🎙️ Podcast

Watch the videos

Obi-Wan stops by today taking a small break between helping others save the galaxy.

In this episode of WPMRR, Jay discusses his thoughts on annual recurring revenue, having a business mindset, and his book “Building a Business that Lasts.”

Tune in to learn how to be the best guide for your customers.

Episode Resources:


Joe:

Hey, hey, hey, the WordPress People, welcome back to the WPMRR WordPress podcast. I’m Joe.

Jay:

And I’m Obi-wan Kenobi.

Joe:

And you’re listening to the WordPress business podcast. We’ve got Obi-wan on the podcast this week. What’s going on, just saving the galaxy this week or what?

Jay:

Yes. Yeah, man. That’s all I do, help other people save the galaxy ultimately.

Joe:

Ah, there you go. I’ve had people pick Obi-wan before, and a lot of the reply is, “I’m a background character that helps other characters to be their most powerful.” So as an owner of a design agency, I totally get that.

Jay:

Yeah. That’s kind of the ideas. We always talk about being the guide for our customers and helping our customers be the guide for their customers, versus trying to be the hero of the story. So instead of being Luke Skywalker, I picked Obi-wan.

Joe:

There you go. You are the chosen one. I’ve got my high ground. Yeah, nice. Okay. We’ve got Obi-wan on the pod this week, also known as Jay Owen. Jay, I feel doing a little intro here and tell folks the stuff you do with WordPress.

Jay:

Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been building WordPress websites for, I don’t know how long, ages. I’ve run this agency for over 20 years, and we’ve developed hundreds of WordPress websites, which we host, manage design, develop, the whole thing from beginning to end. And I remember back in the day doing things in plain HTML and we don’t do that anymore. So it’s nice to have a platform to use, and WordPress as our platform of choice.

Joe:

Yeah. Very cool. So one thing I wanted to touch on, was you mentioned you build about 50 or so websites a year. Is that a strategic amount of websites that you’re, maybe we could build 75, but they wouldn’t quite be as good. Is 50 a number you were going after, or is that just how it ended up?

Jay:

Yeah, it’s really just how it ended up right now, based on our current team size and structure. It’s a great number as far as profitability goes. It’s a great number as far as producing the right quality. And I think at the end of the day, it’s about trying to balance all those elements together, right. Can we provide the right customer service? Do we have the right team? Can we produce the right quality? Can we do it in the right timeframe? And so, just from our workflow standpoint, it works really well for us to be working on a blueprint, which is basically what we consider to be the front end messaging, website, wire frame, all of those details. Then it goes into a website kickoff the next week. Then it goes into actually building it. And then as one website is getting launched in, another one’s getting kicked off. So it’s this pretty steady cadence. It doesn’t always work as perfectly as that. I wish that it did. But that’s the idea anyway.

Joe:

Yeah. Very cool. I feel there are listeners out there who, they’re at the stage we were at some point of our careers, where they hear this 50 number, and you’re, “It’s the great number for profitability, it’s great for customer support, we can maximize everything we do with that, doing around that number of sites.” And maybe people starting are, “Okay, I need to be doing all this immediately.” I’m sure you grew into the 50 sites per year model, and you had to get there over months, probably years. What was that process earlier in the agency career, maybe when you weren’t doing as many sites and you were still trying to figure things out?

Jay:

Oh man, it took me a long time to figure things out. I don’t know if I’m slow or what. But I mean I started really young, so I started building websites when I was probably 12 or 13 years old. I started the agency that I run today when I was 17, which was almost 21 years ago. And there were years where I wasn’t even sure I’d have enough work to keep myself busy for a week.

Jay:

I mean, I remember I was about 22 years old and I had just gotten married and we wanted to have some kids. And the business really was not doing very much at all. I mean maybe we were doing 25 grand in total revenue. And it was just me, but I was also waiting tables, and my wife was waiting tables. And now will we do millions of dollars in sales a year now, but back then I didn’t I didn’t think I could provide for a family. I went to work in the insurance business, put my web agency on the back burner because I didn’t think I had what it took.

Jay:

I knew I had married the right woman when I came home and I was upset and I was crying, because I’m a little bit of a crier, and she said, “What’s wrong?” and I’m, I hate this work. I can do it and I can make a lot of money at it, but I hate it. And she said, “So quit, and do what you love.”

Jay:

And I was 22 years old, and I’m 38 now, so that was the day that I said, “You know what, I’m going to make this work. I’m going to go as hard as I can and try and find a way to turn this into the thing that provides for our family and creates the future that we want and we dreamed of.

