182 podcast episodes 🎙️

In today’s episode, Joe talks to Pippin Williamson, the Managing Director at Sandhills Development, LLC – the home to several WP plugins such as AffiliateWP, Easy Digital Downloads, and WP Simple Pay. He’s also the man behind Sandhills Brewing, a microbrewery that focuses on oak-aged and oak-fermented beers. 

Pippin retells his day-to-day hustle in running two companies in entirely different industries, running his microbrewery and leading a team of web engineers. He also talks about success in affiliate marketing, implementing processes, and hiring skilled people that need less supervision. 

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:40 Welcome to the pod, Pippin!
  • 03:17 Have you heard about Sandhills Brewing?
  • 06:09 Why build a brewing company?
  • 11:27 Time management while running two companies
  • 18:14 Role change and working as a CEO
  • 23:00 Delegating jobs and handing off tasks
  • 27:32 The importance of implementing processes
  • 31:20 Latest developments at Sandhills
  • 34:07 Any new big features for affiliate marketers?
  • 35:37 How does the Payouts Service work?
  • 40:37 Ensuring that you’ll have a successful affiliate program
  • 44:25 The billing structure has to make sense for the customers
  • 47:50 Find Pippin online! 

Episode Resources:

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: [00:00:00] Howdy folks, Joe Howard here. This week, I got to sit down and chat with Pippin, Williamson don’t know, PIP in. You’ll hear more about him here in a few minutes at the beginning of the episode. But if you do know him, you probably know him just as that guy who doesn’t, he run, you know, a $4 million a year software business, and then also a pretty successful brewer.

Oh, that guy yes. Is Pippin Pippin. And I, man, we got to, you know, we’ve hung out a few times in person at word. Camps and WordPress, uh, events like press Nomics. And I’ve had other folks from Sandhills on the team here on the podcast. Kyle’s been on the podcast a couple of times. I think Chris had an, I don’t know if he’s been on the podcast, but I’ve, you know, I know Chris pretty well too.

And this is Pippin’s first time here on the pod. So Pippin and I got to chat about a bunch of stuff, but most at the core of it was. You know, obviously I’m the CEO of a business. And I learned a lot being able to pick Pippin’s brain on his role as a CEO of Sandhills development, as Sandhills has gone from a pretty small company to a really a more mature again, you know, for about $4 million a year, annual recurring revenue business.

How has his role as CEO changed? What’s been one of the adjustments been in his life as he’s taken on a leadership of a second business, which is totally disparate from the software business. So how does he run both the one time talked about some of the things he’s been really successful in, and also some of the things that he is self-admittedly kind of just sucks at, and it really was always.

A pleasure to hear someone who really tells it how it is. Who’s so honest and transparent about, you know, his strengths and his weaknesses and how he’s, regardless of those strengths and weaknesses really moved forward in both of his businesses. So. Without further ado, please. Welcome Pippin Williamson.

Enjoy today’s episode.

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Joe Howard: [00:02:39] All right. We are live on the part of this week with Pippin, Williamson, Pippin. What is going on? Tell folks a little bit about you and what you do with WordPress.

Pippin Williamson: [00:02:48] Sure thing. Thanks for having me, Joe. So I run a company called Sandhills development. We primarily focus on e-commerce and affiliate marketing plugins for WordPress, as well as a few other kind of related and tangible products. We’ve been running since about 2009 ish. So been in it for a while. And it’s the thing that keeps us busy day to day.

It’s still a lot of fun to work on. Uh, we are a fully remote team distributed around the world. And, um, what else would you like to know? I can tell you anything you want.

Joe Howard: [00:03:17] The, the one piece that you didn’t mention was the brewery part, which is kind of like a separate thing, I guess, but a lot of folks know you obviously through Sandhills Dave and all the work you do there, but also in the last few years, people kind of know you as like.

Isn’t flipping that guy that like, has that like significant software company, but also like runs as big time brewery on the side. Like what’s up with that. So what’s the status there.

Pippin Williamson: [00:03:37] It used to be a pretty common thing. Uh, when I traveled around to word camps and other, other WordPress conferences that people would always ask me about the beer side.

Uh, and that was because I was pretty open about the fact that I was trying to build a brewery. While also running a software company and we did, so we actually are approaching our third year anniversary. It’s called Sandhills brewing. Uh, and it’s a smaller,

Joe Howard: [00:03:58] You see the in the background is people are on YouTube is right in the back back there.

Pippin Williamson: [00:04:03] Small little microbrewery with two locations, one here where I live and then one up in the Kansas city area that my twin brother runs.

So these are little, I kind of call it my side project. It’s not really a side project. Now it’s a full-blown company with a staff and almost 20 people. And, but it keeps, it keeps us very busy. So yeah.

Joe Howard: [00:04:21] Yeah. I can only imagine. It feels like. Two pretty separate kinds of companies to one’s like a physical products, like a beverages company. And one is a totally technical remote software company.

Pippin Williamson: [00:04:36] Different from each other. There’s a little bit overlap here and there sometimes with some of the technologies that we’ll use to run the business side of things. And then there’s a tiny bit of overlap with people, mainly myself, accounting and a few other on the business side of things.

Uh, our company headquarters for Sandhills development is technically this small little, uh, nondescript office that also just happens to be inside of the brewery rebuilding. So just on the other side of the wall is the brewery production area, uh, or one of them. Cause we do have two locations, but otherwise they’re completely different businesses.

I mean the business model is different. The customers are different. The staff is different. The challenges they have is very different, which became abundantly clear this last year with the COVID pandemic. You know, the software company was one that was very. Privileged to be hardly impacted by the downturns of COVID at all.

Like from an economic perspective. Whereas the brewery on the other hand was night and day different. I mean, it was like sales just vanished out of thin air and a totally different set of challenges.

Joe Howard: [00:05:36] Yeah, totally. I feel like a lot of people who start technology businesses they’ll, you know, start something hopefully eventually like find something they’re successful with in technology.

