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January 2021

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E131 – WP EZI joins WP Buffs: The Acquisition Tell-All

In today’s episode, we have fascinating news! WP Buffs successfully acquired WP EZI – a team of highly trained world-class WordPress developers that provides unlimited 24/7 WordPress support, help, maintenance, and fixes. 

Joe talks to Paul Kidis – founder and former owner of WPEZI.com and a brilliant Website Specialist at Kidis Creative – about the closed-door details before and after the acquisition, the reason behind it, and a sneak peek at the preparations made for a smooth take over.   

Tune in and listen to a one of a kind acquisition story!

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:48 Welcome, Paul Kidis!
  • 04:44 What is Kidis Creative?
  • 07:28 The transition to focus more on Kidis Creative
  • 10:40 It’s time to move on and let WP EZI go
  • 12:52 What made the acquisition push through
  • 16:40 Partnering up with the right people
  • 19:50 How does it feel about selling a business?
  • 23:04 Preparing and getting through the transition
  • 26:20 Mixed emotions, fantastic journey, and refocusing priorities
  • 31:12 It was about finding a better home for WP EZI clients
  • 31:57 What’s keeping Paul busy at Kidis Creative  
  • 33:22 Where to find Paul online

Episode Resources:

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: [00:00:00] Hey folks, Joe Howard here. So all right. A little bit of house cleaning before today’s episode. So obviously, you know, at this point that there’s an announcement happening on the pod this week and from WP buffs this week. So I have a few resources for folks. If they want to read more, learn more in other mediums.

So if you go to WP buffs.com, we have a blog post up that Allie rotor community manager about this news. If you want to hear more about Paul’s opinion or his blog post about this whole thing, going down, you can go over to WP E Z i.com WPZ and you can read that blog post there. We also have an official official press release out.

If folks want to read the official press release, it’s a little bit more formal, but it has all the appropriate details in there. And I don’t know the link to that right now, but it’ll be in a bunch of places. It’ll be in the show notes here in podcast. It’ll be in the w buffs blog posts and WP easy blog posts.

So you can find it pretty easily. And of course you have this podcast episode, so feel free to continue listening for. The real, tell all that we’re going to kind of go through here or at least as tell all it as we can, based on things that were signed. So yeah, today I have on the episode, Paul telecos, Paul is the former owner and CEO of WP easy.

Which is now joining the WP buffs family as are a couple of team members and a good amount of current and former clients and customers of WPZ. So this episode is really cool. I really appreciated the chance to touch base with Paul. And we’d been through a lot of this in the actual acquisition talks and the sales talk.

Some of the formal conversations and during this transitionary time, but we really kind of went to another level and hearing about the positive impact this has had on Paul’s life. And honestly, hearing from his perspective about what a positive experience it was to go through all of this with WP buffs.

And with me, I was really trying to make this a positive experience and unforgettable experience for him, a positive impact for him and his clients. That really was my. Prerogative here in our prerogative, in this acquisition. And it felt really good and I’m knocking lie. It felt good personally to me to hear him speak positively on it.

And so, yeah, hopefully more news to come in the future. But for today, let’s focus on WP, easy with Paul telecos. Enjoy today’s episode.

All right. We are live on the pod. We have it. And a special episode this week, a little announcement for everybody. So I’d like to introduce Paul, Paul. Okay. Two things. One. Can you tell people had to pronounce your last name correctly? Cause I don’t want to butcher it. And two, can you give us the full name of your.

Previous now company that you worked on. Yeah. Cool.

Paul Kidis: [00:03:03] So it’s  and happy to be on the podcast and it’s Kate is creative. So the last bit of my last name, creative.

Joe Howard: [00:03:14] Yeah. There you go. Kiedis, and part of, uh, a longer name and you’re from Australia and now living in Greece.

Paul Kidis: [00:03:24] Yeah. I relocated to Greece recently.

Absolutely. Love it. Yeah.

Joe Howard: [00:03:29] Yeah, I just wanted to touch on the name also of your previous company that is now kind of under WP buffs care. Now, how did you say WPZ or WP ECI? I had someone asked me that and I was like, Oh, I want to make sure Paul touches

Paul Kidis: [00:03:43] on that. Have you for easy. So the whole goal was to make WordPress support easy.

That’d be pretty easy,

Joe Howard: [00:03:49] solid. Okay. That’s okay. That is the exact response I gave to that person. So I’m glad I got it. Nailed it. So cool. All right. So point to this episode this week is obviously people know at this point, WPZ has joined the WP buffs family, and you know, a lot of people will see announcements in the WordPress space, but in the tech space in general, and I guess all spaces about acquisitions and it’s kind of this like.

Kind of formal blog posts, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada. But I kind of wanted to go and take it to another level of just like a little bit more transparency into the actual inner workings of like everything that happened. We may not be able to go into every single piece of detail here, but just in terms of like transparency about how the process went, both from your perspective, Paul, as a seller and me, from our perspective at WP buses, the buyer about.

What it was like to WPC to join the WP buffs family. So before we even dive into that, why don’t you tell folks a little bit more about the work you do at kit creative and maybe a little bit about your, your history with WPZ before we start talking? Yeah.

Paul Kidis: [00:04:55] Cool. I’ve been doing WordPress websites since like 2011.

When I started my first business, Kate is creative and we were. Just your normal web design agency, specializing in WordPress and the years we built many websites with that. People were coming back to us saying, can you make changes? Can you fix things? We need to change menus. We need to do this things broke, et cetera, et cetera.

So over the course of years, we set up care plans and it wasn’t till two, 2017. When I had this bright spark moment to think to myself, Oh, it’s actually a little bit of a business in this separate from building websites. I did some research on Google. I found some other companies that were doing it, some were successful and I thought, well, if they can do it, I can do it.

And we set up. So I started WP easy. I basically tried to create. A business that made WordPress support really, really easy in my own mind and for my own customers and in my own reference point. So I was really good at Trello. So I hijacked the Trello boards and created a system using that, that clients seemed to really, really enjoy.

And in fact, we had a lot of clients come to us because we use Trello and they were familiar with it. So that was really good. Basically, we grew that business. Uh, I built a really good team. I’m super proud of the team I built. They’re amazing. There has not been one problem in all these years that my team has not been able to fix, which is amazing.

Joe Howard: [00:06:32] Nice. I love that feeling. Yes. Yes. We have similar perspectives. Cause I feel the same way about our team and you really grow to love the work that you do and enjoy it. But at the end of the day, it’s like, Man, what would I have been able to do without a great team around me? I think a lot of people, even whether they have a smaller team or a bigger team, they feel like man, the team is, is core to everything.

So cool. So I hear this story a lot actually from folks who, um, who do web work and they realize people need ongoing support. Like people ask them for little things here and there. So it makes sense to offer something like this. It sounds like you kind of maybe even went in a somewhat separate direction from some people because some people will build it into their.

There one business kind of started a new business WPZ, you know, aside from kitties doing care plan work. Um, and so, yeah, I’d love to hear a little bit about there. Must have been a point where, you know, we’ve kind of discussed this in previous calls, obviously, but I’d love listeners to hear a little bit more about the, kind of the point at which you decided I’d like to focus a little bit more on Kitsis and little less on WPZ.

Maybe it may make sense to. Move on entirely from it. There must have been like a moment or at least like a period of time where you started thinking more seriously about that. And I’d like to dig into kind of like the why’s of the reasons for, for transitioning away from it and having someone else look after it.

Yeah, definitely.

Paul Kidis: [00:07:56] So I don’t know if there’s something, a trait of a common entrepreneur or maybe it’s somebody different with me, but I always tend to have a few things running on the go completely separate businesses. It’s been the story of my life and with that, it’s good, but it also has challenges.

And basically, so I had my web design agency running, servicing those clients. I’ve got WP, easy running, doing that, that thing with the care plans. And then. Also, I’ve got my e-com running. It’s good. But it also, you can’t go deep too deep on one thing when you’ve got so many things running, which is something I’m going to try and fix in the future.

I want to go deeper with one thing, but as it turns out, you can’t do everything well, WPZ has been like, yeah, I’ve put a lot of time into it, systemizing it, making sure the team are running it as much as they can without me, but it just got to that point in. Like, basically for me where I was just getting tired, like, I don’t have the energy, I had to do everything.

I did a bit of a self analysis and I worked out that between everything that I was doing, profit-wise what I want to do, where I see myself as a person and what interests me and what I want to pursue next. I decided that. I might want to start looking for a new home for WPZ.

Joe Howard: [00:09:22] The interesting part of that story is kind of that it’s one, it’s like the self realization that maybe like.

You wanted to, you know, you were waking up every day, maybe wanting to reconfigure your focuses on things. It’s funny, like seeing the parallels between different entrepreneurs, people who have started businesses, like I’m the same way, like you CWP buffs, like, well, this is the WP MRR WordPress podcast. We do like a virtual summit at WP MRR, like w um, very similar to Paul.

Like we like to try and experiment with different things. And so you go through these different phases of life, of like expansion and like maybe wanting to do more. But a lot of times you’ll go through phases where you want to do you either want to do less, or you find that you just maybe will be happier doing less or more fulfilled doing.

More of a fewer things. And I like the part that stood out to me also was like you said, you liked did a self-assessment. I think that’s so important because I feel like so many people in your shoes may have just continued to do it. You know, this is what I’m supposed to do. I was supposed to grow this business.

I’m supposed to build this business, but sitting down and actually doing the self-assessment. Yeah. Like triggered this, like maybe it’s time to do that. And I think that self-awareness, and that like action step really led to a big positive in your life. And they were able to really like focus on the things that you’re super excited to work on every day.

And that yeah, you wake up like jazz to do that thing. So that those things stood out to me as positives.

Paul Kidis: [00:10:41] For sure. Yeah, definitely. It’s, it’s so important in life too, you know, especially after a few years, uh, when you’re on the grind and you’re just going off to your different goals and trying to hit certain milestones and whatnot.

You forget, what makes you happy? You forget what life is like without being busy. And I had a crazy 2020 business school. Like we had exponential growth in some of the businesses I’m involved in and to take a step back after all the craziness and think to myself, like I’m at a certain level with WPZ. I love the business.

I built it from scratch, but it’s time to move on. Like it’s my time. And I don’t want to do a disservice by my clients. So you. You know, you start thinking of ways to do it. And that’s sort of how we met.

Joe Howard: [00:11:27] Yeah. Yeah. This is what the listeners have been, have been waiting for. They were teased for this episode and then we had to go through the background first of course, but let’s start chatting a little bit about like what it was like for you as a potential seller, going into a relationship like this.

So you kind of submitted WPZ. To the WP buffs acquisition unit, you filled out some answers to some questions in a form. I emailed you back saying like, Hey, and maybe I’ll even give a little bit more background. You gave your website, WP eci.com. I went to the website. I was like, Oh, Cause we get some like garbage come through that form.

It’s like businesses that we would never, like, it’s not, it’s not a good fit or it’s just not, or looking for, even though we explicitly say like what we’re looking for on the page. Right. But yours came through and I was like, Oh, one, like I’ve, I’ve either been to this website before, or I’ve heard about this.

Until this, this is like a really good fit. Like you do very similar work to what we do. This is a very similar business to WP buff. So I think there’s something that could work here. So after you submitted some of those Q and a, I took a look. I invited you to do a call just via Calendly as like, Hey, grab a time.

We chatted. I’d love to hear what you thought. What kinda, what was going through your mind after that first call, which was kind of like a discovery call. It was like getting to meet each other, getting to know each other a little bit. Me hearing a little bit about WPZ you getting to learn about WP buffs, making sure you’re comfortable moving forward.

That, that, yeah. And me to both parties, making sure, Hey, we want to move forward. How are you feeling after that first call? And like, what was your initial thoughts? Yeah. So

Paul Kidis: [00:12:58] before we jumped on the call, I did a lot of research. Obviously I already knew I wanted to dive in deeper because. When you think of selling your business?

I wanted to reach out to competitors first and then out of everyone that I researched, I, I, you know, I, I only contacted you really. I was going to post it up on other places and whatnot, but, um, I managed to just contact you guys. Oh

Joe Howard: [00:13:23] yeah. I remember. Yeah. You mentioned, I think when you submitted, like, forgive me if I’m wrong.

Cause we’ve had a few submissions come through, but I believe you said, like, I think I’m maybe some place like a flip ball or like a, or like another kind of marketplace where you sell businesses, but I’m going to start with you because this seems to make the most sense. And maybe I’ll try one of those others if, if this doesn’t happen to work out.

So I think that was that correct? That

Paul Kidis: [00:13:46] is correct. And uh, I loved what you guys were doing. Yeah. You seem like the leader in the market, the community’s down, people really enjoy what you’re doing. Your reviews are great. Like it was, it felt like a really good fit initially. Anyway. And then after the call, what really became clear was that we share a lot of the common goals.

So it was really, yeah, I really enjoyed that Cole. It was very positive.

Joe Howard: [00:14:11] Yeah, good man. I’m glad to hear that. And I like hearing little nuggets. I didn’t know about before, like the research you did before, you know, you came and checked us out. So we’ve put a lot of work into like, not one, making sure we look good online and people are like, Oh, WF is awesome.

But to, to make sure we’re actually fulfilling that promise. So that, that is not just like a marketing thing that is like truly w what WQS offers, uh, and that our marketing is. True to exactly what we do as the buyer. I guess, coming from my perspective, I was pretty excited after a call. I remember I shot a Slack message to Ben and Nick, like, Hey, we were actually in the middle of another potential acquisition that didn’t work out.

Yeah. And it was kind of at the end of like, maybe we wanted it to work out, but it just, it clearly wasn’t the best fit for a few different reasons. And we’ve realized we were trying to force it. I remember having the call with you and being like, okay guys like that other one now I really know what a good example of a good fit is.

We’re going to wrap up, you know, those negotiations didn’t quite work out. This is what we should focus our time on. And I remember talking with you. I, the one thing that stood out to me was I remember you were being, so you were so focused on making sure that you, that making sure that we knew, like how much you still want it to support the transition, which is something that we’re obviously looking for in a partner, because we know the whole, the whole success to this happens is like, we don’t just want to like take over a business to like, Just like reap the benefits and like look through customers, right?

Like the point of this is to. We, we care so much about managing people’s websites and, and keeping them up and running that you obviously want to make that transition as seamless as possible. And just the fact, so you were like, repeatedly, like, Hey, I’m not handing everything over. Like I want to be part of this only an act, a part of this, how can I help?

And you’ve like written emails to customers. You’re like jumping on this podcast. Like you did like everything that was asked of you during this transition, which is what you promised and like that to me, honestly, like. That was probably the best part of this whole transition was like, remember how well it’s worked out so far.

Like, and it’s just the two of us have loved working together. Like it’s been really as easy as possible. It was always something that’s going to go. Right. And something that doesn’t click. Right. But it’s been really pretty easy and the communication has been simple. So that’s something that after our first call, I was like, I think this is a good fit because honestly, I think based on what you were saying, I feel like we have similar.

Like value structures. And I think that sounds like a wishy washy. Oh, like you have good values. You should work together. But like, if you want to do folks, like if this is something you, I really have to focus on big time, I think that is what’s driven so far, the success of this, obviously like this is an announcement, so we’ll have to see how it goes over the coming months.

But like so far, and I don’t foresee any issues with it. It has been a big success so far. So I think, I, I think you agree with that. Does that sound good? It seems that same values. Yeah,

Paul Kidis: [00:17:01] definitely. Definitely agree with that. It’s been smooth. Uh, I went into it with good intentions and I think you guys, well, you did, you, you referenced yeah.

Reciprocated perfectly. So it’s been, yeah, it’s been really easy and it’s refreshing, like it’s refreshing to just do it with somebody that yeah. Has the same values and not like, yeah. Uh, we’re going to try and screw this person over, or we’re going to do this, or we want to do low ball offers here or do this, or do that.

If there’s none of that, it was just like, this is where we’re at, what we want to do. Where are you use at? And we found that common ground and it’s been, it’s been

Joe Howard: [00:17:40] really good. Yeah, dude. Awesome. I’m really glad to hear that. We obviously like went through all this, but doing this podcast episode really like brings out like real feelings of things.

I’m really happy to hear you say that. Like the word refreshing is like, that’s refreshing for me because that was our entire goal in this. Because when you do an acquisition, like when we sent you like the contract, it was like, It’s such an official thing. It’s like, what if I snuck something in there to like, like you never know what could happen.

And it’s like, it’s, uh, you know, this is a significant financial deal for both of us. Right. You know, for us as a company to be, you know, paying, you know, a multiplier on like an annual profit margin. And for you, it’s a, it’s a significant windfall for you to be able to take home. And like, there’s always a risk of something happening, but I think.

I felt like the foundation we laid in that first call and just like throughout our communication of like mutual respect and just like strong communication, honestly going a little bit, I always felt like your emails and my emails. We always try to do a little bit extra. I tried to always include that extra point of detail and make sure that communication was clear so that you knew, Hey.

Like we’re in this with you. Like we’re on the same team here. We’re w this is, this is us. This is not us as separate. And I think that was really helpful in, in moving things forward. Um, I, I also want to talk about like the, that next part. So like, after we, um, you know, jumped off the discovery call, I went to.

To Nick and Ben, I was like, let’s move this forward. Ben sent over, you know, a nondisclosure agreement that you signed so that we could do our due diligence. You know, Ben and Nick, from Nick from an operation standpoint, just going in and checking out everything, seeing making sure operations were strong and like.

