Joe Howard is the founder of WP Buffs and has lots of experience managing a fully remote team, building a business on Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), and of-course, offering top notch support to those who need it. In this episode we get deep into a lot of different topics surrounding those area, and much more.
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Intro: Hey everybody, Joe Casabona here. Welcome to Episode 99 of How I Built It. Today I’m talking to Joe Howard of WP Buffs, and we talk about a whole bunch of things. How he built WP Buffs, how he builds company culture with a completely global and remote company, we talk a little bit about building his courses out and things like that.
He has a lot of good recommended reading for us. I enjoyed this conversation, and I think you will too. A couple of announcements before that. Next week is the 100th episode of How I Built It. I’m ecstatic about that. It seems like a big milestone, 100 episodes. I’m very happy to be able to do this, and I’ll talk about that a bit more, but next week’s episode will be a little bit different. It’ll be just me, and I’ll be talking about how I built How I Built It.
I haven’t recorded that episode yet, so if you’re listening and you have any questions, feel free to submit them on the contact form over at HowIBuilt.it or on Twitter @jcasabona. I’ll be talking all about how I built this specific podcast. I also want to tell you about a new course I have called Build Your Podcast Website in 3 Days. It’s over at HowIBuilt.it/course, and I tell you everything you need to know.
We go from no site to a fully functional podcast website with feed submitted to Apple podcast in this course, and you can check it out over at How I Built.it/course and use the code BUILDIT for something like 25% off. Use the code BUILDIT for 25% off. This episode is also brought to you by Pantheon, which I’ll tell you about a little bit later. For now, on with the show.
Joe Casabona: Joe, how are you.
Joe Howard: Hey Joe, I’m doing well. I’m Joe number two today. So, it’s all good.
Joe C: I’m happy to have you on the show. You’re taller, so you could be Joe number one, and I’ll be Joe number two.
Joe H: Things One and Thing 2.
Joe C: Exactly. Joe and I met at a WordCamp some time ago. We’re both in the relatively local area to each other, you’re in the DC area, and I’m in the Philadelphia area. We’ve connected a couple of times, and I’m excited to have you on the show talking about your company WP Buffs. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do?
Joe H: For sure. I’m Joe Howard, and I started a company called WP Buffs. We fully manage WordPress websites. We work with small businesses, entrepreneurs, people who run their own website have built their own website and then realize, “There’s a little bit more than just pressing the update button.
I have to keep everything updated, and I have to make sure it’s secure, I have to make sure my site is fast, I have X Y and Z edits I have to do. It may be a little easier to bring someone in to help with some of that ongoing care. We work with that group of people, and we also work with agencies as well. We partner with a few digital agencies, a few hosting partners, a few WordPress plugins as well, to help them with the support of what they do. That’s WP Buffs in a nutshell.
Joe C: Cool. Already I’ve learned that your business is a little bit more multifaceted than I thought. We’ll get into more of this, but just while it’s top of mind. What was it like saying, “We’re going to help offer certain plugin support.” Is that a full service you offer, or is it more like one plugin developer came to you, and you were like, “I can do that.” How did that happen?
Joe H: It was definitely the latter. It was someone came to us with a request, and it’s like most businesses. You have a lot of customers giving you feedback, and you’re taking that feedback into account about maybe what you want to build next, or what the next service you’re offering is. Some of that stuff is clearly a one-off thing, and maybe you’ll do it maybe you won’t, but it’s not something you’ll grow the business on.
Every once in a while you have someone who gives you feedback, or a lot of times multiple people giving you the same feedback or similar feedback, and then it gets you thinking, “Maybe this is something that if three people needed this or 10 people needed this, maybe 100 other people need this or 1,000.”
So, that’s how our white label program was born. We had a few agencies coming to us saying, “We’d love to have some care plans. We have 25 clients who need this service. Should we sign up directly for 25 plans?” And the moment came where, “Yes we could do 25 plans, but there’s more here. There’s another level of service and another level of value we can provide to people. So, why don’t you sell these care plans to your clients? We’ll provide the fulfillment, and you’ll have this additional advantage of being able to continue to build a relationship with your clients.”
Because agencies, a lot of the agencies you work with, they build websites for people. When people need a new website, they’re going to go to the people who are top of mind. In my mind, helping agencies and plugin companies or hosts be top of mind for their customers, by providing an additional layer of ongoing WordPress specific support is valuable to them. That’s how it came about.
