The Remote Show

Show Notes:

This week I’m happy to share our conversation with Joel Gascoigne. Joel is the Co Founder and CEO of Buffer, the very popular social media scheduling tool used by hundreds of thousands of businesses. Joel and the Buffer team were one of the earliest adopters of full distributed teams, and have become of the most well respected SAAS companies in the world.

In our wide-ranging conversation, we cover the building of the initial product and finding product market fit, building a remote team while travelling, the pros and cons of being as transparent as they are, and much more!

Joel's journey is an inspiring one, and there are lots of lessons to be learned from the path that Buffer took to success. Joel is incredibly humble, intelligent and honest and it was a pleasure to hear him discuss his business.

Find Joel on Twitter: @joelgascoigne

Check out his personal blog at joel.is

And if you haven't already, check out buffer.com and make your social media scheduling a breeze!

Also check out his book recommendation: Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke.

Thanks for listening!


[00:00:00] Matt H.: Hello everyone. My name is Matt Hollingsworth and welcome to another episode of the Remote Show, where we discussed everything to do with wrote work with the people who know it best. Thank you so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire.

[00:00:29] Joel, thanks for coming on the Remote Show, we really appreciate it.

[00:00:42] Joel G: Yeah, it's my pleasure, Matt. I'm really glad to be on here and to chat, I'm excited for it.

[00:00:46] Matt H: Perfect. So where I like to start typically is on people's backgrounds a little bit. Why don't you go into a little bit about yourself and your background workwise and then we can go into what Buffer is up to and how things got started there.

[00:01:01] Joel G: Yeah, absolutely. I'm Joel Gascoigne, co-founder and CEO of Buffer. I started Buffer about eight and a half years ago at this point. Before that I was a contract freelance web developer for a little while. I always had different products I was trying to get going and things. From a fairly early age I learned to code, around 11 or 12, and then maybe five years or so after that I'd been able to build websites for others on a freelance basis and I really got in my head, I'd love to actually create a product that I could charge people for and that could generate income by itself in a lot of ways. So yeah after that was like just a bit of a search to figure out what would that product be, how do I even find something that would be valuable enough for people to pay for and build that and then after a few failed, Buffer came along and that idea worked out and been going with that one for close to a decade now at that.

[00:02:06] Matt H: And did you find that the idea for Buffer came out of a need that you'd had or was it just a matter of searching the market to see what was available and what hadn't been solved yet?

[00:02:16] Joel G: Yeah, it came out of personal need, but I would say that other side of really understanding whether that's truly a problem in the market and validating it is just absolutely crucial and that's actually the mistake that I made on my project immediately before Buffer. That previous idea came from a personal need, but I never really stopped to say, "Okay, I have that need, but does anyone else have that need? How big is that need? Am I truly creating a solution that solves the problem?" And that type of thing. So that was a really big part of my focus in the early days of Buffer, was once I came across this personal need that I had identified. I stopped myself from building it out and going further and decide, "Okay. I really need to try and validate this in the market now."

[00:03:05] Matt H: And what did that validation process look like for you in those initial stages? Was it just a matter of reaching out or was there people that you talked to, that you trusted? What would that look like in terms of the validation?

[00:03:15] Joel G: Yeah, so it was an interesting process to go through at that time. It was really the early days and starting to reach the peak of the Lean startup methodology and I really took that to heart and resonated massively with me taking something that can seem like an art and really shifting it to be more of a scientific approach. And so the way I approached it was, I'd had this idea which was essentially a new way to schedule tweets, schedule social media posts by choosing a daily schedule ahead of time instead of scheduling every post individually, and then I decide, "Okay. I want to finally validate this." So what I did was I stopped myself building the product out further and I said, "Okay, how can I best validate this?"

[00:04:04] And the approach I took was to put up a landing page, which essentially made it look like the product already existed in it, explain the value of the product and it would allow you to actually try to sign up to the product. And then as soon as you click the initial signup button, it would basically take you to a page that said we're not quite ready yet. If you want to hear when this launch is all you want more information put your email in this box and I'll get back in touch with you when we're ready.