Honestly, like what you said they were, which they were all good then from a financial standpoint, just going and making sure, Hey, this is the profit margin and this is the revenue that’s being generated. Here’s some money X customers, you know, all that stuff from a financial standpoint. NDA is like, Oh, I sound so like official and formal, but it’s really like, it’s a protect you from us being able to like, share your financial details around.

It’s like, that’s a nice closure is we can talk about, you know, your financials and it like protects us as well in the same. Uh, it’s like a two-way street there. How was the like, experience for you going from. Like the, the NDA, Sinai, and going through due diligence to like that, that final contract signing, like, again, like there’s a, I feel like there’s a little bit of like, not even a little bit like, but some significant pressure.

It’s like, it’s a big moment and you want to make sure you get it right. And that it’s. Mutually beneficial for everybody, but I just wanted to know kind of from a personal standpoint, like how you felt selling your business and going through like DocuSign in that final contract and what that process was like up to that point.

Yeah. A hundred

Paul Kidis: [00:20:22] percent. Um, okay, so you sent the NDA. I was like, okay, let’s get an official now, but it’s on there. And you know, the, the sending all the stuff was no problem, because I was just as open and honest with you from the beginning. So I, I think I told you on the first call, like. This is what we’re doing.

This is where we’re at. This is how many customers, et cetera, et cetera. So sharing all that with you was no problem. But, uh, yeah, like it was just a natural progression for me. I knew that you were going to see it one day. So there was no point in the beginning trying to do some fluffy business, like to see it all anyway.

So here’s where it’s at. Uh, for me it was fine.

Joe Howard: [00:21:03] I, I think that’s a really important. Thing to say though, is like a lot of, a lot of what we’ve talked about so far. And the reason we feel like this was a success is because of the trust we built with each other and the relationship we built with each other, just honestly, between like you and me even, and to build that trust.

Like if you were to have said something that like, wasn’t right to the point of like, maybe he was trying to hide something, that’s like a red flag for us. And that like it’s, so it’s hard to build trust. It takes time to build, trust, takes energy. It takes attention, but it only takes like one thing to break trust, right?

Like it takes one wrong move to break all that trust you’ve built. And so I always felt North team always felt like we never found anything that was like, Whoa, what’s this. Like, everything was like, What you said from the beginning, maybe like plus, or minus some small deviation. That’s like, well, now we’re having our second conversation, like a month after the first conversation.

So you brought on some new customers which changed this number a little bit. So like that those are the only changes, but those naturally happen. So yeah, I think that’s super important. And honestly, a lesson I’d give to anybody who’s potentially trying to sell a business or potentially try to buy as like, but especially from the seller’s perspective.

Okay. What a seller should do from my perspective as a buyer, you for sure should be honest and straightforward about everything because most people have good intentions. We have good, we have good intentions. We had good intentions in this deal, and we want to make it mutually beneficial, win for everybody.

We don’t want to have any bad surprises happen that that hurts it for everybody. And you know, yourself potentially included. So I thought you took the right. Approach and all that stuff and said, here’s lay, lay everything bare. And here’s where everything lands.

Paul Kidis: [00:22:46] I feel like we went to, we went into it, both thinking like open honestly, and fair.

Like that’s a big point to bring up, like, as we’re talking about it, we will fail with each other with what we can do, where we’re at, what we’re going to agree on and disagree on. Like we’ll just fair. And that goes a long way, especially

Joe Howard: [00:23:05] in marble. Tell me what the transition has been like from your point of view, because it’s been about three weeks since, since, you know, things were signed and we’ve been working together on operations transitions and that kind of stuff, but also some announcement stuff.

This podcast episode, we wrote some blog posts. You wrote a blog post WPZ, you wrote some emails to your customers, that kind of thing. How’s the transition been from your point of view? Is it lived up to the kind of expectations that were set when we kind of closed on everything? Yeah.

Paul Kidis: [00:23:30] Uh, the day after we signed the deal.

I said to my wife, I turned around, said, all right, we’ve got some work to do. So we basically sat down in front of the laptop and, uh, you know, got everything organized with all the different, uh, logins, all the different things that we had to do. And, you know, again, it was just all normal things. And, uh, it went, it went very smooth, Joe, like I sent you everything that we had a few hiccups with logging in with, you know, passwords or whatever, but.

To be expected when

Joe Howard: [00:24:00] you’re sharing 30 log-ins yeah. I don’t know how am I going to be, right. Yeah.

Paul Kidis: [00:24:04] But in terms of you guys getting access, you know, getting in there, checking everything out. I don’t think there’s been any issues with that. Everything’s been running as per normal. If we didn’t make an announcement, none of the clients would have even known what’s been happening.

Everything’s been running smoothly. The team’s really excited as well to get to know you guys. Yeah. So very good.

Joe Howard: [00:24:27] Yeah, I, I agree. I don’t know if I have much to add, I think has been, it’s been pretty smooth. The only hiccups we’ve had a few log in details, things, a few, like there’s going to be stuff that requires a few back and forth emails anyway.

Like it’s just, you’re not going to be able to package every single thing about the business and just send it off to us and then we’ll just take it all out. Like it’s going to require some back and forth. We need to learn about the business, whereas there’s, maybe we didn’t go over every single detail during the acquisition.

And we knew there, there were things where, like, we know the basics of this. We know, maybe we’ll add a note to like ask Paul about exactly how X, Y, and Z works, you know, once it has gone through, because we just, we want to know it so that we’re good with customers so that we give them the exact same experience and maybe even a better experience, but not change things for them, keep them with, you know, having some consistency and stuff.

So, yeah, I think from our point of view, I think something that we’ve learned honestly, is like, we could do a better job. Of formalizing some of this handover stuff. Like we could, we could put structures in place and systems in place from our point of view, that that really at the end of the day probably are our responsibilities.

Like the handover of logging information. Like we probably should have a better procedure than like sending like a password, like locked PDF files and all this stuff. And it was just a safe, secure way to do it. But like, we should probably have a process for that. Like, you know, this is the first acquisition data we’ve closed, so we don’t have every single thing in place, but this is.

Honestly like great reason to hop on this podcast too, cause we want to improve. And so that’s an area where yeah, maybe a few things weren’t exact right. But we should have, and we will have, but we also should have a better procedure for some things to make things a little smoother, both for you and for us, because you know, the more efficiently we can do some of this handover stuff and like have a core list of all the stuff we need to get through, you know, the faster and more efficient it’s going to be for everybody.

So learning moments for us too. Yeah. I want to know kind of personally how you’re feeling once now that this announcement’s kind of going live. Are you feeling like how has your what’s going on in your brain? Are you, are you happy? This has all happened. Are you feeling like a little bit like, Oh, I kind of like what a journey that was like, I don’t know.

Paul Kidis: [00:26:36] I got mixed feelings, you know, like. All right. So end goal is I can’t wait to have this wrapped up and you guys running the show so I can take a step back and regain that time and start putting it back into myself where it needs to be. I can’t wait for that. And I’m really looking forward to it because, uh, I need it.

But, um, part of me is like, wow, what a amazing journey I’ve been on with this business and gotten to know so many cool people. Our clients have been amazing. Our team is amazing. Like it’s just been really, really good. And, um, letting that go is, yeah, it’s hard, you know? Um, I think I’m going to miss the interaction with everybody more than anything.

Cause you know, you go back, you go from having that team and that communication and that, you know, we’re all doing this together as a mission and we’re gonna fix that. These things to now, I’m going to be back to by myself. I’m probably going to miss that the most, but yeah, it’s been a bit, yeah, different emotions, um, positive and negative, but not negative.

I should say positive. And like all I’m gonna miss that, but yeah, it’s good. Overall.

Joe Howard: [00:27:50] Yeah. Yeah, no, I think negative is a fine way to put out. I have positives and negatives like this yin and yang, right? When you have all these positive feelings that will bring some negative feelings because it’ll ha it’s just, just, this is kind of like how the human brain works.

So I get what you’re saying. Um, I I’m super glad you said that, man. I think one of the biggest things I remember when he got her first call, like one of the biggest things I was thinking was like, and through this whole process, really, I was, I was thinking. This story is so important. Like Paul’s like put his, like blood, sweat, and tears into this business for years.

And like, to transition in a way is a big deal. Like that’s something we have to respect as a company potentially like acquiring these clients in this company. And like, that story is so important. And like one of my biggest drivers in this was like, I wanted us to be here. I wanted you to be here and for you to have mostly positive cathartic feelings about the great journey you’ve been on and feeling good about it being in WP boss hands, obviously there are going to be some mixed emotion.

I’m not saying I don’t want you to feel that I want you to feel that’s what it is to be human, but. That was like, in terms of like this acquisition unit that we’ve launched, like this needs to always be the story we tell this needs to always be the ending of the story for the seller. I wanted you to feel like, yes, great.

You’re going to focus on other things you want to, but like, wow. Like. That part I’m like, I want you to look back at that part of your life with fondness and positivity and yeah. Mate, you’re allowed of course, to miss it, but I wanted you to feel overall positive. So it sounds like we’ve done that, which makes me happy, but yeah.

Is that set mostly true?

Paul Kidis: [00:29:23] Yeah. No, definitely. Definitely. You can take that one off the books.

Joe Howard: [00:29:28] Yes. Excellent. Very important. I’ve I’ve talked with like Allie, who’s our community manager kind of, she did like a mini interview of me of like some of this, maybe some quotes who wanted to put into some of the content we’re putting out.

And I kind of had a little bit of a hard time describing it because there’s like acquisition sounds so like. Monopoly like acquiring to become a model. Like when I think about an acquisition of like a fortune 500 companies, like acquiring competition. Yeah. It’s like so corporate and like launching this unit, like, this is really not what I was going for at all, like what we were going for at all, but that can be the story.

If we don’t tell the story, that can be the story people tell of us. And so I just wanna make it clear to people that like, We want mutually beneficial wins out of this. We want to, like when we, when we were going through the final steps of this, we really thought like, You know, all of your active clients like these are there now are responsible that we can continue to manage your websites.

They can continue to grow their businesses like that is good for them. It is good for you to be able to you yourself, Paul, to be able to focus on the other things you want to focus on. And we can grow our business at the same time at WP buffs, like all three of those things can be wins, but I always found myself like, Kind of caught in the middle of like acquisition unit.

Like, it sounds like you said it sounds so corporate. I don’t want it to, I don’t want it to feel like that or to seem like that to people. So people are like interested in checking out the acquisition and like the details there. WP bluffs.com forward slash acquisitions, go and read about it. It’s not, it’s not corporate or we’d really don’t want to make it feel like that.

We want to. Purchase businesses, but we want to do it in the best. We want to have the best positive impact. That is our new mission at WP buffs to great unforgettable experiences to have positive impacts for people. And that positive impact is going to be what leads us. So hopefully that came across in that whole process too.

Well, it

Paul Kidis: [00:31:15] definitely did come across and yeah, I don’t, I don’t see it as, um, like them, you know, the acquisition corporate style. It hasn’t been like that at all. Um, I went into this wanting to find a better home for my customers. Uh, Oh, clients I should say. And you guys fit that mold, plus, you know, I can’t believe you have a happiness buff and his only job is to make sure that everybody’s happy.

Every client is happy and successful. That’s awesome. So, yeah, we, we couldn’t be happier to do this with you,

Joe Howard: [00:31:50] you know? Cool man. Yeah. Happiness engineers. We’ve got client success folks. Yeah. That’s the name of the game for us. So I want to hear a little bit more about kitties and some of the other stuff you’re working on.

I’d love to hear some more about like the e-commerce stuff to work on, because that seems to be like a big focus for you moving forward.


Paul Kidis: [00:32:08] So it’s always been a focus for me. It’s always been a side hustle, but over the last few years, it’s really just taken off. I don’t know if that’s a combination of.

Uh, myself and the team getting better and, uh, doing better products and better things, or a combination of that. Plus, you know, generally the tide of things moving is towards e-commerce. But the last few years we’ve managed to build, uh, acquire and also manage, I think, up to 60 e-commerce shops now under the umbrella, which are owls.

So yeah, as you can imagine the team and I it’s, it’s very busy. We’re doing very well. And I can’t wait to dive on, like, one of my personal goals is to get over a hundred. It’s going to be on my journey and with all this extra time.

Joe Howard: [00:32:56] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It’s just time is the only, that’s what they say right?

Time is the only commodity you can’t really make more of, you know, you can always scale a business and make more money and make more, uh, you know, more growth and more stuff about time. That’s you only have a finite amount of that. Uh, not very much of it. So I think using it as wisely as possible is definitely.

The right move. So, Paul, thank you for hopping off the man. I think this is honestly just like selfishly. I thought this is great to touch base with you and hear that you really had a positive experience with this, but tell people as we’re wrapping up, how they can find you online. Now that you’re now with wpc.com, where can they find your domain?

Are you still on social? That kind of stuff.

Paul Kidis: [00:33:33] Yep. Poll caters on Instagram, Facebook. Also Kate is creative. You can just shoot me a message through the website there if you want. That’s

Joe Howard: [00:33:40] it. Cool, man. All right. Last thing I always ask our guests on this podcast to do is to ask our listeners for a little five star iTunes review.

So if you wouldn’t mind just asking folks to give us, leave us a little review. I’d appreciate it. Come on.

Paul Kidis: [00:33:52] Everybody give us a five-star review for five star WordPress support and we’re going to make it easy.

Joe Howard: [00:33:58] Yeah. Yeah. We are going to make it easy. WP mrr.com forward slash iTunes forwards you right there.

So if you’re on a macro, an Apple device, Uh, just type in that extension. You’ll get a nice little redirect. You don’t have to leave a comment, but if you want to, I mean, we love comments. I want to hear about something you learned from this episode. We can send Paul A. Little screenshot and say, thanks for helping us get a review.

It helps us to know what episode types we should do. So we get a few reviews for this. This particular episode, Hey, maybe we’ll have pollen again and talk more about it or we’ll have, you know, maybe the next person who joins WQS family had jump on or talk with more other folks who have sold businesses themselves or by well by businesses.

We’ll do more episodes around at least some comments interview would be excellent. If you have any questions for us at the show, yo@wpmrr.com. If you have questions, maybe a few Q and a episodes coming up that we would like to do. If you’re a new listener to the show, we’ve got a hundred. 2,530 episodes, something like that.

Uh, go ahead to WP mrr.com forward slash podcast. Use the search bar search for some keywords, we’ve got episodes and all sorts of things. So if you have questions or want to learn about something specific, we have an episode about it. Uh, that is all for this week. We will be in your podcast players again next week.

Paul, thanks again for me now, man. It’s been real.

Paul Kidis: [00:35:17] It’s been great. Thank

Joe Howard: [00:35:18] you. .


E130 – Superman on Making Sales and Marketing with WordPress Easy (Gregory Karelitz, HubSpot)

It’s another refresher of a past episode with Gregory Karelitz, Global Manager of HubSpot for Startups. HubSpot is a growth platform that lets your entire company to work together — from marketing, to sales, to customer service. 

Joe and Gregory explore how HubSpot provides quality integrations towards keeping a solid customer base, solutions the new plugin solves for end-user experience, and the importance of web page functionality.

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:49 Welcome to the pod, Gregory Karelitz!
  • 04:35 Working at HubSpot for six years
  • 06:10 How global partnerships work
  • 08:23 A look into the HubSpot’s integration build-out
  • 12:57 The complexity of disconnected tools
  • 15:28 Sponsorship of global WordCamps
  • 18:06 Gregory’s early days in the WordPress space
  • 21:18 Did you have a marketing strategy?
  • 23:48 The transition into the HubSpot community
  • 28:25 Optimizing your business growth with the right features and functions
  • 34:36 Innovation towards pushing for mobile-friendly websites
  • 37:55 The relationship between sales, marketing, and customer service

Episode Resources:

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: [00:00:00] Yeah, these folks, Joe Howard here. So first off question for you. We are in the middle of a. Project right now, it’s community-based project. Allie is working diligently on it, and we want to create a space for some of our listeners here for some of our 10 days of the WP MRR virtual conference. Some of our folks who work with WP bus just in general, as many WordPress community people as possible.

So the question is where should we launch our new community? So there the couple of obvious answers, which are. No a Slack community or a Facebook group, we’re leaning away from Facebook, but Slack is possible. Definitely what we’ve also seen a couple of other options out there. Circle dot S Oh, tribe dot S O both areas where we can create kind of new social network for us.

I know now Slack or Facebook, but using. Different more community-based software. So I wanted to hear what you think about that. I trust the thoughts of folks listening to this. So if you go right now, twp, mrr.com forward slash survey that’s WP MRR forward slash survey intent. You can literally go there right now.

If you want to, are you on your computer? You can go there. If you don’t respond to them, type it into the mobile browser. Take a quick survey, Allie, put it together. We want to know where to build our community. What you’ll get the most value out of. Cool. Really appreciate that. Today’s episode, we are putting back out there into the world.

This week’s episode, this was a really good one. I always really enjoy chatting with people from HubSpot. It’s crazy. Everybody. I talked to some, there is like a killer marketer surprise, but a Gregory Carolyn’s is definitely no different. We really talked a lot in this episode about his specialty is really in the sales arena, but really this episode books, a lot of them.

Making sales and marketing, more straightforward, more streamlined using WordPress. I think that’ll be helpful for a lot of agencies, freelancers, WordPress professionals out there who want to do a little bit better around sales, one who better at marketing. I’ll tell you that when we. Once we got our like sales and marketing funnels down at WP bus and really started to hit the accelerator, I hired an Alex who’s now our head of growth, man.