Joe C: Very cool. That way you can focus on the thing that you do best as your business, and you don’t even have to worry about selling the packages. You let the agency do that, and they have a much better relationship with that client, so they could probably make the sale more easily as well. It’s like a win-win-win. The client wins, you guys win, and the agency wins.
Joe H: You should join WP Buffs because that’s my exact sales pitch for a lot of people we talk to. I’m a big proponent of focusing on the maybe one, two or three areas where you’re strong. If you have areas where you’re not as strong, partnering with someone else to help support that. An example is we used to host for our customers because in my mind it was a little bit stickier. People when they’re hosting with you, they’re a little less likely to move away. It’s a nice way to make a little bit more revenue and for monthly income. But I found it was like we were working with hosting partners in order to host on their platform, and we weren’t doing the hosting.
We decided to stop hosting altogether and partner with preferred hosts so that we could do exactly what you said, Joe. We could provide the WordPress side of support and let the hosts do the hosting side of support. We helped with that as well, if something goes wrong in the hosting side of things, that’s our wheelhouse as well.
But partnering with hosting providers means hosts can focus on being the best host they can be, and we can focus on providing the best WordPress specific support we can, and everybody wins. Like you said, we win, our partners win, and most importantly the clients win.
Joe C: That’s fantastic. We’ve already dove in a little bit to your business, but I do want to know, did you do any research into starting WP Buffs? Or, what was it like starting WP Buffs? Because this is a thought, every freelancer has, “I should start supporting other WordPress sites,” or whatever. But if you want to do it right, I feel like your approach is the right approach here. There are sites like WP Site Care and Valet out there who are doing similar things. Did you did you analyze the competition? Or were you like, “This is something I should do.”
Joe H: I definitely did some competitor analysis while I was starting the company. I used to be in the WordPress space similar to a lot of people, doing freelance work, building websites for people. I found I wasn’t able to scale the business of building websites for people and that’s not to say that it’s not scalable.
It’s clearly been shown that lots of companies have been successful doing that, I couldn’t find that magic sauce to be able to do it myself. I started looking for other ways to be able to make more predictable revenue goals, and I found if I was building a website and someone was paying me to do it, that was great.
But then as soon as that site was done, I was looking for more work. I was back in sales mode, and at that point not getting paid, because I wasn’t building a website for someone. So I was looking for a different business model where I could charge on a monthly basis and have a little bit more predictable income. I thought, “WordPress powers 30% of the internet.
If there are so many WordPress sites out there, it’s not just new WordPress sites who need help. I’m sure there are people out there who need help with their websites that are already built. Maybe I could come in at a lower price point than the cost of building a website, but bring on more customers in order to make it financially viable.”
I was checking out, “How could I bring this SaaS pricing model, or SaaS business model, and combine it with my WordPress knowledge to create a company. I started looking around and saw that there were a few other companies doing this, and there are a few good ones. The ones you’ve managed are ones where I know the owners and the people who work there and look up to a lot of those companies as well. But I also saw a lot of companies that I didn’t think were highly strong on the marketing side of things.
I thought that could be a big differentiator for us because for people listening or anybody listening, that’s more my area of strength. Not as much on the technical side. I have people like Nick on the team who are strong in that area, but my area is more in the marketing and marketing sales by necessity. More of the business development side of things. I thought if I could be strong there, I could win. So far that’s starting to work.
Joe C: Awesome. Cool. I like this approach because even when I was doing full-time freelance work, I liked building the new stuff. I still have some hosting clients because it’s relatively easy money. I’m on a host that auto-updates and they’re very low-maintenance websites. They’re brochure sites. But even the maintaining site when something does go wrong, or I need to do something, that takes little chunks out of my day. I can’t get into that deep work.
So even as a freelancer, I would consider a service like this where, like you said, I can maintain the relationship with the client, but I don’t necessarily have to do the work. You mentioned that you have WordPress knowledge, but you also have a technical person, was that the case when you started WP Buffs? Were you like, “I need to focus on the marketing, the biz dev, so I need to bring on somebody who’s more technical?”
Joe H: I knew that I wasn’t the technical lead on the project, nor would anybody want me to be, including myself. I always knew I would need to bring in someone who was more technical than me and honestly as the founder of the company that’s what I’m trying to do for every position. We’re even hiring for marketing right now, I’m looking to bring in someone who knows more than me, and that’s a little bit more diversified than me. That’s a big part of my job, just surrounding myself with people who know more, definitely on the technical side of things.
