You preach openness and transparency. But do you publicly share revenue figures? Do you publicly share the results of key performance indicators?

Do you publish your salary--and the salaries of everyone who works for you--for the world to see?

Probably not, but Buffer, the social media startup, does.

I've written about how Buffer strives to be a transparent company before, but Joel Gascoigne's recent blog post Introducing Open Salaries at Buffer takes what was mostly internal transparency to extremely public lengths.

For example, here are the current salaries of Buffer employees:

  • Joel (CEO)= $158,800 (75k Executive Officer base + 20%, + 12k/$m revenue, 1.2X, +22k,)
  • Leo (COO) = $146,800 (70k Operations Officer base + 20%, + 10k/$m revenue, 1.2X, +22k)
  • Sunil (CTO)= $137,600 (engineer + 20% + 8k/$m revenue, 1.2X, +22K, +10K)
  • Carolyn (CHO) = $106,000 (happiness +20% +8k/$m revenue, 1.2X, +22K)
  • Andy (Senior iOS Engineer) = $107,900 ($60,000 + 5% + 2*$3k, X 1.1 + 22K + 10K)
  • Michelle (Growth Engineer) = $98,000 (engineer, 1.1X, +22K, +10K)
  • Åsa (Senior Happiness Hero) = $85,900 ($45,000 + 5% + 2*$3k, X 1.2 + 22K)
  • Colin (Senior Backend Engineer) = $104,800 ($60,000 +5% + 2*$3k, X 1.2 + 12K + 10K)
  • Belle (Content Crafter) = $82,000 (content crafter, 1.2x, +12K, +10K) * 0.8 (Belle works 4 days a week)
  • Brian (Designer) = $94,000 (designer, 1.2x, +12k, +10k)
  • Matt (Android Engineer) = $94,000 (engineer, 1.2x, +12k, +10k)
  • BMR (Happiness Hero) = $76,000 (happiness hero, 1.2x, +12k, +10k)
  • Niel (Frontend Engineer) = $88,000 (engineer, 1.2x, +6k, +10k)

And the salaries of team members in the 45-day Buffer bootcamp period (where new employees work as freelancers while they and the company decide if Buffer is the right professional and cultural fit for them:

  • Mary (Happiness Hero) = $70,000 (happiness hero, 1.2x, +6k, +10k)
  • Adam (Happiness Hero) = $76,000 (happiness hero, 1.2x, +12k, +10k)
  • Toby (Backend Engineer)  = $94,000 (engineer, 1.2x, +12k, +10k)
  • Zach (Backend Engineer) = $94,000 (engineer, 1.2x, +12k, +10k)

The salary formula might look complicated, so Joel explains that too:

Salary = job type X seniority X experience + location (+ $10K if salary choice)

Job Type = base

  • happiness hero = $45,000
  • content crafter = $50,000
  • engineer = $60,000
  • designer = $60,000
  • Operations officer base = $70,000
  • Executive officer base = $75,000

Seniority = base multiplier

  • Senior + 5% base and 3k/$m revenue
  • Lead +7% base and 4k/$m revenue
  • VP + 10% and 6k/$m revenue
  • C-level +20% and 8k/$m revenue
  • COO +20% and 10k/$m revenue
  • CEO + 20% and 12k/$m revenue

Experience = multiplier

  • Master: 1.3X
  • Advanced: 1.2X
  • Intermediate: 1.1X
  • Junior: 1X

Location = additional

  • A: +$22K (e.g. San Francisco, Hong Kong, Sydney, London, Paris, New York)
  • B: +$12K (e.g. Nashville, Birmingham, Vienna, Austin, Vegas, Tel Aviv)
  • C: +$6K (e.g. Talinn, Warsaw, Bucharest, Santiago)
  • D: +$0K (e.g. Manila, Delhi, Hanoi)

Equity / salary choice

  • Employees get a choice of more equity or more salary, if they choose salary, they get +$10K in additional pay

Let's use Joel as an example: He's an Executive officer so he gets $75k as a base. Then, as CEO, he gets a seniority multiplier of 20% and $12k/month. Then he gets an experience multiplier of 1.2 since he's considered "advanced" and he gets an extra $22k because he lives in San Francisco (or Hong Kong, or Sydney, or some other city with a high cost of living.)

Add it all up and Joel makes $158,800... and everyone inside and outside the company now knows why.

Buffer also publicly shares other information:

  • Curious about revenue figures? In November, Buffer generated $196,000, signed up 66,000 users and now has a total of 1,189,000, up 5.9% from the previous month. They even share how much cash is in the bank: $318,651.
  • Curious about customer support stats? Last month they helped 4,614 customers and sent 6,855 email replies, resolving 27% of queries within one hour. And they're honest about their challenges: a lack of weekend support staffing has created "a pretty unhappy experience for hundreds of customers," so they plan to hire a "weekend warrior."
  • Curious about blog stats? November saw over 529,000 unique visitors. Seems like a lot to me... how does your blog compare?

So here's the big question: "Default to Transparency" is one of Buffer's nine core values, and clearly they walk that particular talk. But is this level of public transparency beneficial? And is it right for you?

I would struggle with publishing salaries, if only because I grew up in a culture where we were constantly told not to share salary information with other employees. Of course that didn't stop us. But does sharing create a benefit?  The same goes for revenue figures, KPIs, etc. How much information should be private? How much should be shared?

There is no right or wrong; there's only right for you, and Joel clearly thinks this level of transparency is right for Buffer.

What about for your business?