And then when they may be transitioned to their new thing, they’ll maybe use a lot of their learnings to start a new technology business, because you can kind of start not from zero this time. Like maybe you have an audience or maybe you just have all this experience of running technology company and you were kind of like, Nah, like I’m going to go run this brewery and almost like start from zero.

Maybe you’ve had a background in like beer or like physical products business before, or maybe you’re just like a guy who likes beer. Like what made you decide, like I’m going to start a brewery and almost kinda start from zero when it comes to like your experience running a business.

Pippin Williamson: [00:06:18] There’s several main components. So number one is. You already said it. I just like beer. I like the history. I like the product. I like the experience. I like visiting breweries. It was just an environment that I really enjoyed. And so, you know, wanting to help cultivate and be part of that, that environment was definitely interesting to me.

Another big component was the wanting to have some kind of connection to my local, local community and local environment. I live in a small town in the center of Kansas and. I had traveled all around the world. I’ve been at tons of different places. And I came back home to my childhood home basically, and felt like there was something significantly missing here, which was this culture around microbreweries and such.

So I wanted to create one and I wanted to try to make a positive improvement to the local community. And I’d have some kind of connection. Like I’ve always run into the digital world where the only thing that physically ties us down to one place is. A mailing address for, you know, bank statements and stuff like that.

And I just, I wanted to have something that tied better into our local community. And then maybe the last component is I just like building things I like creating. And this was a real unique challenge of how to, you know, take the various learnings that we had from building this opera company over 10 years and, you know, apply those to building something completely different.

You know, there’s still a lot of. Just general learnings, you know, from how to manage a company, how to manage teams, how to manage policies, you know, everything that we’ve learned from the software side that do apply to the brewery or help, but it was still a completely unique challenge. You know, I get to learn about logistics of supply and demand, logistics of sourcing, raw materials. It’s just a whole different world and it was super fun. And so I liked the challenge.

Joe Howard: [00:08:08] Yeah, I think it’s interesting hearing people think that you’re like double down on what you’ve already done by kind of maybe starting a new company in the same space and like, thinking that that would be like potentially the most efficient way to do things.

Like from a financial standpoint, but like as a founder or like, you know, a leader in a company, I totally understand that. Like, I need like a new thing. Like I need like a new adventure and in a lot of cases, that’s the most important part for, you know, someone’s entrepreneurial issue is like that challenge is going to be like being successful financially or business wise is great.

But like, if it’s not challenging, if it’s not, it’s not feeling like you have an impact every day, like it’s gonna get boring. Like you’re going to get, you’re going to like look and try and find new ways to be impactful or new challenges. So.

Pippin Williamson: [00:08:51] I need fresh challenges in my life and, you know, fun puzzles to solve. And this was one of the ways to do that. We started building the brewery too, when I was going through a phase of pretty intense burnout from the digital world, and I just needed a complete change of pace. So that actually ended up being really important for my own personal sanity.

Joe Howard: [00:09:09] Yeah. I feel like this has been a pretty heavy year for myself also, actually some like one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the podcast is because I know you’ve had some of those challenges before and I’m very much trying to like get out ahead of those things.

I’m trying to like, stay impactful, keep my challenges going, like not feeling like I’m approaching burnout. And I know that. Potentially like starting a new venture is one way to like avoid burnout. But I like, I also like really like working on WPS, like I want to keep working on this business. And so that’s like something I’m like currently in this, like I’m getting coaching and I’m like making sure I’m, you know, dedicating good time to myself as well as like, you know, my work, I’m not diving too deep, too deep into work, like taking a breath and making sure I.

Keep some form of separation from it. So yeah.

Pippin Williamson: [00:09:56] There’s kind of an interesting balance. You have to find when, like, for me, when I was really burnt out on the software side and I needed to do something a little different, my solution to that was to go and build a physical business, build a brewery. And now a couple of years later now I actively juggle both.

And so I’m actively running the software company. I’m actively running the brewery. And now it’s, it’s a little bit more challenging to not allow the weight of both of them to take too much of a toll. Um, and so, you know, the next challenge will be to, you know, ensure that I can do both of these sustainably or, you know, somehow extricate myself from the majority of day-to-day operations of one of them hand those to somebody else. And then. Find out what the next thing is.

Joe Howard: [00:10:44] This whole group two, or even like multiple businesses at the same time, as someone who runs one business, I can see how it’s possible, but I can also see a lot of challenges around like, how do you dedicate your time? Correct me. There are a few good examples for this, right?

There’s like Elon Musk who runs, you know, space X and Tesla and solar city. And. Whatever boring remotely. Yeah. Right, right. Exactly. But that’s kind of what I’m trying to get at, which is like, he’s kind of like Elan, there’s only one Elon Musk in the world, but then there’s also like Jack Dorsey. Like he runs Twitter and square.

Like I heard him on Matt mullenweg’s podcast and he was talking about how he has like Monday meetings for both of those companies. And they’re both four hour meetings every Monday and I’m like, Oh my God, Holy shit. That’s like a lot of times I’d be interested to hear about your. Experience, you know, you said actively running two companies, you feel like you’re able to like spend and dedicate correct time to it.

So you’re not really like spending like 60 or 80 hours a week on those companies, or do you feel like it’s a little bit more pressure for both?

Pippin Williamson: [00:11:44] I think it’s a little bit of both. This last year has definitely been different, so much has been different for the last year, for times for everybody. But, but one particular thing that happened this year, Was with the brewery side of things.

It was like every other week, there was a staffing problem due to a potential COVID exposure or confirm a case. And so. This last year was not a good example of like my ability to balance both and to not spend 60 or 80 hours a week because you know, it would be very common for Friday morning. We wake up and find out that two of our staff from the previous night were just exposed to a positive case.

