I’m excited to write the very first Buffer update of 2015, which is also going to our new Series A investors following our transparent funding round.

Welcome to our new investors, and thank you so much once again for joining us on this journey!

The latest Buffer metrics:

  • 2,002,495 total registered users (+3.5%)
  • 168,455 monthly active users (-1.4%)
  • 40,430 average daily active users (-0.40%)
  • $421,787 monthly recurring revenue (+3.0%)
  • $5.06m annual revenue run-rate (+3.0%)
  • $2,088,537 cash in bank
  • 29 team members across the world
  • 22 cities, 11 countries, 6 continents

We’re very happy to have reached $5m ARR, and we are excited about the current pace of team growth too.
I’d love to share some of the most important and interesting things going on within the company right now:

Brand new company structure

During November, as a company we started to think about how our organization was changing as a result of our team growth. We had gone beyond 25 people, and we had felt the need to introduce some hierarchy and this naturally created separation between some teams.

Some of these changes we were not completely happy with, and this triggered some reflection and searching for how we want to structure the company. It was also right around this time that we had a chance to visit Vegas Tech Fund in Las Vegas and get insights into some of the big organizational structure changes that have taken place at Zappos.

We then discovered Frederic Laloux and his incredible book Reinventing Organizations (I can highly recommend his YouTube video). Laloux talks about the previous paradigms which have existed for companies in the last few centuries, and convincingly shares his thoughts on how a whole new paradigm is emerging.

The whole team got very excited about this, and almost every single one of us has read his book in full now. After the discovery, we started to make a number of changes which felt very aligned with the values we have put in place and followed for Buffer already.

If you would like to fully understand some of the changes we are going through, I highly recommend grabbing Reinventing Organizations. I’ll try to outline a few of them here:

Task forces instead of teams

Perhaps one of the biggest changes that we have made in the last month is moving away from having long-term, static teams within the company. Instead we have shorter-term, more fluid task forces which are formed for a specific purpose and then disband once that task is completed.

Here’s a look at all our task forces as of today:

Buffer task forces

Two of the key concepts we are embracing from Reinventing Organizations are the ideas of self-management and wholeness.

Self-management means that we believe there is a way for the whole company to manage itself. As a result, we no longer have any managers within the company.

Wholeness is the belief that we should bring our full self to work, something that is often hard to do. We think that if people can bring their whole self to work, then people will be happier and the company will benefit from the full skills everyone has.

The move to task forces is very much in line with self-management and wholeness. Anyone in the team can propose and create a task force, and people choose which task forces to be part of. This is a truly self-managing way for a company to run, and so far we have seen great results.

With task forces, everyone in the team is generally a member of 3-5 task forces, and this is what makes up their role. Whereas previously people would have a job title, now they have a role which is made up of them being part of a number of task forces.

These roles could be across completely different areas of work, for example someone could be an engineer in a few product development task forces, but could equally be part of a customer service task force or a Sydney retreat planning task force or a hiring task force.

Job titles no longer make sense with this new paradigm, and that makes us happy because we can no longer look at our job title for what we should do, or for what our identity is. We think that we’re all much more than that. We still think job titles may be useful for external communication purposes.

Some of the task forces currently going on:

  • We launched Transparent Pricing
  • We’re hiring more Happiness Heroes (though that title doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll only do customer support!)
  • We are now able to pay ourselves part of our salary in Bitcoin
  • We’ve improved how errors sending posts are displayed to users
  • We launched a Social Media Marketing Kit
  • We’re working on a new mini-product for creating engaging images for social media
  • We launched a Transparency Dashboard which lets you easily see all the details of things we’ve been transparent about
  • We’re building a new Calendar View for posts
  • We’re experimenting with social sign-in from the blog

I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities of task forces. Many of the things listed above would previously have had to go through a number of layers of hierarchy and some would probably not have happened. I think the growth potential here is quite huge, and we are already moving much faster than we were just a month ago.

No managers

As part of the move towards task forces and the ideas in Reinventing Organizations, we started to feel that the existing hierarchy and managers no longer made sense.

The idea is not that there will be no leaders or hierarchy, but that the hierarchy should form naturally and change more fluidly and organically. There will naturally be people who contribute more and take on more tasks and accomplish a lot, and these people will naturally be regarded as leaders and looked up to.

However, anyone is able to propose a task force and no one needs to be told what to do. We believe everyone is smart and is already making many smart choices in their personal lives, and can be trusted to make great decisions at work.

One of the key components of making this work is the advice process, which is something we implemented previous to all of these changes, but which is even more important now.

The advice process is a key part of the way Buffer works and governs how decisions are made: anyone can make any decision within the company (small or big), provided they get advice from people who 1) would have knowledge about the choices and/or 2) will be affected by the decision. This really helps things to happen organically and the advice process is used for proposed task forces and to make decisions within task forces.

Evolutionary purpose

Without managers, it doesn’t make sense for us to have milestones and a set path. Our vision is now the natural combination of all the task forces, and we have trust that people are making choices that both they are passionate about and which move the company forward.

