Jim Buckmaster CEO Craigslist Pauline Jordan Principals of Management 2011 Buckmaster, at 6ft 7in tall, does not blend into the background anytime, nor as CEO of a site that is the 11th most popular site in the United States. Yet the chief executive of the world’s biggest classified listings website has a reputation for elusiveness. Interviews are rare and finding information and history on this CEO proved to be a bit of a challenge. November will mark his 11th year in charge of Craigslist often blamed in the minds of many for expediting the demise of local newspapers by destroying the print classified advertising market.
I think it is notable that Jim Buckmaster is the second-longest serving Silicon Valley CEO after Jeff Bezos of Amazon another interesting CEO. Mr. Buckmaster was born 14 August 1962, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has never been married and has no children. His education is not the typical of most CEOs. He studied Biochemistry at Virginia Tech, then the classics at Michigan University. He dropped out of medical school, then learned programming in his spare time. His career is not typical either nor is it extensive.
Buckmaster dropped out of medical school at the University of Michigan in 1986. He hung around the university for 10 years, studying the classics, doing data entry work, and teaching himself programming. By 1999, he was working as a webmaster in San Francisco for a dotcom called Creditland, where he was not happy. He posted his resume on craigslist, and Newmark (the founder of Craigslist) found it. Once he began working at Craigslist, Buckmaster says He looked around and began finding things to do. He wrote forum software to give users a chance to interact.
When he realized that every post had to be reviewed and published by hand, he created the automated process that allowed craigslist to grow. He coded a search engine. A year after he arrived he was CEO. There was no competition for the job, no ritual transfer of power, and no instructions. The entire time he has worked for Craig Newmark, Buckmaster says “I don’t think Craig has ever said to me, ‘This is the way it has to be,'” The only topic he recalls their disagreeing about is the peace sign that adorns the craigslist Web address. Craig thought it was associated with the hippies and that hippies were discredited,” Buckmaster says. “Whereas I think peace is among the most desirable things you can have. ” He started out in 1994 until 1995, built web interface for social science data archive ICPSR. Directed web development for Creditland and Quantum. Joined Craigslist as lead programmer in 2000 after replying to an ad on the site. Took on chief executive title that November. Buckmaster claims hobbies of watching Woody Allen movies and foreign films by Ingmar Bergman and the Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray.
Lastly he also does not reside in a home or way typical of CEO’s of multimillion dollar company, he lives in San Francisco, and chooses to rent within walking distance of work. I believe Jim Buckmaster is a genius and love this summary of his management philosophy I found while doing my research. • Listen to what users want. Try to make the site faster and better. • Hire good people. “We work hard trying to get the right kind of folks. ” It pays off: they hardly ever leave. • No meetings, ever. “I find them stupefying and useless. • No management program and no MBAs. “I’ve always thought that sort of thing was baloney. ” • Forget the figures. “We are consistently in the black, so if we do better or worse in any given quarter it is absolutely irrelevant. ” • Occasionally, give people “a very gentle nudge”. This can be done over lunch or on the instant messaging boards. • He doesn’t reply to any of his 100 daily messages, most of which beg Craigslist to do a deal. “I’m not real chatty on e-mail. ” • Put speed over perfection: “Get something out there.
Do it, even if it isn’t perfect. ” He also goes on to summarize by saying “We run a profitable business and have always done, but we just don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he reasons. “We have found trying to provide the best possible service over time is also the best business strategy, though it’s not always one followed [by other companies]. ” I really admire and enjoy his style of management. He seems very genuine in his loyalty to the company’s mission has he puts it to meet his users basic human needs. The openness of craigslist has lso contributed to the critisisim of Jim Buckmaster’s management and one of the sections in particular on craigslist. While its millions of users seem to love Craigslist, the site has attracted criticism in recent years over its carrying of adult services listings, including prostitution. The case of the “Craigslist killer”, who allegedly met and murdered a woman through the site before later killing himself in police custody, became a media obsession in the US, eventually forcing the company – reluctantly – to shut down its adult services category in the US and its erotic services category in all other countries.
For an avowed libertarian like Buckmaster, the decision still rankles. “For a long time we tried to do what, in our minds, was the principled thing. We ended up doing the pragmatic thing. “He is keen to point out the statistical rarity of such crimes but, even so, reports of criminal activity with links of varying relevance to Craigslist are now commonplace in the US media. A fan of Noam Chomsky, Buckmaster has been accused of being “anti-capitalistic”, which Buckmaster claims is an inaccurate characterization: We are not so much anit-capitalist.
We’re fortunate enough to have built a very healthy business, even though we haven’t attempted to. All we have done is stop short of trying to become insanely wealthy. We have met billionaires and it sounds funny but its not necessarily a bed of roses to have that kind of money. Their life becomes about figuring out how to employ all that money either by philanthropy or other means. So we don’t consider it that revolutionary to have stopped short of that.
Another aspect of Buckmaster’s business approach that I find sustainable and unique is his current strategy for growth—a slow, blob like, seemingly unstoppable accretion of new craigslist cities, each an exact clone of the others, launched with no marketing or publicity. Sometimes a new site grows very slowly for a long time. But eventually listings hit a certain volume, after which the site becomes so familiar and essential that it is more or less taken for granted by everybody. He also has a very philosophical style regarding customer service.
Without a computer science research department to work on evil-fighting algorithms, or a call center to take complaints, Buckmaster has settled on a different approach, one that involves haiku. The little poems he has written appear on the screen at times when users might expect a helpful message from the staff. They function as a gnomic clue that what you are seeing is intentional, while discouraging further conversation or inquiry. For instance, start too many conversations in the forums and your new threads may fail to show up.
Instead, you will see this: frogs croak and gulls cry silently a river floods a red leaf floats by Attempt to post a message that is similar to one you’ve already entered, and this may appear: a wafer thin mint that’s been sent before it seems one is enough, thanks The slight delays in cognitive processing that these haiku cause are valuable. They open a space for reflection, during which you can rethink your need for service. Jim Buckmaster has ended the war between engineers and marketers, by not having any marketers.
I particularly admire this approach to business management. Simple stupid, but not so stupid. There is no business development, no human resources, no sales as a result no meetings. Jim says the staff communicates by email and IM. 1. http://www. guardian. co. uk/technology/2009/may/28/craigslist-jim-buckmaster-adult-ads 2. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Jim_Buckmaster 3. http://www. craigslist. org/about/jim_buckmaster 4. http://money. cnn. com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/08/06/100141309/index. htm 5. http://www. nydailynews. com/topics/Jim%20Buckmaster/22/5