He just took it and run with it. And now super predictable customer numbers coming in every month through sales marketing channel. So this is a great episode for people who want to try and push that way as well. All right. That’s all for this little intro for you. Enjoy today’s episode. Yo good people. Welcome back to the UWP MRR WordPress podcast. I’m Joe.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:02:51] And I’m superman.

Joe Howard: [00:02:52] And you’re listening to the WordPress business podcast. We’ve got the one and only Superman, a hundred podcasts this week. What’s gone up, man.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:03:00] All is good. Just taking a quick break from flying around and trying to save some lives, just to talk about WordPress and I grow some businesses now.

Joe Howard: [00:03:09] Maybe those two things are the same thing flying around and saving people by helping them out with WordPress, the superhero of the WordPress, Superman of the WordPress space.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:03:17] Right when we throw our Clark Kent glasses on that’s when we’re sitting by the computer, otherwise we’ve got the cake flying around, trying to to see some new things and save some people.

Joe Howard: [00:03:27] Nice. That’s a good parallel. Actually. I really liked that. All right. Yeah. Superman on the podcast this week also known as Gregory Karelitz. And I’m saying that last name today. Almost.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:03:44] Perfect. It’s perfect.

Joe Howard: [00:03:45] Nailed it. I practice beforehand. People are listening. We practice the last line. I just wanna make sure I got it right. Cool. And you go by is Gregory or Greg?

Gregory Karelitz: [00:03:52] Usually, if people are mad at me, they call me Gregory. But what’s funny is I also have a tough time pronouncing. My own name is Greg. People are like Ray or gray, like no, Greg but so Greg or Gregory, whichever one, Ron today, Joe, it works for me.

Joe Howard: [00:04:06] Cool. I have the same thing. I say, Joe, what people think? I said, Jim, and then, yeah, only usually when my parents get mad at me, it’s like Joseph Hirshhorn Howard, but mostly Joe is a cup of Joe is a little easier. So I think most people go with that, but yeah. Cool, Greg thanks for hopping on the podcast this week. Why don’t you shoot a little intro? Tell people a little bit about what you’re up to in the WordPress space.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:04:26] Sure. I’ve actually been a WordPress fanatic for a little over 10 years now. I remember building my first website in high school and actually starting businesses then in selling some products using WooCommerce way back when but today I work at HubSpot and I’ve been here for a little over six years.

And most recently I joined the HubSpot WordPress team. Leading our global partnership effort. So aligning with plugins themes, hosting companies with the sole mission of trying to help more businesses grow better, especially the ones using WordPress. Clearly since I’m focusing on the WordPress partnership, but to enable them to do more with their websites and their businesses to help more customers and engage with people in  a really streamlined fashion.

Joe Howard: [00:05:10] Nice. Very cool. Cool. So I just did a a presentation at the HubSpot user group in DC, which I didn’t really even know about that you guys have user groups. And then one of my friends invited me to come talk. And I was. Putting up like the hashtags I want people to use before.

And in my presentation I saw grow better as the HubSpot hashtag which I didn’t even know about. But, and I like that you use that just now in your intro shows, you guys are all on the same page. Even a huge team can all be on the same page and know know what you’re going after.

Cool. Okay. Part of global. Partnerships at HubSpot, obviously WP bus, very good friends of a y’all over at HubSpot where not only of the new WordPress plugin, but just the CRM sales CRM, which we use to part of our sales process. All excellent stuff. Cool. Global partnerships. How has that been diving into that?

Gregory Karelitz: [00:05:56] So it’s been great. I’ve been working on it for a few months now. One of my teammates Kim, who I think you might’ve had on the podcast in the past, he is now completely owning our WordPress plugin. We’re revamping it and relaunching it to the world, which we are slowly doing. But we’re going to have some big news coming out later this year.

And on the partnership side, our whole mission is to align with other businesses that sing very similar narratives to us. So ideally we want to help businesses grow better in the way that we do that is by giving businesses more intelligence around their contacts. So knowing what people are doing across their website from page views to.

Last time that they were by to forms that they were filling out and live chats that they’re engaging with all aggregated onto one timeline. So David’s working night and day with the rest of our engineering team to give a big shout out to them on producing a pretty killer plugin. And then our goal with the partnership realm is to align with other businesses that can continue to enhance the contact experience.

So page builders and e-commerce informs tools in calendar tools, all aggregating to basically give businesses more intelligence around what the heck people are doing on their site and give them more opportunities to attract, engage and delight them wherever they may be in their life cycle.

Joe Howard: [00:07:14] Yeah. I liked the idea a lot because I think WordPress, WordPress is an interesting industry to try and do that in because of the open source madness of it. The pros of open source are great. Like you can use this plugin from over here. You can use this theme from over here and throw it all together on a WordPress site.

And the most of the time it magically works. But then how does the data over here talk to that data over there. People who are visiting your website to buy from you. Don’t. Care about the disjointedness of a theme and the plugin. Like they just want that process to work. And as a business owner, you also have this come from this perspective of okay, I’m using like these 10 different tools in my sales process.

How do I get them all to talk to each other, which is probably easier in like a closed system, but in an open source, it makes it a little bit more difficult. So are you guys, is the plan just build integrations with all of these tools so that you can port that data all in HubSpot so that. You can say, okay, you want to look at all of your calendar stuff from this booking plugin, you can just check it out and HubSpot and the same with other tools. Is that kind of the plan? Just kind of integration buildup.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:08:14] Yeah. That’s exactly it. So I think speaking from like a customer perspective, and this is why I’m so passionate about it, having used WordPress for over 10 years.

When I think back to my experiences, either in starting a website or building websites for other businesses that are pretty thriving businesses, the beauty of open source is I can go pick anything I want and put it right into my environment. The challenge with that is, is with every additional plugin or tool that you incorporate into your tool belt.

It doesn’t just add one more level of sophistication. It actually adds, I think, like maybe a factor and factorial level of complications, because now you have one more tool that has to connect with the seven other tools you already have. And so starting a business and starting a website is actually really easy today with easy hosting and themes.

And then you can pick the plugins, but when you start to begin your growth endeavors is where that tech debt, that system begins to really fall apart and break. And that’s what we’re trying to solve here is we’re not necessarily the. Best form tool. We may not be, the best live chat tool, but we’re working hard to try to make our pieces of the puzzle.

Really good, but we’re going out and building world-class integrations with the best in class companies where gravity forms just released about a month ago, their HubSpot ad-on that makes gravity forms and HubSpot works seamlessly together. And now we’re doing that across every other vertical that sings that narrative of contact management businesses can use any tool they want. But HubSpot becomes the centerpiece of all that contact information that allows you as the business owner to just know everything about everybody, but not having to worry about connecting too many dots.

Joe Howard: [00:09:54] Yeah. That’s a cool idea. Even just with that one example, you said the way we use HubSpot and connected to our contact form right now is we just have our contact form, sends an email to this email address.

So that email is hooked into HubSpot. That’s fine, that sends the contact into HubSpot. We can start the sales process there, but it would be nice if we could have different forms that automatically fill into HubSpot so that when they come in, they’re automatically marked as a lead. They’re automatically marked as whatever the HubSpot kind of The areas we have in HubSpot. That would be nice.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:10:24] To that note too, I think like with that challenge, that’s what our plugin solves today is we have this feature that David’s built and the teams built called collected forms. That actually when you install that spot plugin, It adds a script on top of every form that already exists on your website almost as a listener.

So when somebody fills out that form and they fill out at, Joe at WP buffs.com, that information automatically sinks into HubSpot, but no longer do you have to get that email notification and be like, Hey team, can you add this to the CRM? And then lose track of everything? Now cooking also establish on that person, just from the plugin so that now you can see all the pages Joe’s actually already viewed the form that he filled out and then use that intelligently to potentially even serve it up, to do an email marketing campaign, or to have your team reach out to say, Hey, Joe, we actually noticed you looked at our pricing page and our services page, and we’re also looking at other assets, how can we help you? So the whole goal is to give you context. To your contacts to make sure that you can healthily and in a really easy way, build great relationships.

Joe Howard: [00:11:35] Yeah. I feel like the personalization of the, of that contact and that communication is really huge in our sales process. And so the more information we can have about what people are doing across all of across everything we do, whether it’s the website, whether it’s in HubSpot, whether it’s like in the meeting, people booked the more information we can have, the more.

The more informed we can be when we’re going through the sales process, because in our mind, sales is just education. We treated us like we just want to give you we want to show the value of our tool as it is going to be most valuable to you or the value of our services.

What’s most valuable to you. And some people are like, they just looked at the security page, obviously interested in security. So we want to talk more about security when we’re, either on a call with them or anything. Yeah. Yeah. Cool, man, it sounded, it sounds like the plugin is going pretty well.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:12:20] So far, I think there’s 80,000 plus active users. I think there’s a four and a half star rating which we feel good about it. We want to get that higher. But I also think with just our whole mission is we’re going and doing customer research and talking to our partners and our customers and the agencies.

And just saying what is it that you need? And I think a lot of times everything that you mentioned from disconnected tools, it’s not the disconnected tools. That’s the problem. It’s. W why does that matter? It’s then I’m doing my work in MailChimp, and then I have WP forms and then I have my ads tool with HootSweet and then I also have my social media over here. And then you have, you hire a person on your team and it’s all complicated. And they can’t grow. So we’re on that mission to help businesses grow better and figure out a way to do it in a really easy fashion that works nicely with tools that they may already be using today.

Joe Howard: [00:13:10] Yeah, you actually just described exactly what we did and it was like, we’ve got a lot of marketing and stuff to take care of.

That’s all slightly complicated and we always try to make it more automated and make it simpler. But yeah, my solution to that was okay, I’m hiring a marketer. So now Caitlin doesn’t have to, Mark is our head of marketing and she handles all the marketing, but we didn’t really solve that many problems in that higher of making things truly simpler and all.

Core in one place. It’s a continual journey that we’re always trying to do better at, but yeah. I mean I tell people all the time, the way to scale correctly is to figure out the things that you’re doing over and over again, and to automate them and to figure out what those hard pieces are and try and make them a little easier. And if you can do that, like you’ll be in a pretty good place. So that even when you do hire someone, they’re efficient with what they do.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:13:56] A hundred percent and then it’s fun to then it’s fun to, it’s The systems I think is one of the biggest challenges for people today. And I don’t know if that will ever go away. I actually feel like it’s just getting worse and worse with the more tools that get created. But I think in order to do it correctly is you will always have to hire great people, but ideally the systems take care of all the stuff like you mentioned that needs to be automated. And then the people can do their job in a system that works in a way that is repeatable. And that’s what we’re hoping to. To do with you guys as partners and as all these other companies that we’re trying to help with. And it’s a really fun mission to rally around.

Joe Howard: [00:14:35] Yeah, for sure, man. That’s cool. Now are you guys correct me if I’m wrong here, but are you guys now a global sponsor for word camps or maybe just a major sponsor of a lot of word camps?

Gregory Karelitz: [00:14:46] Yeah. So I believe we’re a global sponsor at this point. We’re going to, we were just at WordCamp Europe a few months back, which was super fun. And then we have us coming up and we’re also trying to jump into a few other word camps. I think Dublin being one of them. Nice. And it’s just an awesome way to get connected with folks and get to meet people in person. And I think this is where I get the fan boy is like, Oh my God, I’ve used your tools for and it’s just a, it’s a really cool way to immerse in the community.

Joe Howard: [00:15:12] Yeah. Love meeting people who make, create that amazing plugin. And a lot of times on these big, pretty successful businesses financially. And you’re like, Oh, that person is basically, you go talk to them. It’s Oh, they’re just a person. It’s just a guy who girl who created a plugin. And yeah, there’s just like the rest of us. So I liked that about word camps. It humanizes everybody. Yeah. Have you made it to a few words, camps around?

Gregory Karelitz: [00:15:32] So I had my first one at work camp Europe. Yeah, good start. I’m walking up to the these companies, whether they be plugging in theme or even at the hosting companies. And I was just like, I was actually, I was like, I had a fan boy moment with all of them and I was like, tapping my teammates on the shoulder Oh my God.

Look and tell the mentor, Oh my God, look, it’s her ex. And I like to think of the luckiest person in the world because now I get to go work hand in hand with these businesses to figure out more ways to do it. So word camps, killer. And it’s just cool to get, to meet the people behind the madness.

Joe Howard: [00:16:05] Yeah, I hear you. And now you’re officially like a WordPress nerd. Now that you’ve nerded out over these these companies you’ve worked with over the last little while and you can meet them at word gaps, right? Yeah, man. You also mentioned that you’ve been in WordPress for a long time, so it’s it’s interesting kind of that transition from being in the WordPress space, maybe, selling your own stuff with WooCommerce, all that, and eventually moving into HubSpot and now helping HubSpot to know what it’s like to come into the WordPress community because a lot of.

Businesses have tried and failed to do so because they don’t really get the WordPress space. They treated it as like a pure business opportunity, which it can be it right. There’s a there’s essences of that in everywhere, but the community piece is really important. And so the kind of global sponsorships you’re doing as well as the kind of, having you as part of the team and maybe other people on the team as well, who are like. WordPress people who’ve been around WordPress for a long time and understand the ecosystem. But I love to start with the stuff you did with WordPress before. What kind of stuff were you selling on WooCommerce and how did that go for you?

Gregory Karelitz: [00:17:07] So my first business ever on on WordPress was in high school and after doing woodworking all four years of high school, one of my buddies and I created a handmade wooden pen company. And so we were making like these beautiful exotic woods and turn them like physically on our lave into pens. And we started selling them both in stores and online. And that was like my first dipping of the toe into website building. And we were actually making a good amount of money. It was super cool.

It’s two little inexperienced high school kids figuring out how to sell a product was super cool. And actually my friend that I was doing that with has gone on to build a company called loci, which is a bracelet company that has helped raise. Tens of millions of dollars for different charitable causes.

And you see these bracelets now everywhere. So like that was our first step into WordPress and it’s a website building. Then I did another one in college that was a boat shoe business. And in a matter of months we were doing over, I think it was a few hundred thousand dollars in revenue. Which was pretty cool all through commerce, all for free, adding a few extensions into it. And then from there it was just like helping my friends and a couple other people that wanted business help and building websites. And it was all on WordPress. And now it’s a see like how the ecosystem’s grown is so fun to be on the other side of trying to add value back to the people trying to create.

Businesses and and beautiful website experiences trying to leverage HubSpot. So it’s been like a full circle journey and I get, I love putting myself, I am the customer. I still build on WordPress every single night. I’m like, I’m that geek, but that’s kinda been my journey throughout it all. And I probably dabbled in over a hundred websites and just. Do it for fun to continue to learn. And it actually is like my escape and don’t think about anything. So it’s so fun to be on the other side, getting to try to orchestrate a plugin and a, in a business endeavor to help more people.

Joe Howard: [00:19:07] Cool. I like what you said about that. You’re still a customer. I think that’s just like something I want to pick out for cause that’s, I think that’s so important for everybody to always be doing. You lose touch with the customer. It’s easy to lose touch with customer. It’s easy. It’s really easy to go and build a tool. Do you want to, all of these cool features, we have to have these five features.

Of course you have to have them. They’re awesome. But if you don’t talk to users, you don’t, and especially if you’re not a user, then it’s hard. It becomes harder to really build what people are going to want. What’s going to add value to people. So I liked that. When you were building these WooCommerce sites, you are selling, hundreds of thousands worth of like boat shoes and all sorts of stuff.

Maybe this was even if this was from high school on this may have been even like pre HubSpot pre SEO was around, but inbound marketing hadn’t made me not have been like named by HubSpot. So did you have a strategy behind like growing these small sites into making pretty significant revenue? Like what was your marketing strategy back then?

Gregory Karelitz: [00:20:01] Oh, man, I wish I had a strategy that was cool with the boat shoe endeavor is we had built a cool product. And then from there we put together a pretty good looking website. That just looked really nice where we had super high quality photos and not a ton of text and big images that, I think were enticing.

But the channel that we had tapped into then was college fraternity and sororities. And so I thought what was really cool was and I wish I had a contact management tool then was, we were just using spreadsheets. And literally going down the line and connecting with different fraternity and sorority and schools.

Cause we could do custom and Bostons on these shoes of any different logo. And basically say Hey we turned them all into ambassadors. Where if they sold a pair of shoes, we could give them a kickback of five to $10. And what was really cool is we then had an an army of these ambassadors that were looking to make money, spread a cool product and be more aligned with their own communities and have a unique product to bring to it.

And it worked really well. So that was like our initial go to market there. Had I done it all over again? I probably would have gone a lot heavier into search. I had no idea what I was doing back then. I still don’t know that much, but I’m now inside the walls of HubSpot I, in order to get to see really the machine behind the why, the how and the, what. Which is also what we’re trying to teach the world today, too.

Joe Howard: [00:21:26] Yeah, for sure. I love hearing about, marketing strategies. People tried 10, 15 years ago. It’s always, looking back, we’ll probably say the same thing in 15 years today. We’ll be like, Oh, are we doing back then? And that was crazy. We were just focusing on content marketing. There’s so much more now, but Yeah. It’s, when I started WP buffs, like before we were focused on any content marketing of any sort, I was like posting on Quora, like answering questions, like driving almost no traffic, like spending like hours answering questions and seeing like no traffic come up.

