into a form field and you will get it on your Kindle device minutes later. Here are a few books I snatched up recently:

Why try this?

If you browse through the above slideshow, you will see that another one of our core values is “Have a focus on self improvement." And what could suit this better than reading books? So far dozens of books have been grabbed by our team. This is a great way to encourage learning for the team and quickly upped my daily reading amount.

Open Equity

It is one thing to have salaries made completely public throughout the company. Going the extra step to make equity completely open to everyone in the company was next. We created another formula that determines how much equity each new person on the team will get and why everyone on the team received what they did. This was definitely also nerve-racking, and yet, today it feels like one of the best decisions we’ve made.

Why try this?

I’m not exactly sure why, but making equity public felt like going beyond salaries in terms of transparency. Combining both salary and equity really made us put all our cards on the table. I believe this creates an amazing bond for the team. And as we plan on making all equity completely public, we hope to truly make the step towards an “open company.”

The daily personal improvement

At Buffer, we are using an amazing productivity app called IDoneThis, where everyone logs what they've accomplished and how they are working to improve. Glancing over recent examples for improvements, these stick out:

- “4th day streak of 6am rising.”
- “Back to 10 minutes of daily meditation consistently.”
- “Need to do some Pilates. Walking all the steps but still missing planned exercise.”

Why try this?

A daily log is a widely used tool in many companies. The element of “what am I working on to improve myself" is something that has always been a core part of what we do at Buffer. Because all improvements are shared company-wide, it is a great way to get encouragement and find a habit. On top of this, it’s an awesome opportunity to learn new skills. For example, I've picked up coding, in part because of this daily log.

Great support for a free product

This is something a lot of people called us crazy for doing. We are doing our best to provide amazing support for a product that is free for 98% of users. In fact, out of our 10-person team, about a third of us do full-time customer support work.

Why try this?

Giving great customer support for something that’s free is great, precisely because it is crazy. No one else does it, and it allows you to truly create a “wow” effect. No one expects to get a response, so whenever people do get one, they are over the moon and spread the word as far as they can. Customer support is the new marketing department.

Managing a remote team: The daily pair call

The last idea that we’ve implemented recently is the daily pair call. Most startups use a daily standup to sync up on everything in the morning or evening. With a lot of our employees being in different time zones, that quickly became impossible. Instead, for each week, two people on our staff are paired up and have their own one-on-one calls. In these calls the two paired-up people talk about challenges, daily improvements, and what we are working on.

Why try this?

The pairings are completely random and involve each team member. People that might not talk that often with each other get a chance to do so. An engineer, say, may get paired up with a support person. It’s also a great way to get daily face time in, which we couldn’t do otherwise.

Those are some of the ideas that are the key at Buffer for creating and maintaining our culture. The feedback so far has been amazing. I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on the above ideas, and what's worked well inside your own company.

[Image: Flickr user A. Strakey]

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4 Comments

  • Drew Frey

    As always, I am impressed and slightly in awe with the Buffer team. On top of that, this company culture deck REALLY has me excited about what's next for Leo/Joel and the Buffer Bunch.

    Wow. Great work. 

  • ccioffi

    Leo, What is the status of your funding? If you have attracted investors, how do they respond to some of your initiatives? I have it in mind to implement ideas similar in thinking, however, I have a board with a mindset engaged in an old style approach to managing the business. 

  • LeoWid

    Hi CCioffi, that's a good one, we have in fact received funding (around 500k). Our investors are actually all Angels (we even wrote a blogpost about all of our investors: http://blog.bufferapp.com/the-... and they were extremely supportive of our efforts, which is absolutely amazing. I think it's definitely about finding the right investors who will be willing to help right from the start with these kinds of things! :)