Jay:

But I remember telling her back then, “I just wonder if I’ll ever have enough work just to keep myself busy all week.” Because I didn’t back then. And now, I mean we have a full time in house team of about 17 people, plus tons of contractors and other services that we use to help support our clients and work. And everybody’s got more work than they’ve got time to do. Even in the midst of the current chaos that we’re going through globally, everybody’s still crazy busy, which I’m just really, really thankful for. But there certainly were plenty of seasons where 50 websites a year would have been totally insane. I couldn’t have done it to begin with, but the idea of just producing that much revenue. And that’s only a piece of the business of what we do as well. So it’s definitely changed over time.

Joe:

Yeah, totally man. I think back to even three or four years ago for me, because [W Bluffs 00:05:48] is coming up on six years old. And thinking back to even earlier days, man, it was so different. And I’m on your website right now, designextensions.com. You’ve got this great video on the homepage. It is super tight. When you come to this site, you’re like, “Yeah, I want these people to design a website. Their design for their own website’s killer. They’ve got this awesome video. Yeah, I’m going to do this consultation with them.” But it wasn’t always like that. People would hop on the site and be like, “Okay, I have to build a site exactly like this.” Well, Jay has been doing this for 21 years. He knows a little something about what works and what converts, how to put a site together and that kind of stuff.

Joe:

Yeah. I feel like most people hear these stories, I love hearing your story of going through tough times or the growing the business as well. A lot of people, they see people with medium sized businesses, maybe businesses doing $500,000 a year or millions of dollars a year, and they say, “Man, how can I do that?” And the answer almost everyone I hear give is, “Suffer through a few years of not doing so well, and figure it out along the way. And one day you’ll wake up and just be there. And you’ll question, I don’t know really, how I did this. And maybe I made a few right decisions, but also got lucky here.”

Joe:

Sounds like your wife, your partner was a big help in that, which I will have to say the same. I have a very supportive partner. But I would love to hear any other small pieces of, I don’t know, small details of something that happened that helped you to move things forward and get past some of those tough times.

Jay:

Yeah. There’s a lot of things that I’ve learned along the way. And I’ll give you two specific ones. The first one’s an easy one. It’s not really necessarily easy to grow, but it’s something that you have to think about. My uncle told me very early on… We were just going project to project. So, I’d do a project and I’d make 500 bucks. I do it for another project and I’d make $1,500. And I’d do a project and I’d $5,000. And when you’re 19 or 20 years old, $5,000, is like, holy smoke, this is a ton of money. And now it’s like I have 17 people have to pay for it.

Jay:

It’s not a ton of money anymore. But one of the things he said to me at that time was, Jay, you’ve got to find a way to create recurring revenue. And that has been a godsend of the sustainability of the company from a growth standpoint. Because every month, you’re not starting over. Every year, you’re not starting over. But I remember, the very first thing I ever sold that was recurring was website hosting. Naturally, if you’re selling a website, the next thing is website hosting. Now, if you’ve done website hosting long enough, you know there’s a lot of pain out there that can be involved with hosting websites.

Joe:

Oh yeah.

Jay:

But thankfully the hosts that exists today that are out there are so far superior to what existed back then. It makes it a lot easier, especially on WordPress. But I remember selling a website hosting for 10 bucks a month. And I think it cost me at that point, I’m using some cheap budget host, it cost me like $4 a month. So I had $6 a month in profitability. That was it.

Joe:

Yes.

Jay:

$10 a month in total revenue that was recurring. But every month I got $10 a month. I think they paid it annual. So I got $120 a year. And I got another one and another one and another one and another one. Now we have almost $2 million in annual recurring revenue. But that started with $10 a month. So finding ways to develop recurring revenue and then varying those revenue streams, can be so powerful in business because it’s not just hosting. It’s hosting and it’s maintenance and it’s coaching and it’s consulting. And it’s all these different pieces of the puzzle.

Jay:

Each of which produce a different revenue stream for the business, which is really important as we go into economic recession type seasons. Because the only way that you make it through that is diversity in revenue. People say all the time that you have to niche down in order to be successful. That is not true. You do not have to niche down to be successful. You can scale more quickly. That’s true. But you don’t have to niche down. Because why? Because I haven’t and it’s worked perfectly fine. We’ve grown every single year, top and bottom line for 20 years in a row. The second thing that I would say is extremely important in seeing sustained success without totally losing your mind in the process is you have to have the right people around you. So there’s four people always say that you have to have around you if you want to grow successfully without losing your mind.

Jay:

Number one, you got to have somebody to look up to. So somebody that you’re learning from. Somebody that’s ahead of you in business, you’re reading their books, you’re following their webinars. You’re listening to their podcast, whatever it is. Somebody that’s ahead of you that you’re looking up to. You need somebody that’s standing beside you. And what I mean by that person is, other business owners, other people that are in a similar line of work to you. You could have a little bit of a commiserating in the tough days but also celebrate together in the good days. And you need somebody that’s looking up to you. So somebody that’s learning from you. I think we should all be teaching all the time. And if we’re all teaching, we’re going to actually learn the most.