So we’ve all definitely had our like marketing. I dunno what I’m doing. That’s at times they’re not in a lot of marketing Oh. Classes for digital marketing at like universities. Like a lot of us are self-taught and a lot of the self-taught this is Figuring it out and try and stuff and seeing what works.

So yeah. Cool. Okay. So you had those sites, let’s talk about the transition to HubSpot. Did you have some other stuff in between, and then were you doing some marketing stuff and you were like maybe I should just go to the gold standard of marketing people and go work at HubSpot. Like how did that, how did you find your position there originally?

Gregory Karelitz: [00:22:27] Yeah. So while I was in school, I was doing the boat shoe business and then ended up deciding I need to learn a lot more before continuing down this path because we had. Probably a thousand different skews, our business model wasn’t super tight.

And I was like, you know what? Instead of grinding out on something that I’m not like I wasn’t ever super passionate about boat shoes. But I loved building websites and I loved doing marketing and I loved trying to figure out and talk to people to help them with their own stuff. I actually was going to go one of two paths after school, either be a teacher.

Or go work at HubSpot and I was super lucky to get an entry-level sales job at HubSpot, and I did that for about 18 months and then was a sales rep for another 18 months and then had an awesome experience getting to help. Start and build what’s now called HubSpot for startups after that Kim, who was the global head of it all, I came in to help her build the programming behind it and the partnerships.

And I did that for about three years and now And the last few months got to join the WordPress efforts to really meet my passion of WordPress and websites with HubSpot and try to help align partnerships and work alongside product and alongside content to try to build something really special in a new category inside of WordPress. So that’s been my journey and I just feel lucky to be able to learn at every single step. And this one feels the exact same way.

Joe Howard: [00:23:53] Yeah. Got you, man. Yeah. Six years is a long time at one company. From my perspective, I think WP boss is like the first thing I’ve spent. We just celebrated our four year anniversary. But the first year was thanks, man. Thank you. The first year was definitely like doing stuff on the side. Like I had a nine to five and I was doing five to nine. So like full-time I really been only been doing this for three years or so, but before that. I worked a few jobs for a year, maybe two years, max one was a high school math teacher. I was a high school math teacher for a couple of years. So it was your other route. Yeah. But yeah, it seems like your HubSpot is a kind of place that you started and stuck there. To me that says a lot about the company.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:24:34] Yeah. I, so when I started, I think it was around 500 employees now. I think there’s 3,500 employees. Yeah. It’s grown a lot since 500. That’s crazy. Oh my goodness. I just feel like everyday I get to be a student of the business. And I think what’s also really cool. And to this point that we’re also trying to bring into WordPress is like the culture of our business is.

Try as hard as you can. And if you fail, learn from it and then try something slightly different to see if you can continue to make it work. And so like the executive team and the leadership team and everybody supporting that there’s no wrong answer. There’s certainly a better answer. And it’s and we know that there’s a path to getting that better answer.

Which is why we go and do a ton of research and speak with partners and customers and say what is it you want? And then we come back and try to figure out the best ways to build it. And then how do we distribute it? And so all along the way everything that’s happened inside of HubSpot in some way, shape or form feels like it started as a little experiment.

And our plugin was actually an experiment started. Probably five years ago by these two guys, Andy and Nelson, and it’s just had its many iterations and it feels like now we’ve figured out what it is we want to do. And now we have the energy behind it to try to make it something special and make a difference in the WordPress space. That the journey is evolving and who knows what another year look like of it, but we’re keeping our eyes open and our ears open to make sure we’re listening to what people are saying and try to take that, to see what we can do to build.

Joe Howard: [00:26:07] Yeah. Yeah. What do you think at the same time, 2020 looks like from your experience so far doing a WordPress HubSpot stuff?

Gregory Karelitz: [00:26:15] My honest opinion.

Joe Howard: [00:26:16] Yeah.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:26:17] Let me, I’ll try to break it down for you. And this was just solely from a customer’s perspective. I think like our strategy is trying to play from that, but I’m going to put my shoes in the, myself, in the shoes of the listeners and the better the customers. And perhaps even the agencies out there building on WordPress is hard.

It’s gotten easier. If you are brand new to the ecosystem or have been done doing it before you sign up for a host, you probably have your domain and live somewhere else. You connect the two together. You end up WordPress inside that host you install a theme and a few plugins, and then you make your site look awesome.

And then what today we are. So people say I’m looking to redesign my website. I’m looking to redesign my website and we go and look at it and it’s not bad. So what’s the problem, right? I think the nature of WordPress and all these a hundred million plus websites in it, people care more about the look of their website than the way it actually helps perform their business.

I think that’s about to fundamentally change that’s our guests what’s happening now is if you look at the world’s best, plug-ins, there’s a select few that are monsters in the space. And everybody’s using them, which is awesome. It’s the way it should be. I think what happens in the long tail is it’s very hard to be a new business in the plugin space today and actually do great.

The service providers out there. Like you guys are adding a ton of value by connecting the dots between these super premium plugins, but how are you growing your business? It still comes down to my site. Looks good and has good features. That’s not enough today. The next phase of what I believe will happen inside of WordPress is this business growth phase.

Meaning how do we take our beautiful website and how do we attract the right people, engage with them the way that they want to be engaged and then delight them throughout the process that’s business model. That’s also operations and systems. And I think what we’re starting to see, and I’ll give an example of it.

Is you have to now tailor everything you do, not to your desire, but to the desire of the customer. The example I’ll use is I have a, I have friends that own and operate a big function hall just South of Boston. They are like, if not the best, one of the best in Boston for weddings, corporate events, social events, you name it.

Their website, they just went through a redesign that cost them a good amount of Chuck, a good amount of chunk of change. And the company that they used actually killed a bunch of pages that were ranking really? Oh man. Researching and Googling Boston Indian weddings. They used to rank number one and that page, because it didn’t fit the mold of the look and feel was killed.

So we had to then go back and say, what the heck do we want to do right now? You look better, but you don’t function better. And that traffic that you were once getting isn’t coming anymore, and this is happening, I’m going to put a guesstimate to it. Probably 30% of the time when I hear people do redesigns, we’re going to, we’re going to slim down our site.

We’re going to make it look better. But yes, that can be great for usability, but it can also absolutely kill everything that you’ve worked hard to gain. So we looked at it and we said, okay, what are your top performing pages? They have a weddings page. They have a homepage, they have a corporate events page.

They have a couple of other ones, but these were the ones from Google analytics with the WPM U dev plugin. We said, these are the top pages that people are coming on today. Great. Let’s start there. We put HubSpot live chat on their site, all through the plugin. And within a two month period, they generated 100 leads.

And the experience that was going through on that live chat is people don’t want to fill out long registration forms or say I’m having an a 150 person wedding on this date with this amount of it’s too much information. Stop it. Let’s now make it feel like texting. Let’s make it feel like customers can come to you and ask the questions without being scared to fill out a long form without giving too much information.

And so this live chat and the bot that you can turn on for free using HubSpot. The first thing that would prompt to do is say, Hey, where are your Lombardo’s concierge service bot, please chat with us and let us know where you’re looking for help with. And the first prompt is what are you looking for?

Wedding corporate event, menus, catering, whatever, when they click wedding, it says, Oh, great, congrats. When are you looking to have your wedding? They then ask a date. All of this feels human to human, but really there’s a bot behind the scene. They were generated a hundred leads in two months. So feature functionality and user experience.

That user experience is the last bullet that I think is going to start coming into WordPress. And it’s going to come in a big way. You now have to deliver great experiences wherever people are and do it in a way that’s unified to their interests. That also helps you engage with them where you said it best you have a sales team, but you just like to think of them as helping and supporting. That’s all you can do today. You just have to make sure that you’re converting people and talking to people in the right way. And then now they know everything about them and can tailor the right audience or the right information to the right audience.

Joe Howard: [00:31:30] Yeah, for sure, man, we used the live chat on our website, generates a ton of leads for us.

We’ve experimented with a bot as well. And it’s all pretty interesting to see how people are interacting with kind of such a, whether it’s a bot or truly chatting with us, it’s a much easier experience. It’s more like one-on-one experience in filling out a form or something. And a lot of people. Dig it and a lot of people.

Yeah, definitely generates a lot of leads for us. Yeah. I’d love to hear a little bit also about the. Like the direction we’re going in terms of mobile versus desktop. You’re talking a lot about like giving people great experiences. How are you guys and how is HubSpot helping people to do this?

Maybe not even just in the WordPress space, but in the WordPress space too, but with the move to mobile, everyone’s using their mobile phones. You mentioned like texting and such or Interacting with people like it’s texting, but yeah. What’s HubSpot about doing in terms of pushing, helping marketers to push into the mobile space.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:32:27] Yeah. Yeah. So when it comes to website development on specifically on WordPress, we’re partnering with the leaders in page building and we have our own CMS as well. That’s fully mobile responsive. That is pretty killer and is more tailored towards a. For businesses really trying to grow and not having to have the headache of infrastruct.

Sure. But if people are on WordPress, we’re partnering with if the world’s leaders in page building space. So that people can build beautiful mobile, responsive websites, and then have that live chat or engagement points or responsive email, all powered through the mobile. So if you were to actually even go, if you were to install HubSpot plugin and turn, live chat on your website somebody could live chat you and you could be using your Android or iPhone.

And even when you’re on the, go at dinner with your spouse or friends and you get a live chat on your site, you can respond to them from your mobile device now through the app. So it’s like your business doesn’t ever sleep, and you have to make sure that you can tailor your content and your follow-up and the responses that will suit.

The customer and like for Lombardo’s when people are doing wedding research, they’re not working during the day, they’re doing it at nine o’clock at night. So the bot responding to them to tee up the right information was all that was missing in their ingredient. So it’s just helping the people where they are when they are with the right sort of information that only you as the business owner can really figure out by going to survey your customers.

Joe Howard: [00:34:01] Yeah. It’s so funny how I have this Picture of my head of two guys digging holes in the door. And one guy’s turning around cause he’s tired and he’s ah, this is worthless. And he, there’s a big chunk of gold. And he was just about to hit the gold, but he just turned around because he was tired or the other guy is still going and he’s going to, he’s going to be the one to get that gold.

But anyway, that is just a parallel for, there’s usually not, I’m sure that there are a hundred things. A lot of business owners are doing wrong, but in terms of the high impact stuff, there’s probably not a hundred high-impact things are probably like two or three small changes you can make to the business that will have 80% of the impact you’re looking to have.

I’m a big like Pareto principle guys. So I’m always thinking what’s the minimum I could put in to have the most impact, not just because I’m lazy, but that’s how you should think, like you should think about how can I have that biggest impact in terms of my efficiency. I think HubSpot has has.

Has been one of those small changes that we’ve made to like have a big impact on the business? We were doing like all of our sales, like in our help desk software before. And it was like, Shitty, like not the way you should do things, especially when you have a small sales team. And it was always switching to HubSpot was like, Oh this is how professionals do sales. And now we’re getting into the marketing side of things too. Yeah. Cool man. And it sounds like for pushing the mobile and helping people, just the marketing in general. So I’ll go on as well.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:35:17] And I think Th the thought that I have, and I think this is what our executive team and a lot of us think about it keeps us up at night inside of HubSpot too, is today.

I think the functionality and division between sales, marketing, and services business is very fragmented. But what we’ve learned is that marketing can actually be your best sales. And sales can be your best marketing and customer service. Now, if you make customers happy and satisfied, it’s your best marketing and your best sales.

So I think we’re pushing businesses to try to do is become a little bit more modern and customer centric. And what that means is when you put them at the center of everything you’re doing, it gives marketing sales and services or a hybrid of all the above a unified mission. And like our services team is absolutely stellar and their goal is to make customers happy.

And guess what? When they’re happy, they’re the ones who, or the loudest microphone turning around to social media, turning around to the real engines, turning around and being the first ones to say it, Oh, we love HubSpot. We love this. We love that. Which just leads to more people finding that delight and like it, it’s not rocket science.

Every business can go out there and do it today, just know which are your best customers and which customers need your help. And we believe that a contact management tool is the right way to do that and just make sure you’re helpful. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I think that’s a great place to wrap up, but before we like officially wrap up, let’s do a little wind down.

Where can people find you online? Are you on social? Where can people like cook into the HubSpot? Whether it’s like the new plugin or just if they’re interested in like checking out, oh, the shit HubSpot, but we only talked about a fraction of the stuff HubSpot does, but yeah, if you want to check all that out, where’s all that at.

So if you’re looking for more information on like HubSpot’s WordPress plugin, just search HubSpot in the WordPress repository and it’ll be the first thing that comes up. If I can try to engage with anybody, I don’t know if anybody even would care to engage with me, but on, on Twitter G Corel it’s.

I happy to engage with people there or chat with them or LinkedIn, whatever, maybe. And then I think like the best learning opportunity is probably not anywhere other than going to talk to your customers. So that if I have one unsolicited piece of advice to the listening crew here is stop what you’re doing, or tonight, take a pen and paper and go through your process as a customer.

Do an incognito window start Googling things that would lead you to your business or to your industry, hit your website and say, okay, what next? Okay. So I click that then what then? Okay. Then I click that then what, and you will find so many damn doors that are closed, and if you can start opening up a door with a live chat, with a form, with a good piece of content. You are going to incrementally change your business and that’s how businesses actually achieve growth. It’s not a silver bullet.

Joe Howard: [00:38:21] Yeah, not a silver bullet is great advice. Everyone’s always what’s the one thing I can do to Scott. It’s not, it doesn’t always work that way. In fact, most time. It usually doesn’t. Yeah. HubSpot’s also on our recommended tools, WordPress tools page at WP buffs. You can just scroll to the footer. It’s just recommended tools. HubSpot’s one of our recommended ones there not only because we love the plugin, but we’re. Power users. So yeah, you can find a link there as well. Makes you follow Gregory on Twitter. What’s that handle again?

Gregory Karelitz: [00:38:51] Gregory gee corral. It’s not anything exciting there. 

Joe Howard: [00:38:57] Yeah, we’ll see if people can spell it. We’ll have we’ll link out to that in the show notes and stuff. So people are listening. Just check out the podcast episode there. And you can find it. Last thing I always ask. Guests to do on the podcast. Greg is just to ask our audience for a little five star iTunes review for the podcast. If you wouldn’t mind giving them a little ask.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:39:17] Why would they not give you a five star?

Joe Howard: [00:39:19] Yeah, exactly.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:39:20] I think won’t be end of the day. Like Joe, you’re doing super cool things. I think if it takes 30 seconds tops for somebody to go click on iTunes or click on anything to give you a review. If they’re listening to this show, they better do it. And then. Hit us up on Twitter to say you gave the five star review so we can give you some love back and in that way make the community keep going round and round. So go give your five star review. Go hit up, Joe on Twitter, hit me up on Twitter. We’re going to retweet that out and give you guys some love right back and try to publicize your own businesses through our channels too. I can’t guarantee that for Joe, but I’m gonna, I’m gonna hold.

Joe Howard: [00:39:54] Ah, yeah, I won’t do that. I hate everybody now. Okay. Yeah. Thanks man. Appreciate that. Yeah. Yeah. And if you’re leaving an iTunes review, make sure you mentioned Greg in the comments. Hey, something you learned about the episode and we’ll shoot that to Greg so he can say, Oh, I’m glad someone got something solid out of the episode. You can go to WP mrr.com/itunes. We direct you right to the iTunes page. Pretty easy to leave a review. There, if you wouldn’t like a new listeners, if you are, this is your first time listening or one of your first few episodes, we’ve got a ton of content. We’ve got dozens of episodes, Greg. I think you’re going to be episode 60.

So we’ve got a ton of content in the backlog. Yeah, if you are having certain challenges with WordPress, we’ve probably talked about it. Want to grow and scale your business. Go check out some old content and go listen to what is going to help you today. If you’re a new listener or an oldest, and then you have questions for us for one of do smart Q and a episode.

So shoot any questions you have to yo@wpmrr.com I man that. Inbox personally. So I will get back to you and we’ll answer some questions live here on the podcast. Christina wpmrr.com. If you are an agency or freelancer or WordPress professional, and you want to focus more on monthly recurring revenue, check out the video.

Of course we have open sources, everything we do at WP Buffs, so that you can sell care plans, ongoing support, do 24 seven stuff and make your clients. Delighted like Greg and I were talking about today. One delight to your clients. You can do that at 75% off the care plan, core video course. Grab it while it’s there. I don’t know what that expression. I don’t know why he’s Xpression but it’s there. Cool. That is it for this week. We’ll catch you all again next week, Greg. Thanks again for hopping on. It’s been real.

Gregory Karelitz: [00:41:35] Thank you guys.


E129 – Obi-Wan on crossing 300,000 active installs within 1.5 years (Bhanu Ahluwalia, Rank Math)

In today’s episode, we look back to a previous episode with Bhanu Ahluwalia of Rank Math – a Search Engine Optimization plugin for WordPress that makes it easy for anyone to optimize their content with built-in suggestions based on widely-accepted best practices.

Joe and Bhanu talk about Rank Math as a plugin, the company’s growth over the years and the team’s future plans, the launch in Product Hunt, and how to optimize your mailing list.

Listen in to learn more about WordPress plugins!