And now we have to pull them off and find somebody else to fill in so that we can keep the business running. I mean, just. Keep in mind that something like a brewery doesn’t run. If there are not people in the building, like we don’t make money. If there’s not people.

Joe Howard: [00:12:40] Yeah. Especially with like timings of stuff, you’ve got to like take the, you know.

Pippin Williamson: [00:12:44] We have, we have business hours, like we are here from three to 10 and there has to be staff in the building.

And so that meant that there was a lot of times when I had finished my week, I had put in my time, well, I’m going to go do another 10 hours of the brewery because somebody has to be there. So this last year was not a good example of that, but. That setting that aside, I try really hard to work no more than about 40 hours a week.

So, you know, I, I come to this office just about every day and I work about nine to five, you know, I do about eight hours a day, you know, I’m far from perfect. You know, there’s lots of evenings where I find myself opening my laptop and spending an hour, you know, on the couch or something like that. But in general, I work nine to five Monday through Friday.

For both businesses, sometimes it’s enough. Sometimes it’s not nearly enough, kind of depends on the week, but they’re also definitely like very simultaneous. Like there is no, you know, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday is sandals development. Thursday, Friday is brewery it’s one hour. Right now I could be talking to you on this podcast.

The next one I’m working with the brewery production team to figure out what we’re brewing for or making for the next week. And then 30 minutes after that, I can be in a meeting with PayPal to discuss something that we’re working on. Yeah. So it’s a lot of jumping back and forth.

Joe Howard: [00:13:57] Back and forth stuff is interesting. I’m kind of working with our marketing team right now. Like, so our head of growth, Alec, I’m trying to work with him on like how to balance, like some of his sales responsibilities and some of his more like marketing related. Responsibilities and to like transition from like doing three sales calls in the morning to like directly into more like marketing and content work.

Like there’s that transition time. That can be a challenge, not only like a challenge to figure out how to make that transition, but just the fact that if you’re doing a lot of transitioning, it just adds up and you find like in an eight hour day you’re doing like an hour and a half of like, transition that wasn’t really deep work.

Pippin Williamson: [00:14:35] It’s context, context, switching.

Joe Howard: [00:14:37] Hmm. Yeah. Have you found like an efficient way to do that? Are you still working on it.

Pippin Williamson: [00:14:41] Still working on it? I think.

Joe Howard: [00:14:43] Everything’s working progress.

Pippin Williamson: [00:14:44] Yeah. One of the things that I have found the most effective. Is to just do my very best to avoid back to back phone calls, back to back meetings, et cetera.

And so I try to do a maximum of, you know, two or three phone calls like this, you know, whether we’re talking a physical phone call or a zoom meeting or whatever, two or three a day at most. Just to ensure that there is enough time in between each one of those to properly switch into the context that I’m working on.

It has been a really challenging problem for the last year is finding focus time. I think the reality of running two businesses, especially two businesses that are very different in nature is that I am perpetually on call. If you will. Like, I feel like I’m a. This is good. This is probably a poor analogy, but like sometimes I feel like I’m a fireman that is just waiting for that nine 11 call to come in, but they go to the house on fire and it’s a bad analogy because I’m not always putting out fires.

That’s actually very far from my day-to-day job anymore, but I do switch contexts all the time. You know, it could be a quick need that a team member has. It could be a scheduling meeting. It could be, you know, it could be anything, you know, I’ve, I’ve filled. Pretty much every single role in Sandhills development, you know, I’ve, I’ve been the developer, I’ve been the support person.

I’ve been the marketing, I’ve been the boss, I’ve been payroll, I’ve been everything. And so, you know, I still find myself a lot of times it’s getting into discussions or, you know, tasks related to every single one of those topics. You know, I could go through a day and hit 30 different. Context of work very easily.

And I actually kind of thrive in that. I used to say that I thrive in chaos. However, I think that that is changing. Just number one, as our company has changed and grown and matured, and as I’ve gotten older, I don’t thrive in chaos as well anymore. And so I have started to be much more protective of my time and my focus because I’m finding myself having a harder time. Focusing in chaos.

Joe Howard: [00:16:44] Yeah. I like what you said about blocking off your calendar for only like two or three calls a day. I’ve found for myself that’s been super helpful because it just blocks off my calendar from other people taking. My time. And so when they don’t have access to that, then I can dictate how I spend my time efficiently more often.

So I think that’s just like a small thing. But to me that was interesting to hear because I feel like I found similar similarly that that’s worked for me. I just want to touch on what you were talking about. When it comes to like the maturity of your company and how it’s kind of starting to evolve. I mean, when you booked this call, you mentioned that you’re the monthly recurring revenue for Sandhills right now is about $350,000.

So every month that money’s coming in, you multiply that out two years. You’re talking about, you know, around a $4 million a year annual recurring revenue business. And that’s pretty significant, you know, I’ve found as my business to scale, even into seven figures a year, That my role has and kind of needs to change, like what my role was when we were at $200,000 a year company, when I was like, let’s do all this stuff, like, Hey, I can lead all this stuff that doesn’t really work anymore.

Cause he’s hit this level of maturity where it’s like, okay, you got to slow down. You got to like do things, right? There’s like the MVP is not just a. I’d like crappy little thing anymore. It’s like actually has to be good now. It’s like, there’s more thoughtfulness that needs to go into every decision needs to be made because there are more ripple effects.

And so I’d like to know like as, not just as you’re managing two businesses, but as your business, like as just a software, businesses has grown into something. Pretty substantial, bigger than most WordPress businesses reach. And as you’ve had experienced a little burnout in the past, how has your role changed in terms of running and managing that data?

Do you find, did you find, you had to like totally reset, like your, what do you do as the CEO on the day to day? Like, I felt like, like I’m in the middle of that and it’s tough. So I I’d be interested for some advice or just hear what you went through.

Pippin Williamson: [00:18:31] I’ve had a blog post saved in draft for years and it was titled something like losing my identity as a developer.