Jay:

So we need somebody to look up to, somebody to stand beside us, somebody who’s looking up to us. And the last one is, this is my wife from earlier that I was talking about. You need somebody that believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself. Because along the way, regardless of how good you are, how smart you are, or how whatever you are, there are going to become seasons where you go, I’m not sure I can do this. There are going to be seasons where you go, I’m not sure I have what it takes. I’m not sure I’m smart enough. I’m not sure I’m as good as this person. Especially in the midst of the climate that we’re in with today’s social media world of all you got to do is flip on Instagram and there’s all these mega successful people.

Joe:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jay:

And the truth is often much, much different. We very rarely show our behind-the-scenes on Instagram. And that can make us feel like we don’t have what it takes. So those two things. Recurring revenue and having the right people in your life can make all the difference around long-term business, success, and growth.

Joe:

Yeah. I love that idea of having the right people around you. I think that’s quintessential to being successful and becoming the success you want to be in life. I have this kind of thought that any big business or successful business or business you see, you’re like, I want to be that someday. They’re not all that much different than where you are right now. In fact, they were probably where you are today 5 years ago, 10 years ago. You know, however long ago. And all they’ve really done is they’ve persisted and overcome a lot of challenges to get to that point. That’s all to me like building a business is. It’s like experimentation and figuring out what works, what doesn’t work, and overcoming challenges. And if you overcome enough challenges, you eventually continue on and get to the point where you want to be. But to do that is a whole other story.

Joe:

Like talk and talk is different than walking the walk. And when it comes to actually doing those things, nobody can do it themselves. And if you are somehow an Elon Musk, sort of just pushing everything, doing everything myself, you’re probably like an extreme, extreme exception to the rule. Most people need support and the right people around them. So I love that idea. And obviously I’m a big fan of monthly recurring revenue. And I love hearing about like, starting so small. Because a lot of people are at that starting point where they’re like, I’ve only got $100 monthly recurring revenue.

Jay:

Yeah.

Joe:

Like I’m like in the Indie Hackers community and I get emails from them every once in a while, and people celebrating like, $100, monthly recurring revenue. And obviously to us, that’s not a lot of monthly recurring revenue. But in some ways, it’s the most important amount of monthly recurring revenue. Because you can’t get to $2 million or $3 million annual recurring revenue without hitting those first steps. And figuring out how to get from zero to one can sometimes be the toughest point.

Jay:

And the biggest thing about that too I think is, when people start to give you their money, that’s the greatest sign of like, hey, I actually do believe in your product or service. Because people give lip service to this all the time and it’s one of the biggest dangers that people have when they’re starting a business or trying to run businesses. Oh yeah, I would pay for that. Oh yeah, I think that’s great. Okay, well, will you pay me for it? Oh, well, no, that’s not really for me. You know?

Jay:

And so, when people actually start paying you, I don’t care if it’s that first ten dollars or if it’s the one hundred thousandth dollar or if it’s the millionth dollar, you can always have these milestones that you’re reaching for, but there’s so much trust in somebody actually giving you that money. And then being as good steward of that money and caring well for it to make sure that you’re delivering the value for them that hopefully it’s going to be more valuable than what they’re paying you. I mean, my uncle told me a long time ago, just do a good job for people and ask them to tell somebody else. You’ll never run out of business.

Joe:

Oh man, that’s great advice. I like little mantras like that that keep things simple for me. Because if things get too complex, I’ll get lost, I can’t follow anything. I’m like, I don’t know what’s going on. But if I can follow simple formulas, then I’ll be good to go. I wanted to touch on a little bit more. You talked about different ways to run agency models. You know, there’s niching down into different areas. And then there’s staying somewhat more general, like it sounds like you have at Design Extensions. And I love that you said like, there’s so many examples of people being successful both ways. It’s not like you have to do this to be successful or you have to do that to be successful.

Jay:

That’s right.

Joe:

It’s all about learning and executing in a way that makes sense for your business. I’d love to talk a little bit more about Design Extensions kind of not niching down. You mentioned that you have a lot of different, or a few different areas for monthly recurring revenue and just driving revenue in general for the business. How did you decide what new monthly recurring revenue area you wanted to add to your business? Like you started off doing hosting and design. When did you decide to start getting into consultation and things like that?

Joe:

And I’m kind of asking on a personal note because WP Buffs does website management. Like that’s what we do. We’re the technical partner for agencies and freelancers and also business owners and entrepreneurs, startups, those kind of things. What if we wanted to do a little bit more than that? What if we had customers who were asking us for other stuff and we wanted to go into other areas? Like how did you decide what’s the best new areas we should go into now?