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:11 Welcome to the pod, Bhanu Ahluwalia!
  • 04:45 How Rank Math started
  • 07:21 What it felt to reach out to Yoast
  • 08:42 What’s growth like for Rank Math?
  • 12:49 How long did it take to build?
  • 16:22 What people can expect from Rank Math
  • 22:20 What to focus on to grow
  • 25:13 Future plans for Rank Math
  • 28:17 The Product Hunt launch
  • 31:52 Optimizing your mailing list

Episode Resources

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: [00:00:00] Hey folks, Joe Howard here. Hope you liked last week’s episode of the podcast. We tried something a little new. We have our Newman’s on our team who does a WP AMA series on YouTube. And so we thought we’d do a little kind of cross promotion. Uh, see if some of the podcasts listeners maybe didn’t know about the WP AMA show.

So we, uh, release the audio here on the podcast last week. She did a great episode with Tracy Lavesque from yak, starting, starting an adverse agency. Really cool. Listen, I love tuning into alleys, WPA AMA series. So feel free to check those out in the future. This week? Well, we’ve got kind of a repeat episode this week, a happy 20, 21 to everybody out there.

I am now in Mexico, my wife and a little son, we all moved down here for the winter. So we’re kinda hanging in our place and joined the warm weather. And yeah, I haven’t had as much time to record as many episodes as I’d like to. So unfortunately, no new episode this week, but I’m going to, re-release one of the most popular episodes we’ve ever had on the podcast.

This episode is about a WordPress plugin that hit 300,000 active installs. Actually, I’ll try to make sure I’m correct there in about a year and a half. Uh, this is Banu Ali, Malia. All while. Yes. Or Bhanu if I’m butchering your last name. Uh, but Bonnie will runs rank meth, relaunched WP bus.com about eight months ago now.

Uh, and we actually switched from, uh, using our old SEO plugin to using rank math. And it’s been really fantastic change for us. So we’re ranking as users here at WP bus we’ve purchasers of the pro plugin that they’ve recently released and yeah, it’s been. Pretty cool to see the growth of a bond news plugin and his team’s plugin over the years. So enjoy the listen and we’ll be in the podcast players again next Tuesday. All right. Enjoy it. Yo, good word, press people. Welcome back to the WP MRR WordPress podcast. I’m Joe.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:02:22] Hey, I’m obiwan.

Joe Howard: [00:02:23] And you’re listening to the WordPress business podcast. We’ve got  on the pod this week. Any background behind why you chose obiwan big star Wars fan.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:02:34] I just finished training  to become an SU Jedi.

Joe Howard: [00:02:39] Nice. We one’s always an excellent character selection. So we’ve got  on the pod with this week also known as Bhanu Ahluwalia yeah.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:02:49] Or that’s perfect. Yes, that’s  yeah.

Joe Howard: [00:02:52] The H in there threw me for a second, but uh, welcome to the podcast. This is actually kind of a long time coming. I remember that we met at PressNomics this year. Right? You were there and we chatted there for a few minute.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:03:04] Yeah. Thank you for having me. Yes, we did chat at personal mix and. We were in contact with each other, I guess since August, 2019.

Joe Howard: [00:03:14] Yeah. And it’s been a little while and we’ve been kind of going back and forth, like trying to get you on the podcast and timing, just like hasn’t worked out. And then I went on parental leave for three months and I came back and the, one of the, actually I’m not even joking about this.

One of the first things I did when I came back was like, I got to get Bhanu on the podcast because we went through this whole thing and it’s just like, we got to get them on. This is crazy. So I’m glad you were finally able to make it and actually very good timing for you to be on the podcast, which we’ll talk more about in this episode, but tell folks a little bit more about, you know, what you do in the WordPress space.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:03:44] Okay. So I have a couple of companies, one of them is called My Theme Shop and the other one. Which is, uh, gaining quite attraction lately is called Rank Math SEO. So Rank Math is an SEO plugin for WordPress and within a span of like 1.5 years, we have gained over 300,000 active installations and over 1000 positive reviews on wordpress.org.

Joe Howard: [00:04:06] Yeah. Whoa. Okay. This is really fun for me when I learn new things on the podcast too. I didn’t know that you were also behind my theme shop cause I know My Theme Shop and so I didn’t know. Okay. Do My Theme Shop and you do Rank Math. So you’ve got like kind of a two-edged sword there. It’s cool.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:04:19] I personally prefer to keep myself like an underdog. I do not prefer going public way too many times. That is like me, but the Rank Math required me to be a public face. So that’s why people have now started relating me with Rank Math. Yeah. Well.

Joe Howard: [00:04:36] I definitely did after we met in, uh, at PressNomics, I kind of knew you as the guy behind, uh, rank math. And I remember like six months ago I had heard of Rank Math, but it maybe it was still kind of gaining a little traction, you know? And then I went on parental leave and I come back and I’m like, Whoa, like every, everyone seems to be talking about rank math. Tell me a little bit about kind of the background too. Even wanting to get started with a plugin that helps folks with SEO on their site when there’s obviously most people in the WordPress space know about Yoast. SEO is like one of the major plugins. What caused you to say, like, I know there’s this big player out there in that, but like, I think I can compete. Like how did that whole thanks dart.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:05:14] Yeah, it feels like back in 2015. We also run several niche websites because a background of ours, the founders is like we have been, and we still are kind of professional bloggers. And we hold premium medicines publish account. So oftentimes we ran into issues with the SEO plugins that we had to install tens of different SEO plugins, because as he was evolving via too much, and we realized that all the other rescue plugs in this space, they were kind of restraining us and they had their own vision.

So we developed something for ourselves. Internally. And we used that plugin for almost 3.5 years, and then we realized that, okay, we have built something good and it is performing really well for us. Let’s try and put it out. And when we released the plugin for everyone, we were surprised because we were not expecting to be very honest, to be competing against everyone.

But yes, it comes naturally. So I initially emailed, used. And I respect him for that, that I emailed him. And I mentioned this to him that I know that we are entering into, uh, your area of expertise. And we do not want to do any sort of bad molting about you. And we haven’t done that. And we would never do that because we still respect how used to have, has taken before process you, because that was, I remember my first SEO plugin. And we use that ourselves and we relied on that very much and then we lost it and then people kind of liked it because for the simplicity and the kind of tasks, which it does, and it reflects, uh, with the numbers which we have right now that people were in actual need of an SEO plugin.

Joe Howard: [00:06:52] Yeah, it’s so cool. I’m also not surprised that building the plugin was kind of, it came from your own needs and some of your clients need some of the folks you worked with, you built this thing that just pushed, uh, you know, it did everything you needed it to do. And then you said, well, maybe other people could use this too.

I know you hear a lot of starter stories that are like, I was scratching my own itch and then it turned out other people needed there. Itches scratched too. Um, so we released it out. I did not know that about you reaching out to Yoast as well, just as kind of like, Hey, virtual handshake or press space is pretty big. We can all be friends without necessarily like always competing against each other. Was that like nervous? Were you nervous at all reaching out? Like, did you, what kind of response did you expect? Was it like a little nerve wracking for you? And w yeah. Tell me a little more about that. So that’s interesting.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:07:40] I was kind of nervous. And I remember the email that I remember the title or something like longtime fan, but first time mailing you. So it was like that. And I was like, I’m an OC, okay. This is an, I would love to have your feedback, but I can understand he must be busy with something. So I did not get a chance to reply back, but yeah, I wasn’t as scared. And to be very honest, I never, in my wildest dreams thought that we would be getting compared with fuse to be very honest.

Joe Howard: [00:08:07] Yeah, I get that the WordPress kind of care plan and support and maintenance spaces is kind of similar. And there’s like, I’m pretty friendly with most of the other like owners and people who do the stuff we do. And like, we all understand WordPress is thirty-five percent of the web. Like we don’t have to be competing over each other to like, be like, we can all be successful and that’s fine, but there’s always a little bit of like, it’s almost like a friendly competition between everybody and like, That’s good.

Like that kind of sharpens everybody’s sword and everybody gets better, but yeah, launched. And like you threw some numbers out there which were a lot there it’s pretty high for a somewhat new, I wouldn’t guess I would call it a new plugin now, but I mean, 300,000 active downloads within a year and a half. And like a thousand reviews. That’s pretty solid. What was there, um, when that number was growing, has it been like linear growth and just kind of like regular growth month over month or has it started to like accelerate and become exponential as time goes on?

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:09:01] It turned out to be a snowball effect. When I met you in person comics, we were sitting at somewhere around 60,000. If I, if I can recall that for a while. And then like in just few months span, we shot 200 K 200 K and then 300 K. And it has been exploding ever since. So it’s like a snowball effect. It started really slow and we were happy about it that okay. People are efficient in that. And all of a sudden I’m in, it started growing too big for us. And we are happy about it.

Joe Howard: [00:09:29] Totally. So that’s a good problem to have it. It is a problem to have, you want to keep up and keep moving on things and sometimes fast moving can be tough, but it’s a better problem than probably moving too slowly. What do you think was the big draw ever behind a lot of those downloads rank math is a free plugin.

I know that Yoast has a good number of users as well. I mean, it’s one of the most popular plugins in the WordPress repository and they have a free version. I think most people probably use a free version of , but what do you think. Caused like driving of those new users. Um, besides just it being a free plugin.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:10:02] One of the key reasons I see there are like two perspectives, which I always recommend is like an Apple product until it’s like a Mac book until someone does not use it. They do not realize what they have been missing in their life. And if someone is not able to relate to that. So we are those people who do not want to install tens of different.

Plug-ins just to get over with the on-page SEO stuff of WordPress and want to handle everything via one plugin, which is something and the very basic problem due to which we developed TrackMan. So that is something people are able to relate. And for the growth we have seen that people love us. So tremendously that.

They keep on doing the word of mouth marketing for us. We do not mean to be very honest. We have not run single paid advertising. We haven’t paid anyone just to publish about ourselves, or we haven’t run any paid ads. Yet people are doing mouth marketing for us and they always email us back. Hey, look, I promoted you here. I promoted you there just because I like you and your plugin and things. And we really appreciate that and we feel really grateful about it.

Joe Howard: [00:11:10] Yeah. I totally get that one area and full transparency. So, you know, folks listening know that we just launched a new website for WP buffs and we SEO. Ah, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. We’ve worked really hard on it. SEO is a big part of what we do. A lot of our. Most of our website, visitors, our leads, our new customers a lot come via referral and via kind of the WordPress community in space talking about us, but a lot come through organic search. And so when launching a new site, we had a lot of considerations to make for like how, you know, what improvements we want to make, how are we going to manage that whole move and maintain everything?

And we used Yoast on the old site. And when we migrated to the new site, we did everything and moved everything to the new site. We switched over to rank math. So you’re actually doing a podcast with a rank math user right now. And, uh, the one thing that drew me to rank math that I was actually like super, super impressed was. The, the amount of features in this free plugin, like I was kind of blown away. Were these things that you kind of knew you wanted to build all at the beginning? Or did they come from like people asking you for certain things and then you were like, Oh, let’s just build it.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:12:23] No, uh, first of all, thank you for, I mean, migrating to rank math, I’m really happy to hear that all these features we launched the plugin with all these features, nothing has been, I mean, like. Edit to the plugins, since we launched apart from a couple of Gutenberg blocks. So all these things actually did things which we needed for our projects. That’s why they were all integrated into this plugin.

Joe Howard: [00:12:45] That’s pretty amazing because I’m looking down this list and like, I keep scrolling on the list and I’m like, it’s got to end soon. Like I’m still scrolling. How am I still scrolling? How am I still scrolling? And then there’s a ton of stuff in this plugin. How, how long was it? How long were you building it for yourself and your clients before you released it to the world? It must’ve been the least like a couple of years or something.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:13:04] 3.5 years.

Joe Howard: [00:13:05] 3.5 years, man. So you’ve been working on it for a long time for clients, and then it had time to kind of get everything in it. It needed. The one thing I thought was one of the best parts about the plugin is the schema support, rich snippet stuff, because Google is moving in this way, in this direction of.

Like you need to not just be ranking, number one for your keyword, you need to be manipulating. I shouldn’t say manipulating that’s sounds like it has a negative connotation. You need to be making sure that your, when you show up in search results, that your listing is formatted, how you want to. So maybe you want to have some like frequently asked questions as part of your thing.

Maybe if you’re like a recipe blog or something, you have a picture of your recipe that shows up schema. Markup is part of doing a lot of that. And your schema. Feature is just like click a button. And the schema is activated, which is like, totally, like, I remember used to having to like ask one of my developers to put some code into the website to like, make sure the schema Mark was right, but now it’s just like, boom it’s on. So that was that’s pretty dope.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:14:07] Yeah. Yeah. As he goes through trying to make a CEO easy because it is difficult. We understand there being developers and being in so long. We know that things change very swiftly and it become really overwhelming to do all the tasks. So we try and automate as much as we can, but at the same point of time, we ensure that we are not automating the tasks, which we should not be so that it might hurt the website and barely, yeah.

Joe Howard: [00:14:31] Yeah, for sure. I’m on the website now. And. Cool look, insight looks really good. And aside from just all those features that are pretty awesome. I mean, it has a pretty easy to follow setup wizard, and also kind of like a Yoast to rank math, like migration tool. Is that something you thought of pretty early on to make sure that you made it pretty easy for people to like make that transition because that’s kind of a scary thing to do. Yeah, because

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:14:58] I mean, we ourselves, uh, moved from rank ma from yours to rachmat when we initially built. And this plugin. So it was a need at that time. So we ensured that we were doing the one-to-one migration, even for the pro version. So even if someone has like use premium on their website, we import all the data and ensure that everything is folded over to rank math correctly. And we offer the important for other plugins as well for all the top SEO plugins.

Joe Howard: [00:15:25] That’s pretty cool. I remember I didn’t do the migration myself. Like Nick who’s, our COO handles handle all that. And he handled the migration from Yoast to rank math. And I didn’t do any of it myself, but I do remember Nick coming to me because I told him like, okay, we’re going to have to like migrate the blog over to the new site.

We gotta migrate the, you know, all the. Yost information over ranked mass since we’re moving over. And I remember him just coming to me the next day, being like, well, that was easy. I just did it. And it worked. And like, you know, sometimes with that kinda stuff, you have to try two or three times, but I think we tried once and it just worked.

So that’s cool. One thing I wanted to touch on pretty specifically was, and before I say this, you’ve been super respectful about. Talking about Yoast this whole time, you know, great plugin, great company. You know, a lot of people have a lot of respect for them, which they should. It’s a great company. This is not at all meant to be a dig or anything like that.

But if I’ve heard a common complaint about the Yoast plugin among people in the WordPress community, it’s that the plugin is a little bit heavy. It’s not quite. It doesn’t quite have the effect on speed of a website and performance that some people might want on the homepage of your site. It says code optimized for speed. I’d love to hear a little bit more about kind of how you built it with speed in mind and what those who have really, really high performance expectations can expect when using something like rank math.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:16:41] Yeah. So the thing was, and it was kind of a benefit and an edge for us that we had a base, which we were able to compare. So we were like, Okay, this is how all these other duplicates perform. So we have to build something which is faster than these plugins. So we started digging into the code and to be very honest, I’m not a developer, but I trust my developers with my life. They were like, okay, what is it that you require? I was like, all these functions should work, but at the same point of time, this should not be slowing down the backend of the website because that is something really irks me ever, Y levels within using the other SEO plugin.

So I don’t want that to happen with rank manager. Because I remember myself that I used to, I still have like the Curry monitor installed on the live websites where we use it and every now and then I log into the website and check, Oh, okay. If care is optimized or not, if not, I get back to the developers and ask them.

So that was the reason that we built for the performance and that reflects directly in the plugin because every time when someone comes over to us, Appreciating the plugin. They do mentioned that the kind of use CPU usage is very low when using rachmat compared to other SEO plugins. And yeah, because that was a problem for assessment.

Joe Howard: [00:17:58] Yeah. I remember when I was checking out plugin, deciding if I wanted to use it. I remember seeing like some performance comparisons looking at rank math and being like, wow, like, you know, 8.5 megabytes. And it’s just like, it’s a, it’s a compact and well-made plugin. It seemed. And so I was like more focused on performance and I think this was going to be pretty good for us.

I had a question about like, how. Your like funding, the running of rank math because it’s 300,000 installs. I mean, it’s a lot of support, a lot of probably development behind the scenes, a lot of supporting of customers, but it’s all free at least for right now. And we’ll talk a little bit about, you know, the pro version that will be coming out soon here in a second, but like financially, because I know you run my theme shop, are you kind of using my theme shop to like fund some of the. Progress of rank math.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:18:47] Yeah. That’s how it works because I’m in rank is like a rank math and my team shopper. They do companies which are known in the WordPress fair. We have other companies as well, so we have good amount of capital with us. So this is getting, we have all this bootstrap. All of our businesses.

We do not believe in funding because that, that is kind of restricting. And that does not let you fly as you want to does not let you make the changes and let you move with the pace with which you want. So we have the funding from other businesses, which is getting into it and right now, and to be very honest, We have always tried to keep our team as slim as possible.

We do not tend to hire 10 of 10 different people to doing a task, which we know a couple of people can handle effectively. We always tend to. Hire people and, uh, so that they can work with us for, for a longer period of time. I remember that there are a few people in our team who joined back in 2012 and are still with us and they, the lovers, like it is actually their company. So this is how we are getting funded. And we have a team of 22 professionals working together and we are a hundred percent remote team, right. From the very beginning.

Joe Howard: [00:20:01] Yeah. Cool. I love hearing more on that side of things too. You kind of sound like you’re at a similar place as WP boss. I think we’re like around 20 as well, fully remote. And just your mentality on, on, you know, this is not your company is whatever the founder or CEO, this is everyone’s company. And everybody’s kind of has a, you know, a part ownership in that, you know, everybody has responsibility and accountability over everything you do. And that’s, that’s a cool idea. And I’m a big believer in kind of the bootstrap mentality as well.

