This is a follow up story for Work Hero. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi! I’m Kevin, from California, USA, and currently in Austin, Texas. In 2018, after years of hiring admins, developers, and designers, I started Work Hero, A WordPress support and maintenance service focused on helping small to medium-sized digital marketing agencies to thrive online.
We help them with supporting their websites by building pages, optimizing site speed & security, adding features, and anything else that may need to be done with a WordPress site.
All plans include weekly reports, daily scans, off-site backups, speed optimization, mobile optimization, security optimization, and 24/7 uptime monitor.Our pricing plans are here.
We provide support for businesses run on WordPress websites, that have many moving parts and tasks to be done, and need a team to handle them.
Our customers now consist mainly of digital agencies, eCommerce, and membership websites.
A little about our history:
We started as a WordPress + Design agency. We barely broke even with this model, and we’re ready to give up in the Fall of 2019. But then we decided to minimize and drop our design offer altogether, focus on WordPress development, and lower our prices significantly.
We landed 1 customer in December that year. In January, we picked up 2 more. In February we got 2 more. In March we added 3.
18 months ago, when we were first interviewed by Starter Story, we had 9 customers making us about $1400/month.
Now, after many changes including pricing updates and a new target audience, we have 45 monthly paying subscribers and revenue is up to $10,400/month.
Our team is still small, but more diverse now. We have a developer in Argentina, two developers in the Philippines that have been with us for 2 years, and another Filippino developer that started with us 6 weeks ago. We also brought on help with sales development, and have a successful cold email marketing campaign going bringing in consistent leads.
We have not been an overnight sensation, but have been consistently above $10k in monthly revenue now for 3 months, and feel very well-positioned to double our revenue within 6 months and thrive during these difficult times.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
Since February, we have had ups and downs, but are up 24% in sales overall, adding 10 new customers (with an additional 95 websites!). It was great to cross over that elusive 10k in revenue, as we’ve been so close! The additional profits have allowed us to grow and hire where needed, with better customer service, and badly needed help with the sales process.
We are now very focused on our target customer: digital marketing agencies with 8-50 employees. This has become very clear over the past few months, as we have had regular calls with our customers, getting to know their needs and making sure we are doing this for new customers as they are onboarded.
Now, we are much more confident with our cold email campaigns. We can find our exact matches on LinkedIn and other places, so it made sense to hire a Sales Development Representative (SDR).
The other thing we are working on, and this is where I’m super excited, is to become the go-to place for marketing agencies when they need WordPress or website support. We have started with doing several blog interviews with agency owners (idea STOLEN from Starter Story haha).
This isn’t for SEO purposes, but as both a tool to reach out to prospects, as well as feature our customers, and position ourselves as the experts in this area. We are also working on an ebook to give away to agencies, to help them continue to scale even during this recession. With that, we’ll be giving away a few SOPs that have helped us to grow and stay sane.
Also- and this has been in the works for a while- we are getting closer to being able to offer support for Webflow websites, a growing platform that we keep hearing more about. This is partly why we named the company Work Hero- and not Work Hero WP. While we are experts in WordPress, my dream was always to offer support in more than one area, and we think Webflow is a great platform in addition to WordPress.
One marketing channel that failed for us included spending money on an SEO firm and signing a 6-month contract. They seemed very professional, but their articles, backlinks, and targeting keywords were just not up to par. It’s very difficult to rank in the area of WordPress support, but it seemed at first like there were some opportunities.
Unfortunately, even after meeting with them 3 months in and clarifying our needs, they weren’t able to deliver, and we wasted money. What I have learned from this is that I don’t need to be hyper-concerned about SEO- we have other working channels, and the idea of building up our reputation as marketing agency experts is much more exciting to me than churning out articles and hitting the right keywords.
We have also been much more consistent about keeping in touch with our customers- particularly our busiest ones. Our customers are partners, and setting up meetings with them every few months and talking through their issues, and any areas we could improve on has been super helpful to both continue to improve our service, and keep them as customers long term.
Even if nothing major is accomplished on the call, just the fact that they can see as us as humans who care about their issues goes a long way! I think this is crucial for any productized service company as without touching base with customers, things can get very impersonal, and pretty soon issues build and customers cancel.
