Our CEO, Mario Peshev, did an AMA for ManageWP, answering questions about WordPress, running a WP business, managing remote teams and participating in different areas of the WordPress community. As a part of the AMA session, Mario shared some valuable insights for entrepreneurs, freelancers, business owners and active members of the WordPress ecosystem. Here are some of the key takeaways of the interview:
“ Where do you see WordPress in, let’s say two to five years? “
One of the things, I’ve been trying to discuss at large US WordCamps is the lack of a roadmap or any public long-term planning that would make your question obsolete. This was covered again recently in the “US vs. THEM” series of posts (ironically “us” is also the abbr of the United States which is very applicable with the European, Asian, South American or African communities).
Personally, I don’t see any drastic changes with WordPress in terms of innovations or massive enhancements coming soon. Other than the REST API which has been pending for, I don’t know, a couple years now maybe, the rest would be mostly admin updates and revamp, probably some simplifications here and there. I assume that two or three really innovative features would pop up over the next 3-5 years, but nothing revolutionary per se.
My main problem with the plan, one I personally see, myself, is that we’re competing with Wix, Squarespace, Tumblr and the like, and which I don’t see as major competitors in the business space. It also seems to be a “race to the bottom” to some extent. But that’s a complicated matter and we’ll see how this one goes over the next couple of years.
“What was the first step from a freelancer to a business consultant? How did you get along with all of the business side of things? “
The switch was challenging indeed, but frankly, I did spend a few years at large enterprises working closely with all departments (including building financial software applications, eRPs, CRMs and the like), then a few years as a freelancer and living with a business owner (my mother) for a while, which taught me invaluable lessons on running a business and everything outside of your core skill set – i.e. accounting, legal, project management, sales, building a personal brand, etc.
That said, a successful freelancer already employs most of the skills/qualities needed for a business owner – especially when working with other freelancers and consultants for a few years.
The main challenges with hiring were the higher monthly wages that I had to guarantee in order to pay salaries, and spending my business days coaching and mentoring while working at night. I think that Shane from Modern Tribe once said that he has gone through the same, and hiring the first employee is the hardest thing, the second one is easier, and so on.
For me building the business meant working on larger projects, solving more problems, specializing in different fields and delivering more results in a shorter amount of time. A freelancer’s business is on hold when he/she’s away, while a business is always running, which was driving me forward. 🙂
“I know that DevriX has expanded a lot lately (devrix.com/about/team/) and would like to learn more about the challenges you guys were facing? What was the most challenging thing with (getting) that many people? ”
Growth is always complicated – it was easy when there were 6-8 of us, then getting to 15ish was a nightmare as we had to start introducing more strict policies and management layers in order to handle everything. Additionally, we branched out into several departments – currently technical, creative, marketing, business development, each having a senior lead coordinating with other folks in the same department and brainstorming with the other team leads.
There are various issues there – from interviewing, test assignments, hiring procedures, security policies, onboarding process and what not, adhering to the company guidelines and regulations and what not. I’ve shared some tips and tricks in my talk from WordCamp Europe this year in Vienna –wordpress.tv/2016/07/03/mario-peshev-managing-remote-wordpress-team/ 🙂
“Bulgaria has become an IT powerhouse in the past decade. What did it do differently from all the other nations in the region that made it so successful?”
Incredibly fast internet connectivity (I think that Sofia is one of the best connected cities worldwide at the moment), a European mindset, a EU member since Jan 2007, and a successful background in engineering and electronics over the past 30 years – from several warehouses for microprocessors, conductors, resistors etc. through raising the parents of the inventor of the digital computer –en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Vincent_Atanasoff .
There are other explanations too, but those are the more rational and explainable ones, I guess.
“What is your preference in general, to keep providing high level support to client businesses or to develop your own product? At the moment, I’m denying to start business by scaling up professional services. What is your opinion on that?”
I see three verticals that are profitable in the WordPress space:
a) unique quality services
b) great extensible generic WordPress plugins
c) Software as a Service applications
The services space is the most popular one for obvious reasons, mainly the large community of freelancers and digital agencies. This can be scaled and can be successful with the right talent on board and unique proposition.
The plugins space is still somewhat available, although there’s a ton of competition, users aren’t used to paying proper fees for plugins (or for renewal licenses), and most of the logical verticals are already covered (eCommerce, form builders, event calendars etc.). There’s still room for improvement though, and you can either bundle various complimentary plugins, or offer a new player in the market that’s outstanding and provides real value.
The SaaS space is my personal favorite since we’ve built 7 Software as a Service applications on top of WordPress that sold hundreds of thousands or even millions over the past years. This is a great way to create a product and bundle it in a hosted solution, and provide unique user experience or workflow for your customers. Moreover, you can target the remaining 70%+ market of people who are used to paying for services and good quality.
A SaaS solution can be incorporated in any platform out there, including mobile applications and custom frameworks. Since most clients paying for non-WordPress solutions are used to paying 5, 10, 20, 50 times more than what a standard WordPress client pays, they would see the financial benefit of a monthly recurring solution that charges $10 per month or even $50/m or more, if it brings $500, $5000 or $25,000 extra income per month.
“How did you get into SaaS business? For me it’s been very hard to find clients who are interested in paying for SaaS WP.”
I did work for several SaaS-based businesses in different capacities, from an employee through to consultant, and then managing several other people. Using those contacts and portfolio made it possible to upsell services from my own consulting to utilizing the services of my firm.
Also, SaaS businesses often want a ton of work, thousands of billable hours (which is understandable given the complexity). Therefore a freelancer/consultant won’t suffice and a full team is needed, including designers, marketing experts, network admins and so on, both due to the variety of skills needed, and the ability to ship that in 6-9 months instead of 5 years.
There aren’t very many clients for SaaS, but those who need it are our top priority. We have a designated landing page on our site – devrix.com/wordpress/software-as-a-service/ – which ranks in the first results for most keywords that we aim for, and some clients appreciate the overview and our background.
“You’re one of the people responsible for kickstarting the WordPress communities around the world. Can you share some more info about it?”
Whoa, I wouldn’t take that much credit for sure 🙂 But in a nutshell, here are some of the things that I do (and have done) in order to strengthen both our local, and various communities around the world:
- I’m organizing the local WordPress meetup and was involved with WordCamp Sofia for a few years.
- I did co-organize WordCamp Europe 2014 and 2015.
- I’m currently a member of the WordCamp Deputy program –make.wordpress.org/community/2014/12/11/wordcamp-deputies-program-update/ (probably not the best link out there, but it’ll do). I’m mentoring WordCamp organizers and helping them manage all of the aspects of organizing the event – vetting speakers, discussing sponsorship packages, preparing the schedule, organizing relevant events (speakers’ dinner, after parties), and so on.
- I do help folks who contact me privately asking for advice on starting a local meetup or a WordCamp, and help them until they get a meeting or two up and running.
- Also, I speak at WordCamps around the world, have co-organized about 10 Contributor days, and helped people and groups with their first steps to contributing to WordPress or organizing events.
- I advise several companies on hiring full-time contributors (or part-time) and give back to WordPress, by submitting free themes, plugins, help with support forums, translations, organize and sponsor events and such.
- That is in addition to my activities in most aspects of WP (organizing events, speaking, core patches, free plugins and themes, translations, theme reviews), writing about the community, business and ecosystem, and nurturing folks on my team.
I guess that’s it – and yet, people usually become inspired just by attending a large WordCamp, interacting with others, hearing a few outstanding talks and meeting WordPress influencers.