When I think of Buffer, the first words that come to mind are happiness, remote working, and self improvement. None of these things are about the product itself (which is awesome, btw), but about the company’s culture, which is just as famous (if not more so) as their social media management tools.
Culture has been at the core of Buffer’s DNA from the early days. Back in early 2013 when the team was just seven people, Buffer’s leaders developed a culture playbook, which still informs everything they do today.
Buffer’s 10 core values, which were influenced largely by Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” are outlined in this graphic:
One of the things that has made Buffer’s culture so famous is that it actually works. The team is happy and productive, and, perhaps even more miraculously, they’ve been able to scale their culture as the company grew (they’re now at 70 teammates, as they call their people).
The Impact of a Positive Culture
Buffer’s Director of Customer Success, Åsa Nyström, says the Choose Positivity value has strongly impacted her happiness levels, not just in work, but in life.
“I’ve become much more aware in how I look at the world around me, people I meet for the first time, how I communicate and how I approach any given situation,” Åsa told Buffer. “The general feeling of positivity in all team communication… is a constant inspiration and I always start and end my day smiling and feeling incredibly grateful for being part of this team.”
Buffer’s values transcend work life, a direct reflection of their commitment to not just focus on the progression of their product, but also on the happiness and growth of their users and team.
They’re All about Radical Transparency
The value that’s generated the most press for Buffer is, undoubtedly, their commitment to transparency. This has been most notable in their commitment to salary transparency, from actually listing salary ranges on job descriptions (how refreshing), to publicly sharing everyone’s salary and equity — including the CEO’s.
They also outline exactly where the money from paid subscriptions goes, how they allocate capital from funding rounds, and the company’s real-time revenue.
Transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork. Joel Gascoigne, Buffer's Co-Founder & CEO
They Live Smarter
The Buffer Culture Deck outlines the full spectrum of the company’s values and culture, but one that stands out in particular is the slide “Live Smarter, Not Harder”:
- You value waking up fresh over working that extra hour
- You always aim to be fully engaged in an activity, or resting
- You single task your way through the day
- You are at the top of your game, as you focus on expanding capacity of your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual energy
- You choose to be at the single place on Earth where you are the happiest and most productive, and you are not afraid to find out where that is
They Don’t Have an Office
Practising what they preach, Buffer allows their team to work from anywhere they want. In fact, last year they officially got rid of their office.
The company strongly encourages people to work from wherever in the world they are happiest and most productive, and they’ve worked hard to develop tools and systems to support a high performance digital nomad culture.
The Do Regularly Buffer Team Retreats
While they work remotely most of the year, Buffer hosts team retreats every 5 months so teammates can connect face-to-face.
When planning upcoming retreats, everyone has the opportunity to weigh in on dream destinations — in the past they’ve met up in Lake Tahoe, Thailand, South Africa, New York, and Sydney.
Once they’ve selected a destination, each team member then get to shop for their own plane ticket (so they can stay however long they want before/after), and expense it to the company.
They then spend the retreat working together, meeting with the local community, and bond as they seize adventure.
“Retreats are some of our most productive weeks of the year,” CEO Joel Gascoigne wrote on Buffer’s blog. “At our last retreat in Pattaya, Thailand, we built most of Buffer for Business and launched it just a week later. In Cape Town, we launched Buffer for iOS 7, opened up our equity formula to the public and worked together to protect our customers from the Heartbleed bug, among other projects.”
They Take Vacation Seriously
When you can work remotely and get paid to go on retreats to exotic places, is it still reasonable to except paid time off? At Buffer, it absolutely is. They previously tested unlimited paid vacation, but found that a lack of policy meant people were hardly taking any time off.
In a blog post by Buffer Co-Founder Leo Widrich, he explains how a transformative trip with his co-founder, Joel, inspired him to rethink their vacation policy, which now includes a generous vacation stipend — “paid, paid vacation”, so to speak.
Their policy is outlined as such:
- We encourage each teammate to take at least a weeklong vacation every year
- Buffer pays a bonus of at least $1,000 per teammate to help make it happen
- We add an extra $500 for partnersEach additional family member. (So a 4-person family gets $2,500 to go on vacation, while a single person still gets $1,000.)
At this point, it’s probably pretty obvious why we picked Buffer as our first culture crush.
They’re radically transforming the way work is done, from a powerful adherence to values, to extreme transparency, a strong culture of trust, healthy salaries, a global nomad lifestyle, and devotion to the growth and wellbeing of their employees.
Now we want to know: who’s your culture crush? We’re going to be profiling a lot more companies in the future and would love your input on who we should cover and why. Leave your comments below!