We’ve got a team of nine right now, so we have a good amount of technical knowledge. A lot of what you would call full stack front end and back end knowledge, WordPress. But our last hire was a little bit more back-end specific, and we’re starting to get to the mass now where we need specific skills. We’re starting to bring on a few more. When we started our most expensive plan was $120 a month, so we were working with small businesses, entrepreneurs, trying to hit that niche or that target audience. As things have moved forward, we have started to crawl upmarket a little bit.
Now our most expensive plan is $400 a month, and we’re starting to work with sites that are a little bit more complex, that are a little bit on the higher end of advanced functionality. Like WooCommerce, the membership sites, etc. But now we have a team that is much more comfortable with the technical side of things. My job is to give them the resources that they need to do a great job, get feedback from them to know what our customers need, and just myself to interact with customers and figure out what’s next for WP Buffs.
Joe C: That’s great. I love what you said there, “I want to surround myself with people smarter than me.” That’s the sign of a good manager as you as you move higher up the chain you’re not going to be in the trenches as often, you want to think big picture. So you want the boots on the ground to be the best boots on the ground that they can be.
Joe H: Matt Mullenweg did an interview– he’s done a bunch interviews. I can’t remember which one it was, but he said, “The people he hires at automatic are people he would consider working for if he were an employee.” He said, “Maybe not even in this universe.” If this was another universe and things had worked out differently, and he had been an employee instead of the founder of automatic, he would want to bring on people who he could imagine himself working for in another scenario. That’s something I always have in my mind when I’m hiring.
I don’t just want to bring on someone who has the technical knowledge, and I don’t just want to bring on someone who is a good culture fit. I want to bring on someone who wants to live and breathe our business. That’s a mistake I made when we were starting WP Buffs. My strength is the marketing area, so I never had any problem getting new customers. It was the rest of being a founder that was the difficult part. At the beginning, bringing on people who I needed to fill seats, and when I needed warm bodies. People who knew the technical knowledge and could get that done.
As the business has matured, we’ve had to let a few people go who have the technical knowledge, but weren’t the best culture fit for us. Within the last six months or so we’ve started to– It’s like night and day. It’s not something I ever realized before, but now that I’ve made this change and pushed more towards bringing people on who are a good culture fit for The Buffs, everything’s changed. We’re moving forward much faster because the team is so much more dynamic.
Joe C: Very cool. Sorry, I got feedback that I say “Very cool,” too much. I’m going to try to say that less.
Joe H: “Cool.”
Joe C: “It’s all right.” I have a lot of other questions here. Are you a remote team?
Joe H: We are a remote team. We are fully remote. We just launched a team page. We just got everyone’s picture up on the team page, we’ve got a nice little map of where everybody is in the world. We’re spread out across ten people including Marvin, our head of barketing who is just hanging out here on the couch with me. But–
Joe C: “Head of barketing,” I like that.
Joe H: 9 homo sapiens, nine humans.
Joe C: Nice.
Joe H: We’re spread out across five different time zones now. When I started the company I thought, I talked a little bit about the competitor analysis, and I found that a few of the other shops that were doing this similar WordPress Plus maintenance SaaS pricing thing.
They were doing more of a 9 to 5, that’s how they were looking at it. So I thought 24/7 support would be a big differentiator for us. Since I started WP Buffs, we’ve been 24/7 across different time zones, regardless of whether it’s 3:00 PM or 3:00 AM, you e-mail on a support ticket someone will answer you within a few minutes.
Joe C: That’s phenomenal. I love the way the map looks, and I’m looking at it right now. I love the color scheme, and how it looks, I see you have an employee in New York which is nice. That’s my home state. That’s another great business development or business model thing, especially if you’re hiring a freelancer, you’re not going to get 24/7 support.
I’ve had clients call me at 10:00 AM, and I say, “6:00 PM Eastern Time, that’s business hours.” That’s what you get for getting somebody cheaper than a global company, but I can’t be answering your calls at midnight. With a team like this, where you have people working reasonable hours for themselves, you can offer 24/7 support without having a nighttime team or whatever.
