Buffer Gives Away Everything and Reveals What's Really Important in the Process
A few years ago I stumbled across a blog article on SaaS pricing authored by Leo Widrich, the Chief Operating Officer of Buffer. Buffer provides social media automation by helping companies’ large and small schedule and measure social content publishing. In the case of Twitter, Buffer allows a social media poster to spend a short amount of time creating enough tweets to publish over a longer period of time. Posting consistently according to a schedule but at different times during the day makes sense as it can expand the audience and build engagement. Buffer makes this possible with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms. And, Buffer offers pricing plans for individuals so that the tool is not just for business.
Leo's article offers an interesting glimpse into the books of a SaaS startup. From this and other articles on Buffer's blog site, I gather that the company started operations in early 2011. To the date of the article, they'd grown to over $441,000 per month in recurring revenue, 184,000 monthly active users, and 30 employees. [The most recent monthly financial report I found online, providing more current information, is dated July 2016.] In addition to the company's open book policy on financial performance through their company blog, they have a Transparency Dashboard providing up to the minute details on key performance indicators so observers can do their own fact checking at any time. Take a look at this dashboard - it includes an amazing minute by minute feed revealing changes in the subscriber database - incredible!
What risk does Buffer assume by disclosing everything online - from their chart of accounts to their source code? They must think this transparency represents no real and present danger to their business model or intellectual property. I suspect they know that human beings comprise the real value in any knowledge business. The most important ingredient in Buffer's secret sauce isn't the software code but rather the folks using that IP as a tool to execute against the company's strategy. This makes sense to me, as I've noticed in our own business that even when we describe to our clients exactly how to do something, they still hire us to do the work. Decision makers just want to know a professional has the knowledge to get the job done so they can let them do it. After all, they want to spend their time serving existing customers and winning new ones - just like the rest of us.
Knowledge represents the inventory in all service companies, and these companies don't own the means of producing that inventory. So, managing human capital means everything. We need to be good team players by creating a rewarding, purposeful, and flexible culture. We need happy places to work, and we never need to test the patience of our people by making life difficult with brutal HR processes and outdated technology! That's why BTerrell built Workforce Go! to integrate Ameriflex Workforce and Intacct. In a world where it's not easy to manage workforce culture, we want to provide Intacct client companies with every possible advantage in service and technology. Buffer provides not only an excellent example of a company that's "been there, done that," but also a pretty good online playbook.
Brian Terrell is the Managing Partner of BTerrell Group, an Intacct Premier Partner based in Dallas, Texas.