Distributed teams, extreme transparency and buying out your investors
Product Hunt Radio

For about eight and a half years, Joel has been the co-founder and CEO of Buffer, which is a platform that helps small businesses with social media.

The first product is Publishing, and it focuses on posting content to social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. The second product is Reply, which is used for customer service and community management via social media. The last product it Analyze, and it's used for social analytics.

The company wants to be the go-to platform to help businesses build their brand, allow them to reap the benefits that come from engaging with others by posting and commenting on content, providing excellent customer services, and analyzing and tweaking business approaches.

Originally started in the U.K. and his co-founder, who was also in the U.K., Leo joined him. They started working together while living 30 minutes away from one another by train. Because of this, they worked together on Buffer for about one day at week and collaborated with one another using Skype.

His distributed team was formed naturally and consisted of people located in different areas of the world. Joel was given advice to either go remote or have everyone in the same place because it’s difficult to maintain between the two scenarios. So, he decided to make Buffer a fully remote team.

Especially just getting started with a company, Joel states that if you have the option to go all in if you can. You should do so because it’ll force you to craft your collaboration and communication as a company to correlate with remote working. He finds it to be an inclusive way to work when meetings and information are recorded in documents for employees to review.

When you have new people joining a distributed team, some tend to have similar mentality of wanting to stay and grow in the same job instead of jumping to a new one within a year or two. It creates long-lasting and strong friendships when the kind of people find a company where they want to stick around.

What motivated him to write was that it became a way for him to document his journey. He found out that what he wrote about resonated with other people and helped him create connections. Also, this similar motivation caused him to create a Twitter account as another outlet to share what he’s written and connect with his new relationships.

Even living in Silicon Valley, he and Leo knew that they wanted to meet people and develop relationships. Maintaining a blog transitioned to creating a marketing strategy and a separate marketing blog that provides open resources for their customers to access.

Joel recalls the early days of Buffer where the company was growing faster than what he and Leo could scale their infrastructure, so they would go down from time-to-time. This led to upset customers because it disrupted their web flow.

To remedy the problem, they would go on social media or email customers to gain their trust by being transparent about the situation. In doing so, they received support once information was shared to customers and other founders to receive helpful feedback. They also were transparent within their company to gain trust and support with their employees because it keeps the company honest and helps them do the right thing.

After raising two rounds of funding in the start of the journey for Buffer, he searched from investors that were as excited about the products and company's growth potential. Once the company was profitable, it was during the negotiations where they shared that they may not ever want to sell the company or go public, so they might want to give a return and buy their dividends.

Once this was shared, the lead investor suggested putting that information into the terms of investment because it that allowed them to get a set down return whenever Joel and his company bought back the shares. They were able to use this option as a backup and as a way to still have control over the destiny of the company.

Looking to the future, he hopes to keep growing and building the company and take on personal challenges. Joel wants to focus on product building then company building, and states that when one problem is solved, it's only going to sustain a certain amount of growth within a market before things change. You have to continuously innovate and find new areas where your company can provide value.

Joel states that he wants to create a company that has certain values within the workplace, how they build products, and the level of service they want to provide. He hopes to create something that’s sustainable and diversified in order to gain more growth over time and leave a lasting impression.

One product that Joel mentions is Superhuman, a new email product with problems that are continuously being solved. Threads is a product that is between email and Slack. Joel also describes it as a super charged forum or discussion board for a company, and it has replaced email within his company for internal communication.

Joel believes that when a company democratizes the ideas of discovering, collaborating, and getting inspiration to build products, it becomes an awesome thing.

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