January 17, 2017
2016 had been a year filled with challenges, achievements, and good experiences for both Pippin and Brad. Today, we’re going to talk about the year in review, both professionally and personally. We’ll also think ahead to what we are hoping to continue, change, and accomplish as we look forward to a dynamic and successful 2017. Sit back and relax to a fun hour of reminiscing, goal-setting, and chatting about various topics.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Fun stats for Apply Filters: How many episodes, how many downloads, and which episodes were the most popular.
- Some of the challenges in 2016. One major one for Pippin was that the growth of EDD seemed to have stalled.
- Brad’s challenges. One is that he realized that he’s taking on so many different tasks that he’s not doing them all well.
- Thoughts on deciding when to hire someone and how to hire the right person.
- Brad’s highlights from 2016: the Better Search Replace plugin, new team members, a retreat in Vienna, a huge increase in revenue, and more.
- Goals that Pippin met during 2016, including going to New Zealand and turning on automatic subscriptions for all of his primary products, as well as some highlights from the year, both professional and personal.
- Insights on what Brad and Pippin want to achieve in 2017, including hopes for hiring, conferences, and personal goals.
Links and Resources:
If you’re enjoying the show we sure would appreciate a Review in iTunes. Thanks!
BRAD: Welcome to Episode 74 of Apply Filters. This time Pippin and I will be looking back at 2016 and also looking forward to 2017. Pippin, how about you get us started off? How has your 2016 been?
PIPPIN: Yeah. So we’ve got a few things that we want to go over. First of all, I think there were some interesting challenges that we both faced in 2016 on personal levels and business, in the business world, development, et cetera. We had some good highlights, and we have some good goals going forward in 2017.
Before we get into those, because we’re doing a podcast, I think it makes sense that we go ahead and give a couple of quick fun stats that we just looked up from 2016 for Apply Filters. First of all, in 2016, we managed to record 21 episodes. That’s a little bit more than one episode per month. Episodes were downloaded over 50,000 times. And Episode 55 and 66 were the most popular with about 1,800 downloads each. As we learned today for the very first time, there is actually more than one person listening to this podcast, which is kind of cool.
BRAD: Yeah. We averaged about 1.75 episodes per month, actually, so that’s not too bad.
PIPPIN: No. We try to record once every two weeks. Every now and then we get delayed a few weeks. One of us gets sick or on a trip or something like that, but 1.7, that’s pretty close.
BRAD: That’s why I thought, like, the average would be much lower, much closer to one per month, so I’m happy with that.
Challenges in 2016, do you want to start?
PIPPIN: Sure. Over the course of the year there was one big challenge that was consistently on my mind, both from a business perspective, a personal perspective, and a development. That was that the growth of EDD, at least in terms of the revenue that we were able to bring in from the project, seemed to have kind of stalled. I wrote up a big year in review post and published it last week or earlier this week. I think I published it on Monday and gave a whole bunch of details on it.
Basically, we had started to see, maybe towards the end of 2015 and all of 2016, that EDD had been really skyrocketing up at a pretty good clip. Maybe not skyrocketing, but at least going upwards pretty consistently. It was for the first time that we really saw it level out and even go down.
That was not necessarily a bad thing. That’s a pretty natural thing to happen, especially as a product reaches maybe four years old, which is about what EDD is, somewhere between four and five. But it was still challenging to deal with, especially because, in 2016 and 2015, we’ve actually risen our cost of maintaining the project quite a bit.
It got to a point where we were actually spending more to maintain the project than the project was bringing in. Number one, we’re looking at it from a business perspective of, hey, is there something that we’ve done or something that we need to do to help improve this, to bring up the revenue or lower down the cost? And, at the same time, we’re looking at it from a development perspective because maybe there’s a lot of areas of the product that we need to improve, whether it’s from UI design to efficiency to whatever to the features that we have in the product. Kind of looking at all of those, so that was an overall challenge for 2016.
I think we found various answers to a lot of different parts of it. We’re not really worried for the future of the project going forward, but it was — I don’t want to say it was a new experience for me because I’ve had projects that have slowed down and not necessarily died, but definitely slowed down in the past. But this was the first time that we’d seen it for EDD because, over the last four to five years, EDD has been our poster child, basically, for our projects.
That was interesting. There was a lot of good exercises, a lot of good things to remember when we’re looking back on them, and a lot of hard learned and valuable lessons there. I think, beyond that, we had two other. At least for me, there was two other main challenges that I saw in 2016.