Because, you know, at. Yeah, the heart. I still feel like a PHP programmer. I still feel like a developer that, you know, dives into the code every day and, and, and build something fun. And the truth is, is that I’m not anymore. I’m number one, I’m very rusty. Uh, I have written a little bit of code lately. But it doesn’t come as easily as it used to at all, because that is simply not my role anymore.

I’ve gone through pretty much every single role there is at the company. Just as you know, any, you know, as a founder, one of your obligations to your team is to do whatever is needed. To ensure that they are taken care of to ensure that the company continues to survive and fulfill its promises to its customers and to its team.

And sometimes that means, you know, stepping up and doing customer support. Sometimes it means leading the marketing efforts. Sometimes it means doing the development. Sometimes it’s coordinating sometimes it’s payroll, it’s everything I’ve done, all of it. And what I’ve discovered is over time, you know, kind of the natural thing that happens for us is we identify a problem.

And then, you know, at least not as much now, but in the last few years I would jump on and I would take care of that problem. And then eventually I would delegate that to somebody else, you know, whether that’s hiring a new person or handing it to one of our existing team members. And so consistently the phrase that I’ve used to describe that like transition process is hiring myself out of a job.

I keep giving the work that I do over the somebody else who does it better and who has sole responsibility to ensure that that thing is taken care of so that I can then focus on whatever the next challenge punches. And over time it made me realize that I don’t do at all what I used to do. And what I am good at doing is not what I used to be good at doing at all.

You know, I used to be a pretty solid developer that could build things very quickly. And that’s, you know, I, I think I probably still have it in me if I, you know, really have the time and the, uh, fortitude to do it, but that’s not me anymore. It really isn’t. You know, I am very much in the CEO director role of.

My sole job is to take care of this company and make the decisions for the longterm to ensure that our team and our customers are taken care of. It’s been a really interesting process, actually, I think in a lot of ways, that was one of the major contributing components to my burnout a few years ago, because I wasn’t ready to accept that.

And so I didn’t enjoy that process and I didn’t allow myself to be, I guess, aware of the way that that made me. Feel about my work. It got to me and I, I burn out and now I actually really, really enjoy it. I think I enjoy this role now more than I did being a developer. It’s very rewarding to be able to watch and see our team succeed in ways that I never would have in their positions.

You know, like the stuff that our development team is building today is so much cooler than anything that I could have done the way the quality that our support team has is so much better than, you know, when I was leading that team or when I was actively a member of that team, the same thing goes for our marketing department.

The same thing goes for our operations. You know, it’s, it’s really amazing to watch. You know, like to try to like put people in a position of responsibility and then watch them completely thrive, thrive, and Excel. All expectations is probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

Joe Howard: [00:22:20] Yeah, really cool. I feel like I have some experiences of that, but then some experiences that have not exactly gone that way as a CEO, when it comes to like our operations, like after someone signs up with us, like Nick and Dean have like, totally that’s exactly my same experience.

Just like. Don’t even like, let me get involved in your meetings. Like you guys do what you’re doing and I will probably actively like, make it worse. So I try to give off, so YouTube just take it and run with it. But I’ve found that since my background is more in like marketing and content stuff, I’m like a little harder.

I feel like on my like marketing teams, I’m like the forward facing like lead generation kind of piece of the business that like growth piece of the business. I feel like I’m a little harder there because I just have a better expertise there. And so I feel like. In a way that I’d be interested to hear kind of maybe some of your process for like delegation.

If you have like a formal process, maybe it’s just kind of worked out for you, but I’ve found that the reason I’m like right now kind of diving back into some things and wanting to like be more active one is just, cause I feel like I’m, again, I’m reinventing my role a little bit. So like, I’m going to be helpful where I can, like what you’re saying, like, you know, be where you’re needed.

But at the same time I felt like I didn’t delegate. Great. The first time around, I kind of was just like, here’s a. Task and that all the info in description, like it’s assigned to you go do it, but I didn’t do as much of the, there was an issue with the way I delegated and I’m really diving in now so that I can kind of do a revamp and re delegate, like kind of move in.

And then back out in a few months, I’d be interested to hear like that process that you went through in terms of like handing off to other people. Do you have like formal processes at Santos and like, this is exactly how you delegate something or do you just have like, so it’s Def, uh.

Pippin Williamson: [00:23:54] There’s definitely no standard process, but we definitely have great people. And, uh, I’ll tell you truthfully, that I’m a terrible delegator. I am a terrible, like, I’m a terrible manager of people. Um, and, and this is what I think every company goes through phases as they grow, but like, I look back at our, you know, when we were 15 people and I was. You know, it was kind of like, you know, I was the boss and then everybody worked for me.

And then when we’re now we’re at 28 people and we are very, like, we have a standard kind of corporate structure now. So, you know, I sit up here, I have my directors, each one of them sits over department. They manage each of their people. Pretty traditional corporate hierarchy type stuff. And that has worked really, really well for us because I am horrible at directing people.

I, you know, I tend to like, here’s the thing, let me know when you’re done. And that’s about as far as I go, like, I’m not good at checking in with people I’m not good at really any of that. So for me, the most successful thing that I’ve had is, you know, Put people who are good at that, in those roles. I think two things that we have definitely found are really, really important.

So number one is trust, you know, anybody that you are delegating to, you know, whether you’re delegating to somebody who is, you know, then coordinating a team of people or you’re delegating to a single person. Because you have to trust them that they’re going to do the job and you have to trust them that they’re going to do it well.

And then two is communication going both directions. There’s a praise that I really liked called manage expectations and that, you know, so my job, you know, if I’m delegating something to you. Is to manage the expectations that I am asking you to do. And then your job to me is to manage my expectations of the work that’s being done, how it’s being done, the timelines, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And for some situations, you know, that’s as little as a sink, like a one sentence text check-in, um, you know, or, uh, you know, a status update or something like that. Other times it might be a huge report or a huge new launch of a product. But I really believe in the idea of like managing expectations. And that’s how you define if the amount of communication that your team has is sufficient or not.