Jay:

Yeah. I think there was a couple things. I think number one it’s just a matter of what are people asking for that you’re already doing business with? So we’re already doing business with these people, and they need this service over here, and I’m having to tell them to go use this company over here. And maybe that is the best thing for now, because sometimes if you jump too quickly into something that you really don’t have enough knowledge base on, it could be a real hot mess. And then you can damage a relationship that you could’ve kept perfectly fine by just doing what you were already good at. The problem is you never grow or stretch yourself that way. So I’m not an aggressive risk taker, but I want to explore new frontiers. That’s my personality type. I want to kind of try a new thing.

Jay:

So that’s always making me look around and go, all right, what do our clients need that we can provide? But we also have to be really good at what we’re already doing. And that comes down to systemization of process. Now I used to be a big anti-process anti-systemization kind of guy, because I felt like it made everything cookie cutter. And I felt like it made everything not unique in some way, because it wasn’t this organic, creative process and we’re following these stringent rules, if you will. And I’ve learned over time, that’s just not really true. Creatives can still be creative within constraints. And then sometimes those constraints actually create great value. And so now that we have better systems in process, I’m able to step away, number one. I’m not involved in building websites anymore. I used to. I used to do the whole thing.

Jay:

I would design them in Photoshop and then I’d slice them up, and then I’d export the images, and write HTML, and put the tables together back before we had CSS. And I did all of that, but I don’t do any of that anymore. Shoot, I barely even know how to use half the editors that we use now for client websites. But that’s my job. My job is to not know how to do those things. That’s hard for people as you scale and grow a business. And so having the right systems in place and knowing what we do now really well allows us to go, all right, that is working really well. That’s working like clockwork. Now I can go do this thing over here. And to me, I don’t have a ton of other businesses that I operate. I have a few that I kind of have a little bit of ownership in, but this is my primary baby.

Jay:

But with inside of Design Extensions, there’s all these little extensions, for lack of a better word, that we kind of operate that are almost like micro businesses within the businesses. Like our hosting, we do enough website hosting. That is a business by itself. We do enough maintenance, that’s a business by itself. We do enough website building, business by itself, consulting, application development, all these different things. We didn’t use to do all those things. So I think you have to get good at what you’re doing first. You have to have good systems in place to optimize and automate that stuff. And then you can look at, all right, what other services can we provide? And that’s ultimately dictated by what people need and what they want.

Joe:

Yeah. I guess that’s kind of what we’re up to. We get a lot of feedback from customers about, “Hey, can you help me with this? Or can help me with like X, Y, or Z?” And we can be like, “Yeah, sure. We do X and Y, but oh, we don’t really do Z. Here’s one of our partners we can do that with.” And so we’re always thinking about, hmm, what are some other areas we can start to dive into. And I always, I guess, thought that the reason I didn’t want to jump too quickly into doing other things is because I wanted to make sure that WP BUffs was really, really, really good at the one thing that we do. And then maybe we’ll jump into something else when we’ve kind of hit that point of what you’re talking about, this really highly systemized. We’re nailing this month over month, and now maybe we’re more comfortable maybe doing a second thing or a third thing.

Joe:

But I mean, I love the idea of just listen to your customers. And if you’ve done a good job building monthly recurring revenue in one area, and you have enough customers where you can get good feedback from them about maybe some other things they need. Hey, 20% of these folks need more consultation when it comes to marketing and growth. Hey, we already know there’s money to be spent there because, like you said, there’s the huge step of them paying you money. If they’ve paid you money, they’re probably willing to pay money to do other stuff. So, hey, if we can step into that role, then it lowers your risk, I guess, because you already know there’s, one, a market there, and two, you already have customers who you already have their credit card information. All you have to do is just get them to agree to more stuff to do when you’re already doing good work for them in this other area. So it’s a pretty easy bridge to get there.

Jay:

Yeah. And it also goes back to really just asking the question, how can I help this customer? How can I help them succeed? We were joking about the whole OBI-Wan, Star Wars thing, but seriously, that’s the idea. That’s it. OBI-Wan’s responsibility in Star Wars was not to be the hero of the story. It was to come alongside Luke Skywalker and help him succeed. What does Luke need to be successful? Well, he needs a light saber. He needs some training. He needs this, he needs this. And so you look at your customer and go, how can I help them? And that’s what sales is, ultimately. People get uncomfortable at sales. Especially I find people in the design realm or even in development realm, they just feel like there’s something icky about sales in general.

Jay:

But there’s not good. Good sales is just helping other people accomplish their dreams and desires. That’s it. And if what you offer is actually going to help them succeed, I believe you’re morally obligated to convince them to buy it, not the other way around. And so there’s so much confusion, because plenty of us have had bad salespeople sell us bad products at some point in life, and so that’s why we feel like that. So there’s a reason behind it. But good sales, if you know you’ve got a product or service that’s going to help somebody, we’ve got to convince them to use it because it’s going to be helpful for them. And if it’s helpful for them, it’s going to be helpful to others. And that’s how you grow a business.