The first was we grew our team by six people in 2016. A lot of those were during the year, and then two of them were actually right at the very end of the year. You could probably claim that two of those are 2017, but those team members came on at the end of 2016, but really started in 2017.
But anyway, so I have always been a do it myself kind of person. Ever since I was a kid, I was raised with this mentality of we’re going to do everything ourselves whether it’s repairing the plumbing in the house to building something that we want to learning how to run a business to going to school, whatever. I’m going to do it myself. Trying to step out of that mentality and learn how to adequately run a larger team–our team is now up to about 15 people–was a challenge. It’s been a challenge ever since my first employee. I don’t think it’s gotten exponentially more difficult or challenging, but there are new challenges every time we bring on somebody new. Since we brought on six new people in 2016, this was definitely a year of learning lessons firsthand.
Then the last one that I’d like to share is really something that I think, Brad, you probably feel as well being the head of your company and being a developer at heart is, over the last three years, every single month or as we’ve moved further and further along, I have continually lost my role as the lead developer. All of the projects that we run today started with me as the developer.
I’ve always been the developer. I’ve written most of the code for our code bases up until not too long ago. As our team has grown, as our products have grown, I have started to step further and further out of that role. I write less code than I do today. I still write code, but I don’t write nearly as much as I used to, and I’ve started to really appreciate, understand, and miss the fact that my time spent writing code is not the best way for me to spend my time.
I don’t know if I would say it’s been unexpected. I didn’t expect it three years ago. But it didn’t blindside me in any way. But it has been a gradual shift.
Honestly, I don’t entirely know how I feel about it. There are certain days when I love running the company. There are certain days when I really just miss being the guy sitting there in the dark writing code. We’ll see where this goes in 2017 and beyond, whether I’ve transitioned my role back into development or if I continue to step further and further away from it.
How about you, Brad? Anything you want to share or comment on for 2016?
BRAD: Yeah, my challenges, well, one of my challenges was very similar to that. Well, I’ve hired all developers. Our team is all developers, so they handle the development. They handle support. They write blog posts for the blog. They write documentation. They do a lot of different things.
But I do pretty much everything else like marketing and human resources, just basically everything else that is not that much fun. I think, over time, it has certainly worn away, like I’ve gotten kind of sick of it. And I’ve realized also, to make matters even worse, that I’m not doing any of those things very well. Because I don’t really enjoy doing them and because I’m doing so many different things that I don’t do any one of them very well. There’s a few things I do.
PIPPIN: You’re doing them because it’s your job because it’s not anyone else’s job.
BRAD: Exactly. Exactly. What I’ve realized is that I need to make some changes. I’m the founder. I run the company. I have the power to do whatever I want to do, like to change things. I have to do that this year and make sure that that happens because otherwise things won’t get better and I’ll continue struggling with motivation.
I think another part of it was that I was feeling overwhelmed. I had a list of issues that are kind of top of my plate that I was planning to tackle that day. Then, as the day went on, more and more issues just came in and ended up on the top of the stack and pushed the other ones down. By the end of the day I had two. I got through the new issues, but I had two others added, so it’s just like the stack just kept getting bigger no matter what.
Yeah, I think being overwhelmed was part of the problem there too, but then again I think I’m in control of that as well. I can hire people to help me out with that and stuff. We’ll be looking to do that this year.
PIPPIN: Something I realized that I had done in 2016, and I didn’t realize that I had done this at all until I was sitting down and writing our 2016 review post that I published earlier in the week, as you said, as the founder and as the owner of the company, you have the power to make changes. One of those changes that I think we decide to make is whether to hire somebody to fill a role, to expand a role, to replace a role or what have you.
Something I realized I started doing in 2016 was being much quicker to recognize when it’s time to hire somebody new. I think for all of 2015 and 2014, I was very reluctant to hire somebody new until it was really, really necessary. Perhaps maybe it’s just because I’ve now hired enough people that I’ve gotten used to the process and a little bit better at recognizing the value that they provide and the potential value, or maybe it’s just because I realized that I don’t want to work 18 hours a day.
BRAD: Yeah. Yeah. I get you. That’s exactly what I think it is. It gets to a point where you’re just like I have to hire somebody. It’s the only way out.
PIPPIN: Yeah. I think maybe that should be a general goal is we shouldn’t be waiting until we have to hire someone.
BRAD: Right. Try to identify it earlier on. Yep, absolutely.