The stories you hear about companies becoming overnight sensations are SUPER rare, so if you’re just seeking out a profit each month in your two years, that might be exactly where you need to be.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
Biggest challenge for us by far is the inconsistency of new leads coming in. We’ll get on a roll for a while like we were from March-June this year, where things are fairly consistent, but then there’s a big slow down and business is stagnant. Nailing down our target audience has helped big time, and even though this is a new hire, we think bringing on the SDR will take us to the next level.
The other thing that’s helped is paying close attention to metrics like response times. We had some glitches earlier this year, and this made us realize how important it is to have solid SOPs and tracking of this data- so that everyone can see it.
We don’t like the idea of paying incentives for this, but if everyone can see their response times, they can work to improve, and it helps everyone else in the company.
We aren’t perfect now, and some weeks our overall response time creeps up a little too high from where it needs to be, but there is a month-to-month improvement that feels very satisfying, as this is a good gauge as to the overall customer experience and retention as well.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Probably two things:
One I mentioned above: we focused on SEO and spent money to try to improve it. This turned out to be one of those things where we were just doing what traditional advice says to do. SEO IS great, I love the idea of having helpful content that gets ranked in search engines, as it’s a much more permanent and valuable way to attract business consistently, but we went about it the wrong way.
There are many ways to waste money with SEO, and we landed on one. “SEO mills” are not the way to go, at least, I haven’t found one that delivers results. We will circle back to focusing on SEO later when we can have the funds and staff to do it RIGHT.
The other is hiring and firing. We had one incredibly nice developer, and a great cultural fit for our company. She was our least experienced developer but seemed very willing to learn as much as possible.
Well, we gave chance after chance, but the mistakes she made piled up, and her performance was just not where it needed to be. It took us a VERY long time because she is a wonderful person and everyone liked her, to finally let her go.
This is a huge challenge in running a small company. It’s not that it’s a “family”, but I feel aligned with the people I hire- I badly WANT them to succeed and improve their lives, and firing is a really difficult thing to do! When the fit isn’t right, action needs to be taken. Of course, everyone needs to be given the chance to succeed, but sometimes it’s just not possible to keep them on board when it’s getting in the way of company growth.
We had another similar experience with a project manager we brought in to help, and again was a great cultural fit, but ultimately, it was not the right role for him, and we had to let him go as well. These are all learning experiences where we can take more decisive action faster next time!
The skills to develop here are to create an environment at the company where everyone feels part of the team, and generally likes their coworkers- but not to the point where the business is a “family”.
I think it’s great to build a lot of empathy within your company, and allow your workers to grow, but knowing how to navigate a good relationship with your workers vs seeing them as your family is super important.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Lots of plans!
- Double our revenue in 6 months
- Create more freedom for both my partner and me, by hiring for sales, project management, and eventually operations.
- Venture into offering support for Webflow. We have moved slowly here, as it’s quite a different beast from WordPress, but so many agencies are needing this help that we know it’s badly needed, and we can use a lot of our resources to build this side of the business
To hit our goals, one of the things we are finally going to do is add an opt-in form. We have waited on this as well, because of not having a great offer- but now we are creating an ebook that will help agencies save time, and keep moving forward in any economy. We will be building out autoresponders, and be able to do more successful offers to our prospect list.
I’ve also started a local group of marketing agencies, meeting up regularly over coffee to network and discuss challenges and opportunities. I think this could grow bigger and should be a lot of fun!
And the plan in the next year or so is to automate, and eliminate ourselves anywhere we are a bottleneck in the company. My guess is that 1 year from now we will look quite different as a company- with the two founders putting in fewer hours, but with growth continuing at an even faster rate.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Don’t give up too soon. The stories you hear about companies becoming overnight sensations are SUPER rare, so if you’re just seeking out a profit each month in your two years, that might be exactly where you need to be.
Sometimes it’s about iterating as you go, and some of the changes you make will pay large dividends- but it may not be obvious at first which changes, or how much they will impact your business.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are looking for a Part-Time operations manager or general manager. This person would be responsible for keeping the company completely organized, and building out and improving upon our processes to ensure the company is running smoothly and efficiently. Some responsibilities include:
- Staying on top of task completion and new developers highers
- Help research, organize, and recommend resources on product management best practices
- Oversees and reports weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual metrics
- Identifies trends and assesses opportunities to improve processes and execution
- Hires, supervises and monitors the development teams
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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