Joe:

Yeah. I mean, I couldn’t agree more. I think you’re going to feel icky doing sales if you’re selling some crappy product or a crappy service that’s not that doesn’t work. But if you’re selling something that’s truly going to help someone, I almost think of sales as more just like an educational tool. It’s like someone hops on a discovery call with us, we’re going to talk about the benefits of what we do. And we’re pretty upfront and straightforward in our sales calls. If this subscription isn’t the right fit for you, we’re not going to push it on anybody. It’s almost like we’re not even here to sell it. We’re just going to get the information out in front of you and help you make the right decision. And if that right decision is a subscription with us, that’s great for us. But if not, that’s actually not good for anybody.

Joe:

But I totally agree. Sales sometimes feels like maybe if you’re cold calling or email outreach, that can feel a little bit more intrusive. And it’s one of the reasons why we’ve done more of the inbound marketing, because we just kind of every week we look at our calendar and it’s like, oh, we’ve got 30 discovery calls this week because they just came in through organic search. And they’ve already gone through that vetting process of saying they want what we offer already. And that also seems like, I don’t know, a nicer way to do sales for me as opposed to picking up the phone and giving random people calls. Maybe it’s just not my style. I don’t know.

Jay:

Yeah.

Joe:

I’d love to talk about the footer of your website because it looks like you’re on the Inc. 5000 list for 2019, which is super cool. That’s one of my goals for WP Buffs is to reach this point of hitting that list. Not that, I mean, at the end of the day, it’s somewhat arbitrary. Right? And it’s kind of like, I don’t know, like it feels somewhat like an arbitrary gold hit, but there’s something about achieving that, that to me would signify that we’ve done something great with our business. And I just see you’ve already made it in 2019. So first, congratulations. And second, what was going through your head when you got that whatever email notification it says, “You’ve made the Inc. 5000 list?”

Jay:

Full transparency, it actually makes me really nervous. Here’s why. The Inc. 5000 list is based on the country’s fastest growing companies. The way that they do the math, for anybody that’s not familiar, is I think you have to have over $2 million in revenue, and then you have to have grown a certain percentage over the previous year in comparison to every other company in the country. That’s essentially how it works. You can’t go from $1 in sales to $5,000 in sales and then be like, “Oh, 5000% growth,” or whatever that is. It’s not like that. You have to have over a certain amount and there’s a trigger point.

Jay:

But I have actually always been a big believer in slow, consistent growth. When I start hearing, “Hey, you’re one of the fastest growing companies in the country,” I go, “Whoa, hold on.” That makes me a little nervous, because I want to make sure that that speed is not costing quality, because you’re going to bleed. When you’re driving really fast in a car and you get in an accident, the likelihood of severe damage is very high. But if you’re driving very slow and you get in an accident, the likelihood of severe damage is very low. The same is true in business. If you’re moving exceptionally fast, there’s high risk. But if you slow down a little bit, there’s less risk. The problem is, in our society, we don’t have the patience for slow growth.

Jay:

I was excited about it, I was honored to get it, and it’s definitely gotten us a lot of attention. It’s one of those things that’s like, everybody knows what the Inc. 5000, Inc. 500’s even better, but we didn’t make it that high on the list, is everybody knows what that list is, that you’ve heard of it before, so there’s notoriety in it. There is something as a business where you go, “I’ve accomplished something.” But I also think that there can be false positives that we have to be careful of in business and in growth.

Jay:

I’ll give you another example. We were distributed, we didn’t have a central office for 16 years. Never had a physical office space, all worked remote, it was fine. Finally decided to put an office in, primarily because a bunch of us had a bunch of kids and working from home became very difficult in order to do that. I’ve got five kids at home, another guy had four, another guy had five. We were making a lot of babies around here. We needed a place to go work. Now we have a great physical office that we love, but when I built that office, all of a sudden I had all these people be like, “Oh, congratulations.” They were all basically praising me as a business owner as if I had just started the business.

Jay:

Which was good because it created attention, which is valuable, but it was actually the first time in the company that I had ever been in debt. I had been totally debt free as a company for 16 years. And then I bought an office and bought all this equipment and stuff, and I took on long term debt, I have a mortgage, I took on some short term debt, I have a bunch of equipment that we needed to buy. To me, I was actually less successful in the moment than I’d ever been, but all these people were giving me all these accolades. I think we have to be careful of stuff like that, of not letting these trophies be too dangerous. The Inc. 5000 is great. I’m proud that we hit that level, but it also makes me cautious. That’s how I think as a business leader.