Joe H: When I was starting WP Buffs I wanted to focus on how I could provide the maximum value to people, in terms of managing their website, and if we’re managing a website from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday it’s not ideal for people. “We relieve all your headaches from 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday,” I wanted to be the company that says, “We relieve the headaches. We’re like the ibuprofen of the WordPress space. It’s like, “If we’re going to do it, let’s try and do it right.” Early days were challenging.
I’m not going to lie, and it was tough not only finding people to provide support so that I could cover all the time zones but as most freelancers or small business owners know, it’s difficult to bring on freelancers or contractors and have them truly buy into the business quickly. That’s a challenge.
That was definitely a challenge we faced. It’s easy to say now, with a team of nine, “Of course we cover 24/7, and we have all these different time zones.” But it’s been a long time. It takes a lot of work, in terms of culture building, in terms of treating everyone like a human being and making them part of the company, regardless of whether they’re a full-time employee or they’re working 20 hours a week.
Making sure everybody feels like family, and people feel like they enjoy their work. That is a huge part of the battle in terms of having people take accountability for their work and having people take responsibility for making customers happy, and not just treating it as a, “I’m earning an hourly wage, and I’m working to fill my hours.” That change in mindset has been a challenge, but definitely something we’ve been working on and been successful with to this point.
Joe C: That harkens back to what you were talking about with company culture. As we get to the title question, how did you build it, why don’t we talk about that? We’ve talked about the logistics of you starting a business a little bit, but company culture is not something I’ve ever talked about on this show as far as, how you went about building that or how somebody goes about building that.
Because it is so important. Especially for a remote team where people don’t see each other every day, and like you said, once culture was set you guys have been rocking and rolling as a unit. Informally, since we didn’t prep for this question. What were some of the things you did to prepare or to build company culture?
Joe H: I was at WordCamp Miami earlier this year, and I heard a talk by the founder of Pagely, Josh Strebel. He mentioned this book, he gave a great talk, and I forget the exact title, but it was about an overnight success– 15 years of an overnight success. A play on words there, but he mentioned this book, called Turn the Ship Around that interested me.
Because he said someone told him to read it, and he said the person who told him to read it said, “I don’t know if you’ve read this book, but this is how you’ve run your company so far and what’s made you successful.” He read it, and he was able to systematize it and turn it into something that he could use as a tool for building culture and building a business. The title of the book is called Turn the Ship Around.
There’s a lot of insanely valuable stuff in there about team building, but the biggest piece is changing from a leader/follower model where, “I’m the leader of the company, and I delegate out a bunch of work to people, and they get it done, and they report back to me, and at the end of the day they’re just going through a checklist and doing what they’re told.” Moving from that model more to a leader/leader model.
I want everybody to feel like they’re responsible and have accountability over their own work. Instead of telling people, “Here’s what we need to get done,” I have much more switched my mindset too, “Here’s the end goal where we want to get to.” Customer happiness, for example. We had 92% customer happiness last year through our radian system of our disk. I wanted us to get to 96% this year.
Instead of saying, “We need to get to 96%, here’s the three things we need to focus on it,” it was more of a team meeting, and hearing from other people about how they thought we should get there. Letting them be the leader as opposed to me. That gives people a whole new outlook on their work. It’s not, “I was told to do this, so I need to do it.” It was, “This is my idea. I want this to succeed. Now I’m going to work hard not only to make sure it gets done but to prove to myself that this was a good idea and I’m part of building this company.”
That book has been extremely helpful for me in terms of changing the mindset of what being a leader looks like. Because the traditional leader is driving the company forward one handed, “I’m doing everything,” but at the end of the day, you’re wasting a lot of valuable brain resources and people resources if you’re not letting them be the leaders of their own work as well. It doesn’t take much work to follow a checklist and do work, but you get the most out of people when they’re thinking strategically and leading things themselves. That’s been huge.
Joe C: That’s amazing. I love that. As you were saying that, I was thinking about when I was in higher ed, I had a manager. Not my direct manager, she was amazing, she was like a mom to me. But the one right above both of us was very much a leader/follower. Her employees would recommend stuff, and she would shoot it down. She was worried our decisions would make her look bad, and that formed a bad culture.
A lot of people left, myself included, because of that. When you give people a personal stake in what’s going on, they’re much more likely to stay, because now it’s theirs too. It’s not yours, and I’m doing stuff for you, it’s that we share in the rewards. Or, maybe if a decision doesn’t go as well we can commiserate over that as well. It’s not just like, “That was on you.”