[00:04:33] And then from there I had a lot of conversations with those people that left their email and was able to ask them more about how they use Twitter, like what's the use cases, what are their problems and things. And so I had a couple of different iterations of that landing page experiment method. The second iteration was to actually add a pricing page in between to make the steps even longer. So you had to go from the landing page, click through to a pricing page, actually pick one of the three plans and then you would get the same page that said that it's not ready yet. And so it's like increasing levels of validation for the conversations as well and then eventually it got to a point where I thought, "Okay. This is actually validated enough." I've had a number of people saying that if it existed they would pay for it, which is not full validation until you really get the revenue coming in, but I decided to take a leap at that point and build out a really, really early minimal version of the product, and then put that out there and luckily the validation process worked out because I had the first paying customer three days after launching that minimal product, so...

[00:05:40] Matt H: Wow. It was just yourself at that point during the validation process or had you hired somebody else to help you?

[00:05:46] Joel G: Yeah. It was just me at that point. So from having the idea it took about two months to launch that first minimal product. And I was doing this on the side at that point, so I was fitting it in where I could. And then about a month after launching, that's when my co-founder Leo joined me and we got chatting whilst I was doing that validation process.

[00:06:10] Matt H: And did you have any advertising or marketing campaigns or is it all organic inbound and based on the data that you found on the landing page?

[00:06:18] Joel G: Yeah. So I like (inaudible) but I was kind of lucky with this. That the audience for this product happens to be people that are using Twitter. Some people found enough value personally to use it and pay for it. And then also people using Twitter for their businesses... Well, this is 2010-2011 kind of times, so quite early. But because of that, and I'd been using Twitter myself for about a year and a half, two years at that point and I had about a thousand followers maybe 1500 somewhere around there, it was enough to be able to push it out on Twitter and actually get people that I didn't really know to sign up and experience it and go through that flow. So that was the initial push and that was enough to get towards product market fit. To have the first set of paying customers, the first wave of like revenue and that was recurring revenue and that was really exciting. And then after that, when my co-founder join me, he was really much more focused on the marketing side and explored a bunch of different channels and found content marketing which was really the thing that eventually got early growth. And even today is a huge channel for us.

[00:07:30] Matt H: Yeah, and one of the reasons why obviously we wanted to have you on the show was because Buffer is such a loud voice and such a prominent voice in the remote work space as well as being one of the most transparent companies that I think that I know of, was the remote work aspect of building Buffer something that came out of necessity or was it something that you decided on previous with your co-founder before you build out the team?

[00:07:54] Joel G: Yeah, it's a good question. It was a bit of both, almost kind of wavering between those two options for a couple of years and then eventually it was a very decisive choice to go all in on remote. But in the earliest days, when it was just me and my co-founder, like thing that we kind of worked remotely but we were about half an hour apart from each other by train in the UK.

[00:08:19] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

[00:08:20] Joel G: And so we would actually only meet up in person once a week or so and we would at that point work together on Skype chats and have Skype calls once in a while and things. So that's pretty much how we worked together. So that was remote in some ways, but no time zone difference, so that makes it a lot easier. And then once we launched and got going, a few months after that we flew to San Francisco and we had some ups and downs there, but eventually went through an accelerated program, raised our first round of funding. And then we were in San Francisco for six months but without visas at this point. I'm from the UK and my co-founder is from Austria. And so we were able to be in the US for two three-month periods without visas.

[00:09:07] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

[00:09:08] Joel G: But eventually we got to the point where we wouldn't really be able to go back unless we had visas and we'd tried but been unsuccessful in getting visas to stay. And at that point we had one more person join us, so the three of us, we sat down and we thought, "Okay. What should we do now?" Like, we can't really stay in the US, we don't really want to go back to the UK or even Europe. So what should we do? And we opened up Google Maps and basically just... So, like, where do we want to go? And so we ended up going to Hong Kong for six months after that, and then Israel for three months. No real big reasons why we picked those places. So we kept building the product out. We kept building the team mostly from our personal networks in those early days, so people that we knew in the UK, we had in the US.