Joe:

It’s really refreshing for me to hear as someone who’s not hit that list yet. Maybe you’re the person I’m talking to now who’s the person who is ahead of me who I need to talk to about this stuff, because it’s nice to hear… Because as a business owner, I feel like I’m always growing and putting myself outside of my comfort zone, and there’s always something going on that I’m stretching myself thin and learning in that area. This is a good example of that, especially in terms of being able to see around corners and know, when something happens, there are always positives and there are always negatives and they are always a few things probably in between those two things. To take things as they come in the right way is really important, especially when it comes to mentality.

Joe:

I remember I tweeted out once that we’d earned our millionth dollar on Stripe, which was really cool. Again, somewhat arbitrary number, but still cool. That’s a cool number to hit, and I remember getting a ton of positive feedback, “Oh my God, that’s so amazing. So amazing.” But also thinking, “I don’t feel like I’ve done anything that special, that I’m that different than I was when I made my hundred thousandth dollar.” I just kept going. But having that mentality of staying grounded, I guess, staying humble and making sure that while this is a great accolade, there’s more to do.

Joe:

Also, I’m interested to hear, because you mentioned that around that time you weren’t technically as financially successful because you had gone into debt on a few things. There are a lot of companies out there with two employees that are maybe more profitable than a company with 20 employees. I get this all the time of, “How many people do you have on your team?” That’s to some people, a measure of success. Probably to a lot of people that’s a measure of success. They’re like, “You’ve got 20 people? That’s twice as amazing as 10 people. Wow, congratulations.” As you grow as a business owner, you realize, “Man, I’m trying to do the opposite. I want to hire less people to do more and pay them more and be more efficient.” But people outside of this realm don’t really realize that. Is that something that you had to grapple with as well?

Jay:

Yes. It’s such a pride and a ego thing as a business owner. One of the most valuable things… But money and people are the biggest thing. I hit a certain revenue mark, which revenue is crap anyway, it’s really profitability that matters, Let’s be honest. Number of people, that’s one of the reasons I started hiring people is I wanted to create jobs for people. I love creating jobs for people, it’s one of my favorite things to do. But I will say that there is a big level of pride there that’s not necessarily healthy. I remember back in the day, there’s a conference that I go to every year. Well, back when we used to get to go to conferences. Everybody there owns an agency of some size.

Jay:

Some people are there as they got two people on their team and other people there and they have 200. I remember, before we had even 10 people, that there was this next layer where you got into this club almost once you passed 10, and another club once you passed a certain level. Now that we’re around 20, we’re at 17 right now, it’s a really good size for us. Growth just for growth’s sake is really, really dangerous. It can put you in a very bad situation. You should only hire when you really need to hire, and when you hire, you should hire very slowly. Then when you have to fire, you should fire even slower because you’re the one that hired them in the first place.

Jay:

Now, people have different opinions about that, but that’s mine, it’s worked for me for a long time. I think there is a lot of pride. That’s not inherently bad, it’s not bad to want to have more people, it’s not bad to want to have more money, but it can be dangerous if that’s our only focus. Because for me now, I felt like I had to get the team to a certain size so it could operate without me. Because that’s a big differentiator between sub 10 people and over 10, is that most companies have to be at a certain size so that you can step away. For example, I’m about to take a month long RV trip next month with our whole family. I’ll still be around and available, but I’m certainly not working five days a week, six days a week, full time. That’s not going to happen. There has to be a team in place that can operate without me.

Jay:

Plus, if I’ve got a team and I go get hit by a bus, God forbid, and don’t make it, what happens to the company? What happens to our clients? What happens to the rest of the team? If the whole thing is dependent on me and I’m the linchpin of the entire organization, then the amount of suffering that happens as a result of that is much higher than just my own death. I don’t want that. That gets a little morbid, but these are the things we got to think about when you’re in charge of people.

Jay:

That’s a responsibility as a leader and as you grow, especially those people out there that are just sole entrepreneurs running single person WordPress shops. Man, you could be so successful doing that, and it’s a lot of fun the hard thing is, unless you develop good recurring revenue, which is what we were talking about earlier, when you stop working, the money stops coming too. And so that’s all that has to be factored in. But going back to what you’re saying a minute ago, I do think there is a real danger in the praise that we get for awards, for number of people and number of dollars, that aren’t always actually the most important thing. So those are the things to think about, for sure.

Joe:

Yeah. I couldn’t agree more with that. It’s just funny. The whole time we’ve been talking here, I’ve been like, Man, Jay reminds me of somebody. I can’t pin it on the… I can’t nail it, but he reminds me of someone. And then I was like, Oh, Dave Ramsey. He sounds a lot like Dave Ramsey. I’m feeling a lot of resonation, like the way you talk and the way you put things, like, Oh. And I’m on your website right now. You have this book that’s out. It said, getjaysbook.com. And I hear it. I see a picture of you and Dave Ramsey and John Maxwell here. And I’m like, Oh yeah, okay, now this is making sense. Something now is completed. So it seems like this… Is this the conference you were talking about? I listen to the podcast [crosstalk 00:33:08].

