This is the first of a series of posts that I’ll be writing to keep you updated on what’s going on with WP Buffs from the perspective of its founder. That’s me.
I’ll keep it pretty simple. 3 things that went well over the past month and 3 things I screwed up. I want to tell you about all the good things happening at WPB, but I can’t stand people who only post when they have good news. It’s like looking at someone’s Instagram account and being jealous of how awesome their life is when those pictures have been carefully curated from the best 1% of their lives.
As anybody who’s run a startup before knows, what it looks like from the outside may not reflect what’s happening on the inside. A company can easily look like it’s running smoothly when in reality, it’s going up in flames.
I’ll be writing something quick like this every month so please subscribe to stay tuned in.
1. Pomodoro Productivity Journal
By far the biggest shift in my day-to-day running of the business has been the addition of the Pomodoro technique.
It’s pretty straight-forward. Every evening before finishing work, I write down 3-5 things I plan to get done the next day and rank them from highest to lowest priority
Then in the morning, I start working on the task of highest priority and only move to subsequent tasks when I’ve completed every higher priority task.
The trick is to work in 25-minute sprints with 5-minute breaks to celebrate my wins. This has helped me split my work into bite-sized wins that I can accomplish methodically throughout my day.
The most important (somewhat invisible) benefit here is that this work strategy has allowed me to take back charge of my day. Before I started structuring things like this, what I needed to get done was dictated by emails in my inbox, fires I needed to help put out and anything that happened to pop up. Trying to lead a company through reactionary means isn’t the way to do things.
Now by planning out my day, I put my energy into things that will help move the business forward. Being proactive has proven to be a better way to steer the ship. It’s made me realize that I have much more influence on how much success we’re able to have, so that’s a good thing.
You may be thinking, “Dang, Joe. Way to switch things up when the old way of doing things wasn’t working. Great move!”
Not at all what happened. My future wife Sterling brought the journal home for me one night on a whim and it piqued my interest. I tried it out and got addicted. I think I’ve made some good decisions in the past that have moved the business forward, but this was not one of them. Pro tip: marry someone awesome.
2. The Team Is Growing
The team’s official number is now 7. That number has fluctuated a bit in the last few months as we’ve brought on some developers who didn’t work out, but 7 is how many people we have working on day-to-day operations.
For this reason, I’ve really taken a step back as far as the daily operations of the business go. When this transition first started, I was terrified of letting go of control and allowing other people step into the roles I’d been filling for the past year.
Nobody could do it better than me, right?
I really could not have been more wrong. I brought Becky Weaver on board a couple months ago to handle almost everything customer-facing. That means when a customer needs edits or a new customer needs to be on-boarded, she’s on it.
And she’s just nailing it. Customers have never been happier.
To be clear, hiring is really challenging. We’ve brought on a few developers in the past few months who haven’t made it through our trial period and I’m definitely still figuring out a good process for attracting talent. Becky has been one of my most successful hires and we met through WordCamp Lancaster. So I’ll be going to more WordCamps.
3. Stop Emailing Me
Not really. You totally can.
But if you’ve emailed me in the last couple weeks, you’ve noticed I have a new vacation reminder up. For the time being, I’ll only be checking email 2x per day.
This is my attempt to take back control of my day instead of letting my day control me. I was just like you a month ago; checking my phone was the first thing I did and I never even stood a chance of structuring my day with activities that actually mattered.
Once the email has been checked, your brain tricks you into thinking some of those tasks are “urgent” and it hijacks your day. No longer are you getting things done that you think are the most important; only things that others do, and that’s a real problem.
Here’s how most of my weekdays start without email:
- I wake up without an alarm clock (usually with Sterling) around 8.
- I give Marvin belly scratches since he likes to roll around our carpet in the AM.
- I brush my teeth, wash my face and put on workout clothes. I usually do some form of exercise around midday, but I don’t want to have to change again so compression shorts go on first thing.
- I make bulletproof tea (+ butter, coconut oil, heavy cream). Yeah, buddy.
- Marvin and I walk Sterling to her 16th St bus.
- When we get home, I feed and water the dog, finish my tea and get started on my Pomodoro tasks.
- Around 11am, I’ll check my email for the first time. Not once has there really been something there that required my immediate attention.
My goal will be to check email less and less often. Eventually, I want to get down to 1hr of emailing per week. We’ll see how that goes.
If you think I’m crazy, read the 4-Hour Work Week. It will change your life.
1. Free Trial Conversion + Churn
In the past 3 months, we’ve had 48 websites start free trials with us. Of those, 16 either did not convert from their free trial to a paid customer or stopped their subscription with us. That means 66.6% (repeating, of course) of customers who start a free trial with us become long-term customers.
I’m always looking for ways to increase that number since my goal is for WP Buffs to bring value to everybody, not just two thirds of us.
As I mentioned before, my role has taken me out of all the day-to-day operations of the business, so this we’ll have to make moves here through the entrepreneurial spirit of the team and effective internal communication about what is / isn’t working and how to get better.
We’ll see how this goes.
2. Email Conversion
I made some changes to the top 20 posts on the blog that received the most traffic. Each post used to just have a general email capture that allowed people to sign up for a 7-day security, performance and maintenance course to teach them to do it themselves.
I adjusted the email capture form on each post to offer a specific upgrade for that post.
My thought was this would improve conversion. But I don’t think it did.
Before the switch, we were capturing 7-10 emails per day.
Now it’s 3-4.
I may have screwed up here. I’ll have to check the data next week to see what happened but I’m going to let it play out so I can fully assess the issue.
3. Accounting Sucks
I studied math in college. I should love crunching numbers.
Topography is fun. Accounting is not.
I tried to set up Quickbooks about 6 months ago and it was a pretty epic fail. I have a good hold on my financials, but I do them every month manually. It works well for right now, but I know it’s not scalable.
It may be time for me to hire an accountant. The issue is that the majority of my team’s time is billable, meaning we can pass on what our customers pay directly to WPB employees. When you hire someone to do accounting, that person’s work has no direct connection with our customers, which means paying for their work is just a straight up loss for the business.
I’ll have to time this out well as we continue to grow, but for now, I’ll keep doing our P&L statement by hand.
Bottom Of The News
- We now accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. I’ve been thinking a lot about the advantages of people being able to pay each other without having to go through a 3rd-party provider and all the advantages to global commerce. Plus, it’s just cool. F*ck you, banks.
- One of my favorite podcasts is EntreLeadership. I finally got on a call with one of their reps to discuss going to their 2018 summit. Tickets are $3,300, but I’m pretty confident the ROI is there for the taking. Still, maybe I’ll sign up for the online material before making that investment.
- I’m getting married next month! So stoked to make this happen!!
Onward and upward!