PIPPIN: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
BRAD: Well, speaking of hiring, one of the other challenges I had this past year was hiring freelancers. I had some trouble, so I had one developer that was going to help out with work on our site. They said, okay, I’ll get started next week. Then next week came and went. Then two weeks came and went and three weeks. Then I had to start over. Looked for another freelancer.
We managed to get things done, though. At least automatic renewals did get launched on our site with help from a freelancer. That was good, but there were some hiccups in that, in that deal as well, unfortunately.
PIPPIN: Do you think that’s just because of the particular freelancers that were hired or because of communication errors, all of the above, or something else?
BRAD: Probably all of the above, I would say. Yeah. I’ll just leave it at that. We’re on good terms now and everything, so I think it’s fine. But, yeah, mostly miscommunication kind of stuff.
We looked at hiring a QA person, someone to come on and help test our products, and that was kind of a similar thing where it was like a week came and went, two weeks came and went, and nothing was happening. It’s just like I don’t know if the freelancers I end up finding are good, so good that they’re so busy that they just over-commit themselves and can’t make their commitments or what. I feel like I had terrible luck in 2016 with freelancers. Yeah, it’s something I guess I have to keep working at.
I might try hiring for part-time instead of freelancers. Maybe that’ll help a little bit. I’m not sure.
PIPPIN: I think there’s only one or two freelancers that we hired in 2016. Overall, they were a good experience. Everyone else that we’ve brought on, maybe as a freelance role, is considered a part-time person. They’re actively brought in. They’re not just here for a single project.
BRAD: Right. Right. I like that because then whatever they learn today can be used tomorrow and in a month and in two months. Whereas if you’re just recycling through freelancers, you lose that knowledge. Our site is pretty kind of–
PIPPIN: Well, and every single freelancer that you bring on, there’s an onboarding process with that. Everything from getting them in, getting billing agreements worked out, getting contact information, to even getting them exposed to the projects that they’re working on.
BRAD: Right. Yeah, there’s some overhead there for sure. Yeah, so anyway that was one thing. Kind of the last challenge was that I hired a designer to redesign our site in November 2015, and it’s still not out, in case you’re wondering.
Anyway, they completed their work in a timely fashion. I think by February I had a design that was done. Then I hired a freelance front-end developer. That was done in a timely manner. I think they delivered around April/May. Then I dropped the ball.
I failed to allocate resources properly because what needed to happen — we had the front-end development done, so all we needed to do was integrate it into our theme. But there ended up being a lot more work than anticipated there. The designer had used placeholders, so all the screenshots had to be done. A lot of content had to be reworked or new content written. A lot of that fell on my plate. Then a lot of the development work, like integration work, someone else had to help me with that, but everyone else on the team was also busy working on products.
It was hard to figure out how to bring someone over to work on the site. I ended up bringing over Ian and stole him away from Mergebot for a bit. But then Mergebot became a higher priority than our site redesign, so that’s kind of where it fell flat.
PIPPIN: We’ve been doing all of our site design and development in-house for the last probably three years now. In some ways I think that’s awesome. In other ways it’s a challenge. In other ways it sucks. But just because, I mean, any time that somebody is working on one project, they’re not working on another. But at the same time, we’re keeping all of that knowledge, all of the process within the company, which is valuable.
The other thing that we’ve done that I think has worked well is we’ve only done maybe three complete redesigns of any of our sites in the last, like, four years. Everything else has been iterative design changes and layouts. About once a week we will push changes to the EDD site. And probably about once a week we’ll push them to the RCP or Affiliate WP site as well. And so that we just slowly iterate over those. Right now two of our team members handle all of our site development. That’s a pretty good size, pretty good chunk of their day-to-day work is doing the site development.
BRAD: Yeah. I think I have to prioritize it more. I think maybe we need to hire another developer to the team so that we can put more resources into it, and kind of treat our site like another one of the products is kind of what I was thinking.
PIPPIN: Well, I think it’s important to recognize that your site is what makes your sales for your products, so that’s — I think the day that we recognize that, and I don’t remember that ever just happening one day, but it’s not a question of is the work that they’re putting into the sites valuable. There’s no question about it.
BRAD: Right. Yep, there isn’t. It’s still a juggling act.
PIPPIN: What about some highlights for 2016? Anything in particular that you’d like to share?
BRAD: Sure. Yeah, I’ll go down the list here. I’ve got a little list of highlights. Early in the year we acquired a new plugin from Matt Shaw, and brought Matt onto our team, and so that was Better Search Replace plugin. We acquired that. I believe I talked about that on the show previously.
