How This WordPress Maintenance Business Came Out Greener From The Pandemic
This is a follow up story for ThriveWP. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hey, I’m Gavin Pedley owner of ThriveWP a WordPress Maintenance Company we originally interviewed with Starter Story last year which you can read here. Since then, we have grown in terms of customer base and our offering.
Our main or stand-out product is our WordPress maintenance service which we have improved upon over the last year. We have upgraded our firewall to block more bad traffic and, even better, catch this traffic before it hits the server, saving customers expensive bandwidth on their servers or hosting.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
We have fine-tuned our virus and malware scanners and improved our WordPress malware removal service. We have also spent some time upgrading our servers and our client-facing support and billing system to ensure all our customers have the best experience with us, whether they need direct support or not.
We have developed our white label WordPress maintenance services and gained some international companies and large charities. Even a music production service that works with the likes of Dua Lipa!
A year on from our original story, you may notice that ThriveWP looks a little different. We made a huge focus of the last year to be not just improving our service overall but being more environmentally conscious, so our branding now reflects that!
We now work with the gold standard in tree planting, TreeNation and now plant a tree for every customer who orders a monthly plan with us. We also plant trees to offset our C02 usage. To date, we have planted over 100 trees worldwide and expect this to keep growing.
For the next year, our main focus is improving social media channels and marketing. We have largely neglected marketing up until now and relied on word of mouth, which also says a lot about our service and what customers think of ThriveWP!
We have recently employed a company to help us improve our social media and SEO/marketing. We have grown since last year, and our revenue reflects that, but we don’t want to rest on that. We want to continue this momentum hence employing those that know the social and marketing world better than we do!
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
This year hasn't been without its challenges, from covid to family life, it all has an impact on business one way or the other. Covid certainly dealt every business a blow, I think. I am still thankful today that we came through the other side, although admittedly, there were moments when I was genuinely worried for our future. Everyone had to think about their businesses and budgets; sadly, some businesses closed due to covid. We felt that here at ThriveWP, but gladly most of our customers came through it with us.
How did we get through? Well, we made a few brave decisions! We had several struggling customers who asked to leave to save money. What we did, however, was offered a few months at no charge (yes, this was a risk!) so they could try and stabilize their business, which would ensure our stability later on.
That was the plan anyway! Luckily, for the most part, it worked. Those customers now value us even more, and our relationship with them is closer. They respect that we looked after them and now respect that we are not just a service but humans with families and mouths to feed just like them.
We have been very lucky overall, yes, we lost a few customers along the way, but we kept some that would have left if we didn't help them out and gained some from businesses going online at the time.
Now, this approach will not likely work in the future, but in the middle of the pandemic, it just felt right and worked.
We have also been busy trying out different approaches to support our customers and platforms. We did hire from Upwork to gain a support assistant; however, it did work out.
Not that it was a bad experience, but more that I am not ready to let someone else do my job. It's that feeling of I know my customers best, I have built up that rapport and relationship, and that's hard to replace when hiring someone. Of course, this can and will hinder us in the long term, but it's about finding that balance, and in the future, I feel we are in a much better place to know what we want and when.
I would say overall, this year has been a lot of learning in the management of the business, knowing when to stop and take time for yourself (running your own business can easily suck you into working all hours!) Allowing me to be more selective on jobs and have a clearer picture of where we are heading. This learning has taken sleepless nights, burnout from overworking to health concerns from sitting all day long!
One takeaway I know for sure is sitting at your desk all day is very unhealthy, and you need to develop a pretty rigid plan to make sure you move regularly! I now have an alarm on my computer that goes off every hour to remind me to get up and move. I may just walk around a little, grab a drink, go for a walk, or do a 10-minute rowing session on an indoor rower. It's all about splitting that sitting up, which is also good for your mental health.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I think the main thing I have learned along the way is that I can not do it all myself; trust me, this was/is a hard lesson. I suppose from a financial perspective, any extra expense was a no-go for me for some time, but I soon realized that you could not do it all yourself and you have to buy from those that are in the know.
If you can keep plugging away, stick at it, and don't be disheartened.
Just like our customers purchasing our plans as they are not WordPress experts, we have now learned to purchase services like SEO/Marketing and Social media management as we really can’t do it all and certainly not well!
Yes, it might be an extra expense, but the reality is the extra expense will pay for itself in the long run.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
As I mentioned earlier, our short-term goal is to improve our SEO/marketing and social. With this, we hope to start getting our service in front of more eyes, not just word of mouth. The hope is to build a solid foundation to start growing to maybe employ other freelancers to help us with support and management. Maybe we could even take a day off here and there (one can dream!)
In the coming years, I would like to build the business into something that is not just a service but a relationship with customers. We are kind of on that trajectory already, but we want to fine-tune this. Customers don't just purchase a service; they purchase us and our time, care, attention, and expertise.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
Ok, so I am going to give you two things here. One is not related to business directly but, in a way, has been part of my learning this year. The other I find helpful in getting me into the right mindset.
I think I probably mentioned in my original interview with Starter Story that I am not what you would call a book person! I haven’t read that much over the years, but this year was different. I had to start to learn how to balance my time, not work continuously and get my head out of work and the computer and into something else. So this year, I read two books. One man and his bike and Dave Grohl’s storyteller. Both of which I loved and, of course, have an interest in.
I love getting out on my bike, which admittedly I haven't done as much of recently, but the one man and your bike book take you on an awesome journey around the UK with literally one man and his bike!
As you can imagine, I also like the Foo Fighters, and Daves's book was a wonderful exploration into his life and the band but, most of all, a great distraction from working where I could just switch off. This is so important when working for yourself. It's easy to forget and something I feel you must work on all the time.
Okay, so yes, I know you are here for business tips! Business-wise, it's been a case of lots and lots of reading blogs and industry-related news and information. It's the only way to stay in the game, I think.
You are never an expert in something forever just because you learned it once. You have to keep learning all of the time! By reading blogs and industry news, often you keep your head in the game on what's hot, what's not, and the latest tech and developments of malware attacks in our case. I think it's important always to strive to learn in your industry to stay fresh.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
It's a hard one as most will say you need money to make money! Any entrepreneur's aim is going to be to make money somewhere along the line, and if this money is to sustain you, then it needs to happen quickly, right?! The reality is it doesn't happen quickly, and as your business grows, so do your expenses.
I'm not here to be doom and gloom, but every business will struggle to start, and I would say it takes at least 2-3 years to start feeling like you are getting somewhere more secure. My advice is if you can keep plugging away, stick at it, and don't be disheartened. Also, don't give up; instead, adjust.
For example, you may need this venture or business to work ASAP to pay the bills and put food on the table, but the reality might be that the dream must take a little detour to get there. So instead of quitting, take a part-time job and work on your dream as a side hustle for a while. You still pay your bills but get to work on your dream until it's ready and strong enough to take over.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We may be looking for someone to help us with general customer support for their websites in the future, but our general support is quite far from that!
Our support is very personalized. Our customers know us by the first name and know they can send an image and know that we know exactly what to do with it without saying a word. This is the relationship we have built with our customers.
Most use our service because they don't want to do it themselves, so when a support request is made, they do not expect an answer telling them how to fix it or do it. They expect us to do it for them. If you are interested in helping us out, you can email [email protected].
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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