This is what Laloux calls “evolutionary purpose.” In a sense, the vision and purpose can naturally evolve over time, and the company is structured in a way that it can fluidly move in the best direction.

We have already seen some of the great possibilities just in a couple of months of letting go of our strict adherence to growth goals, and I am excited to see what might happen as a result of all of these new task forces.

We are moving ahead on this new path simply because it is what feels right for us to do. At the same time, I have a hunch that we might see some great outcomes from the many task forces that are now forming and from the fact that things can be acted on much more quickly without hierarchy.

An ask and an offer for you!

We normally ask our investors for a small ask, and this time we have also given them a small offer–we’d like to extend both of these to you, reading this, as well, in case you’re interested.

A couple of small asks

An offer from us and Frederic Laloux

Within the team we’ve all been incredibly inspired by Reinventing Organizations, and we’d love to offer each of you a copy of it if you’re interested.

The book is a great way to get more insights into some of the thinking behind these and upcoming changes, and we’d love to hear any thoughts that are triggered by it. There might be perspectives we’ve missed and you all have much more knowledge and experience, so we’d be privileged to hear any of your insights.

For this offer, we are so honored to work directly with the author of Reinventing Organizations, Frederic Laloux, who has created a special page just for Buffer blog readers on his site.

Fill out this quick form and Frederic will send the book your way via your choice of Kindle, ePub or PDF!

UPDATE 1/26: After giving away more than 30o copies of Reinventing Organizations we have reached the maximum our budget can allow. Thanks to everyone who grabbed a copy; we’d love to hear what you think of it!

(If the whole book feels a little heavy, perhaps check out the YouTube video or an awesome summary blog post from my coworker Kevan.)

Thanks for all your awesome support. Wishing you a great 2015 ahead!

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Written by Joel Gascoigne

Joel is the founder and CEO at Buffer. He is focused on the lean startup approach, user happiness, transparency & company culture. Say hi to him anytime @joelgascoigne.

  • http://henrik.nyh.se Henrik N

    Did you get cities and countries the wrong way around maybe? :)

    • http://courtneyseiter.com/ Courtney Seiter

      Ah, great spot, Henrik! I believe you are right! I have fixed this up now. Thanks for the heads up!

  • http://www.tanichols.com/ T.Nichols

    Thanks for the book. Can’t wait to read it.

    • http://courtneyseiter.com/ Courtney Seiter

      Yay! You’re very welcome! Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

  • John Santin

    Coming down the homestretch in *Reinventing Organizations* (I’m in the appendices), and I’ll be interested in reading your updates on how the change in Buffer’s structure is going. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://courtneyseiter.com/ Courtney Seiter

      Happy to keep you updated, John! Hmm, I wonder if we need a Buffer book club to discuss this one!

      • John Santin

        I like the idea of a bookclub. Are you thinking along the line of a #bufferchat? Or, more a Google Hangout kind-of-thing?

  • Ryan Bruce

    Congratulations on the next phase! It’s great being able to watch Buffer’s evolution.

    Also, I’m not sure one single field counts as a “quick form”. I hit submit on page one expecting more, and got a happy message instead! Looking forward to the new read. :-)

    • http://courtneyseiter.com/ Courtney Seiter

      Ha! Maybe “quickest ever form” would be more appropriate! :) So glad you grabbed the book, Bruce! Can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

  • Juliet

    What an inspiring way to work together! It must take courage and a lot of trust amongst the team for it to work. Thank you for sharing openly as always, Joel! I wasn’t sure if you meant to put the French version of the Reinventing Organizations YouTube video. There’s also the English version here: http://youtu.be/gcS04BI2sbk :)

    • http://joel.is/ Joel Gascoigne

      Thanks for the kind words Juliet! I think there’s definitely an incredible amount of trust amongst everyone in the team, it is quite an amazing feeling to work alongside my coworkers. Whoops! Thanks for mentioning that I linked to the French version, not sure how I did that! Swapped out the link now, thanks!

      • Juliet

        You’re very welcome, Joel! It’s wonderful to see that there are investors who can appreciate your approach and embrace the transparent culture. Congrats again! :)

  • Rob Abis

    The characteristics of a Teal Organization: Self-management, Wholeness, and Evolutionary Purpose, seem to be the same characteristics that entrepreneurs are seeking for themselves, inwardly, when they choose to start their own business.

    With everyone self-managing and working on tasks which they choose to work on, It’s as if Buffer is an entrepreneurial-being made up of 29 little entrepreneurs!

    • http://courtneyseiter.com/ Courtney Seiter

      Wow, great point Rob! I had not thought of it that was; the comparison seems quite apt!

    • http://joel.is/ Joel Gascoigne

      Absolutely agree Rob! I think one of the things that got Leo and I so excited about ‘Teal’ is that it would mean that we could create a company of 50, 100, 500 people with similar goals and freedoms that we set out to create for ourselves when we started Buffer.

  • Lex Ariff

    Great post, @joelgascoigne:disqus!

    Q: How does the implementation of task forces impact accountability?