PIPPIN: Yep, a couple episodes back.
BRAD: Yeah. We added three members to our team this year, which was a nice thing. A highlight, I would say.
We met up in Vienna in June around WordCamp Europe, so that was our annual company retreat. It was just a great, great time. I think it was an awesome meet-up. It couldn’t have went much better than it did. There was way less hiccups than the previous company retreat, so it was good.
Revenue was up 59% over the previous year’s revenue.
PIPPIN: That’s a huge increase.
BRAD: Yeah. Yeah, pretty happy with it. It wasn’t as big a bump as the previous year, but we didn’t add a new revenue stream in 2016, like we didn’t add a new product, so that’s probably why it wasn’t quite the big bump. In 2015, we did add a new product.
We came up with a new release process that I’m pretty excited about. We’ve already started to see kind of the advantages of that and how much more quickly we can get releases out and get those.
PIPPIN: Can you share some of the details on the release process?
BRAD: Yeah, so what we decided to do — what we normally would do prior, prior to this change, is we would create a new milestone on GitHub and decide, and then start putting features, bug fixes, and all these other issues into it. Then we’d say, okay, this is a release. When it’s done, this release goes out.
The problem with that was that we didn’t really have — it’s very difficult to estimate how much work is involved in all of those issues, and so how much time it’s going to take to complete that milestone, that release. And so what we decided to change is we would make things just more focused. Let’s pick one feature, one feature that’ll be the focus of the release. And we’ll chuck in some bug fixes and, like, smaller stuff that will go in this release, and not add a bunch of other big features that are going to take up a bunch of time.
Once that focus feature has been completed by whoever is assigned to it–usually it’s just one developer that works on that one feature–once that’s done, we bundle all the rest of the issues that have been completed while that was in development, and that’s a release. The release timeline is tied to that focus feature. It’s basically kind of a race, too, so like the developer that’s working on the focus feature, the other developers are racing to try to get stuff into the release that they want to see released sooner than later. It’s kind of different and kind of nice.
PIPPIN: I like that process a lot. It gives a release more of a focus, and it also probably speeds up the release process, makes it more manageable, and makes them maybe a little bit easier to avoid the rabbit hole that I think we tend to get into where you just have issue after issue after issue chucked into a release. It’s like a never-ending release, and all of a sudden you realize you’ve addressed 100 different things.
BRAD: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah, and I’m talking about major releases here. Minor releases, we still do those. Like when a bug we feel is high priority, we’ll fix it and we’ll push out a minor release. This is mostly the change to the process for major releases only.
We also embarked on a journey of adding automated acceptance tests to our products. We spend a ton of time testing our products, so automating that became a priority. Like I mentioned earlier, we had dabbled with the idea of hiring a QA person and then eventually scaling that to a team of QA people and quickly realized that that was not the way to go.
We’re creating acceptance tests that we can just run, and it’ll just basically do what a human would do, like clicking around and stuff. We’re using Codeception for that. Once we get a bit further along, I think you’re going to start to see more blog posts from us about that kind of stuff.
PIPPIN: I think we’re going to need to have an episode or two on that. That sounds awesome.
BRAD: Yeah. Yeah, it is pretty awesome. It’s been challenging, but the payoff is going to be huge to be able to test your whole product thoroughly with the push of a button. Then, with confidence, just do a release with just a skim test, like a manual skim test. Man, I can’t wait.
Then just in general, we pushed our products forward. We had a bunch of releases of Migrate DB Pro, a bunch of releases of Offload S3, and we launched our new product into beta, Mergebot. It was a busy 2016, and I’m pretty happy with how it went and pretty proud of the team and the work that they’ve done. It’s been pretty good overall.
How about you, Pippin?
PIPPIN: At the very, very beginning of 2016, I managed to knock two of my 2016 goals off the table. The first one was visiting New Zealand. I’ve made it a goal recently in the last few years of at a minimum visiting a new country every year. In 2016, my goal was to visit New Zealand, which I did in January.
Then the second goal that I had for the year that we managed to complete was turning on automatic subscriptions for all of our primary products. That’s Affiliate WP, Easy Digital Downloads, and Restrict Content Pro. We’ve been working on implementing automatic renewals for quite a while. In January, we turned on automatic renewals for Affiliate WP. On January 21st, to be precise. Then in March, we turned them on for EDD and RCP. These automatic renewals, every single customer that comes to us and purchases a license since then has been put into a subscription so that their license key will automatically renew after a year.