Um, you know, if everybody’s expectations are managed, I think you’re probably good to go, you know, there might be better or worse ways that you could do your actual communication, but in terms of ensuring that people know what they need and you know, what you need, you know, that’s a good way to kind of gauge it in terms of like, going back to your actual question of, you know, do we have standard processes for delegating?

Um, no, we definitely don’t. Yeah. I, for, for me it was mostly. Get the right people in the right place. And then, you know, try to ensure that they fully understood and were on board with whatever our goals were, you know, short-term or long-term, and then allow them to handle the minutia of the day.

Joe Howard: [00:26:54] Yeah. I appreciate your honesty, your honesty and your transparency. Cause it would’ve been pretty easy for you to be like, yeah, like of course we have like processes for that, but I think it’s actually really eye-opening to see. Cause there are a lot of. WordPress business owners and business owners in general, who run $10,000 a month businesses, or, you know, $58,000 a month business.

And they are thinking like, of course they must have this in place, but it’s not always that simple. And I think it’s important to know kind of like the folks who are a little bit ahead of you, like, what are they doing and kind of, where are they in terms of their business? And it’s like, Do you need to have these like specific processes or that kind of stuff in place to reach where you are? Obviously not, you know, maybe the solution is people.

Pippin Williamson: [00:27:35] I think this is, are really, really important. And we do have a lot more processes in place now as a company than we ever did before we have more of the documented. But, you know, to, I guess to expand on my answer is I did not necessarily implement those processes.

What I did is. I gave it to each one of my team leads and it is on them to implement the processes that work best for their team. So the communication processes we have for the development team are different than what we have for the support team. The way that we manage the expectations of marketing is different than how we manage it for ops.

And, you know, like I think a good example is when we were smaller and I took care of all of the hiring, I took care of any of the onboarding, et cetera. You know, my process is, you know, try to find the right person that I want to hire, talk to them, ensure that we’re the right fit, offer them the position, you know, get them to sign a little contract, make sure that I set up some kind of recurring payment for them so that they get paid so that I don’t forget to pay them.

And then. Give him the keys, you know? Okay. Go to work. Here’s your list of here’s, you know, and that that’s like the most, like hands-on, you’ll get from me unless like a specific project comes up that I want to work with you on. And that is not sufficient, truthfully, like, as you grow, like that’s not enough for a new hire that you need to onboard.

Into a company of 28 people. So instead, you know, our hiring team now, you know, if we’re hiring a developer, for example, would be our head of operations and our director of technology. Like they will handle the onboarding of this new person and they will work with them every single week for weeks and weeks and weeks on end.

And that’s the process that they have set up that works really, really well. If I was still doing that, like they would get an email and be like, here you go. Here’s all your logins. Good luck because that’s just, I am not a process person. I am not, I’m not, I tend to get into like zones where I will go and work on something intensely.

And I would just like disappear to the world. You want to hear from me? You won’t see me. And that doesn’t really work for, for bringing new people on. So, you know, having other people take over that process for me was really important. I guarantee you, there was, if we had not done that, we would probably be 10 people still. I would still be super burnout and we would be struggling.

Joe Howard: [00:30:00] Yeah. You know, letting go of some of those things, sounds like it’s saved you not only saved you, but actually moved your business forward. And that important lesson for most people is like, you know, you can’t do everything in the business. You need to actually be where your strengths are and where you’re not as strong or the things you’re not as interested in doing.

There’s probably someone out there who not only is better at it than you, but actually is excited about doing that stuff. And you can find those people and plug away like that’s perfect. You know,

Pippin Williamson: [00:30:25] I was just going to say that, you know, I think there’s, sometimes people get a superiority complex where, you know, they’re the head of the company.

Like they’re going to be the best if it’s a small company and it’s a tech founder, you know, they’re going to be the best developer on the team. Uh, or they’re going to be the best designer or something like that. That’s so silly, like hire people that are so much better than you, and you’ll go so much further.

You know, I am thrilled that I am far, far from the best developer. And even when I was like in my prime as a developer, I was far from the best developer on the team. I am far from the best support person on team. I am far from the best marketer and I’m far from the best, best, anything. I hired people that were so much better than me. And that has been tremendous contributor to where we are today.

Joe Howard: [00:31:13] Yep. Awesome, man. That’s really cool stuff to hear. I want to dive into some of the specifics about some of the new stuff you’re doing at some of these companies, I guess, at the company at Sandhills in general, but you have these sub plugins and brands that you’re working on.

So I want to hear a little bit about some of the stuff you’re doing with maybe like the affiliate portal and EDD 3.0 and maybe some sugar calendar stuff that’s coming out. And anything else you have? That’s like, what’s the future looking like in the next year or so of, of these plugins slash Santos.

Pippin Williamson: [00:31:41] One of the things that we are kind of starting to dive into, uh, you know, all across the board is starting to integrate SAS components and SAS light components into all of our products. Each one of the brands that we run are. They’re standard WordPress plugins. They get installed on a site, you know, and they are for all intents and purposes, self hosted software, you know, they are not a SAS.

We have never run a true SAS. It’s just not a thing that we’ve ever done, but we’re starting to bring in components into our products that are either SAS, like, or. Are like stepping stones for us to cross over into that threshold. So I can mention a couple of them. So on affiliate LP, which is our affiliate marketing tool, um, it’s basically a self hosted affiliate tool for you to run a full blown affiliate program on your WordPress website.

