If you hang around me long enough, you will know that I love Buffer. I am passionate about the way they have revolutionized social media management, engagement and targeted growth. But beyond their stellar tool, Buffer is making waves through their organization innovation—and we should all be taking notes.
I could probably write a novel about the way that Buffer's founders, Leo and Joel took the principles and mindset of two great innovators [Frederic Laloux's Reinventing Organizations + Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People] and created a culture of transparency, happiness and revolutionary innovation themselves. But for now, I want to focus on the 10 overwhelming values they choose to lead, build and transform their team by.
Whether you have them written on a wall, scribbled on a sticky note or hidden somewhere within your business plan, your business has values—every business does. These are the standards we use to lead our growth, innovate and make decisions. Some businesses have bad values, some great.
Having worked within the confines of both extremes, I know that there is something to be said about having values that draw "your people" to you. And that, my friends, is exactly what Buffer has done.
They unashamedly live, [hire] and forge ahead on the foundation of their 10 core values, and it is serving them extremely well.
So, what can we learn from Buffer's values? As small business owners and operators our culture [and values] are more than the principles that we operate our businesses on—they are ultimately us. I don't know about you, but I live, breathe, eat and sleep my work. I am passionate about what I do. I am a reflection of the way I run my business, or my business is a reflection of the way I run "me." Either way, we look the same.
Who we are is what draws our customers to us. And who is Buffer? They are real. Transparent. Honest. Engaging. Buffer is the best friend the everyone wants to have, but that few could actually engage with. Buffer is operating under values that are transforming [and growing] their business.
And we all should seriously be taking notes. So without further ado, here are Buffer's 10 values + why you need more of them in your life:
1. Choose Positivity
I don't know about you, but I love positive people. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Realism is necessary for growth, but realism doesn't need to sound like skepticism, pessimism or cynicism. Choosing positivity means choosing to look at every obstacle, event, failure and success as an opportunity—not a barrier.
As a business, choosing positivity means choosing to see the best in our clients. Choosing to see the best in ourselves. Whether you have lost the last ten pitches or won a job that is going to test your bandwidth, choosing positivity means choosing to define your circumstance rather than letting your circumstances define you.
2. Default to transparency
There is value in organizational transparency. Whether it is trickle-down leadership or open and honest community conversation, defaulting to truth and encouraging integrity is integral to the success of any business.
Whether you commit to sharing in your failure, or to being swift to share your ideas, transparency in your business, and life, not only builds your reputation for integrity, but it also builds loyalty and trust. I don't know about you, but I value organizations [and people] that choose openness rather than defensiveness.
3. Focus on self-improvement
No one is perfect. The sooner you take this one to heart, the better. There is a saying that has always resonated with me that goes something like this, "Once you stop learning, you start dying." Leave it to Einstein to hand me my life's motto. If I ever come to a place where I feel there is no where else to grow, whether personally or professionally, I know that something has gone seriously awry.
As a small business owner, it is important to spend time focusing on how we can make ourselves better. When we are at our best, our business is operating at its best—not the other way around. Taking time to focus on improving will help you to ultimately scale and grow your business.
4. Be a no-ego doer
Let's be honest, as a small business owner we have to operate on confidence, but sometimes there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. A no-ego doer is someone who works hard, takes action and puts the idea + community above herself. Practicing humility, operating through a team-mentality and celebrating in the success of the unit rather than the success of what you did to reach the goal.
And, what is probably most difficult for us creatives, having the gumption to send out what is good enough right now, rather than waiting for what may be perfect tomorrow. By changing the way that you operate to accommodate the non-ego mentality, even as a 1-person team, you will start to see your business focus shift—from self glorification to action-centered achievement.
5. Listen first, then listen more
Hand in hand with self-improvement, listening first is a critical value to the cultural success of any business. In order to cultivate a community of people who feel empowered to think, dream and innovate, you need to build a place where those same people feel understood, heard.
Rather that listening to respond, or listening but not hearing, "listen first, then listen more," means taking the time to listen and think through others' ideas with them, rather than shutting down their creativity. By cultivating the culture of listening, you will empower your community to share, grow and create, ultimately leading to better and stronger end results.
6. Communicate with clarity
Buffer not only operates on this value daily, but I would argue that it is above all else fundamentally critical to their organizational structure and community. With a remote workforce, Buffer relies heavily on communication to mend distance as their continually innovate and improve their processes and products.
Communicating with clarity means being able to articulate your ideas, thoughts and knowledge in a way that can be easily comprehended by your audience. But that's not all. It also means asking that extra question, listening effectively, and clearly explaining your thought process, even if it means being "wordy." Communicating with clarity means choosing to leave no stone un-turned.
For your business, this means taking the time to eliminate all assumptions from your information delivery. Start at the beginning. Are you clearly articulating your value, product, service and knowledge in a way that is actionable and effective for your audience?
7. Make time to reflect
Notice the word "make" not "take." There is something very valuable here. We are all busy. Life is busy, work is busy. Reflection is often the first goal crossed off my list when I feel overwhelmed or scattered—ironic, right? You will not always have time to "take," but you can choose to "make."
By making time to reflect, you are choosing to settle your soul and engage with your passion. Where are you? Where do you want to be? How aligned are you with your primary goals and objectives? It is easy as small business owners to get so wrapped up in our work that we forget to focus ourselves and reflect on our goals. By making time to reflect you are investing in your future through increasing your clarity.
8. Live smarter, not harder
I had a professor in graduate school who used to mock the face of institution. He was a firm believer in the value of working smarter not harder. If two assignments overlapped (one in his class and one in another) he would urge us to use the same research. At the time, I felt conflicted. I felt obligated to spread myself thin and work hours on two things that would ultimately result in the same end product, but after nearly a decade in business—I completely agree.
You are more valuable to your team, and self, when you have had the time to refocus and engage, even if that means not working that extra hour each night. By taking your work [and life] one task or project at a time, you are working towards a smarter solution, rather than spinning your wheels to solve a problem that is outside of your control.
Ultimately, this value means turning the value back to yourself. You are better, stronger and more effective when you are comfortable and engaged. Working smarter means finding that place and living in it.
9. Show gratitude
When looking at an organization like Buffer, it is not hard to see how its teammates find a way to show gratitude—I mean how could you not?! Showing gratitude means taking the time to reflect on your circumstances and appreciating the value that you have been given—no matter the size.
We all have so much to be thankful for. Choosing to see the value that you have in your situation, whether working or personal, allows you to illuminate a positive perspective, which will increase your productivity and happiness. No, really! Take time to reflect on the things, people and partners that you are grateful for, your business will thank you.
10. Do the right thing
And finally, the tenth Buffer value: do the right thing. It is easy in business to overlook the small things, to move so fast that we end up neglecting the details that make what we do so valuable. At Buffer, the team strives to always do what is right, even if no one will notice.
Choosing to do the right thing in your business means building on the foundation of truth, honesty and integrity—even when it means making the hard choice. By operating your business on this principle, you will being to see the increased value that those you work with place on what you do.
And those, my friends, are Buffer's 10 core values. I hope you took some notes, I sure did! If you want to read more about Buffer's values, check out their post here.
Do any of these values resonate with you and your business? Do they differ fro yours? I would love to hear your thoughts below!