Jay:

That’s one of them. That’s not actually the conference I was talking about previously, but I absolutely love the EntreLeadership tribe. And when I was talking about people that I look up to and people that I learned from, I mean, Dave is certainly one of those people. That particular book, EntreLeadership has been one of the most foundational documents for me, because it’s just real practical. A lot of business books you get a lot of theory in, versus here’s how you run this business. That’s how I tried to put my book together too. The idea behind building a business that lasts, is most businesses don’t make it past the first year and even fewer make it past the fifth year. Once you get past the fifth year, there’s a lot more stability. And once you get past the 10th year, you’re basically as stable as you want to be, unless you make some real catastrophic choices.

Jay:

And so for me, I wanted to give people practical strategy around how to build a business that lasts. And Dave, that entire organization at EntreLeadership certainly has been that for me. It’s been a huge catalyst for my own personal growth and our growth as an agency.

Joe:

Yeah. I’m a big listener to the podcast. I go hot and cold on podcasts, where sometimes I’m listening to it more, sometimes not, you know how it is. Sometimes things are in, sometimes not as much. But that’s one of the core, when people have questions about what podcasts I listen to as a business owner. I mean, there are a lot out there, but like EntreLeadership’s one of those super solid. You could listen to any episode and gain five or 10 gems from that episode. And if you have a specific challenge you’re having right now, that’s a library definitely to go look through. And maybe, I don’t know if they have search on their website, I’m sure they have something where you can have a certain challenge you’re looking for and find 10 episodes that go through something like that.

Joe:

So cool. And the book is called Building A Business That Lasts. You mentioned earlier, you’ve got five kids at home. So yeah, working 60 hour work weeks probably is not as much of an option anymore. So I guess yeah, I’d love to hear a little bit more about what’s in the book and how to, I’m sure it matches something, has something around as you’re growing a family, how to run a business and that has to do with building a business that lasts. But yeah, I’d love to hear a little more about the book and what’s in it.

Jay:

Yeah. So the subtitle of the book is actually Without Sacrificing Family. So Building A Business That Lasts Without Sacrificing Family. Yeah, I do have five kids and they range from seven to 15 right now. And one of the questions I always ask at the end of my podcast is around work-life balance. What does that mean to you? It means something different to everybody. In my book I actually have a chapter I call the work-life blender because I don’t think it’s about balance. I think that in certain seasons of life, it is all out Gary V style hustle. 24-7, 365, you got to put the pedal to the metal to get the job done. In other seasons of life, you just need rest. In other seasons of life, there are other people that need your time and that’s different for everyone.

Jay:

And so when I was in my early twenties and I wasn’t married yet, or even right when I first got married, I didn’t have any kids yet, I could put a lot more time, a lot more screen time in than I can now. Because ultimately I have a vision for my life that is bigger than just a successful, scalable business. I want to be married to the same woman when I’m 75 years old. I want our children to bring their children to our house. I want to have a place where we can all be together. And I also want to build a business that’s successful and scalable and helps tons of other people, both the people that work for the company and the people that are clients of the company. And I believe all of that can happen together.

Jay:

And I think in our society right now, we have this pendulum of either have to be this, or you have to be that, you have to sacrifice this to have that. And I just don’t believe that’s true. And I don’t only not believe it’s true, I know it’s not true. Because, I’m not saying I’m the end all be all of success. Lord knows I have plenty of really, really hard days in my marriage and in my parenting and in my business. But it is about looking at the whole of everything, going, Hey, what do we need right now? What’s the most important? And a lot of it comes down to communication. My wife knows that there’s some days and some weeks where ahead of time, I’ll go, Hey babe, I got a lot going on, I am not going to be very available this week. She’s like, All right, as long as I know that ahead of time, I know what the plan is. And I think everybody has to have that communication cadence. That’s the big piece of the puzzle.

Jay:

And one of the stories I tell in the book, I’ll round out this section with this is, so often we treat those that we would say are the most important in our lives differently than we do our own clients. And I give this example, I say if you were sitting at dinner with somebody who you’ve been trying to get as a prospect or as a client for years, it’s a perfect connection, it’s exactly who you want to be connected with and you’re having a great dinner with them. And some random person calls you, maybe it’s even just a lower level client that’s not as important as this person. Would you pick that phone up and walk out of that dinner to go talk to that person? And the answer is no, of course you wouldn’t. But how many times do we do that with our spouses? How many times we do that with our kids?