You know, so if you’re using one of the many, many e-commerce or membership options for WordPress or one of the forums for payment collection, and you want to run affiliate program, that’s what affiliate LP does. We are getting ready this week to launch what we’re calling the affiliate portal. And it’s basically a completely rebuilt experience for what’s called the affiliate dashboard, which is, you know, basically the, the place that your affiliates log into your website to view their links, view their earnings view, their reports, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

This affiliate dashboard is a completely new experience. And while it is still self hosted, it is bringing over the experience that you might expect on a SAS service onto the self hosted sites. And it is the way it’s been engineered is going to open up a lot of possibilities for bringing other SAS components in.

So that’s something we’re really excited about. The team has been working on it for quite a while now, and it’s going to go out live this week.

Joe Howard: [00:33:29] Nice this way. Okay. Yeah. Do your episodes going live on next Tuesday, which is a week from now.

Pippin Williamson: [00:33:35] If you’re listening to this, it’s probably live. Okay, cool. And where can, where should they go to go check it out a little affiliate, wp.com. And then there’s a link up in the header for the blog and there’ll be a post there about it.

Joe Howard: [00:33:46] Sweet, sweet. Cool. Okay. I have like a few questions about the portal. So what’s in the new, I guess I understand the piece about bringing it more into like a SAS experience. It’s still self hosted people. It’s still on people’s WordPress sites.

They’re selling WordPress services, products. They can run the affiliate program. Their affiliates can log in and maybe they can log in and have a new dashboard experience. It feels more like a SAS, any new kind of big features that are coming in that are. Like things that affiliate marketers really wanted to use or that people run affiliate programs is really vital for us.

Pippin Williamson: [00:34:19] So there’s one that I can definitely mention. We have, we have several others that are, you know, in various stages of. You know, actively looking at to just thinking about them to actually maybe write some code for, but there’s one major one that is, is there already, and it’s not coming with the affiliate portal because it’s actually already been here, but it is probably the most significant for people that run affiliate programs, but also for the affiliates themselves and assisting that we have called, uh, at least for now, until we come up with a different branding name for the payout service.

You know, it’s very simple and explains what it does. It is a service that we have built to help business owners. Affiliate managers actually pay affiliates, their earnings, which may seems like a simple task. But it’s actually very, very complicated and it is a challenge that people run into all the time that they have.

Let’s say that they have an affiliate program that has a thousand affiliates and these affiliates are promoting their product or service. And then they’re earning commissions and they’re accumulating these earnings. And then at some point you, as the affiliate manager has to actually pay that out. And there’s a lot of gotchas that come with that.

Of how the process actually works. We over the last, Oh, let’s see. Affiliate AOP is now been around. I think we just had our seventh anniversary. So over the last seven years, it has been one of the most consistent. Challenges that business owners have had, which is basically summed up in one question, how do I pay my affiliates?

So what we did is we actually ended up building a service and that is directly integrated into affiliate WP and the new affiliate portal to make this process pretty straight forward and simple. The short version is that the business owner sends the funds to us and we take care of routing them to the individual affiliates.

We take care of tax forms. We take care of compliance, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The individual affiliates, rather than being required to have a PayPal account or, you know, getting a check in the mail. They get a direct deposit directly into their bank account. They don’t have to do anything. They have to provide the account information to us at one point when they register for the service.

But otherwise the money just lands in their account and it’s been running kind of quietly for about a year. Now we launched it in beta, November, 2019, and then we’re very, very discreet about it. You know, we didn’t really push it much. We put it directly into affiliate AP and just kind of allowed for natural adoption of the service.

To help us find issues, you know, answer questions that business owners had, et cetera, et cetera. But today it is fully up and running. You can learn more about it at payouts dot Sandhills, dev.com. Or if you go to affiliate wp.com, there is a page on the website talking about the payout service. So that’s like a SAS component that we’ve brought into the product to, you know, provide a real value, add to business owners that solves a very real challenge that businesses have.

And it’s been a really interesting project. It’s been a lot of fun to work on and it’s yeah, it’s working quite well, actually.

Joe Howard: [00:37:26] Yeah. I love that. I think there’s a huge, especially running an affiliate program at scale, when you have like 10 affiliates, you know sure. Like you can log into PayPal and pay them or whatever, but to take it.

Pippin Williamson: [00:37:38] Yeah. You know, you can manually just send a PayPal payment breach one, right? What if you have a thousand corrects? What if you have 500 and what if these affiliates are located all around the world? And maybe not all of them can accept a PayPal payments. Some of them, some of them can’t, or maybe they don’t want to, or maybe the business doesn’t want to use PayPal, you know, wild PayPal used to be one of the, the default payment methods online.

Like it’s while it’s still a very, very large thing that most people are familiar with and use it is becoming more and more common for business to say, I don’t use PayPal. How do I pay these people now? And prior to offering the payout service, the answer was kind of, uh, Good luck, you know, write them a bunch of checks and mail them out.

And so it’s been a really cool service that has been a completely new set of challenges for us. And it’s X, X seeding our experts.

Joe Howard: [00:38:31] Yeah. Does the payout service like take a percentage of the payment come out or is it like a free item to the affiliate fee? Okay.

Pippin Williamson: [00:38:38] So anybody can use it. There’s no monthly subscription. There’s no setup costs. The only thing is that it’s a per transaction fee. So let’s Joe, let’s pretend that you have an affiliate program. You have a hundred affiliates that you need to pay. And that payout is, let’s just say it’s a thousand dollars. So you’re going to pay out your affiliates a thousand dollars.

We figure out what the fees are going to be. From our backend for those merchant processing fees. And then we add a small collection fee on top of that, basically for the cost of using the service. Right now, we charge 3% of the sum total of the payout. And then for anybody who has higher volume, you know, right now we have the tier set about 10,000 a month. You know, if you do 10,000 or more a month than we can offer a discounted amount.

Joe Howard: [00:39:18] For any big business. It’s like social, no brainer to be like, yes, like easily decide to pay a 3% to make this problem go away. Like, like literally I don’t even have to think about it.

Pippin Williamson: [00:39:29] And the way that it works from the business side is basically you go into affiliate VIP and you click pay your affiliates.