[00:09:54] Suddenly, we were quite spread out. And then during that time, Leo and I managed to get our visas and return to the US so we were very spread out when we did the hiring and then most of the team was gravitating towards being in San Francisco. That's where we had this ultimate decision to make where we were working in a remote way, but we had this opportunity, if we wanted to, to base ourselves in San Francisco because most of the team were actually excited to be there. A lot of thinking went into that and reflection and getting advice from a bunch of different people, but ultimately made the choice that we wanted to be a fully remote company and for a few different benefits for that and once we decided that, we actually almost had to deliberately hire outside of San Francisco, just to balance things out and then ever since then we've been completely remote and we had an office briefly, but at this point we're 85 people and we don't have an office anywhere.

[00:10:53] Some people work from co-working spaces, some people work from home or coffee shops. But yeah, we've been since around like 2012, 2013. We've just been all in on remote.

[00:11:05] Matt H: Yeah. Just out of curiosity, in that sort of 2012 phase, when you mentioned that you weren't fully remote. Was there a time there that you had an office as well as having remote workers and... I'm always curious to hear about the interactions with the teams having an actual physical location and then also having a remote workers. It seems like there might be some unique challenges that arise from that. Was that part of the decision? Was there any issues there with having both a in-office team and a remote team that you manage or was that not a part of the decision?

[00:11:34] Joel G: So I think it was probably easier for us. I do think generally that's one of the biggest challenges you'll have is if you really have a split between office and remote or if you just have mainly an office and a few people remote. It's going to be really challenging. For us, ever since we made that decision we quite quickly became very spread out. And so although we had an office in San Francisco, it was very casual, people didn't come into the office that much and less and less so over time, which is eventually why we decided to close the office. Because it was big enough for probably 15 people and there was only two or three people ever showing up. And so yeah, I think for us, we were almost forced very early on to work in a completely remote way, even though we had that office. It was really just a place that people could go and work from if they wanted to, but none of the work that we did, the collaboration, really revolved around people in the office so much. There was definitely discussions that we had and in some ways I'd say it got better the less that we use the office and then eventually not having it I think definitely improved things for the whole team, but it was never probably as much of an issue as it would be for some companies.

[00:12:46] Matt H: One of the questions I like to ask especially CEOs and Founders is, what's been the most difficult aspect of building a remote team that you found, independently of what you see elsewhere? Is there something unique that you had to deal with, your growth and your hiring that you've had to get around or? What's been of challenge for you specifically?

[00:13:06] Joel G: Yeah, I think probably there's different degrees of challenges. I think probably one of the most recurring ones it's just time zones and asynchronous work and the balance between asynchronous and synchronous and can we be truly as effective asynchronously. I think most remote companies like to believe they can be or strive to be. And maybe you can be in certain situations, but we definitely see the value of getting on a video call and having that synchronous aspect and we definitely value getting together in person a couple of times a year, a few times a year. So that's definitely a challenge overall and I think one of the things for us is that even with remote working itself, I see there being a spectrum of different options or degrees of remote where I think, you could go from being like an office culture to then having a work from home one day a week policy and then you can kind of gradually go along that spectrum all the way to like, okay, maybe you're fully remote, but you're in the same time zone or maybe you're fully remote, but you allow people to be within US time zones.

[00:14:09] And I think there's a few companies that have it where people can live in other countries, but they just need to make sure that they work in those time zones. And then I think at the very end of the spectrum, you really have like, truly striving to be completely location agnostic and every roll you hire it's just the best that you can find, doesn't matter where they are, and you'll just essentially make it work and you have teams where there's people literally across three different time zones that make it almost impossible to have calls and we really strive for that side. So I think it's one of those kind of ideals that we have as a company, and I've tried to stay true to that. But it definitely brings its challenges and I think in some ways it's exciting because I think if look at the arc of where we're still going, the technology improving so much. And I think eventually like we will be able to work effectively or even more effectively by being fully remote and going to that extent than if we we're, you know, an office culture or something.