You know, maybe for some companies, funding is a better option. Totally right. And everybody is allowed to make their own decisions, but I always liked not having someone tell me what to do or myself to make my own mistakes, even if they are mistakes right. And be responsible for my own successes is always important. Yeah, that

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:20:42] is exactly the reason because we do not want someone else to drive and steer where we want to take our companies. We let our customers tell us, okay, this is something big because there are things which got over-delivered for instance, the integration in Gutenberg. We plan to launch that back in March, 2019, but we ended up launching that in December, 2019.

The reason being, because we were getting several other requests from our users, okay. I want this in the plugin. I want that in the plugin. And we were like, all right, these are the pressing needs rather than. Uh, but we thought that they could benefit from something so actually helps. But I believe since I’m just guessing that maybe when you’re funded, you got to plan a strict guide, stripped roadmap, which is definitely not the case with us. We tend to move with the fluent integrated things, which are the need of another, because. As you as an evergreen ever-changing space and it evolves via too quickly.

Joe Howard: [00:21:37] Yeah, that is interesting. I think probably when you’re a funded company, you probably still have some options, but I would probably agree with you. I would guess like nine out of 10 times, the decision you make is the one that’s best financially for the business. In the short to medium term. And when you’re your own business owner, you can make decisions that are say, you know, I don’t know if this is going to be profitable for the next year, but it’s the best decision for the longterm.

And a lot of times, those are the most important decisions to make for the longterm sustainability of a business. And so I totally am with you. And we’re kind of talking a little bit about funding, which is also an interesting time to talk a little bit about another plugin in the SEO space, which is all in one SEO plugin, which is another plugin that has.

Think, you know, at least in the millions of users at this point and was recently acquired by the awesome motive team. And I’m sure you’ve been kind of following that and seeing what’s going on there. I’d love to hear your thoughts as someone who’s in the SEO plugin space, uh, about like the recent acquisition of all in one.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:22:36] To be very honest. I mean, if we did follow all the ESY news around WordPress up until like, June, 2019 till we were like going very slowly, but ever since we have been growing quickly, we started focusing all on ourselves rather than focusing what someone else is doing because we have a roadmap prepare for the coming two years.

So we are to get all those things coming out as soon as possible. So rather than focusing on someone else, if we are focusing on ourselves. So yes, I did hear the news that site and his team has acquired the plugin. And I’m really happy about, I met him personally and he’s, he’s an awesome guy as well. I love the energy, which he carries around with himself. Every themselves. So, I mean, yeah, I wish them luck to be very honest. We are not falling any of the plugins right now and really focusing on ourselves because we have a very tight schedule, which we have to follow and we have to get things moving really fast at this point of time.

Joe Howard: [00:23:32] Yeah, I love that answer. Actually. I think a lot of people focus on competitive research and competitor analysis and trying to be better than their competition. And in some situations, maybe, you know, it’s a good idea to know what the landscape of where you are, but the highest impact thing any business owner can probably do is focus on your customers.

What are your customer needs? What are the needs of the. People and you’re focused more, you know, market in the space and like build something and focus on what you’re doing. That’s going to benefit those people almost regardless of what other folks are doing. Because if you focus on what other people are doing, they could be right there wrong.

Like, you know, you don’t really know, but yeah, no is the feedback you’re getting from your plugin, the growth you’ve seen from your plugin. You have everything you need at this point to not have to focus on others in order for you to be successful. And I think that’s an important lesson for a lot of folks, depending on that.

You know, stage of the business where you’re at, maybe when you’re smaller or just starting out, you want to see what the landscape’s like more, because that helps to educate you about the space and know what’s going on and what other people have been successful in with, and maybe not successful with, but once you get rolling, I mean, you use the resources. You have mostly, probably internally to drive yourself forward. And it sounds like you’re pretty focused on.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:24:41] Yeah, I cannot say that better. I mean, that is what we are doing, right. Initially. All the competitive analysis. But after that, we, we were like, I’m an audit. We are getting a feedback from our customers and that is where we should be heading towards to.

Joe Howard: [00:24:54] Yeah, absolutely. Anything else that we wanted to talk about? I think one other piece that we can kind of start wrapping up a little bit here, but I definitely want to talk about the pro version. And the kind of roadmap to what that looks like right now, the plugin is completely free. So people can go to rank math.com right now and go download the plugin, try it out on the news on your new site, you know, migration tool.

If you have Yoast stuff going on or other plugin stuff, people can go try it out for free right now. But in the future, I know you’re kind of moving towards, you know, I guess it would be called freemium model having the free version, but also a pro version with more stuff. I’d love to hear a rundown, I guess what you’re allowed to talk about right now or what you feel comfortable document.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:25:34] Yeah, we, we do have a plan to launch a pro version and that will be coming in the third quarter this year. And with the launch of that, we will make sure that nothing from the free version will ever get, I mean is ever removed from the free plugin niggas. That is something not ethical. And. Initially the idea of, of this SEO plugin wasn’t to build a business out of it.

It just happened because we were using it internally anyway. So we had to develop, keep on developing it for ourselves. So now people are needing more things and we are seeing that the spaces are changing V2 faster. Not, I mean, I’m just guessing that I guess that not everyone is tapping on the opportunities, which are out there, uh, with the SEO plugins.

So we will be introducing some really advanced features in the pro version, which the tools which we have built for ourselves, I wish I could really share over those are, but even sharing this sneak peak would be like veer too much information at this point of time.

Joe Howard: [00:26:30] Gotcha. But it sounds like I won’t. Pry too much into the actual details of it, but it sounds like, and people can go on the website right now and see all the free features that you have. It sounds like the pro version is going to have some things that go even above and beyond that is that. And I know, again, you can’t say exactly what the features are or these features that you may be able to find in other SEO plugins, or are these kind of new ones that people may not have seen before.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:26:58] Personally, haven’t seen any SEO plugin providing those features and those options. So I’m pretty much sure that no other SEO plugin, at least in the fortress spaces doing that. And top of it, again, all these tools, which we built for us as the internal tools they were born out of need. So we know what.

People might require when they reach certain, a certain level with their website. So these tools will come in handy. These are the things, these are the advanced, advanced things, which people might require. And I have like few agency friends. They are very helpful and we, Oh, I always end up discussing things with them and they tell us, okay, we have a, we built this, we built that.

And this was something because. Declined needed something like that. We gather all the ideas and now we have been. All the tools along with the bulls, which we’ve built for ourselves. So yes, the plugin will provide tremendous value for anyone who is growing with their business, for the starters or even the newcomers, the free version does everything. One can dream of, they do not need to pay for any premium plugin, but if someone wants to dive in deeper and wants to really extract the technical issue and the analytical SEO part of their website, Well, we will be targeting those people with our provision.

Joe Howard: [00:28:18] Yeah, very cool. I know I said the last thing was kind of what I wanted to wrap up on, but I actually found, I was, I’ve been looking through the site and I want to, I want to chat about your product hunt launch because product hunt is kind of, it’s like a, you know, what. Tech hub, digital tech hub, but I don’t see a lot of WordPress folks doing launches on product hunt or using product hunt. I’ve had someone before on the podcast, he did a product hunt. I can’t for the life of me. Remember who it was, but I’m checked out your product hunt launch page. I mean, I hear, I see you.

You know, with the initial post here as the maker, but I’m seeing like a great video here, like a really cool gift that’s featured, which a lot of people do feature gifts in product had lunches. I see it like the number five product of the month for March, 2019, almost 2000. Upvotes you have to have some sort of like marketing chops to be able to pull something like this off. Can you talk a little bit more about like the process of going through a product launch? Because I actually don’t know a ton about it as a marketer, and I’d love to learn a little bit more about to pull this off.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:29:17] So we realized that someone submitted a Baroque on production. And then immediately prepared an email because if we have, uh, we already have in meaningless from rachmat. So that, that was kind of an edge for us. We emailed them that, Hey, we, we got listed on product hunt. So if you really like us, please consider affording on our hunt and see if you can leave a comment. And then we did the same with our Facebook group users, and I believe that was. The moment when it started getting traction on product, and then soon it was featured as the number one product of the day.

Also it lasted for like a few hours here. And then we got like few benches. If someone is planning to launch a product on product hunt, at least from our experience, we noticed that we did not get as much traffic as Veeva expecting, but we got a lot of eyeballs and then people, people inquired. If, if you want to be acquired. If the plugin is to be sold and we started getting offers from there. So I believe that those kinds of people sit on product hunt, which are looking to acquire different businesses. So if someone is looking into that product hunt is the way.

Joe Howard: [00:30:32] Yeah. Cool. I think the piece of information I pick out of that is, I guess, two pieces. One is someone posted. Rank math on product hunt. And you kind of took advantage of that to me is a very, like you’re having a community around you. That’s engaged and creating a product that creates excitement and engagement is important. And like, without that someone may not have posted it on product hunt.

The second thing is your email list. As soon as it got posted, you put it out to your email list, you put it out to your Facebook page, our Facebook community asking for, you know, maybe an upload of people love the plugin to have an audience. When something happens is a huge advantage because if you have a list of 10,015,000, 20,000, even a smaller list, a small list of a thousand folks, too. If you can get, you know, a hundred up votes like that puts you somewhere and it puts you way farther ahead than what people don’t have an audience at all. So I think that’s a really important thing, like takeaway that I think listeners should take away is just that the best time to start building an email list and building an audience of people who love your stuff is right now.

And then in a year, maybe when things start rolling, you’ll be ready to take advantage of. Things that that’s almost like a make your own luck sort of situations like someone posted and you took it and ran with it because you had the resources at your disposal that you’d built over the last, you know, six months, a year, three and a half years. Apparently.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:31:46] Yeah. Well, so I mean, meaningless is something people say emails are dead. I do not agree on that. I definitely do not agree on that. We have an open rate of somewhere around 40% for all of our emails. So we have a very high engaging meeting list. One of the things which we do to optimize our mailing list is that we take out all the people who.

Haven’t any email in the past six months, we do not send emails to them. We call them that built and we try and pitch to them so that our open rate keeps on increasing and email clients like Google sees that. Okay. If they’re mailing to their customers, their mails are getting open, so they should not be sent into the promotions dab or the spam folder.

Joe Howard: [00:32:30] Yeah. I mean another great tip. I think a lot of people having a big email list is kind of like a vanity metric, right? It’s like, I have a list of like 50,000 and it’s like, wow, that’s amazing is what most people starting off think. But once you’ve built a list that big, you realize it’s all about engagement and the list of your size, whether it’s 15,000 or 50,000, like the difference is the engagement, because.

Point of a list is to have an engaged audience then to generate revenue for your business at some point. And if you’re not doing that, then who cares how big your list is, but what really moves your list forward is the things like high open rate and high engagement, because those are good indicators for everything else that you’re doing.

And to think I want to send this email out to more email addresses. It’s counter-intuitive because it seems like the right thing to do, but you get to this point where you do realize I’d much rather send it out to a hundred people and have 50 of them open it, then send it out to 500 people and have 10 of them open it. So I think that’s a smart idea. Do you kind of go through manually and clean out lists? Sir, do you kind of have like a automation in whatever email software you’re using that kind of says, if this person hasn’t opened an email in six months, just unsubscribed.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:33:36] It is all automated. We are using campaign monitor for sending our emails. They are definitely not cheap, but their deliverability and the kind of segmentation which they provide is really good. Again from our previous businesses, we ensure that whatever we learn, whatever failures we’ve made. Avatar mistakes. We did there. We did not repeat them. We obviously we’ve made, um, a new mistakes, new, uh, problems came in, uh, with Dragnet, but we were very much sure that whatever we learned from our previous businesses. So we do not repeat that. And at the end of the day, we provide like high-value to users. So once in awhile, if we ask them for a favor, they are more than happy to give back to us.

Joe Howard: [00:34:17] Yeah, that is a, that’s a great point to end on. Probably you’re allowed to ask your email subscribers and your list, your audience, you’re allowed to ask them for things. They have subscribed you for a reason, but make sure that, you know, one out of 10 times you’re asking them for something the other nine out of 10 times, you’re giving them free stuff. You’re giving them, you’re adding value to them. You’re helping them improve their business. So when it comes time to ask him for something, they’re like, Oh, this guy helped me the last nine times.

Like. Yeah, easy decision to, to help them out on this one. Uh, tell you get 2000 net votes on product hunt. I think so. Cool, Bonnie. Thanks for being on this has been awesome convo. I’m really excited about rank math and the direction it’s going. We got to talk about other cool stuff, too, more marketing side of things. It’s just more my area of expertise. So it’s cool to hear about product launches and strategies you’re using to grow your email list and to trim it back when needed things like that. Do we want to, yeah. Yeah, go ahead.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:35:07] Yeah. I was like, I I’m really thankful for having this. It finally happened. I’m really happy as a person.

When I met you at personal mix, you have like one of the most positive vibes coming out from a person. And I really like being around you and whenever seeing talking to other people, never for a second, I felt it that I was meeting you for the first thing. And that is like one of the sweetest things that you have.

Joe Howard: [00:35:29] Yeah, you’re gonna make me blush, man. I appreciate it. It’s uh, the WordPress community is so open and welcoming. It feels like most people I meet are like pretty friendly. I felt the same thing about you, man. So we’ll have to, we’re going to have to keep in touch and stay friends. Definitely tell folks as we finish up today, what can they find you online? Some people are like more on social. Some people are not as much. If someone wanted to check out rank math, are you, where should they go?

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:35:52] For Rank Math, they can visit our website rank match.com. And we also have a Facebook group, but if someone wants to connect with me personally, I’m not much of a social person on any social media platform other than Facebook. So you can definitely email me at  and dad a at  dot com and I’ll be more than happy to reply back to you personally.

Joe Howard: [00:36:16] Yeah, very cool. Last thing. I always ask our guests to ask our audience for our little five star review on iTunes for the show. So if you wouldn’t mind asking the folks listening yet.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:36:27] Definitely. I mean, if anyone’s listening and they have enjoyed what I mean, the kind of conversation which we had today, please go ahead and. Click on the five star review on iTunes. It takes like a couple of minutes to you, but it helps tremendously for all the efforts and the guys like Joe Putin. So also I’ll be sharing this with my, uh, with other audience as well, because they would love to hear this and this whole, a whole conversation.

Joe Howard: [00:36:53] Yeah, appreciate that, man. Very cool. WP mrr.com forward slash iTunes. We direct you right there. If you leave a review after the show, tell us something you learned in the review, something that you thought was awesome in this show. That way we can forward it to Banu and thank him for the little review. If you’re a new listener to the show.

Now is the time where everyone’s bingeing all sorts of TV and shows and movies. Why not binge something that’ll help you grow your business. Check out some older episodes of the WP MRR podcast. We’ve got almost like a hundred episodes now. So whatever topic you’re having a challenge with right now, do a search on the podcast page.

And you’ll be able to find something that is relevant to you. If you have questions for us on the show, Christie, and I like to do QA episodes and we need to do more of them. We’ve been slacking a little bit. I’m not gonna lie. We’ve been slacking a little bit on Q and a episodes, but we want to do some more.

So if you have questions for us, shoot them to yo@wpmrr.com. We’ll get them answered here, live on the show. Other than that, I think we are good to go. We’ll be in your podcast player again next Tuesday. Bhanu thanks again. I mean, our man’s been real.

Bhanu Ahluwalia: [00:37:55] Thanks to you for inviting me. It was great talking to you, man.


E128 – Starting a Diverse Agency (Tracy Levesque, Yikes Inc.)

In today’s episode, Allie sits down with Tracy Levesque, Co-President and Co-Founder at Yikes Inc. – the team that builds smart, effective, creative web solutions for businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Allie and Tracy talk about diversity and inclusion within the company, finding the best pool of talents, the effects of name biases, and prioritizing diversity when hiring people.

Tune in and learn running a diverse agency!

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 00:50 Welcome Tracy Levesque of Yikes Inc.
  • 01:34 What is Yikes Inc?
  • 04:01 What’s unique about an agency?
  • 07:01 How do you prioritize diversity when hiring?
  • 11:49 The best place to find a good pool of hires
  • 14:27 What exactly is a pipeline problem?
  • 16:50 If you need to network, go out and meet people
  • 19:05 Men and women co-working in the WordPress space
  • 21:06 Challenges in connecting with diverse talent during the pandemic
  • 22:20 What is name bias?
  • 29:02 Diversity and inclusion
  • 41:11 Running a business during a pandemic
  • 45:03 Things to focus on to prove you are qualified

Episode Resources

Podcast Transcript:

Allie Nimmons: [00:00:00] Hi, this is Allie Nimmons, the community manager here at WP buffs. What you’re about to hear is an AMA that I held with Tracy Levesque . She co runs yikes, Inc. A WordPress agency in Philadelphia, PA. And she’s a master at framing talking about an acting on. Building diverse teams. So we chat about prioritizing diversity in hiring without tokenizing people, which can be very difficult.

We talk about how to find talent during a pandemic and how to support a team of diverse people within the agency on an ongoing basis. So I really hope that you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. And if you do, please hop on over to our YouTube channel, where we hold weekly AMS, just like this one. Enjoy. Alrighty. So this week answering questions about starting a diverse agency is my friend Tracy Levesque. Welcome, Tracy.

Tracy Levesque: [00:00:58] Hi.