If you want to see some numbers and some analysis of how much this is going to affect us in 2017, go check out the review post that I published on PippinsPlugins.com. It’s going to be pretty dramatic, and so we were really happy to get those turned on. Here in nine days is our very first renewals coming through that we’re pretty excited for. That was the first one.
The second was an ongoing thing that we’ve been working on for a while. This is primarily with EDD. This speaks a little bit to the challenge that we talked about at the beginning where EDD had been — growth had been slowing down a lot. Costs had been going up. Revenue had been stagnating.
Along with all of that, we had realized that we really needed to realign our focus for the project and the way that our company works on EDD, where we go in the future, what we decide to work on. In the first few months of 2016, and actually, well, no, in every single month of the year, we made progress on realigning our focus, recognizing where we wanted to put our attention, what we should be working on, et cetera. If I think about where we were a year ago to where we are today, just in our focus as a company, we are so much further ahead than we were. That makes me really happy.
BRAD: You’re probably also happier anyway because you’re consolidating all of the add-ons for EDD and you’re really focused more on quality of those core add-ons. It just seems like it just makes so much sense what you guys have done.
PIPPIN: There was a couple of things that we really recognized. One of the primary ones was simply that our focus was too spread out. There was too many different plugins.
Then also, we realized one day. I should probably be ashamed to admit that it took me so long to really recognize and recognize the importance of this, but we realized that something like five of the EDD plugins account for 85% of our revenue. But probably all of the other dozens or hundreds of plugins accounted for over 50% of the time that we spent on the project. That was a really eye-opening the moment the day that I realized that because it just told me immediately, whoa. We need to not be working on these other things as much and focusing on our cores, so the core plugins are where our focus is.
We’ve been working throughout the year to get rid of all of the things that pull our focuses away from those. We’ve been pretty successful with it, and that’s put us in a better place as a company, as a team, and it’s done wonders for me personally. Managing to do that was a nice highlight of the year, looking back, because I think what it really was is we dealt with a challenge. We dealt with this thing that was slowly kind of pulling us apart and damaging us from the inside.
With that, we managed to, across the board, increase our company revenue by 30%, which was pretty nice. Similar to like what you said, it wasn’t as much of an increase over the increase that we saw between 2014 and 2015, but again we didn’t have any major new product in 2016. All we had, we had improvements to our products, but we still managed to increase our revenue. Even though EDD kind of stagnated, we managed to grow Affiliate WP and Restrict Content Pro pretty substantially. We’re going to continue to do that throughout the next 12 months.
At the end of 2016, we finally managed to do something that we had been wanting to do for a while for EDD, and that was a price increase. We had done a few little price increases for certain plugins in EDD during the year, but in December we just decided we’re going to do it across the board. I think all but maybe two plugins saw a pretty substantial price increase. There were really a couple of goals here.
Number one is obviously increased revenue. That’s our goal. Especially, throughout the year, EDD actually had a pretty big loss for the year, and so this was something that was necessary for us to do was to increase the revenue that we bring in.
Two, there were two other main focuses. Number one is reduce support because support is incredibly challenging for EDD. EDD support is three times harder than any of our other products. Two, we don’t really have a great way to label them, but there’s a certain kind of customer that we’re not looking to have in our ecosystem. Then there are the customers that we want to have.
We’ve always struggled with customers that are extremely low value, but extremely difficult to support. It’s not that we’re trying to be exclusive or exclude anybody from being able to be in our ecosystem, but we’re trying to make sure that those customers that do commit to us are committed. There’s probably a much, much better way to say that, but that’s ultimately what it comes down to.
Raising our prices increases revenue, decreases support, and elevates the quality of the customer that we get to work with on a day-to-day basis. And so getting all that done reasonably smoothly was a win for us.
Another highlight that we actually did not realize that we had achieved until literally when I was writing up the review post and I was doing queries and manually querying our customer database, then SQL, and doing numbers and failing at math, but I found out that we, over the year, actually managed to reduce our support across the board one percent. Our percent, our support tickets were one percent lower in 2016 than in 2015, which made me really happy, especially since we had managed to have an increase in revenue.
BRAD: For EDD, you guys do free support, right? Or no, you don’t?
PIPPIN: We do.
BRAD: Do you have to be a customer?
PIPPIN: We do free support. Yeah.