Joe H: Agreed. A lot of this trying to be successful-ness has forced me to try and take my ego out of it a little bit. Because as an entrepreneur I do of course want my company to succeed. In my mind, I don’t want to make mistakes, but I also realize that making mistakes is how you move things forward. I know everyone says this, but that’s how things work. I try to tell my team– I’m not a tennis player. I’m a sports fan, but I’m not a tennis player.
I like the analogy of a line fault. Because a line fault in tennis is if you serve and you accidentally step on the line, or you maybe serve out of the box, it’s a let. You get another opportunity at it. I think of that as a small mistake. I tell my team, “We can have as many line faults as we need.
We want to try not to double fault, but as long as we’re making mostly small mistakes, then things are going to be fine.” In the long run, it’s much more advantageous to make small mistakes and have my team learning and getting better, and getting exposure to making mistakes and to what it takes to move forward, which is mistakes.
And letting them make some of those small mistakes is much more valuable in the long run. If I protect them too much or I make all the decisions, then it’s not giving them learning opportunities, and it also makes me a bottleneck. As long as you’re willing to think long term, and let go of ego a little bit, then it’s definitely something valuable I’d recommend anybody else trying to lead a team.
Break: Today’s episode is brought to you by Pantheon. WordPress 5.0 and the new editor Gutenberg are coming. Are you prepared? Do you want to learn about the changes in advance? Pantheon has gathered resources to help you prepare, including webinars and tutorials. Pantheon also has made it easy and free to try Gutenberg with your site before the official launch. Visit Pantheon.io/Gutenberg. Let them know that How I Built It sent you. Now, back to the show.
Joe C: We talked about where you’ve been, and how you got to where you are. What are your plans for the future?
Joe H: Plans for the future. I always love future questions because I feel like I’m always thinking about what’s on the horizon. It’s why go to conferences like Post Status Publish. I was at MicroConf a month or so ago. It’s people who are thinking about not just what the next month looks like, but what the next year, or two years, five years looks like. Not only for their business but the industry they’re in, and everything. My goal since we started WP Buffs is to be the best manager of WordPress websites around. I would like WP Buffs to continue to push forward on that goal.
We’ve pretty safely moved ourselves into the elite members of people who do this, and there are the other people you mentioned before, WP Site Care and Valet. Great companies doing great work, and we have positioned ourselves to be competitive in this space at this point. WordPress is so big I don’t consider us competitors even, we’re frenemies. I respect those companies greatly, they’ve done great work when we’re still somewhat the new kids on the block compared to them. But we’ve positioned ourselves well compared to them.
The future of WordPress itself is a little bit up in the air right now with Gutenberg coming out, and the 5.0 release coming out later this year. There is a big shift happening in WordPress towards usability, being a more user-friendly tool from start to finish. From, “I want to use WordPress. How do I get started with it?”
To, “I have a WordPress site. What’s the easiest and most frictionless way to accomplish what I need to?” WordPress itself, because it’s open source, which has a ton of advantages. But one of the disadvantages is that every website is somewhat zombified. It’s an arm from here, a leg from here, and they all have to work together.
I think there is a big opportunity for a company like WP Buffs to help alleviate some of that pressure and some of those headaches from people who not only are maybe not technical enough to work on some of this, but even half of our customers are people who are highly technical, but they know that their time is better spent on higher impact things.
We would like to help both of those people out. People who are new to WordPress and don’t have the technical skill to accomplish some of these ongoing support tasks, but also people who are highly technical who want to maybe work on their own projects or higher level projects.
When it comes to making updates, and it comes to the security and speed of their websites, they know that’s important, but it’s also something they would rather get some help with. I would like to see WP Buffs continue to be a leader in the space and continue to push forward in terms of what we do, and continue to innovate. That’s about it.
Joe C: That’s great. I feel like we’re on the same wavelength too, because that’s part of the reason I started creator courses, previously WP in One Month. Because I saw the need, WordPress onboarding isn’t necessarily the easiest. You have all of these tools, and somebody wants to build a membership site, but they don’t want a Frankenstein website.
So my online courses say, “I’m going to show you how to build this step by step,” and this is why I like doing the custom videos too, some of the people I’ve made custom videos for I’m showing people how to use their tool in a meaningful way and I’m alleviating support on their end. That’s important because 30% of the web is a lot of web, and we want it to be the best 30% that it could be. We’re two sides of the same coin there, and I like that.
