Building a company requires a great deal of effort and planning and is more than just having a great idea. It requires a unique convergence of skills, insight, and to some degree, business acumen. But none of these things is enough to achieve long-term success. The final ingredient is consistency – you need to define what you want to do with consistent delivery.
Always Learning and Always Teaching
Lead by Example
and Be Accountable
In founding Buurst (formerly SoftNAS), Rick Braddy was unhappy with the cost to performance ratio of contemporary on-premise storage. Knowing firsthand the implementation of such solutions, the strengths that such implementations offered, and the weaknesses (notably scalability), he saw that the cloud would soon be the only solution. The company or person that managed to harness the stability and strength of on-premise solutions and bring it to the cloud would have tremendous success. But we have to ask ourselves – would Buurst still be humming along nine years later without a consistent plan and ideals?
Customer and Partner Empathy
Intuiting what the customer needs is the first part of any successful venture. SoftNAS offered an alternative to the high cost of on-premise storage. But if we had stopped there, building a cheap alternative, we would likely not be building a company today. SoftNAS would likely be a small part of a larger company‘s toolset, sold to the highest bidder within the first couple of years. Luckily, our founder and his burgeoning crew knew that there were other pain points to consider and that listening to the customer would illuminate others.
Soon, based on customer feedback and personal knowledge of customer pain points, Buurst was working to solve flexibility in many different ways. First, from the outset, Rick wanted the solution to offer native support for all the standard NAS protocols, CIFS/SMB, NFS, and iSCSI. Ideally, the customer would never see a difference between using cloud storage or an on-premise NAS. Next, platform flexibility. On-premise (VMware) support, coupled AWS and Azure support ensured that the majority of customers could find the right cloud storage option for them, as well as the flexibility to get from on-prem to the cloud. Support for both block and object storage further enhanced flexibility for our clients.
None of these efforts would mean a thing without understanding another core need of the customer, high availability. Without the comfort of data permanence, no large client would risk a move to cloud infrastructure.
As the company grew, more needs became apparent, such as the need for tier storage or facilitating the transfer of data from on-premise to cloud. Eventually, we would realize that beyond this, a solution to orchestrate and automate the flow of data across an organization would be the next paradigm shift. None of these ideas would have been sought or implemented without empathy for the customer. This same empathy is employed today in helping our partners achieve success. We choose our partners based on the help they can provide to customers. By finding partners whose clients have expressed the needs we have worked so hard to deliver, we help them find success. Clear communication of the benefits we provide and limitations, too, ensures we do not lose our partners’ trust or the clients they support with Buurst technology.
Rick Braddy was fresh off a startup when the idea to forge SoftNAS (now Buurst) came to him. He had a skill set that would be valuable to many large companies and could easily find job security and even growth with any of them. But he wouldn‘t have the freedom to pursue his own goals and would potentially have to move to where the job was and uproot his family. It was by no means an easy decision. Without entrepreneurial spirit, Buurst would have withered on the vine.
As luck would have it, Rick‘s entrepreneurial spirit extended well beyond simply the courage to follow through with an idea. He built the company based on it. What better way to pay homage to a decision to go your way than to allow others the opportunity to do so? Employees at Buurst are all entrepreneurs of a sort, having left the standard local office company template for the freedom of working from home. Buurst‘s distributed office model results from Rick‘s desire to pursue his goals his way, from where he wanted to be. This model is relatively easy to achieve if you are the boss, much less so for your typical office employee. But at Buurst, the office is wherever you are.
Buurst continues to manifest an entrepreneurial spirit many years after our founding. We have recently spun off a new product, Fuusion. While the feature set of Fuusion is complementary to our SoftNAS product, implementing the product’s features limited its reach, and compromised the flexibility, we strove to provide. Not the flexibility of SoftNAS, but Fuusion. Working with the data orchestration capabilities of Fuusion, it soon became apparent that it needed a dedicated team of its own to improve. It needed to be deployable on any system, with or without SoftNAS. In other words, rather than trade on the good name of our primary product, Buurst needed to take a chance and build something new.
Always Learning and Always Teaching
Empathy for the customer/partner has an inherent benefit that can stand any organization in good stead. As customers’ needs evolve, so too does the product, the company, and its employees. To meet these evolving needs, which would not be apparent without lessons imparted by our efforts on behalf of the customer, Buurst had to adapt and learn. More than that, we had to want to learn.
Learning allowed us to do more, be more. In so doing, we became experts in cloud storage and had lessons to impart in return. Education went well beyond simply making potential clients aware of our product and its benefits. Whether a client is new to the cloud and needs to know the differences between block and object storage or other key features, success is dependent on imparting enough knowledge to ensure the customer can define their needs. So not only did we have to want to learn, but we needed to communicate and share those lessons.
Recent lessons from our Fuusion product have shown us that Buurst has only scratched the surface on what is possible in data orchestration and automation, both in the cloud and on-premises. As we learn lessons from each new client, our goal will always be to forward these lessons to the product and prospective new clients.
Lead by Example and be Accountable
Buurst utilizes a highly distributed team, which by definition means that people do not see one another all day at work. You cannot peek over the cubicle in such an environment and ask your neighbor about his progress on the latest bug fix or budget report. So trust, and accountability are vital. Even if you cannot see your peers working, you need to know that they are and are as invested as you are.
Because we do not see each other in a shared office, Buurst ensures that we see each other regularly, at least virtually. Every week, an All Hands Meeting over Microsoft Teams, is held with the company, focused on good and bad news. Usually, regardless of the news, there is a good deal of camaraderie and inside jokes, just like a typical office meeting. We also have less formal get-togethers every few weeks, as scheduled by the “FUUN committee.” These gatherings include games of bingo and jeopardy, among other activities. By staying connected and informed, we ensure the team is invested and accountable.
In addition to staying connected, each employee has a stake in the company, receiving shares. Put simply, if the company does well, so do the employee‘s shares. Additionally, employees feel more comfortable speaking out, offering ideas and solutions to problems because they are owners.
Lastly, every week an employee is nominated for “Buurster of the week,” announced company–wide, along with the nomination reasons. The announcement is via email; however, time is also allotted in the All Hands Meeting to allow the “Buurster‘s“ team to share a few words extolling the employee‘s virtues. This celebrates the employee’s accomplishments, and it provides inspiration and guidance to the other team members. It shows us what our fellow employees are doing with their day and challenges us to match or exceed it. In essence, it allows every team member to peek over the cubicle and give our friend a fist bump.
There are numerous ways in which Buurst strives to offer more, do more, and be more for both ourselves and our clients. With our core values guiding us, we hope to grow and learn from every new challenge we face.