Allie Nimmons: [00:01:00] Tell us a little bit before we dive into these questions, tell us a little bit about what it is that you do a little bit about your agency, all of that kind of fun stuff.

Tracy Levesque: [00:01:09] Sure. Am Tracy Levesque. And I, co-own an agency called dykes in the lovely Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. And I co-own it with my wife. We started it back in the nineties. But we pivoted to doing WordPress only in about 2010 ish, 2013 ish time with time anymore. I don’t even know. Back in the day we started the agency with a third.

Partner another woman, but then after five years, she left to do massage therapy or something. My wife and I own it now, and we are certified women owned a company and a certified LGBT bee business enterprise. So we have two official certifications. In addition to that, we’re also a B corporation. And would it be corporation is it’s like a. Certification process for sustainability for a company. So if you think of lead certification for a building where, okay, you did X, Y, and Z. You gained all these points and now your building is certified as sustainable. It’s the same kind of thing for a business.

So they take a look at it’s a really rigorous. Process. It’s not easy to get B Corp certification. And it’s another, it’s a point system. And so if you make a certain number of points, then you’re certified. And in addition to, and also the, I guess the main philosophy of B Corp certification of sustainable businesses that the triple bottom line, which is people, planet profit, instead of just profit.

So from everything too, we have solar panels on the roof too. We have really liberal flex time and vacation time and benefits. And we also have like green cleaning products in our office, things like that. And in addition to that, the first thing we are is we’re a benefit corporation, which is a legal corporate entity in Pennsylvania. So it has to be written into your corporate bylaws, sustainability. And we were one of the very first Pennsylvania corporations to do that in a big, fun ceremony that so cool. Yeah. From the outset of the three of us starting this company, we’ve always had sustainability in mind and community and wanting to, a mission of doing good.

Allie Nimmons: [00:03:24] So cool. And yeah, congratulations retroactively on all of those things that you have worked to accomplish and. Done all those steps completed all those steps to get those certifications. That’s incredible.

Tracy Levesque: [00:03:33] Thank you.

Allie Nimmons: [00:03:34] So we are going to go ahead and dive into the very first question. Oh, you have two people watching Amy and Cammie. Alrighty. The first question that we have for you, what is the difference between starting an agency and starting like a business or a company what’s unique about an agency and was there any, maybe processes that are different. That just starting a regular business.

Tracy Levesque: [00:03:57] When I think agency, especially in the WordPress space and the web dev space, I imagine that you build websites for organizations versus like the product space where it’s I build plugins. Or, and sell them, or I have a service, like a WordPress monitoring service, like you’re selling a service for a set price, or I’m a hosting company, I’m like providing like a service and you’re paying for that. Or I’m selling a plugin or I’m selling software or whatever it is an agency. You have clients that you go through a discovery process with them. You have a design process and you create a a custom product for them. Does that make sense?

Allie Nimmons: [00:04:42] Yeah, that totally makes sense. I even, and this might not be necessarily correct, but I always thought of an agency too, as you have different departments within the, so you have. Maybe a team of designers, a team of developers, SEO people, social media, people, and a client could build, a Alec Hart pick the services that they need for their business.

Whereas a regular business or a, not an agency is like. Here’s what we sell. Do you want it or not know? Cool. Okay. So maybe that was probably a good question to start off on is what are we actually thinking of when we’re thinking of the agency that you built? It’s not just a business, it’s specifically an agency.

Tracy Levesque: [00:05:17] And we also have plugins though. We do sell plugins as well, but that’s a very small percentage of our overall business.

Allie Nimmons: [00:05:23] I didn’t know that. What are the plugins that you sell? What do they do?

Tracy Levesque: [00:05:27] We have to plug plugin, our two most popular plugins. One is a MailChimp plugin and the other one is a WooCommerce plugin. And each one of those plugins has over a hundred thousand active installs. I like very another, talking about diversity, a lot of agencies in the WordPress space and businesses. No, there isn’t a ton of diversity. So another. Thing that I’m proud of is that as a women and queer owned agency we have, two plugins that are in the top, like within the top 19 pages of the most popular plugins, pages, if you browse through them, which I do obsessive early all the time. So we have free versions of those and the WooCommerce one has a pro version. So it’s just the Frida pro and the MailChimp one has add ons.

Allie Nimmons: [00:06:15] Question number two. So this is we’re diving right now into the diversity portion of this topic. And this is a question that I’ve heard a bunch of Gillian times, and I’m always really interested in hearing how other people answer it. How do you prioritize diversity when you’re hiring for your agency without tokenizing people? So without just saying you are queer, I’m going to hire you, or you’re a woman I’m going to hire you, but still prioritizing the fact that you want those sorts of that sort of amalgam of different kinds of people.

Tracy Levesque: [00:06:48] I think the concept of a diversity hire is a myth. I think it’s something that is used to prevent people from. Seeing the real value of diversity because that’s the tokenization, thinking, Oh, I need a diversity hire for the optics or, this the concept of diversity hire in general, because if your company is all the same type of person, you are at a disadvantage.

From a diverse company. Cause research proves that diversity is good for profit is good for productivity and problem solving. So if you have all the same kind of PR person at your agency, you’re not doing as well as you can. So the thought of, Oh, I’m just going to hire this person just because they’re X, Y, and Z is false because you’re hiring to make your company better to build a better team.

So the mindset that for some reason, and this is what really, I think what people need to wrap their heads around most the mindset that the most valued person you can hire is a CIS white guy. Whereas everyone else there’s some question as to their merit, right? It’s like everyone else is judged on a different scale. Then what is seen as, the guide with guy with the beard and the glasses to be the most valuable developer, that’s where it’s wrong. So you have to get that diversity hire thing out of your head, and you have to hire on merit because we do not. Meritocracy is an absolute myth.

Allie Nimmons: [00:08:27] So the followup question that I would always get to this and I’ll pose it to you say hypothetically, right? You are hiring for one position and you have that, that straight CIS white guy applying, and you have. A clear African-American disabled woman just to throw all those boxes and check all those boxes off. And they have the same exact or very comfortable background, very comparable skill set. And it’s down to these two. How do you approach that.

Tracy Levesque: [00:08:58] The person who brings more diversity to your organization brings more value? That’s it’s if this, if the skillset is, Comparable, but, hiring the person that looks like everybody else at your company actually hurts your company because it hurts, because all the research shows that diverse teams just to a better job and you can, it only makes your team. More high-performing. So that’s what you have to look at. You have to look at your overall team and the value of having, a wide range of folks on your team.

Allie Nimmons: [00:09:32] Especially like in, in software, in the world where we work, where it’s, it is a lot of problem solving. And so if you have people from different backgrounds coming at one problem with different perspectives, Yeah.

Tracy Levesque: [00:09:44] And, some folks had the life perspective that other folks don’t, so they’re thinking of problems. Yeah. It wouldn’t even occur to other people. And that’s how you run into problems. When you have a homogenous team of folks making a product, that’s supposed to be used by everyone in the world, but there are, they don’t look, the team who made it does not reflect reality. Then you run into all kinds of problems. It’s, historically happened over and over again, like the the air blowers, don’t recognize like different the skin pigmentations things like that. It’s you’re setting yourself up for failure with a homogenous team folks.

Allie Nimmons: [00:10:17] Yeah. I think that every time we get something where. A company releases something and it has a name that maybe means something to a particular sub culture. And it’s did you not have any of this type of person on your team to say, Hey, that’s something really inappropriate, maybe, and it’s funny. Yeah, it’s funny when you think about it, but if you think about it a little too hard, it’s that’s actually really depressing because it’s just completely happened in a vacuum and you had nobody to catch that. So yeah, that makes total sense. It’s definitely something people should keep in mind. So question number three when hiring or recruiting or looking for people to join your team, where do you go? Where do you recruit from, in order to find a good pool of people to pick from.

Tracy Levesque: [00:11:02] To me hiring is you’re always hiring like in life, moving your way through life, your networks events. Folks, you stumble upon someone who reaches out to you randomly like here. And they’re like, you’re always hiring. I’m always filing connections away in my mind. And some of the best hires or folks that I’ve reached out to later at a later date who expressed interest in us or what we do, or, somehow our company clicked with them in some way. But. I would say the way not to do it is the same old ways that we always do it. So you make a you put a call out on Twitter or you put out your, your job page on your website and think that people are just going to come to you and then wonder where, I’d hire women. If there were any, if any applied, so for me, it’s like networking and making real sincere.

Connections with folks and putting yourself in situations where you’re just around a wide diverse group of folks. So like here in Philadelphia, we have different organizations that have like diverse tech of different kinds. We started a group called tech in color years ago. And we’ve had it like Philly tech week is An event that happens in Philadelphia once a year.

It didn’t, it was virtual this year. So it was a little, not the same thing, but that organization, we put on different events. Like we had speed mentoring. We had we had, one of our last event was dedicated to accessibility. And just, if you don’t see the groups that you the groups available in your area, make one, create one, and it’s just so beneficial to everybody. Cause you network, you get to know other diverse folks in the tech industry, in your area. Then you also just get to make friends and you make more connections. And that’s where. You have this, people think there is a pipeline problem. I refuse to believe there’s a pipeline problem. We would make up 51% of the population.

Allie Nimmons: [00:13:03] Describe really quickly for me, just in case there’s anybody watching who, when they hear that, the pipeline problem, what exactly does that is that thought process? What does that mean? When people say that there’s a pipeline problem?

Tracy Levesque: [00:13:16] People think that there aren’t any diverse candidates out there. They think that there are not enough qualified people from marginalized communities that they could hire for XYZ position. And I refuse to believe that because, if you put women and all marginalized folks altogether where the majority of the population, I refuse to believe that, th the folks aren’t out there, I think that we’re just led to believe that other folks are more valuable.

And they’re the default. For a developer. So yeah, you have to work. Harder, but in a way it’s not like really working hardest. You just need to expand your networks. Cause we’re, especially in the WordPress community. I love the WordPress community. Don’t get me wrong, but we are like very narrowly focused and exp it just expanding that world and also getting more people involved, that’s how you find folks because.

People may not, we think that the WordPress community is all interconnected and we’re all on Twitter together. And we know who we all are, but there are a lot of people who work on WordPress, who work are not part of the community. They just don’t know that it exists. They’ve never been to a word camp. They aren’t on Twitter at all. But they’re doing their thing and they’re talented and can be like, and can have the skills and what it takes to be an amazing WordPress developer, but they just don’t have opportunities.

Allie Nimmons: [00:14:39] So I would, I what I’m hearing and what I believe is, one of the first steps you have to take is consciously stepping outside of your own sort of. Network and sphere of influence and the people that you hang out with all the time. And because that’s still common. I feel like if people just hire their friends, it’s Oh, I know your experience. I know your background and your skills come work with me or come work for me or come join this thing.

And that’s how we end up with Denise, just like ever cycling. Yes. Environments of the same sorts of people. So yeah, to that, to answer that question, I feel like the first thing is go outside. Go out into other places, which for some people can be scary, but it’s if you’re gonna, you’re going to network and hire. You got to take that step out into the world and meet people.

Tracy Levesque: [00:15:26] I think a lot of people are scared to be, in to go to an event with people who are not like them. And we all have opportunities to do this. Even though if you’re used to being the only whatever in any kind of crowd, like I’m usually the only biracial lesbian in like many, worlds I navigate.

But think of what ways in which you’re. You’re in other ways that you’re the majority. So let’s say you went to an event that was, like a open captioned movie where you were one of the only hearing folks there, like in a, with around deaf and hard of hearing folks, it’s there are other ways in which you can be the minority in ways that.

You’re usually the majority and it’s not just, and not just there to be to, I dunno to say that you’ve done it, but to actually make some SERE, real connections with people and there. Are environments where this encouraged like diverse chambers of commerce right here in Philly, we have African-American Asian Latin X chambers of commerce and LGBT as well.

People want to meet people who they want to do business with. You are welcome to come to these networking events. People won’t think like you don’t belong here. You shouldn’t be here. They want you to come. They want to make business connections. Other networking events like that are also like, safe spaces where you can be the minority and you can, have a bigger network circle. And it’s not like a people collector and a people collector kind of way, but in a sincere makes sincere connections with folks and find ways where you can both help each other.

Allie Nimmons: [00:17:03] So that’s another question that I’ve gotten before as a follow-up to the same one is, I’ve had men say, if there’s an all women’s event, all women’s tech event or something, I feel like I can’t go. I feel like I’m not welcome. I feel like I’m, I don’t want to take up space where, women should be able to, XYZ, which I can appreciate from an objective standpoint. Do you believe that mindset is. Incorrect. Does it maybe depend on the event and on the circumstance?

Tracy Levesque: [00:17:32] I think it absolutely depends. Like definitely if it’s a supportive. Situation where, you’re there to support one another and I guess, have the space, so complaints, complain and, support each other. But if you’re having an open yeah. Like maybe it’s a talk or a workshop or something else that is publicly advertised.

If you were to have an event that was part of a bigger event, like Philly tech week or a, a city-wide like tech. Festival or something. Yeah. Then I think it’s okay to go to an event like that, where it’s being promoted, where they want to have attendees, where they want people to come.

Allie Nimmons: [00:18:12] That makes total sense. We have a couple more people saying hi in the chat Emmanuel, Joseph says, good job, Tracy, way to go. You have somebody named fine show that says, hi mom.

Tracy Levesque: [00:18:25] Oh my goodness. That’s my child.

Allie Nimmons: [00:18:29] I have a beard. And then I didn’t acknowledge them. And they said, hi mom again, and all the caps. So they really want it. Okay.

Tracy Levesque: [00:18:35] Do your homework? Just kidding.

Allie Nimmons: [00:18:38] It’s so awesome that they’re watching you’re grading.

Tracy Levesque: [00:18:41] I don’t even know how they got hold of link

Allie Nimmons: [00:18:44] You have a spy in your midst. Alrighty, let’s get let’s look at question four. Do you think this is a super interesting one? What ways has the pandemic made it easier to find and connect with diverse talent? Have, has there been any challenges that it’s created instead?

Tracy Levesque: [00:19:03] It’s definitely been challenging because I’m a, get out there and network kind of person. Because I wanna I like being out in the world in general. And we just did around, we just hired a couple of folks. And, during the pandemic it has been challenging. But actually one good one resource that has been really helpful is a B Corp has a job. Listed like a job board and the really nice thing about it is that it’s anonymized, which, and then, and named biases, we have to get to at some point, cause named bias is huge. And I think it’s one of the biggest barriers for marginalized folks to get into tech, but that aside, so they have a job board, which has been really awesome and it attracts folks who want to work for B corpse, which is usually a good fit.

Allie Nimmons: [00:19:49] What is a B Corp?

Tracy Levesque: [00:19:52] B Corporation the certification system for sustainable businesses.

Allie Nimmons: [00:19:55] Great. Yeah. You just mentioned a little bit about named bias. Can you touch on that a little bit? What that means, maybe how, if somebody is looking to hire and they don’t want to be influenced by named bias, maybe what they can do or places they can go.

Tracy Levesque: [00:20:09] Sure. So name biases. When people see a person’s name, assume something about them, and then, have all this unconscious bias about the person because of their name. And the research shows that it is absolutely a thing. There was a study done where they took it at ads in the Chicago Tribune. And it was just like job postings. I’m sorry. I had it too much. Caffeine today. They went through the Chicago Tribune and they sent fake resumes to different job listings. All the resumes were identical.

It’s like some had white sounding names and some head African-American sounding names and we can all, we all know what the results were. Fake white candidates with the exact same qualifications were called in for more interviews. And then what they did was they made the the resumes with the African-American sounding names. You’ve been hiring quality. So they made them overqualified for the jobs they’re applying for. Yeah. It only resulted in like 3% more intercourse. Yeah. And they did another study with STEM professors. They sent out a fake resumes. Two STEM professors throughout the United States. And then were asked to rate the, the quality of the candidate.

Would they hire them? What would they, salary? Would they offer them if they hired them? And once again, all the resumes are the same, except half were named John and the other half were named Jennifer got fewer offers, and if she did get an offer, she got like less salary than John. Wow. This is another reason I believe the people are out there, but because of unconscious bias, they don’t even make it past the first round. Yeah. And another thing that I noticed from the B Corp job listings and having gone through the. Experience of just having, done some hiring.

When you look at the job listings, they’re all like, they have a little bar of like how qualified the person is for the job that you posted. And it’s self-assessment. So I had two candidates that I asked, CA we did zoom interviews with when it was a woman and her self-assessment was like in the red. And one was a guy and his self-assessment was like, not all the way green, but up there, the woman was so much more qualified than the guy like different planets. And it really upsets me that marginalized people rate themselves as under-qualified, when they’re probably. Perfectly or even overqualified for a job.

So as a hiring manager, let’s say I’m a hiring manager and all I’m doing is looking at that list. And I’m just, going like reject reject anybody who doesn’t meet a certain threshold. I am missing out on so many talented people because they are self-assessing themselves to low. Meanwhile, somebody mediocre, maybe like I’m the greatest and I’m going to waste my time, interviewing that person. Yeah. So that’s another thing that you have to fight, imposter syndrome. And I think all of this marginalized folks we need to. Ask for what we’re worth. We need to realize like that we are qualified. We are talented just because society like, judges us much more harshly than other folks. We, we are awesome. We’re qualified, we’re talented and we need to demand, you know what we’re worth.

