Phew. What a freaking year.
Last December, I couldn't have even come close to predicting that 2017 would go like this. And the past year has gone by so quickly; it really feels crazy that it's almost 2018.
Yet, here we are.
There's just way too much that happened since January 1 to encompass it all in a single blog post. This article isn't meant to be a play-by-play of the past year; more like the CliffsNotes.
Anyway, here's what I'm going to talk about:
- Our biggest screw-ups of the past year.
- Our biggest successes of the past year.
- Our 2017 goals and if we hit them.
- Our 2018 goals.
That first bullet point might be a bit embarrassing. But that's OK. Don't tell anybody, OK?
Boom. Let's do this.
😵 Screw ups of 2017
Don't think for a second that this annual review will skip over the good stuff: where I goofed.
🔥 I had to fire 3 developers
We had a few developers who just didn't work out for us. The main reasons were one or a combination of the following:
- They wanted to fly solo and not be part of the team.
- They made too many mistakes.
- They weren't efficient enough with their time.
What I learned: That I needed to vet our new hires a bit better. This includes how efficient and effective they can be when it comes to WordPress, but also how well they can fit into our remote team culture of collaboration. Bringing on more people who fit this mold will be a big focus on next year.
💸 I waited too long to get our financials in order
Don't get me wrong. I've always kept serious tabs on how we were doing financially.
Revenue. Profit margins. Payroll. All of that.
But I made two big mistakes that I think have cost me:
- I didn't do financial projections. To be honest, I've been doing the bare minimum when it comes to measuring how WP Buffs is doing financially. But looking at our bank account and guessing how much financial bandwidth we have just won't cut it anymore.
- I didn't hire for bookkeeping and accounting early enough. Time to let the professionals take over and give me some data-driven projects based on recent performance, churn rate, and potential new customers that can tell me what kind of investments we can comfortably make. I just did this about a week ago; although it's tough to pay big money to non-billable personnel, it will be worth it in the long run.
😄 Customers happiness at 92/100
I guess an A- isn't technically a screw-up. But because I pride myself so much on delivering results and making customers happy, this just wasn't good enough last year.
This number isn't bad, but we'll be looking to get closer to 100% in 2018.
Most of the "bad" ratings we got last year were based on miscommunications between our Happiness Buffs and customers and that not being translated correctly to our developers, so that's something we'll be continuing to work on next year.
😎 Successes of 2017
We did a few things right this year. We love to celebrate the little wins, and they've led to some big ones as well.
💰 We made more money than 2016
Considering I've only been doing this full-time since April, we didn't do too badly. In total, WP Buffs made ~$70,000.
$58,850.59 via Stripe.
And $10,305 via PayPal.
Not reported here is the ~$12,000 we made via some smaller consulting gigs and a few affiliates. It's just not within our core services, so I'm not counting it towards our annual total here.
If we hit our other goals for 2018 (keep reading), we'll be at or above >$250,000 ARR and >$20,000 MRR. That's a milestone I would be damn proud of.
📝 I actually hired a blog editor
This is something I should have done way earlier. I love handling the marketing of our content, but actually managing writers and editing content is my nightmare.
Having Brenda from Digital Inkwell manage our editorial process has given me much more time to focus on areas of the business I enjoy working on. Furthermore, she's brilliant when it comes to managing content and is just a way better editor than me, so everybody wins.
👨👩👧👦 The team is starting to really take shape
When I first went full time on WP Buffs in April, I'm not going to lie; our team was more like a glorified collection of freelancers.
But over the past 8 months, I've removed the pieces that didn't fit and have given everybody a framework to work in both technically and culturally. Over the months, we've really gotten to know each other and become better together than we are apart.
Pinning our mission, values, and principles right in Teamwork so they're the first thing everybody sees has been really helpful as a reminder to our team what we care about.
We've also added some pretty genius triggers (if I do say so myself) in Teamwork Desk to make sure we have a consistent and systematized methodology for handling tickets.
Whenever a new ticket comes into our help desk, this note is automatically added.
Whenever a ticket is assigned to a developer, this note is automatically added.
There's a lot more when it comes to our systems, but these few things should give you an idea of how we do things. Everything we do is built around automation and execution, and I'd like to continue to push forward in those two areas in 2018.
🎯 2017 goals. Did I hit them?
I had a few for this past year. Here they are:
- To reach 100 websites managed
- To hit my first $10K in MRR (monthly recurring revenue)
- To go full-time on WP Buffs
💯 100 paying customers
I'm proud to say my team and I hit this mark in October. My wife even posted something about it on Facebook. What a sweetie!