BRAD: You do free support. That’s probably why that you have a lot more volume for EDD.
PIPPIN: Yeah, and the volume is quite a bit bigger.
PIPPIN: It might not be double Affiliate WP, and it’s way more than double RCP, but that’s just because RCP is still a smaller project. Affiliate WP, at least in terms of revenue, is pretty close to equal with EDD, but EDD support is almost double Affiliate WP. Managing to actually lower our support by one percent was something that made me really, really happy. It’s a pretty small decrease, but it is a decrease and not a significant increase, so that’s good.
Then the next one we brought on six new team members, and then we brought several of our — some older team members back into active roles. We’ve had a number of team members that have worked with us through the years, have been not necessarily left, but have more or less moved to be inactive roles, and we brought a couple of them back into active roles. And so our team grew quite a bit this year, which is also one of the big reasons why EDD’s cost has skyrocketed. Maybe not skyrocketed, but it’s gone up quite a bit.
It’s because we brought on new team members to not only help with development, but, with our realigned focus, we have a lot of things that we really want to work on and that takes development time. And so some of those team members were brought on just for that. Any loss that we as a company incurred in 2016, it’s an investment, and it’s an investment that I’m 100% confident is going to pay off.
Then I had two last kind of personal highlights that I really enjoyed in 2016. Number one, I finally managed to acquire my personal domain name, so I managed to get Pippin.com, which is a domain name I’ve been trying to get for probably six years. After a very, very long, ongoing discussion with the owner, I managed to buy it in February, and so that made me pretty happy.
Then the last one is I’d been slowly working on a brewery project with my brother, and we’ve made some pretty good progress on the brewery. We have a company founded. We’ve got our financial stuff figured out. We have a building. Hopefully, in 2017, we’ll actually manage to brew our first batch of commercial beer. It’s a fun, little side project. It’s my evening and weekend project.
Anything in particular that you want to highlight for 2017 goals moving forward?
BRAD: Well, we’re going to keep the beta of Mergebot going, get feedback from those beta users, keep iterating on it, and then hopefully launch Mergebot out of beta. That’s kind of the number one goal for 2017.
PIPPIN: That’s going to make a lot of people very, very happy.
BRAD: Yeah, I hope so. Then for the other products that we have, Migrate DB Pro and Offload S3, aiming for three major releases this year for those, which I think is one major release more than 2016.
PIPPIN: Just curious. With your new release schedule does that also mean you’ll have three major new features that come out?
BRAD: That’s right. Yep. Yep.
BRAD: That’s the plan. Maybe we’ll be able to do better than that. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to do better. That’s the goal: three. I don’t want to go crazy with the goal and then be disappointed by it. I think three would be a really great step above 2016.
Then we’re currently in the process right now of hiring our first non-developer. We’re hiring for a product marketing manager role. That’s someone to come onboard to help with our blog, running our ads, and a million other things.
The job posting, the feedback I’ve gotten from the job posting, like when I asked people to check this out and let me know what you think, is this job posting good or bad. People said it’s long and detailed, but it’s good. No one told me to trim it down, so I think that’s probably a good sign despite it being long and detailed.
PIPPIN: Good. That shows that you, well, hopefully get back into development if that’s what you decide you want to do.
BRAD: I know that the stuff that this person is going to be hired for, I don’t do that well, and I’m not that — I don’t really like doing it that much. Those two facts alone is enough for me. Even if that will allow me to maybe be the product manager that I would like to be, great.
PIPPIN: I think, as founders, it’s equally important for us to fill all the roles, but to also recognize when we need to replace us in a role.
BRAD: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Another item on my list here is to hire a part-time product manager. That’s kind of lower on the list because I’m not sure I’ll get to that stage. After I hire the marketing manager, it’ll be interesting to see how my role changes within the company just by having that other person there. I’m not sure I’m going to need to hire a product manager. Maybe I’ll be happy to fill that role once I don’t have to deal with so many other things.
Another thing I might try is hire a part-time user experience/product designer. Right now I fill that role as well, and so I do all the mockups when we’re going to redesign a screen of Migrate DB Pro, or we’re going to add a new progress display for Offload S3, or something. I’m the one that does the mockups for that. I think it would be really great if we had an actual, real life designer that was good at user experience and product design to just say, “Here. Here’s what we need. Run with it and iterate.” If I didn’t have to do that, it would be incredible, I think. The trick is to find the right person for that role, I think, but I think we’re going to try to fill that role.