You pick the date range, you pick a couple of other parameters. You hit submit. We send you an invoice. That has the sum total plus processing fees and our fee. And then we give you an option of paying that invoice through credit card, debit card, ACH wire transfer, a couple of European options, including SEPA, ideal, so forth, et cetera, you pay the invoice and you’re done.

That is it for you. And so the process of paying your affiliates has gone from potentially hours. To five minutes or less.

Joe Howard: [00:40:05] Yeah. And the tax form thing is huge too.

Pippin Williamson: [00:40:08] Yeah. So it’s, it’s been pretty fun to work on.

Joe Howard: [00:40:11] Nice. Oh, that’s cool, man. I feel like a lot of folks thinking about like, how do I grow my business? How do I generate leads for my business? How do I generate sales for a lot of folks running. Businesses. That’s the hardest part is like, how do I find these? Like, almost like flywheels of growth, that kind of self fulfilling prophecy of like, it’s going to send me like a few more leads every month. Then it just kind of like, almost goes in autopilot.

Maybe you have to water that plant every once in a while, of course. But like it’s a predictable driver of leads and revenue for you. I think affiliate programs are. Very under talked about, like, people are always talking about Google ads or Facebook ads like SEO, but like, why don’t people just start affiliate programs like you could give to your customers or existing customers to join.

You could like reach out to existing affiliates or like power affiliates. You get like four or five power affiliates to promote you. Like, that’s a super easy way. I think, to grow your business just from them recommending you and getting a little cut of the folks who sign up. And honestly, there are a lot of ways.

To start an affiliate program on your website, but I’ve never found an easier experience that I did with affiliate WP. Like it was like, okay, plugin buy the plugin install. I literally had an affiliate program up and running when I was using affiliate fee. And like what half an hour, like said, great. This is you click you click the check box for like, which is this WooCommerce is this easy digital dental.

You just literally click the boxes. Great. For the most part it’s up and running and you can have affiliate signing up and be recommending folks. And now with this payout service, you can. Pay them out easily too. So it’s like to buy the affiliate WP plugin plus to pay this 3%, what a small price to pay for a potentially really, really big lead generation and sales generation for you. So I think I love this.

Pippin Williamson: [00:41:45] Yeah, it can be huge. Affiliate program is a great opportunity that so many people overlook, but there is an important detail that I think a lot of people. You know, who make that first jump to say, I should do an affiliate program. They then forget about the next part, which is it’s not necessarily as simple as just turning it on.

You know, you do have to do some work to bring those good affiliates in to help them know that you have the program available. You know, how do you make sure that you have given them enough incentive to actually go out and promote your products or service? The trap that I think too many people fall in is this belief that.

Turn it on and magic happens. There are businesses that get lucky with that, but there are still steps after that to ensure that you have a successful affiliate program that is actually earning you dividends, I guess would be a yeah.

Joe Howard: [00:42:32] Thank you for clarifying that in my mind. I, obviously I understand that and I skipped over it because I thought it was like almost as a guide, but yes, you’re totally right.

Let’s be very clear that like, Turning it on and having a work is like maybe a one out of a hundred thing happening, you know? So of course, are you going to do one-time payout? You’re going to do recurring payouts. Are you going to give folks, what kind of incentives are you giving folks are? You’re giving people a 10% cut.

Is it a 50% cut or how are you going to communicate with your affiliates? You’re just going to like send them one welcome email. You can like build a community for them to like use it. Are you going to send them like a monthly email? Of course, there’s a thousand ways to build an affiliate program and to grow.

Pippin Williamson: [00:43:09] Those are all, all great questions considering, you know, and then also, you know, how are you going to get your affiliates? You know, are you going to invite every single customer of your product or service to be an affiliate and then, you know, share with their friends or connections, you know, are you just going to put a sign on the page or a new website and hope people sign up or are you going to actively go out and promote people, you know, recruit affiliates. These are all things that you should be considered.

Joe Howard: [00:43:27] Definitely. And as we’re kind of wrapping up here, one thing I would like to talk about recruiting affiliates, because this is something we’re kind of doing more actively. SEO has always been our biggest driver of traffic, new clients, partners, all of that, and affiliates.

It has jumped into second place in the past nine months, 12 months as we’ve been focusing on it more. And one of the ways we’ve been recruiting affiliates is we do. I actually like some keyword research and some SEO research around good articles that were kind of already ranking for, but maybe were like ranking number, like two or three or five.

And we like take a look at like who’s ranking above us. And we just do some outreach to those people. Or like, Hey, you’re ranking like number one for this, like, Hey, that’d be cool if you would, you know, any interest in joining up as an affiliate. And yeah. You know, a lot of people will be like, huh? Not super interested, but some people will, and then they’ll link to us and drive us new customers and become an affiliate. And that only like helps the other work that we’re doing. So that’s just like a quick tip. I’d put it in.

Pippin Williamson: [00:44:27] Well, that’s a good example of where, like, it doesn’t take a ton of effort to outreach to those people and your success rate probably won’t be super high. However, you only have to get a couple to actually make it more than worth it’s wild.

Know, that’s been something that we’ve discovered in with the pale of service that we have never done in the past. We have never done, done like direct outreach sales. It’s not a thing doesn’t exist in our business model. However, we are starting to do that with the mail service, because what we do now is, you know, we can go in and identify customers that are using affiliate.

Oop. We can pick out those that we feel like would be. You know, the right fit for the service. And we just send them an email, basically like, Hey, do you have any struggle to pay your affiliates? You have any challenges, you know, here’s this new thing that we’ve been doing. Ask any questions you want. Let us know if you’d like to chat success rate, not super high, but it only takes one or two every now and then to be more than worth it.

Joe Howard: [00:45:21] Totally. Especially if they’re power affiliates and they’re paying out like a thousand affiliates a month, I mean that 3% is really significant for you. So the ROI in terms of like that expansion revenue that comes through as they sign up and that like increased lifetime value for them, for you now, it’s like you only need one or two.