Jay:

So be where you are and look, my wife will tell you, I struggle with this. I’m preaching to myself as much as I am to anybody else. But be where you are in those seasons, because especially for those of you that have kids or are thinking about having kids, I know people say this all the time, but man, they grow up so fast. My 15 year old, it seems like yesterday that he was a fat little chunky baby, rolling around on the couch and he’s about to start driving. And I can see him leaving now for the first time ever. And it’s like, Holy smoke. So I can work whenever. I can work till I’m dead. Thankfully with digital work, we’re not exactly attributed by how exhausted our bodies are. Hopefully my brain lasts long enough to make it. But I can work forever.

Jay:

My kids are growing up and so work-life balance is not about balance for me, it’s about looking at the season and going, Hey, some seasons, you need a little more sugar in your blender. And some seasons, you have a little more spinach and you got to figure out what that is for you. And not based on what anybody else tells you. Just because Gary V wants to work 24-7, that’s him. Just because somebody else tells you, you got to take three nap breaks or you’re not being successful, that’s up to them. You got to figure out what works for you in your season of life. And that’s okay.

Joe:

Yep. I love the idea of having work-life balance. And what’s the point of building a big, awesome, amazing business, if you’re going to be working a hundred hours a week, trying to get it figured out. That being said, everything you’re saying, I love it because it’s like shades of gray. It’s like, it’s never all one thing or all the others. Of course, there are times where you’re going to put in a lot of time to building a business. In my opinion, especially when you’re starting something out, just to get from zero to one, it requires a lot of work and the one way you can differentiate yourself is just putting in a ton of time, maybe … For me, it was like, well, I was with my wife, but I didn’t have kids at home. And there were some things that didn’t have … I didn’t have as much pressure financially.

Joe:

And so, that was a good time to say like, “Hey, in five years I kind of want to have this business that somewhat runs itself and I can work on this stuff I want to work on, but I also get to work from home and I can spend more time with our kids. So, is it okay if I work really hard for the next year and then build into that future?” That’s a great reason to want to spend a ton of time on something right now. And so, I think that’s a great place to wrap up the podcast.

Joe:

Jay, thanks again for being on, man, this has been awesome. A couple of quick things before we sign off. Tell people where they can find you online, social media, websites, that kind of stuff.

Jay:

Yeah, my own personal website, which has links to my book and my podcast and all the other stuff is jayowenlive.com, so that’s J-A-Y O-W-E-N live.com. You can find all the links to everything else on there. If you want to get a copy of Building a Business that Lasts, you can find it on Amazon or you can just go to getjaysbook.com, just cover shipping and handling and we’ll send you out a copy.

Joe:

Cool. While we were chatting here, I grabbed a copy for myself so I’m looking forward to reading it. Last but not least, I always ask our guests to ask our listeners here for a little five-star iTunes review, so if you wouldn’t mind giving a little ask, I’d appreciate it.

Jay:

Yeah, absolutely. Go out and get five stars on iTunes. It makes a big difference for those of us doing podcasts. So, help Joe and his team out by going out there and giving them five stars.

Joe:

Yeah, I appreciate it, man. And when you’re leaving a review, make sure you leave something you learned from this episode in the comments or something like, “Jay is awesome. You should have him on again.” And so, we’ll send him a screenshot and thank him for the review. You can go to wpmrr.com/iTunes, it redirects you right there to leave your quick review.

Joe:

If you’re a new listener, tough times during this Covid outbreak and all that, it’s pretty easy to sit around and binge Netflix or Hulu or HBO or whatever you’re watching these days, why don’t you binge some of the WPMRR WordPress podcasts? You can go through some old episodes. Jay, I think you’re actually going to be episode 99 so you’ve just missed 100, but 99, still probably a pretty cool one to be.

Jay:

It is, I’ll take it. I also started my business in 1999 so that kind of works out.

Joe:

Oh, there you go. We’re coming full circle here so there you go. Yeah. So, folks who want to go through and listen to some old episodes, feel free. If you have questions for us at the show, Christie and I are going to do another Q&A episode coming up so email questions to yo@wpmrr.com. That is it for this week. We will be again in your podcast players again next Tuesday. Jay, thanks again for being on, man, it’s been real.

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Youtube
Consent to display content from Youtube
Vimeo
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google
Spotify
Consent to display content from Spotify
Sound Cloud
Consent to display content from Sound

You clicked! That means you must be one of those really cool WordPress nerds.

 

Opt in for email updates on The WPMRR WordPress podcast and join Joe & Christie on what's feeling like a grand adventure! 

No thanks, I'll subscribe in my podcast app right now instead

You're almost done!

 

Just click the link in the confirmation email we just sent you and we'll update you monthly with new episodes.

 

Want to watch episodes instead of just listen?

No thanks, I'll subscribe in my podcast app right now instead
Cart Overview
Share via