Then we may launch a new plugin. I think this is the third year in the row I’ve had this on my to-do list or on the goal list. I said in my blog post that it’s either now it’s either a tradition or we’re actually going to get it done this year.
The other thing is grow revenue. I always say, “Hopefully double revenue,” because I don’t like to set exact numbers for growing revenue. I just want to grow it. If it’s double, great. If it’s more than that, super.
PIPPIN: But you probably do have a number in mind what you’d like hit, at least.
BRAD: Well, you always want to hit or exceed what you did the previous year, right? That becomes increasingly difficult, I think, as you get bigger and as you occupy more of the market. There’s reasons why that gets harder to do, so yeah. I don’t really have a number in mind, to be honest. I’d like to hit what we hit this year, I guess, so 59%. If we do better, super.
Another couple things is that I’d like to consolidate Migrate DB Pro and the Better Search Replace code base into one code base, but still have them as separate products. It’ll just make it much easier for us to manage, and it’ll be much better to be able to release more versions of Better Search Replace Pro as we release — kind of simultaneously as we release WP Migrate DP Pro.
Then another couple things like when I go to conferences, I’d like to try drinking less, eating better, sleeping more, and maybe exercising while I attend these conferences. Every time I attend conferences I come back from them, and I’m just completely depleted. It’s because I do the opposite of all those things. It’s easy, and I think this is going to be the toughest goal of the year for me because I enjoy kind of letting loose at conferences, but yeah. I think I’m starting to not enjoy conferences as much, and I think it’s because I’m so depleted and tired by day two.
PIPPIN: I think I’m starting to recognize the value that I get out of conferences a lot more because I’ve been to enough of them now. And so if I go to one, it’s not enough to just socialize, drink, and not sleep at all during the time there. There’s a lot more value that I want to get out of one. If I don’t do that, then all of a sudden I haven’t — well, it’s not as well worth it. I started to become a lot more selective in the conferences that I choose to attend.
BRAD: Right. Right. Finally, the last thing, my last goal for 2017 is to revisit this goal list after six months because, when I reviewed my goal list from last year at the end of this year, I realized some of these things that I’ve added to the list for 2017 I had on my 2016 goal list and I just kind of forgot about them. So it’s important, I think, to go back.
If you’re serious about achieving your goals, I think it’s important to check in on them several times a year. I’m going to start with six months. If that’s not enough, maybe next year I’ll go to every three months I’ll check in on them or something.
Yeah. That’s it for me. How about you? What’s your plans for 2017?
PIPPIN: Well, I’ve got a few. The first one is just kind of in line with the one you mentioned about getting more out of conferences, but it’s really a renewed focus on mental and physical health. I had a couple of times during this year, both as highlights and as very low points in the year, where I realized the importance of those two things, and so that to me is something that I realize that my physical and my mental health isn’t something to think about for the year. It’s every single day.
I want to be better at that, and I’ve been working to be better at that. And I want to be better as a team as well. It’s not just me. It’s everybody here.
BRAD: Do you have concrete plans on how you’re going to achieve that or are you just going–?
PIPPIN: Yeah, there’s a few of them. On the physical side one of them is just making sure that we’re actively encouraging and taking advantage of physical activity, recognizing that that’s not only important for your physical health, but also your mental health. Actually this last year, one of those concrete goals for me has been bike riding to my office. In March, I got an office outside of my home for the first time, and so I’ve now been at the office for about ten months.
I really worked hard to try to ride my bike to the office, which is about 3.2 miles from my house. If I ride there and home I get almost seven miles in. To ride two to three times per week. I don’t think I managed to actually achieve that, but I got reasonably close.
I’ve done it enough now, but every time I drive, I look at it as it’s a let down because I didn’t ride. I should have ridden. I think that’s a good reminder because I want to be more active.
BRAD: Right. One thing I did that was on my goal list for 2016 that I ended up doing is keeping a daily private journal. Every day, at the end of the day, I reflect. Well, ideally every day, at the end of the day, I reflect on the previous day or on the day that just went by.
It’s incredible when you sit down and you’re like, “What the heck did I do today? I don’t even remember? How did it even go?” It takes a while for you to remember. I found it therapeutic to reflect each day on what happened and just what I was thinking and that kind of stuff.