Pippin Williamson: [00:45:36] That’s been a really fascinating aspect of this new service for us, because it’s completely different business model than what we’re used to, you know, in our previous and still current models for all of our brands. You know, every new customer is worth, you know, there’s a very defined dollar range. You know, what’s the lowest price option that we have.

What’s the highest price option we have. That’s it, that’s the price range. It turns out that with the pale service, that’s really not the case. There is no standard yet. You know, like over time we’ll be able to figure out averages and things like that. But, you know, we can have one customer that signs up and they do $10 a month entails, you know, 3% of $10 is.

Not very much. However, we could then have another customer that comes on and does a hundred thousand a month, 3% suddenly adds up a whole lot more. And so what we have already seen is that, like, we can have huge fluctuations in terms of growth. Like, so right now the service is consistently growing month over month, but we could have one month that then.

Five X is the previous months because one high value customer signs on, and then the same way, you know, if we don’t do our job well enough to keep that customer happy, they can go away and down it goes. So it’s been a completely different business model. That’s has a lot of potential and it’s been a.

Like I said, it’s been a really fun project to work on. And, and this is, this is the type of thing that we’re really interested in bringing into our products, you know, through, through bringing in more examples of value, adds like this, where we can take our self hosted solutions and introduce. SAS like components that solve challenges for our users.

You know, I think one of the best ways to identify needs, you know, whether we’re talking a new market, uh, or a new industry or things that a product needs is, you know, understanding what are the challenges of the customer base? What are they struggling with? What can you do better? And then if we can introduce some of those as a SAS component, where the billing structure makes sense for the customer, and it makes sense for us. Uh, and we can solve or completely remove a problem for them. It’s a win-win.

Joe Howard: [00:47:44] This has been awesome. I appreciate you jumping on, man. This has been cool. Not only to like, get to chat with you, but also to catch up. It’s been a while since we got to tend to word camp and we haven’t seen each other in person in a while, so it’s nice to catch up.

I’ve got two last things I always like guests to do. One is just tell folks where they can find you online. Brewery stuff online and Pat information, Sandhill stuff, all that jazz.

Pippin Williamson: [00:48:05] Sand Hills dev.com. Or if you Google Sandhills development, you’ll be able to find us. You can also find us through the floater of any one of our product websites. So easy digital downloads, affiliate, WP, WP, simple pay sugar calendar. You’ll find San hose development, LinkedIn, the bottom of that, and that you can find all of our stuff from there, including the brewery.

Joe Howard: [00:48:24] Cool man. The Sandhills dev.com looks really good. I think you guys redid the site. Like it wasn’t super recently. It was a little while ago, but it’s still like that for me, I’m looking, I was like, no, well.

Pippin Williamson: [00:48:34] I think it was yeah, about a year and a half or so ago. Yeah. It’s it’s lovely. So that’s all props to Mr. Sean Davis. He’s our director of design and also one of my business partners.

Joe Howard: [00:48:44] Sean shot. Tremendous one. Good job. Cool. Last but not least Pippin. I always like to ask our guests to ask our listeners for a little Apple podcast review. So if you wouldn’t mind asking folks to leave us a quick review, I’d appreciate.

Pippin Williamson: [00:48:55] Absolutely folks. Please, please. Come on. Give Joe a review on iTunes or any of the other podcasts directories. I used to run a podcast. I can tell you that that is one of the single most impactful things that you can do. If you appreciate these episodes, you want to see them continue. Please come in, leave a review, give some feedback, leave comments, questions, et cetera. Uh, I guarantee you, Joe reads them. It really does make a difference.

Joe Howard: [00:49:20] Yeah, appreciate it, man. I, you know, apply filters with the podcast that I don’t know if it had a direct impact on me starting this podcast, but it was one of the podcasts that started before. And at some level it helped me to get to this point of starting this podcast. So I got big props to you and Brad for, uh, for that podcast and starting something really special.

Pippin Williamson: [00:49:37] We certainly enjoyed it. It was. A fun project to work on. So I miss it still sometimes I think we should go back and do it again, but you know, like I mentioned earlier, we’ve become much more protective of our time and we left it in a good place.

Joe Howard: [00:49:49] It’s good to be able to transition, you know, on your say. So as opposed to external circumstances. So I totally hear you. Cool. Yes. If you leave us a review on Apple podcasts, WP mrr.com forward slash review, they’ll give you a redirect right there. If you’re on an Apple or a Mac device, leave comment, you can leave just a star rating, but if you leave a comment with something you learned about this episode, we can shoot a screenshot to PIP and say, Hey, thanks for the review.

But then it also helps us to source the kind of content we want to. Talk about here in the future, on the podcast, get a couple reviews for this episode. Oh, we’ll do it. We’ll have to put them back on. We’ll have more episodes around this kind of topic. So leave a comment. If you have a couple of minutes to do that, if you are new to the show, we’ve got a bunch of old episodes.

This is episode 140 something. So we’ve got a ton of older episodes. If you’re having challenges around. Any topic, really WP mrr.com forward slash podcast. We have a search bar right there to quick search find cool episode, do some bingeing we’re uh, we’re still at home a little bit. COVID is not quite over.

You know, you could either binge your new HBO show your Netflix show. Why don’t you bend some WP MRR, WordPress podcast and help yourself grow your WordPress business. If you have questions for me on the show. Yo Y Oh, at WP mrr.com. I like to do Q and a episodes every once in a while. And I’d love to get some questions I can answer live here on the show.

All right. That is it. For this week on the podcast, we will be in your earbuds again next Tuesday, Pippin. And thanks again for being on man. It’s been real.

Pippin Williamson: [00:51:15] Absolutely. Thank you. Joe has been my pleasure.

Joe Howard: [00:51:17] Let everybody .

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