[00:15:10] At least over time, it's going to get better and better. So yeah, that's probably one of the big challenges. The other one that always comes to my mind it's just really a huge challenge is, just the logistical and like, legal compliance aspect of employing people in so many different places, and how do you do that, and I think that's a huge challenge for any remote company as well.

[00:15:30] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I come across Buffer quite often because it's usually pointed to as one of the companies that often people want to work in or as sort of a really unique company culture and just one of those companies that I think a lot of people want to be a part of. How have you been able to grow that culture or maintain just being the company that people want to come to and people want to work for? Is there something that you do or is it just a combination of things that you found that has been working to retain your employees and to get them excited about your work? Or has that just been sort of a growing iteration process for you?

[00:16:07] Joel G: Yeah, that's a good one. I think for me, I feel like our culture is grounded around like, questioning things and not settling for how things work today. And I think that's probably one of the things that's helped us the most in continuing to evolve. The culture is just by saying we're not going to rest on this working. We talked a lot internally about trying to really kind of figure out the future of work. At least our future of work like, the future of work that we feel is a great ideal to go for. And I think that's why, like, anything we're doing we try to feel able to question it and throw it out and try something else and things and it gets harder as you grow. That's definitely an interesting journey to be on.

[00:16:52] But I think it's probably the thing where we're able to introduce these different things and I think as well anyone's had an experience working for a company. I think there's a lot of things that you often feel like that could be better or that should be done in this way or just really genuinely caring about team members, about the team and I think trying to do the right thing. That's where a lot of things come from for us around like transparency. Why shouldn't the whole team know how much everyone else is making and how we make those decisions on salaries and things and sharing all of our finances and things like that. I think they all come from that place. Ultimately.

[00:17:29] Matt H: Yeah, and has that been part of the process or decision to go public with the financial information? And especially with the salary information as well. It seems like you probably were one of the first movers in that regard. That you made a bit of the financial information public and some of the salary information as well. Did that come out of the same thought process or? What was the decision and what do you think that you could get out of making that information public?

[00:17:52] Joel G: Yeah, I think it came from that. Initially it came from that questioning of like, why don't companies do this? Like, why are we holding this information back? And then I think over time we saw a number of different benefits. Probably the biggest one in terms of the trust that you cultivate and gain from that, both from team members and also from customers and just anyone that's following the company.

[00:18:14] And I think it helps other companies. It makes other companies more open to sharing things with you. I think that's one of the things I found early on is sitting down with another founder and just sharing. I think that's probably where it really started, was not necessarily it transparently widely, but just sitting down with others and just opening up everything to them showing everything suddenly. They start showing those things back and just having a much more fruitful conversation about exchanging experiences and things that have worked or not worked for us and things. And I think it's really just a doubling down and compounding of that over time and actually trying to question the boundaries of that, like where does that not work or where does it have more downsides than upsides? And we just found we could take it quite a bit further than others seem to have done in the past.

[00:19:03] So yeah, I think that's ultimately coming from a single place.

[00:19:07] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And it is cool to see the number of companies that have kind of taken your lead there and shared some information that they wouldn't have otherwise shared and especially when it's not always positive, too.

[00:19:18] Joel G: Yeah.

[00:19:19] Matt H: I think that level of honesty is pretty refreshing and it takes away from the winner-take-all mentality of business in general, when you share ideas and what's working and what isn't working and how things are going within the company. It seems that there's probably a lot more companies out there that are going that direction and it's cool to see Buffer as sort of a first mover there. Have you seen any pushback from that? And then there might not be any but, just out of curiosity again, has there been any companies or people reaching out to you and being like, what are you doing? What's been the response among CEOs for those practices?

