This is going to be a tough conversation, Joe. You've done some good work for us, but the higher ups have decided that we won't be putting as much of an emphasis on User Experience moving forward.
So we're going to have to let you go.
Here's all the documentation you'll need to handle your health insurance, retirement account and how to return any equipment you still have in your possession.
We really do wish you the best in this transition, Joe.
I had barely registered a word of it. My mind was already racing. It was finally time to turn my passion project into a full-time job. This was perfect.
I nodded, shook hands with my "superior" and thanked him for the opportunity.
I left the office that day excited at what the future held.
So...You Got Fired?
I guess so? To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure.
Perhaps I was let go?
Or maybe it sounds best that my position was discontinued?
However you want to spin it, I've parted ways with government consulting after my company lost some major contracts and am putting my plan into action a bit earlier than I'd anticipated.
As you may already know, I started a business about 9 months ago. I've always loved building websites using the content management system WordPress. It's what I did in a number of startups before I ever dove into my government contracting work. But it's something I always wanted to return to and WP Buffs was my way of getting back in the game.
My plan was to keep growing WP Buffs in my off-hours to a point that it could stand on it's own two feet then bid adieu to the consulting world.
You Didn't Like Your Job?
Have you ever played chess?
If so, you know that pawns are the least valuable pieces on the board.
Yes - they're used to give you a strategic position, but they're also sacrificed when more important pieces are at stake.
Consulting wasn't the worst job in the world...
But it made me feel like a pawn.Feeling like a pawn in a game of chess is not how I want to spend my life. Click To Tweet
Most of my day was spent designing and building internal systems to help our federal government clients function more efficiently. That wasn't the issue. I enjoyed problem solving and figuring out better ways to make users happy and more effective through their technology.
It was the bureaucracy that got to me.
To implement anything, I had to ask a superior, who had to ask their superior, who had to ask their superior, and so on. I wasn't given the opportunity to implement my own solutions. Everything had to be done "by the book" or "only with permission."
To put things simply, there was too much yellow tape around what I could and couldn't do, and feeling like a pawn in a game of chess is not how I wanted to spend my life.
So I started a company in the WordPress space that I know and love with the idea that it would start as a side-hustle and grow into my full-time job when it gained some momentum.
— Joseph H. Howard (@JosephHHoward) April 12, 2017
Since I started WP Buffs almost a year ago, we've seen significant growth. More importantly, we've developed a systematic approach to help people drastically improve their WordPress websites.
Sounds Like The Timing Was Perfect!
Not exactly. While WP Buffs is financially stable and continuing to grow month-over-month, it's like most young companies; the growth up until now has been fueled by my ability to put money earned from the company back into it.
That means when customers pay us, I use the revenue almost exclusively to pay our hard-working employees, to cover the cost of providing service for our customers, and to feed our marketing budget. We use tools like ManageWP and SiteLock to supplement our services and SaaS products like SEMRush, AWR Cloud, Sumo, MailChimp and others to keep bringing in new business. Not to mention, I have to pay the writers who produce the great content on our blog.
When I was working my 9-5, it was easy to put WP Buffs revenue back into the business because I could support myself with the 6-figure salary of my day job. But now, I'm going to have to decide between faster growth for WP Buffs and paying myself a much smaller salary.
Don't bother asking me what I'm going to do, because I haven't totally decided. I do have support from the future Mrs (who is a salaried employee) and we've got savings that will last us a while. So when it comes down to it, all of my attention is focused on making this business work.
How's It Going, You Know, Financially?
My goal since I started this company has been to go above and beyond for our customers. I know that if we could succeed in providing outrageously excellent customer service, then we'd be able to continue growing through our own marketing channels as well as customer referrals. Then the finances would sort themselves out.If you go above and beyond for your customers, the finances will sort themselves out. Click To Tweet
That being said, making money is what successful businesses do, so setting milestones and tracking the business' performance has been essential.
Our biggest goal for 2017 is to have 100 paying customers. We currently manage 65 websites and are serving almost 50 unique customers, so we're almost half way there.
In the past 30 days, we've brought in $4110 in revenue split between two different payment systems. $850 came in via PayPal, which was our original system for processing payments.
Now we've transitioned over to Stripe so most of our revenue ($3260 in the past month) comes from there. Yes, I know I need to get everybody transitioned to one system. It's on my TDL.
Not bad, but there's definitely room for growth here. I'm experimenting with our partnership program which is starting to show some promise and the affiliate revenue we're generating has me thinking of moving in that direction.
But because shiny-object syndrome distracts so many entrepreneurs, I'm going to focus on building a business that does one thing exceptionally well and let the rest follow.
Still...This Sounds Risky
Could WP Buffs flop? Sure.
Could Sterling and I burn through our savings over the next year and be left with nothing in the bank? It's possible.
But what's the risk of not taking this chance?
I have an in-demand skillset and a security clearance, so I could go out and find another job. But from where I'm standing, that is the biggest risk I could take.
Sure, I could take a good-paying job doing the same thing I was doing before I was let go, make sure my paycheck was deposited in the bank twice a month and call it a day. But when I look back at this moment decades from now, I don't want to regret being too risk-averse to pursue the life I wanted to live.
Plus, I'm pretty confident in where WPB is headed.
Time is our most valuable asset. Our lives are just the blink of a cosmic eye. Do I really want to spend my time sitting at a desk doing work that is important to somebody else?
Sounds too risky to me.
Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. Click To Tweet
And thanks to my good friends in the WordPress community who I've had the chance to meet in person, on video chat or via email. I will always give back more to the community than I take and I'm excited to start this new chapter in my life with you beautiful nerds. WP Buffs is coming for you!