    • http://joel.is/ Joel Gascoigne

      Awesome question Lex :)

      For us, accountability is an interesting question to ponder. The change to self-management means that we can’t really continue to have any top-down, hierarchical accountability in place. That just wouldn’t feel right.

      Instead, what we have is something that Frederic Laloux shares in the book called “total responsibility”:

      all colleagues have the obligation to do something about an issue they sense, even when it falls outside of the scope of their roles.

      So, in essence, accountability is self-managing too. I think that within a task force, the choice of how to be accountable is left to the task force to decide. Some people thrive on having the freedom and space to be creative and do their best work, others crave deadlines and constraints and reminders in order to achieve their goals. We don’t want to force a single paradigm onto everyone.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any further questions here, awesome topic :)

      • Lex Ariff

        @joelgascoigne:disqus

        Having been working in an environment where everyone is accountable for their actions, I’m particularly interested. This is such a radical idea!

        If “colleagues have the obligation to do something about an issue they sense, even when it falls outside of the scope of their roles,” how do you regulate that all issues are addressed?

        • http://joel.is/ Joel Gascoigne

          I think the biggest challenge is to create the culture and environment where feedback flows naturally and is given with compassion and kindness. Once we have that, I think that it might be easier to ensure that all issues are addressed when the full company feels responsibility rather than just a few people at the top of a hierarchy.

  • http://www.petrpinkas.blogspot.com/ Petr Pinkas

    Great post @joelgascoigne:disqus, thanks! I am so much looking forward to the new calendar view for scheduled posts! Keep up the great work. It is amazing how you try new approaches for managing the company and to let your employees and you be free and do what you love.

    • http://courtneyseiter.com/ Courtney Seiter

      Petr, thanks so much for all the awesome conversations you bring to our comments section! Calendar view is getting close!

      • http://www.petrpinkas.blogspot.com/ Petr Pinkas

        Haha, you are welcome Courtney. I can’t stand the fact you’re so awesome at Buffer by all you do, so my reactions are purely natural :) Great to know they are getting close, sometimes I schedule all the post, but want to rearrange them and the calendar view will be a great way to do it. I was used to do that in Hootsuite, but that was the only good thing on that tool, so I switched to Buffer and got all the awesome benefits :)

  • Ulrik

    I’ve already bought the book after your previous post and it’s on my top list

    I also love your approach to transparency, I’d love to read a post about your hiring process. I know you give a great deal to values match and after that to the skills required for the job. And also that you have a couple of months of “trial”

    How do you check if the person’s values match yours? What do you ask? Especially being completely remote I guess brings some difficulty to understand a good way a person before going to the next step.

    What about the skills part? How do you approach it? What do you ask?

  • http://lukemcg.com/ Luke McGrath

    Great news on the ARR, congratulations!

    One thing that popped into my head, how does the ‘task force’ approach work alongside your salary formula (which I think had some kind of seniority weighting)?

    • http://courtneyseiter.com/ Courtney Seiter

      Just hopping in for Joel here to say that this is a great question, Luke! We are in the midst of exploring exactly this topic. In Reinventing Organizations, Laloux discovers that most of the companies practicing their evolutionary purpose tend to have some protocols by which each team member can determine his or her own pay. One Buffer task force is reflecting on how we might be able to do the same. Excited to share more about this as it develops!

      • http://lukemcg.com/ Luke McGrath

        Sounds like a perfect evolution!

  • Jason

    Loving your work guys!

    I just finished listening to the Decision Maker audio book, now I’m reading Reinventing Organizations.

    I find it really interesting how you said “Our vision is now the natural combination of all the task forces”. Could this mean you might all pull in different directions?

    How do you all work towards a common goal? Like deciding the next big features to be built into buffer?

  • http://slices.io/ Louis Slices

    Joel,
    The way you run and communicate around your company is an example for all of us.

    Truly inspiring!
    Thank you,
    Louis

  • cluster88

    Thanks for the book and for sharing everything with us. What you’re building is just amazing.

  • http://alfredlua.com/ Alfred Lua

    Thanks for sharing all these and the book, Joel! Congrats on reaching $5ARR! Amazing! I just downloaded the book :) Keep it up with all the great work that Buffer team is doing!

  • http://andymci.com/ Andy McIlwain

    Thanks again for sharing the ebook! Y’all are awesome.

  • Marc-Olivier Fiset

    Joel,

    I am really amazed by the way you run the company. I like that you are not afraid of experimenting with different strategies in order to find what’s best for Buffer, not only for you but the team as a whole. Also, making the whole process public is very inspiring.

    Came too late to get a hold of the book, but it’s definitely going to be on my reading list.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Carlos Osorio

    I find this very inspiring and very creative. I like the way that you’re creating something within change and the company isn’t afraid to do so. Also, the way everybody joins in together and makes me feel the sense of family through all the people there.

    Way to go Buffer!

  • Vikash Koushik

    As always, great post @Joel Gascoigne! :-)

    A couple of questions though. How would you decide when one would want to implement something new like, a new strategy with content marketing to reach more people? Does everyone pitch in their opinions and then you decide or the super cool content writers have the freedom to implement them and then letting everyone know on what they did?
    Curious to know more in detail. :-)