[00:19:52] Joel G: Yeah, I think on the whole I agree. It's been really amazing to see quite a few other companies going similar direction. Probably one of the earliest things we started to see was having a salary information completely public and transparent and not just the salaries themselves, but more importantly the formula for our salaries was something that I've had many, many Founders reaching out and saying thank you so much. Like, we've used that as the basis of our salaries at our company. That's happened many times and that's been really cool to see. I think that generally there's definitely the feedback and questions and things that come up and people asking, what's really the benefits of going that far? Or what are the challenges if you go to that level of transparency?

[00:20:39] And there certainly are some challenges. And I think we're comfortable that we know we're probably going to be on the more kind of extreme end but I think ultimately if what we're doing has some influence in the industry and persuades companies to use a greater level of transparency, even if it's not all the way to where we are. I think that's a really positive thing and there's so many benefits especially with around salary transparency in terms of benefits there for pay equality and all of those types of issues as well. And I think even showing our finances and things is valuable for others to learn from but also to kind of keep us honest and keep us accountable in some ways as well. So yeah, I think that's kind of how I see it.

[00:21:23] Matt H: Has the writing process come out of that as well? Because I noticed that you are pretty active in your writing and you've published some of the reasons why you've made decisions along the Buffer path and how it's been evolving. Was that something that you were comfortable with from the get-go or? How has writing affected your management and how important is it to you to write well and to communicate that to your audience on Twitter and also within the company?

[00:21:48] Joel G: Yeah, I think writing is incredibly important and even more so in a remote company, it's certainly a primary communication method amongst each other. So I think that's something that we look for in any one that's joining the team and we tried to encourage and help people develop that. And so yeah, I tried to write memos to the team on a fairly regular basis. Even Twitter as a medium has been useful for sharing things. It's interesting. We have probably been more active in the earlier days with the writing and the thing just as you grow there's` so many times that your role shifts and transitions and things and I've just been figuring out how do I manage all those changes and the extra workload and things.

[00:22:32] I would love to keep writing as frequently as I did in the first few years where I think I was doing every week or every other week fairly consistently, but I do think it's just a really powerful thing to do overall. And I think one of the reasons maybe it was easier to stick to it in the earlier days was because it really had this tangible feedback loop and impact on growth but on like also the connections I was able to build that came in useful later, whether that's with fundraising or with partnerships or hiring or any of those things. And I think over time we've grown our content marketing so much and everything that obviously like a footprint is a lot larger and my personal impact is reduced on that. Kind of becomes more pressure, you end up thinking a bit more about all your words and I think ultimately have to go through that cycle and then return back to like I'm going to write for myself and write for just a handful of people and if it spreads its great, but try not to think about it too much.

[00:23:33] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And for people who are curious, you have your own personal blog as well.

[00:23:37] Joel G: Yes.

[00:23:38] Matt H: Yeah. Well, we'll link to that as well because I think that's super valuable for people to see and we'll link to the Buffer blog as well.

[00:23:43] Joel G: Awesome.

[00:23:43] Matt H: Because again, it's great and I'm a frequent reader, so I appreciate on a personal level. But I think everybody else should give it a shot and check it out. One of the things you mentioned there, and I'd like to touch on too, is the hiring process for Buffer. What were the main pain points for you and things that you've learned along the way as you've grown to make sure that you hire people that will fit the Buffer culture and maintain and continue the work that you want to do? Is there something that you do specifically or has it sort of been the same for a while? How does that work?

[00:24:13] Joel G: Yeah, it's gone through a few evolutions and I think at this point it's feeling really solid and working really great for us. One thing that we've always been lucky with, probably as a result of the transparency, but also due to maybe the freemium model and the volume that comes in from that, but we've generally, for most of the journey, had been fortunate to have a lot of inbound interest in all of our roles. So we typically do result in maybe several hundred applications for any role that we put out there.

[00:24:48] Matt H: Wow.

[00:24:48] Joel G: So that's been really helpful for it makes things a lot easier. Well, how do in some ways we've got to go through all of those applications, but certainly we are definitely able to hire primarily through like inbound applications that come in. And then in terms of the hiring process, we have a set of questions, quite a simple set of questions in the application, and it's a mixture of well typed questions and some values fit questions and then from there we'll go through and select, "Okay, who do we want to speak with?" And then we have like a short values screen that we do now, which has been something that we used to have a whole interview for that. But now I think we do that in a shorter time period, maybe a 20 minute video call or something. So we have someone in the people team that does that.