Allie Nimmons: [00:23:33] A hundred percent agree. Amy Letson in the comments as classic story Ebony in the comments, just as I know what that feels like. I totally, yeah. All of that rings true so much. And I feel like a lot of people I’ve met and spoken to in the WordPress community who come from marginalized groups, I feel like everyone has that story of. I’ve done XYZ, I’ve done all of this stuff, but I constantly undercut myself and I constantly doubt myself and I constantly feel like I’m not enough. What do you think? Yeah.

Tracy Levesque: [00:24:05] The sad thing is that employers who are not enlightened in tuned in take advantage of this because they will work harder to keep there. The certain people like on their team they’ll offer them more bonuses, more salaries, do what it takes to keep them and just think that all of them marginalized folks are they’re ha they’re lucky to have a job in the first place. I’m not going to work as hard. And that I find that upsetting as well and completely unfair.

Allie Nimmons: [00:24:32] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s absolutely something that, if you are watching this and you are somebody who is thinking about building an agency or hiring people, those are things you have to keep in mind the idea that you can just compare to people, apples, to apples. Yeah. In a way. But sometimes you do, you might have to look at one person and say, okay, this person is pushing through more barriers. Maybe then this other person, does they have a lower starting point to the race maybe than this other person does? And I think that to me personally, that’s really important of being aware and being in tune without then going too far and deciding to pity that person, or I think that’s where we get this idea of I don’t want to tokenize that person because you’ve already decided you feel badly for that based on what they’re going through. And. It creates this weird cycle. So yeah, all of this is really valuable to, to understand about yourself if you’re a marginalized person, but also about marginalized people. If you are not one,

Tracy Levesque: [00:25:32] I want to try for true meritocracy. I want people hired on skills, hired on qualifications and then rewarded, Like when they do a good job and it’s hard, we all have unconscious bias, all of us, it’s not something to beat ourselves up about, but something to be conscious of and to fight every day.

Allie Nimmons: [00:25:55] Absolutely. So this actually leads into the next question. Question five. What are some ways that you support. Let’s support diversity after hiring. We can talk about that, but I’m also interested in how you support the diverse people on your team. After hiring. So like I remember in just reading and research that I’ve done. I remember coming across an article that RPG notes, not enough to hire a really diverse and awesome team, your culture and the way that people move through the environment that you’ve created for them, whether that’s a remote environment or physical environment. Has to keep all of those things in mind. So at your agency, how do you approach, how do you keep these people in the long-term and make them feel included in everything moving forward after they’ve been hired?

Tracy Levesque: [00:26:43] That’s exactly, it’s the inclusion piece, like you can have diversity, but it’s not going to last, if you don’t also have inclusion. So I always think of inclusion as do I need to alter. Like a part of myself that other people don’t have to. So let’s think of in a gay way, like if I worked at a company and I have my, in my straight coworkers have pictures of their partners on their desk, do I feel comfortable having a picture of my partner, my desk?

If the answer’s no, then there’s a problem. If I have to go into work and not talk about a certain part of my life, where other people don’t have that don’t even think about it, then that’s not inclusive. So those are the things I think about. I, know, I think about that in my position okay how is it for other people? Let’s say, I know what the feeling is like to come, go into a place that’s like mostly straight when something just horrible happened. Like a law just got passed that really knocked the queer community back. And you go somewhere and nobody cares. Oh, everything’s great. And so I think about like, when something awful happens to.

Whatever marginalized community. I don’t want people to think that they have to act like business as usual. And if you need to take personal day, if you want to talk about it, don’t want to talk about it. That is welcome here because it is not fair for. You to have to like, act like business as usual and like nothing happened just because it isn’t affecting the people around you directly.

Allie Nimmons: [00:28:19] If there’s any doubt in your mind to that, that has been proven. I just said it. I was listening to NPR and there was a, this study that basically showed this woman, looked at patent registries from the last 200 years. And she compared, she, did a graph of how many African-American people in the United States.

Filed for patents between I think 1870, 70, and like 1950, every time there was an instance of intense violence against African-Americans in the United States when lynchings went up or when certain register laws were passed, the number of patent registries dropped every time to zero. And then climbed back up again over time. And every time there was a hit to the mental and emotional state of that community, people were less creative. They were more fearful, they felt devalued. And so it was this idea of if my life is not valued, why would my intellectual property be valued and protected? And it had this complete ripple effect into the production of.

New inventions in the country. And it made me think a lot about similar to what you were just saying. If somebody comes in and they are just reeling from this mental, emotional pain or something that just happened at the most selfish level on your end, they’re not going to be productive. They’re not going to be able to. To work, to be creative, to think critically they’re not all here. And so it makes sense, to give them that time to recover, whatever from whatever that might be. Yeah, sorry to derail, but.

Tracy Levesque: [00:30:00] It’s not derailing at all.

Allie Nimmons: [00:30:02] It completely brought me back. Yeah. To that study, which absolutely proved the value in, I mean that study proved a lot of other things as well. Not so great things, but it makes total sense to me.

Tracy Levesque: [00:30:13] No one should be expected to act like it’s business. As usual when something devastated, devastating has happened in their community. But more on inclusion. I actually have some information from a Harvard business review, did a study and found that there are four factors that drive inclusion.

So this here’s a little facts, like in addition to, stuff that we do here, you need inclusive leaders. So you need. People too, in leadership positions who will listen to you receive your feedback, implement your changes when you have a good idea. That sounds great. Let’s do it. If you feel like you’re just there as the diversity hire, if you make someone feel like liver diversity are there, they’re not going to stay, so you need like leadership, that’s going to. And I think this across the board, just like you need to listen to people and know that you don’t know it all and be open to new ideas. And then when somebody has a good idea and then incorporate those ideas and then reward people for new and awesome ideas authenticity, that’s the piece that we were just talking about.

Can you be your authentic self at work? Networking and visibility, making sure that there are there’s mentorship guidance feedback given by senior employees in order to improve job performance and progress. So making sure that mentorship is given equally to everyone ma if someone is given mentorship and like climbing the ladder at work where some people aren’t given as much mentorship that’s no good.

And then a clear career path. So is there a game that needs to be played to get to the top that diverse folks just can’t play? It’s Oh, I need to do these things too in order to progress at my job, but I can’t even do those things. Like some, I dunno, I have to play golf with a boss or something. I’m not making this up, but it’s like, Make sure that everybody has equal opportunity equally listened to. And given, that mentorship.

Allie Nimmons: [00:32:11] I feel like that’s very common at companies where you have that boys’ club where it’s like, all right the boss is going out for drinks and go into a strip club and who wants to come? And, if you’re a woman, you’re probably like, I don’t, some women may be totally into that, but I feel like your general woman probably won’t be. So then all the guys go off. And all the guys get to be in the boss’s ear. And you have this section of people that are not that was, that really happens at video game development companies a lot.

Tracy Levesque: [00:32:36] Interesting.

Allie Nimmons: [00:32:37] Yeah, and it, I think, I believe there’s a direct correlation between that mentality and why living in video games tend to look the way that they do, That’s a whole other.

Tracy Levesque: [00:32:48] You need a guest for that. But yeah, I think also as a business development in terms of owners and, getting new clients, new contracts, there’s also a game there that is. Queer women. I feel sometimes we can’t play that game. I can’t imagine like schmoozing somebody, over whiskey or golf for, like you said, strip club. It’s that’s just not, like it’s not when I’m not willing to do it. And also we’re just not in that world. Like it’s. As women and queer women. So this is why I believe that marginalized people need to start their own businesses. We need to change the way the game is played because I, it’s I’m so tired of this mentality that like, okay these dudes empowered me to somehow become enlightened and then I’ll invite us all to the table.

We need to build our own tables. We need to create the meritocracy, that should exist. And I think the more marginalized folks start their own businesses and mentor each other and bring each other up the federal be. Yeah, absolutely.

Allie Nimmons: [00:33:50] I I can’t tell you when I joined the team at WP Buffs in the spring, I’ve never worked for another black person before, and it was. It’s life-changing it’s game-changing to work for somebody who understands that facet of who I am. It’s not, it doesn’t define me, but it’s a large part of who I am, what I look like. And so working for another person who just inherently gets it, I don’t have to explain myself. I didn’t have to ask for a day off.

I did, but like when I wanted to go to a black lives matter rally, I didn’t have to defend that decision. I just had to say, this is what I’m doing. And he’s go, makes total sense. We seem to have a plant in the comment section Ebony says as a marginalized person working at Tracy’s agency. One thing I have at this workplace that I’ve never had at any other is for her at Mia to consistently ask me, what are your thoughts? Ebony, it’s super nice to feel heard. And I love being in this space. Oh, that is quite quite a case study right there that you got.

Tracy Levesque: [00:34:49] Keep trolling me and been trying to make me cry.

Allie Nimmons: [00:34:52] Like maybe. Excuse why she was a wild one. All right, let’s go into the next question, which…

Tracy Levesque: [00:34:58] I guess I guess just like a little bit on I think one thing I’ve tried to really learn. To do as a boss is stop saying we I’m like, Oh, so we did that for you. We did that for you. Like even, in, in the mundane, most mundane of email conversations. I’m like, Ebony did that thing. Ebony fixed that bug. Jamie did this thing, like Chris did that thing instead of saying we cause you know, people need credit and I don’t want to assume, credit for something that I didn’t personally do. And I think it’s important for people to know that they’re valued and know that this is the person that fixed a problem.

Allie Nimmons: [00:35:36] Yeah, that is a fantastic, actionable tip. If you are, if you, why that straight, CIS white man, and you have a company or an agency, and you have other folks that work with you or work for you. I think that is a fantastic way to S to stand up for them and to support them by, because I’ve worked for CIS white men before, and I’ve had that thing where.

They inadvertently take credit for something I’ve done because it’s their company and it’s not done on purpose. It’s not, he’s not trolling stash and saying, I’m going to screw her over. Yeah. It’s an inadvertent that we sometimes do. And so if you are right now looking for ways to really show up for the people that work with you and give them that, that support that is a very easy thing that you can start doing is.

Naming them giving them their names back when you’re speaking to your clients. Because it sucks when a client just sees that one white male face, and they’re not seeing all of the other people that are doing all of the actual work, that really sucks. So I love that you do that.

Tracy Levesque: [00:36:46] I try.

Allie Nimmons: [00:36:47] So the next question that we have, which came from Amy, do you have any additional reflections on running the business during a pandemic?

Tracy Levesque: [00:36:56] Gosh, just general. We’re a rare WordPress agency in that we have an office that people come to. And I, and that’s also a part of the diversity piece for me because we live in Philadelphia. One of the most diverse cities in the U S and. To think that I would need that I’d have to be only, the only way to go to remote is like it’s preventing me from looking in our own backyard for talent and, I it’s I want to put the work into finding like diverse talent here or, in the surrounding areas. So anyway, that’s an aside thing, but but so that’s been an adjustment. Since we have a office of folks who come into work, I think it’s been hard for all of us to be siloed at home. I know I’m an extrovert and I like, I love coming to work.

I don’t like working from home. It actually, me and I are coming into the office just by ourselves. We’re the only ones I like leaving my house and going to work and then working then coming home and not working. So that’s been challenging of course. Everyone was, is able to work at home for any reason. Or you have a work at home. Work from home day of the week. But honestly for whatever reason, you need to work remotely that, that’s fine with us. So we already had everything set up to do that, but it has been challenging because we also have, varying levels of skill here.

And we really like. For people more senior to train people more junior, and that’s been more challenging, not being in the same room together. Not impossible, of course, but just, I don’t know the ability to communicate with each other and then pair programming, show people like, Oh, this is how you do it. And having to do all this over zoom and then.

Allie Nimmons: [00:38:42] Any teacher right now will tell you, teaching remotely, entirely is very difficult. You learn better when you’re right there and can ask those questions.

Tracy Levesque: [00:38:50] So that’s been a challenge, but I think, we’re surviving and we’ve taken advantage of the time we got the floors redone and we got new like cool desks for everybody. And we’d have the walls repainted. So whenever we are able to open safely again, whenever that will be, we’ll be ready.

Allie Nimmons: [00:39:07] Yeah, I will say it’s kinda nice to see that a lot of our industry is not as affected as other industries. Like I think we should all count ourselves. Very lucky given that we just work in the internet, even though we were set up for this anyway. Yeah.

Tracy Levesque: [00:39:23] I have friends. I have friends who are stylists who you know, people who work in museums, it’s like they are suffering. If people in the restaurant industry, it’s I, I count myself very lucky that I, the type of business that we have can still keep going.

Allie Nimmons: [00:39:38] Yeah, absolutely. I’m really glad to hear that. All right. We have time for one more question. It comes from Emmanuel and he asked. I believe what he’s asking is what can black people outside of the U S do I think he needs to get work in the U S I personally have been feeling unqualified or under-qualified maybe jC. I know that you are not a hiring manager or, things like that may not be specifically your specialty, but I guess maybe we can look at this question as when you are looking at hiring somebody or maybe I guess somebody who is feeling under-qualified when they go to apply for a job, what are the things that they should really focus on too? To prove to themselves and the person looking at that application that they are indeed qualified.

Tracy Levesque: [00:40:26] It’s w I’m me, but when I, when you can get my attention with a really enthusiastic cover letter, I have to say and then and also the qualities that I look for, I’m not looking for the Ninja rockstar developer. I’m looking for somebody who does have a talent. It in, for programming, whatever that may be front end backend, like whatever part of like web development they are focused on and a willingness to learn and like a hunger to learn more. Yeah, those are the things I look for in a person, someone who is, good with communication, someone who is responsive someone who is a good, works well with other folks and is supportive of other folks.

And doesn’t think they know it all. Honestly, those are the qualities I look for in a person I look for like their potential, like where could they go? Like with. The right support and skills, could this person just take off and be an amazing developer. So with us, you. This show is showing that capacity is more important to me than being an out of the box Ninja rock star.

And we do have an apprenticeship program. Right now it’s it’s on pause because of the pandemic, but we it’s a paid program and you could come in with no WordPress skills at all. But if you have a willingness to learn and all those other things that I mentioned, we will mentor you and give you the training necessary to become a WordPress developer. We just want more WordPress developers in the world. And from that apprenticeship program, we have two current full-time employees.

Allie Nimmons: [00:42:04] Nice. I love that. And then you’ll, I hope that touched on and answered your question and gave you a place to look. I know that also I’ve been starting at WP Buffs to assist with the hiring processes, which has been really interesting for me to learn how to do and one of the first things that, that I’ve really been learning to look for and look at is if I want to find out information about you, how easy is it for me to do that?

Like I’ve maybe been recommended to somebody and I’ll go to their social media or their LinkedIn, or either Twitter or, and they have nothing. They don’t say what it is. They do. They don’t have a link to a website. They don’t have any other way for me to get in touch with them. And that’s always, to me, okay there are other people on my list, that I can go look for.

So I’ll go look for those people. And it’s always the people who have, what they do, why they do it, in their Twitter bio. Like those are the people that grabbed my attention because I’m like, you know who you are and you know how to communicate that to other people. So I really like what Tracy said about that willingness.

Willingness to learn, right? You don’t have to know everything you have to be willing to learn. And I think maybe if you’re feeling one thing that’s helped me is when I’m feeling under-qualified. I try to remember the things that I know how to do, the things that I know that I do well, even if it’s just one, two, three things. And then all of the things that I would like to do that I know that I could learn how to do. I feel like if you have those things in mind, the things that I can do really well and the things that I know that I can do really well, that. Prevents you from feeling like you have to make up all of these skills, to be like, yeah, I remember how to start this and that. But it also keeps in mind, like exactly what you were saying, what your potential is. And yeah, I think displaying those things, like you said, good communication, is being able to communicate all that information to somebody who might be looking for you.

Cause you can be standing in front of the perfect person for you. And if you can’t see anything about who they are, then what do you do? Yeah, I hope that together, our combined opinions helped you with that. So we are at the end of our time, unfortunately. So we’re going to go ahead and stop there, but thank you so much to everyone who hung out in the comments with us and who sent us questions. This was the most active comment section in a video yet, which is.

Tracy Levesque: [00:44:17] Cool. Yeah. To see my kid.

Allie Nimmons: [00:44:22] I appreciate it. I definitely yeah. Tracy, thank you so much for sharing your part of your Wednesday afternoon with us. Oh, Jamie says such great information. Thank you, Tracy. And Allie, you are welcome. Thank you for being here with us. Tracy, if people would like to learn more about you, your agency where can they find you? Where can they best get in touch with you?

Tracy Levesque: [00:44:39] Our website is yikesinc.com YIKES Inc. And I forgot to mention that we are one we are a WordPress VIP agency. Which another thing I’m very proud of. Like we are the first and I think still the only certified women owned certified LGBT owned VIP agency in the world. And if you want to check me out on Twitter, my personal account is liljinni, L I L J I N N I.

Allie Nimmons: [00:45:07] Alrighty. So I’ll make sure to add those links to the description. So if you’re watching and you just want the grab those quick links to go find Tracy. You can definitely do that. And before we sign off for real and it’s time to pick our weekly random giveaway winner. So this week our winner is Mario. Congratulations, Mario. I will email you at the email address that you provided for us, that you can go ahead and grab your prize.

And yeah, we will see everyone next week. Make sure you go to a wpbuffs.com/wp-ama-series . Sign up there to get early access to who the next speaker is. And you can submit your questions. First. We do meet every Wednesday here on the WP Buffs, YouTube channel. So if you subscribe to this channel, you’ll get alerted of when our next session is scheduled for. And if you want to find out any more about us, go to  dot com. Find us on social media. That’d be boss. It’s really everything. So that is all folks and have a fantastic rest of your day.

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