Joe H: It’s a partnership opportunity, for sure. I’ve always somewhat had shiny object syndrome, which means I’m always thinking about new ideas, or new business I want to start, or just new things that sound interesting to me. That’s a good thing because my mind does move at 100 miles an hour and I think that’s an advantage for me, so I want to play to my advantages. But at the same time, I want to make sure that WP Buffs, and this company specifically, is focused on what I was talking about before on the one, two, or three things that we can crush it at, and try and not move outside of that zone.
Unless it’s a major decision that the business makes to do that. I would like to try and stay true to what WP Buffs is, which is technical support for website owners, entrepreneurs, agencies, and the white label capacity. As soon as we have accomplished the goal of being the best there is, and it makes business sense to move into another space or do more with WordPress, maybe move earlier into the cycle and do more work like what you’re doing in helping people start out with WordPress. Maybe we’ll do that.
But for now, we’re going to stay towards the end of that cycle for when WordPress sites are built, and maybe looking more for people like you in terms of partnerships so that you can provide the support in the area that you are stellar at. Those video courses and getting people started, then when people need more support, handing off to people who are experts in area. That kind of partnership model has worked very well for us and been this huge lever for growth as well, so we’re going to try and stay focused.
Joe C: Absolutely. I tell myself if I find myself thinking about some idea or some new venture that I have more than a couple of times a week, or if I can’t stop thinking about it, then I’ll explore. But if it’s an idea I have and I write it down, and then I forget about it. I’m like, “This is not something that’s worth exploring right now .”
Joe H: It’s a 30-day thing, I think of it as. If I think about it and don’t have to write it down, and 30 days later it’s still on my mind, then maybe it’s worth taking a look at it. I try to do the same thing with impulse purchases. If I see something I want to buy, I’m like, “That looks awesome.” Like, “Let’s just wait 30 days.” Because 95% of things I forget about and don’t need.
Joe C: I need to take that advice for impulse purchases because I’m so bad at that. That was a nice, really good piece of advice. But I’m going to end with my favorite question, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?
Joe H: Trade secrets. The business model of focusing on how to make recurring monthly revenue is a good one. It’s something a lot of people in the WordPress space could benefit from. There are a lot of freelancers out there, a lot of agencies that are building websites, but if you’re not providing ongoing support for customers, you’re missing out on a big opportunity. There are companies out there like mine that can plug and play right into agencies to help with that, but in the grand scheme of things, if you wanted to run your own ongoing support area of your business, that’s something you can put together.
That’s something you can make predictable income off. There is a big opportunity not only to increase your revenue, make more predictable revenue but to stay top of mind for your clients. It’s like creating an additional sales funnel for yourself. Because when you’ve done all the updates and you’ve kept the site secure, and you’ve kept it fast when those people need more technical help, who do you think they’re going to ask? They’re going to ask the people who’ve been doing this stuff very well for them for the past year, or two years, or three years. That’s one area.
I would also say there are a lot of– I’m part of WP Elevation, which is a community of WordPress consultants that Troy Dean and his team run. It’s fantastic. A lot of the challenges people have there in terms of building a WordPress business is the growth piece and the delegation part of things. Trying to bring on people to help with additional tasks. “How do you do it? Do I bring on contractors? How much do I pay them?” There’s a million questions to ask. I am a pretty firm believer that if you want to grow, or first off if you want to stay small and you want to have a team of one, and you’re a solopreneur, or maybe a small team.
That’s absolutely fine. It’s more than fine. There’s nothing wrong with that, and a lot of people have found a lot of success that way. I’ve gone the other route, and I’ve tried to build a team. There’s a lot of value in building a team and bringing on people who can do things better than you can. That being said, it’s always a little scary to do it at first. A lot of the what I hear from people are some of these questions, “It’s difficult, how much do I pay people? Where do I find them?” At the end of the day, I would personally advise people that it’s all about experimentation and it’s all about diving in and trying something.
If you don’t do that, you’re never going to make mistakes, and nobody ever built a successful business linearly. No one ever will– “It’s done! I did it!” You are going to make mistakes. If you’re thinking about building a business, hear me now, you are going to make mistakes. Make them sooner, and make them smaller, and iterate as you go. If I had one thing that I think has made WP Buffs successful at this point, it’s that. I tried to make more smaller mistakes sooner, and I did, and we made a few larger mistakes along the way, and that’s going to happen too.