[00:25:37] And then from there we have depending on the role, but we generally have a number of different interviews that are any one of the key things we have learned over time and it is more possible to do this when you get a little bit larger, but even earlier you can put this in place the better is to really try and be quite specific about what each interview is trying to assess. So is that technical understanding? or is that management approach? Or whatever it might be. It's better to have a singularly focused interview that you can really come out with clear, you know, did that person meet the needs for that criteria? And then we generally do have set down questions with a set of, you know, this is a great response, this is a not good response type of thing for all the questions in each of those different interviews. We've also been exploring pairing in interviews recently. So having two people in there has been quite useful. To be able to see how one person responds. It's also really useful because one of the people can make notes while the other one is asking questions so you can be a lot more present in the interview.

[00:26:46] Yeah, and then that's kind of the flow and... It's really just people that are progressing along and I've generally tried to be in the hiring process probably until we were about 60 or 70 people. I interviewed every single person and I still interview most candidates but at this point there's a few roles where I don't do that and then I'll just make sure chat with the person quite soon after we've made an offer and they've accepted. So yeah, I think that's probably a lot of the key details.

[00:27:16] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative). The reason I ask is that I'm always curious to hear if there's a metric that companies use to measure the fit and the culture fit of the individual and the personality and that sort of thing, to see if they would fit within the broader culture and broader ways of working within Buffer or whatever company that we're talking about. But it seems there's never one playbook and I think that's the take away at least for me, is that everybody has different ways of doing things and there's never one way that can work for everybody. But yeah, that's interesting. And it's great to hear that you have so many inbound people that are interested in the company. I think that speaks volumes for how you and your team have built the business. So I think that's great.

[00:27:54] One of the things that I wanted to ask you about too and it's just out of curiosity, your daily routine. Have you come down to a specific a number of things that you do on a daily basis? Or do you leave quite a bit of open time just in case something comes up or? What does your daily routine look like as a remote CEO?

[00:28:12] Joel G: Yeah. That's a great question. It's always evolving and I have an executive assistant I work with and we at least every couple of weeks we'll be assessing like how is the weekly flow of meetings and things feeling right now, what adjustments do we need to make? But overall, for me at this point I'm still quite involved in product. It's the one area that I've not really fully let go of yet. And I know it's getting close now. I need to probably do that soon. So that's the one area, well, I will have meetings with product managers. So there's four, five product managers that I'll speak with mostly on a weekly or every other week basis and then there's the leadership team which I have weekly one-on-ones with almost all of them and there's seven people in the leadership team. So that already adds up to just like quite a few meetings scattered around and then other than that, it's mostly kept free, but it does get filled up by meetings with partners that come up or a podcast interview like this that happens on a semi-regular basis, yeah.

[00:29:19] One thing I like to do is chat with earlier stage founders and I do that probably on average once every week or every other week. That's on the meetings side of things. There's definitely a few other people in the team that I might end up chatting with on any given week. But that's more like varying and rotating throughout the rest of the team. And then there's a lot of just like the written communication side of really staying on top of discussions that are going on and being up to date on those things.

[00:29:47] I do find to keep a good amount of free time and one of the things I've really been pretty good about in the last six months or so is generally just trying to feel like, proactive about my day or my week. And so that's why I have these regular meetings with my executive assistant about like, how is the week feeling. I want to make sure I've got the time to go into those one-on-ones like I've reflected and put together my side of the agenda and going in like, proactively trying to drive things forward and be present in things and not trying to like have the day feel like it's happening to me.

[00:30:26] Yeah, and then there's a good portion of my day that's honestly just kind of going through numbers and data like finances, all the thoughts, metrics and things and reviewing those a lot and I think that on a high level it's reviewing sales metrics, would be doing customer insights coming through from our team of surveys. Looking at all the different bits of feedback that come in that just essentially shape the strategy like, where should we be going in the next year or two and then trying to make some decisions around that.