PIPPIN: I used to do that, and I would like to get back into it. I knew somebody that did it every single day, and they had done it for years and years and years. And they had this huge bookshelf just filled with black books, and all dated, but otherwise unmarked. It was kind of cool just to see this is their writing every day for years. I’m talking hundreds of books. That’s something that I would like to get back into. Actually, one of my goals for this year is to write more, so maybe that’s the way I’ll do it.
BRAD: I actually did it with just text documents so that they’re searchable as well. Unless you don’t like the idea of doing it on a keyboard because you’re on a keyboard all day, I recommend that. But I did it on a different machine, so I didn’t do it on the same machine, the same work machine. That was the way I’ve kind of separated it from work.
PIPPIN: Right. I find that I can separate myself from work and not work by just putting myself in a different machine. For example, I don’t work on my iPad very often, and so I can write on my iPad and not feel connected to work.
The other concrete way of doing it or going after this goal is striving to work less. There’s a couple of ideals that I have in mind for myself and for my team, and that is eventually a four-day work week. Two is the idea of an eight hour workday is crazy. How about a six hour workday four days a week? I think that is a goal that I would love to get to.
Now it’s very difficult to get there, especially because I’m a workaholic and I tend to work 18 hours a day even if I don’t need to. That’s one of the goals that I have. And so finding ways for me to not just encouraging me to step away, but making sure that everything within the company is running in such a way that any day that we want to, unless there’s some kind of fire happening, anybody on the team can just say, “You know what? I’m going to take the rest of the day off. I’m going to step away,” without causing problems. Without causing delays. Without anything like that. That’s one of the goals that I want to work towards is enabling us to work less.
BRAD: Right. Yeah. When you say “us,” do you mean your whole team?
PIPPIN: I do. I think one of the ways that we get there is by trying to lead by example as well.
BRAD: Right. I think Basecamp does this, but they do it only in the summertime, I think, is the last I heard. They do an extra weekend day per week, like in July and August I think it is. Basically it’s kind of like how in the summer you used to have the summer off from school so you could play and you could do whatever. They’re trying to kind of–
PIPPIN: Now we lock ourselves in our offices all day long.
BRAD: Yeah. They also said that after three years, I think, if you’ve been working with them for three years, you get a one month long sabbatical where you can just go for a month, and they’ll pay you to go do whatever you want. It’s interesting.
PIPPIN: I’ve got three other little ones. The first one I guess is not really little, but that is to grow our revenue by 30% to 40%. We managed to grow by 29.9% in 2016. I would like to increase that up to 30% or 40%.
I have a number in my mind that I’d really like to hit. We’ll see if we could actually manage to hit it. But I think there’s a pretty good chance that we will.
Then the last one that I would like to work at, and we managed to do it this last year, is to decrease support while increasing revenue, which allows us to really increase our revenue per support ticket. One of the metrics that we measure is: for every support ticket that we have, how much do we bring in? It kind of gives us an idea. It’s similar to like a per customer value. But I want to raise that number up for all of our projects because, overall, that implies that we have expanded the gap between revenue and support. And so if we can bring in more dollars with the same or less support, our revenue per ticket will go up.
Then the last one I mentioned earlier is we have a goal as a family of traveling internationally to a new place every single year. And so we’re going to probably, in summer or fall, go somewhere this year. We haven’t yet decided where to go, but we’re going to do it.
BRAD: Nice. For how long?
PIPPIN: Well, it’s going to depend on where we go. If we go somewhere in the Americas, we could go for, say, five days and it’d still be worth it. If we’re flying overseas, then we’re going to go a lot longer. Anywhere from one to three weeks, probably.
BRAD: Does your wife work every day? Does she have a day job?
PIPPIN: She works basically during the school year. She teaches dance part-time. She works three days a week.
PIPPIN: It’s possible for her to get a sub for a week or two during the year. But if we go during the summer, then it’s not an issue for her because she doesn’t work during the summer. And since I can work from anywhere–
BRAD: Yeah. Awesome.
PIPPIN: My kids have really enjoyed traveling. They both like to fly, and they both have flown a lot, and so there’s no reason for us not to.
PIPPIN: We’re able to do it, and it’s been a great experience everywhere we’ve gone so far.
BRAD: That’s awesome. All right. Should we wrap it up?
PIPPIN: Alrighty. Yeah, let’s do it. I think, overall, it was a great year, and I’m looking forward to 2017.
BRAD: Yeah. Same here.
PIPPIN: All right.
BRAD: All right.
PIPPIN: Thanks for listening, everybody, and catch you next time.
BRAD: Talk to you next time.