But we’re still here, and we’re still growing, MRR increases every month and has since the beginning of the company. We have lower churn rates as we go along too, which means less people leave the business because we’re learning how to bring more value to people. I don’t think I did anything particularly special, except I worked hard and made small mistakes, and learned from them. The more you iterate and experiment the more you’ll be able to peak around corners, and the better you’ll do. It’s all about getting started. That’s not a hack, but I think it is.
Joe C: It’s definitely something that people need to hear. First of all, fail early and fail often. Another guest mentioned that his trade secret was work, work hard. Overnight successes– You mentioned it earlier, the 15-year overnight success. A previous guest mentioned that Shopify is 18 years old.
Joe H: I did not know that. That’s crazy.
Joe C: Me neither. People see Shopify exploded on the scene two years ago, or whatever. 18. They can vote in the United States.
Joe H: That’s a great example. I thought that they were a new company that sprung up.
Joe C: Overnight success.
Joe H: It seems like it, and that’s a great example of things are rarely what they seem when you see them from the outside. You’ll see a lot of companies, and the Instagram story is the one. They had 18 employees or something and a billion dollar valuation got bought within a year. It’s a crazy story, but that’s the exception. Most companies are built on the back of failure. There are some great infographics out there about Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, and all these people.
About, “Yes they became billionaires early. But look at all the failures they had before that or the list of 10 companies that you’d never heard of before. Elon Musk. A lot of failures. He tried to launched three rockets into space that all exploded. It was the fourth one that finally made it, and the company was about to go bankrupt about a week later if that had not been a success. It’s all about the failure, for sure.
Joe C: Awesome. Joe, thanks so much for joining me today. Where can people find you?
Joe H: People can find us on the interwebs. Twitter, I am just @josephhhoward. Or you could find us at The WP Buffs. If you go to WPBuffs.com and scroll to the footer, you’ll see all our social profiles there. We just launched a new Instagram page for our team. It shows what it’s like to work remotely for WP Buffs, so people can get an insider’s view of our team and what it’s like to work here. So people can check that out if they’re on the ‘gram. Any of those places is fine.
Joe C: Awesome. I will link that and a bunch of other stuff we talked about in the show notes. This is going to be a rich show notes, for those of you who only listen in the podcatcher, make sure to head over to HowIBuilt.it and check out the show notes. Because there is recommended reading. There are social sites and a lot of other good auxiliary episodes. Joe, thanks so much for joining me. I appreciate it.
Joe H: For sure. One last thing I always like to give is a special discount code to listeners of the show. If people are interested in having some professionals fully manage a WordPress site, we are going to offer a 10% discount code for monthly plans. We don’t usually do discounts for monthly plans, but for listeners of a show by someone named Joe, I have to oblige. CASABONA, I’ll make the discount code. If anybody’s interested feel free. No pressure, but feel free to check us out.
Joe C: Fantastic. That is very generous, Joe. I appreciate it. Thanks to everybody listening. Be sure to head over to WPBuffs.com and use that 10% discount code, CASABONA.
Outro: Thanks so much to Joe for joining me today. There’s a little bit of something for everybody in this episode. Hopefully, you’ve come away with something interesting to think about, or maybe some brand new action item. WP Buffs is doing some great stuff in the community, and Joe is doing some great things in general. Be sure to check out everything he does in the show notes. Thanks again to our sponsor Pantheon for this episode and the entire season. Definitely check them out, they’re doing great work.
The question of the week for you is, how do you build or contribute to company culture? Especially if you work in a remote job. That can be hard, as we’ve talked about. What do you do to build or promote company culture? Let me know on Twitter, @jcasaboa or by emailing me at Joe@HowIBuilt.it. You can also join the conversation over at the Facebook community on HowIBuilt.it/Facebook. I ask those questions over there, and you can participate with other people who are answering those questions on Facebook.
If you want to build a great website for your podcast, definitely check out my new podcast website course over at HowIBuilt.it/course. You can find those links and all of the links that we talked about today over at HowIBuilt.it/99. That’s HowIBuilt.it/99. Next week is episode 100. I’m excited to tell you how I built this podcast. If you like the show, make sure to give it a rating or review on Apple podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. It does help people discover the show, and it’s been growing well lately, so I appreciate your support. Thanks so much. Until next time, get out there and build something.