[00:30:59] Yeah, and then one thing to note as well is like, I'm definitely a introvert probably on the more extreme side. So one thing I do is try and make sure I have a gap between meetings or at the most have like, two meetings back to back and then have like half an hour gap. And sometimes I'll just jump out and go for a walk. Here in Boulder I'm lucky to have like a path one minute from the apartment that I can just walk along and it's beautiful. So I try and do things like that to quickly recharge during the day as well. And that kind of I think keeps things feeling calm and balanced.

[00:31:31] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I think that's definitely underutilized resources. Just walking in general. I do the same thing. I try to at least... Especially when there's something, a decision or something in my mind, and I think I find as well that walking really helps, even if it's just 10 or 15 or 20 minutes, whatever you can manage.

[00:31:48] Joel G: Yeah, I agree completely.

[00:31:49] Matt H: You may imagine it in there, but what would you say if there's one or two things that you would say is the most important aspect of your job as a CEO and then CEOs in general?

[00:32:00] Joel G: Yeah. So I think for me probably the most important thing is to be kind of driving and communicating vision and strategy. I think that's probably the thing that I would place is the most important thing that I do. Because I think ultimately other things are things that I should be gradually delegating more and more and letting go of and stepping back from. And so I think, you know, right now I have a goal to have a VP of product and really start to get that moving and that certainly is an example of trying to step back and let go. So I generally, in any given quarter, I'll have the main goal I will have is to continue to communicate vision and strategy and try to get insights from different people in the team of where they might feel confusing. I think one of the hardest things I've found is just this need that is really necessary to like over communicate that and it can feel like you need to way more than you think you need to. I have still been trying to lean more and more into that.

[00:33:00] And so I'll always have that as a project and then there's usually two other things and there's always something where I might actually get stuck in and try and be like, driving growth or doing some kind of initiative. But I think those are kind of secondary because those are things that are going to be just for that quarter or something. So those ones are always changing.

[00:33:23] Matt H: My next question is one that I stole from (Claire Lou) who runs your team. Hope she doesn't mind that I take this question out of her broadcast but... What have you learned along the way that you wish you knew when you started?

[00:33:35] Joel G: Yeah, such a good question. I find this question really tough because I probably wouldn't change anything because that's what shaped me to where I am today, but I do think if I could go back and really tell myself something it would be probably to just trust my intuition and my gut and go with that because I think ultimately that's what I (inaudible) coming back to. And sometimes you stray from it for a little while and then you come back to it and it's just this kind of debt that builds up and there's been more work to do if you come back to it. So the more decisions you make where you feel like that's what you should be doing more than what you really feel yourself that it's the right thing to be doing or is, you know, and your gut is like, oh this is the way we need to take things. I think that's probably the key thing that would be trying to make sure I have top-of-mind the whole time. And yeah, I think I could have been a bit bolder, a bit more confident in myself along the way with that and it might have changed a few things.

[00:34:37] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative). No, I think that's a great answer. Yeah, but I also like your point to which you wouldn't change anything either because I think there's a lot of value in the process and in the iteration and it's hard to go back and rewrite things.

[00:34:49] Joel G: Yeah. It is a journey I think and I really wouldn't change anything even though there's been some really tough things we've gone through as a company, I've gone through personally and things, but and that's also why I keep going in this journey, even we've had acquisition offers and things. I feel like, keep going, and keep learning more that just like that next thing is just around the corner and even for the whole team, I think I wouldn't shy away from many of the challenges we've been through as a team because it just builds resilience and makes us stronger for the next thing that might come along.

[00:35:18] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, Joel, listen, I really appreciate your time. I have a couple more questions for you, just in closing, but I want to thank you again for taking time out of your day. The first question here is, again, you may have touched this already but what leadership practice or skill do you think is the most important? It's a broad question, but if you have something specifically then that would be great.

