What Happens When Startup Advisors Advise the Whole Team

Instead of keeping sessions strictly between founders and mentors, the leaders of Buffer decided to let advisors speak directly to the entire team. Here's what happened.

By Leo Widrich

This story originally appeared on Buffer

One of the things that has fascinated me most about ancient Greece and Rome has always been the idea of oracles.

If you've seen the movie 300, you might remember the scene in which Leonidas has to consult the oracle, which will decide whether the Spartans will go to battle or not.

What Happens When Startup Advisors Advise the Whole Team

You can almost grasp the frustration of the Spartan king. He's not in control. He has to rely on the priests and only the priests are able to understand the oracle's advice. He feels powerless, as he has to follow whatever the priests might say to him about the oracle's thoughts, which eventually is not to go to battle.

I've noticed something very similar happen with "oracles" in the world of startup advice, and particularly for us at Buffer.

As founders, Joel and I have been incredibly lucky to be able to be in touch with some incredible advisors that we can reach out to for advice on tough decisions we have to make.

Related: Why You Should Never Cross Your Arms Again

A few incredible people that might be considered our "oracles," who have helped us tremendously in the past, are the following:

How we used to pass knowledge down

What would happen at times is that Joel and myself would have an incredibly productive and useful session with some of the great folks listed above about a problem we've been facing.

For example, Hiten and I used to meet regularly for advice sessions on growth and how we might build a scalable process into our workflow. After the session, I'd go and share some of the great advice with the team.

At that point it's very hard for the team to question any of the advice that I've received. They'd have to accept it, even if it was presented in a neutral way. By nature, questioning it is nearly impossible, since Hiten isn't present and I had the direct line to speaking to him.

I can imagine that some team members might have felt quite similar to Leonidas, having to follow whatever the priests said to him.

When Joel and I realized this, we decided that this didn't feel like a great setup—especially as we'd just made the change to the "decision maker" framework, where didn't have any managers and everyone was accountable for their own decisions.

Here is how we changed that:

Letting advisors speak directly to teams

Instead of keeping up sessions with Hiten and others between us as founders and our advisors, we have been experimenting with letting him speak directly to the team.

What Happens When Startup Advisors Advise the Whole Team

Related: 24 People, No Managers: Our Experiment in Getting Work Done

We invited Hiten to come out to our most recent retreat to New York, where he came in for a full day of office hours and worked with every single team that we have (8 at the moment):

  • Happiness team
  • Content crafters team
  • Onboarding team
  • Dashboard + Awesome plan team
  • Buffer for iOS team
  • Buffer for Android team
  • Browser extension team
  • Buffer for Business team

In 8 sessions of 30 minutes each (we couldn't believe he'd not be completely tired after doing 8 of these sessions!), everyone on each of the teams had a chance to speak to Hiten directly and ask their questions. I genuinely believe that through this method, we had an 8x better outcome of the advice, compared to if it would have just been given to Joel and myself.

Making it a process

I can see us scaling this process across all advisors in the future and possibly inviting more advisors to our retreats or setting up general office hours session for the individual teams.

My hunch is that for us to grow collectively as a team, giving people access to all the same information that we have as founders is crucial. Keith Rabois put this really well in a great interview:

"If you want people to make the same decisions that you would make, but in a more scalable way, you have to give them the same information you have."

It's also one of the main reasons we keep all emails within the company transparent, so that no knowledge is locked away in certain threads.

I'm excited to see how we can consistently make the advice-giving process better in the future and hope to keep you posted.

Related: How We Use Twitter to Build Products People Love

Leo Widrich

Co-founder and COO of Buffer

Leo Widrich is the co-founder and COO of Buffer, a social media management tool with millions of users. At Buffer, he loves to think about how to create a better and easier way to keep up with social media and build a company that focuses on company culture, transparency, and positivity.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game

How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.

Business News

American Airlines Sued After Teen Dies of Heart Attack Onboard Flight to Miami

Kevin Greenridge was traveling from Honduras to Miami on June 4, 2022, on AA Flight 614 when he went into cardiac arrest and became unconscious mid-flight.

Business News

Jake Paul and Lindsay Lohan Fined $400,000 for 'Illegally Touting' Crypto

The SEC just disclosed that eight celebrities agreed to a massive settlement without admitting guilt.


After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.

Author Karen Inglis breaks down the strategies and tactics you need to generate awareness and sales for your self-published book.

Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.