Why this is good: reaching this goal and the fact that we're picking up steam means we're past the point of proof of concept. WordPress maintenance is a growing space and the sky's the limit.
What I learned: My goal clearly wasn't ambitious enough. I'm going far bigger for my 2018 goal for websites managed.
💰 $10K of MRR
We nailed this in November for the first time.
Full transparency: A few thousand of this revenue was made because of our Black Friday sale. We would have hit this milestone without that revenue anyway, but I wanted to make sure I was transparent here.
Why this is good: Cash is the lifeblood of any business. Just knowing that we're in a good position here means we've got something good to build on in 2018.
What I learned: Honestly, making money isn't the hard part. It's profit margin and making sure that revenue is enough to deliver the very best service to our customers while also giving us enough cushion to invest in company growth that's the hard part. Regardless, revenue has been solid and continues to climb every month.
💪🏽 Going full-time
I went full-time on WP Buffs in April of this year. That's about 8 months ago. Since then we've hired people like Nick Adams and Brenda Barron. And then there's our team of brilliant developers around the world. Growing from 2 to 10 in 8 months is something I'm really proud of.
Why this is good: Running an effective and efficient remote team is difficult, especially when we all represent different time zones. But we've had partners like ManageWP and Teamwork, it's made communication and success fairly easy for us to achieve.
What I learned: Hiring the right people is tough! I've gotten a bit better this year, but in all honesty, my process still isn't great. I think I've lucked out a bit with the hires I've made, but I'd like to continue to bring on even more great people onto the team in 2018. Focusing on bringing on people who are humble, hungry, and smart seems to have been a good place to start - thanks, Entreleadership!
🎯 2018 goals. Let's go.
I have a few goals for 2018 and I'm aiming high.
😮 600 websites managed
That's right. I want to hit 600 websites managed by the end of 2018.
This may seem like an ambitious number, but I think it's pretty reasonable.
- Our traffic has grown every month since I started WP Buffs, so that means exponentially more customers moving forward as we refine our sales and conversion processes.
- Our white-label partnership program has become central to our growth. We help 25+ marketing agencies, design firms and WordPress freelancers provide maintenance plans to their clients. I'm confident in 2018, we'll continue to bring in more, including some larger partners.
That's why I think is an ideal goal. High enough to be pretty ambitious, yet achievable according to our trajectory.
I mentioned this earlier, but if we hit these milestones in 2018, we'll be at or above >$250,000 ARR and >$20,000 MRR. That's a milestone I would be damn proud of.
📈 96 overall happiness rating
Customer happiness is extremely important to me. And it's not just because happy customers have a higher lifetime value to WP Buffs which is good for us financially. I built this company to help as many people with their WordPress site as possible and make it easy for them to make bold decisions when it comes to your website without hesitating due to technical restraints.
If we can push customer happiness from 92/100 to 96/100, that will mean halving the number of customers who have given us a "bad" or "okay" rating even once.
🔊 Speak at 10 WordCamps
Running a WordPress company means giving back to the community. I spoke at 2 WordCamps in 2017 and I'd like to go for more this year.
— WordPressTV (@WordPressTV) October 20, 2017
Doing so will let me get to know what the WordPress community is like in different areas as well as help WP Buffs gain some visibility with some more face-time.
Outside of WP Buffs
I'd love to continue to work while traveling. Whether it's with my wife, Sterling or going on my own adventures, staying on the move keeps my mind sharp and exploring new places always has positive effects on my overall happiness. This year I got to go to big sky country, Black Rock City, Atlanta, Nashville, Miami and Croatia just to name a few trips, and I'm craving more in 2018.
— Joseph H. Howard (@JosephHHoward) October 21, 2017
🏃♂️ Regular exercise
2017 has been the year of lower back problems. Over the past couple months and some physical therapy, things have improved vastly, so I'm excited to get back to a regular routine in 2018. Even 3x per week (and 4x stretching) would be sweet.
📵 Less time on my phone
Spending too much time on my phone really doesn't lead to much of a benefit for me. In fact, it's probably a net detractor from my overall happiness. In 2017, I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone and somewhat famously paused my email; look for even more strategies to minimize distraction and increase opportunities for deep work and reading awesome books in 2018.
🙏🏾 Thank You
And finally, I'd like to thank you for reading this far and supporting WP Buffs. Whether you're a customer, groupie, or just one of my friends who reads my blog posts for no other reason than that, it means the world to me.
Thanks for being here and keep an eye on WP Buffs in 2018. We're a company with big ambitions and I'm going to do my best to get us there.
Onward and upward!
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