[00:35:40] Joel G: Yeah. That's a really great one. It's tough to pick one because I do think it's just a combination of a lot of little things that you do that add up, but I probably would come back to that communicating vision and strategy. Maybe one of the things that I could pull out of that is to actually step back and carve out a day or two once in a while to literally just clear out the calendar, maybe even go somewhere. It's a different environment, maybe somewhere quiet and nature or something and really just reflect on, are you happy with where this is headed? Like, do you want to make some adjustments or things? I think just like that grounding and going back to yourself I think is really key. So that may be the one practice that I would encourage others to try out.

[00:36:26] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So these last two are a little bit different and they're some of my favorites as well. If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be and why?

[00:36:37] Joel G: Yeah, it's a great one. I would probably pick... It was a book called Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke. The reason I'd pick it is, it's basically a book about his own company and the journey that he went through with this company and they are like a energy company and they were a public company and a very large company, like tens of thousands of employees, but I think the reason it's called Joy at Work is like one of the core values they had at this company was joy at work. And really like true fulfillment and there was many points along the way where they had challenges in striving to stay true to their values and then they kind of pulled through and had challenges with their board, where they were happy with the values when the results were good and unhappy with the values when the results were not as good. And so just this story of staying true to your values no matter what and saying those are principles that you don't waiver on. That's something that has just given me a lot of inspiration and I always come back to it. I probably read it five, six years ago at this point but it's something that I always come back to in my mind.

[00:37:49] Matt H: Yeah, I know. I haven't heard of that one, so that's on the reading list now. And we'll link to that as well (inaudible) for people that are interested.

[00:37:56] My last question before I let you go is, what is the best advice you've ever been given? So this can be work or otherwise, but what's the best advice you've ever been given?

[00:38:07] Joel G: It's tough. I think probably the best advice... I had a mentor long time ago with a company before Buffer. And essentially I think I had a co-founder at the time when it clearly wasn't working that well, but it's just really hard to make that call when you're in the depths of it and I can really see it and I got this great advice from him that I probably should finish that and it probably wasn't working and I think on the higher level it's probably just... The advice is probably to be able to step back and look objectively and see, what's that big decision you need to make right now? And then like to go through with it and do the hardest thing that you have because it's often like the thing that's going to move the needle the most and I know for me that was a decision that changed my course a lot because that was clearly not working out for us and made that call and then ultimately from there went on to have other products that did a lot better and ultimately led to Buffer and things. So yeah, I think just making that tough change. It's probably the key bit of great advice that I've had.

[00:39:19] Matt H: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, that is good advice and it's actually something that I hear quite often is that those tough decisions, those tough conversations are often the most important ones and you don't want to shy away from them for too long and it's actually a skill you have to develop because nobody has that natural skill of being able to talk to people or wanting to talk to people about difficult things. So I think that's a great answer.

[00:39:40] Joel G: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:39:43] Matt H: So Joel, again, I really appreciate you taking the time. I learned a lot through this podcast so thank you again. We'll of course link to Buffer and the blog and your personal blog as well. But is there anywhere else that you want to send people?

[00:39:55] Joel G: Yeah, so buffer.com for Buffer and checking out all about the company and everything. And then my personal website is joel.is and yeah, I've got all my social media links in there. My social media is @joelgascoigne on Twitter and Instagram, but my surname is not the easiest as well. So joel.is is probably the best place to go for that.

[00:40:19] Matt H: Fantastic. Yeah, we'll link to all that as well. Joel, thanks again, and hopefully we can do this again, but I really appreciate your time.

[00:40:25] Joel G: Yeah. Thanks so much Matt, it's been a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the really great questions.

[00:40:30] Matt H: All right. Thanks. Bye-bye.

[00:40:31] Joel G: Thanks.

[00:40:32] Matt H: Thanks so much again for listening to the show today. Check out weworkremotely.com for the latest remote jobs, and if you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the best place to do so. If you have any recommendations to make the show better, please reach out to us at [email protected] and if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please go to weworkremotely.com/advertise. Thanks so much again, and we'll talk to you next time.

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