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I am Mason James. Founder of WP Valet and wearer of a great many hats. Ask me anything.

Sep. 2, 2015

Woot! Apologies for the late start. Still learning how these internets work apparently.

3 years ago I started WP Valet because I couldn't find help for clients that needed month-to-month WordPress support. Today our team of 18 works tirelessly to provide marketing, strategy, migrations, support, development, optimization, design, copy, insights, reporting and a variety of other things based on our monthly customer needs.

We're self-funded and have had to figure out remote teams, organization, process, contracts, employee compensation, being an employer in multiple states, how to communicate as a team of 1-2, 5-10, and 15+.

Because I started late, I'll stick around late with anyone who finds this interesting. So go on, ask me anything :)

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18 votes   Flag
Ryan Love

Thanks so much for doing this Mason, looking forward to the questions that get put to you!

From above, it sounds like your company offers many different services, which seems to fly in the face of what I read ever where, which is to niche down / solve a very specific need.

Do you feel being so broad has helped or hindered you? And depending on your answer, why do you think it's helped/hindered you?

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Mason James

Hiya Ryan!

Yeah. You're right about our content. We center almost all of our conversations (digital or otherwise) around the idea of ongoing monthly support. That's how we started and it's still the core of our DNA.

What does monthly support look like? To us, that means making sure the entire digital experience is a healthy one. We have a "Maslow's hierarchy" approach to digital health and continually measure and iterate to achieve better results.

So, yeah, we'll answer support requests - we do that everyday. But we go beyond that by anticipating needs across several spectrums and providing happy improvements pro-actively as we spot them.

Because a client may not always know the difference between a support request and custom dev, or whether something relates to a technical server or an SEO setup (and sometimes they're related or the answer is 'both') we don't attempt to throttle their requests. We actually try to help educate them on how their current site measures up across speed, usability, traffic, and content and provide insights that bring real-world improvements.

See!? I can make even a short question into a long answer :) Keep 'em coming!

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Vladimir Prelovac

Welcome Mason :)

1) What is the the task that you guys get asked most often to do for your clients?

2) If you could change one thing in WordPress what would it be?

3) What do you perceive as the biggest threat to WordPress continuing to grow its marketshare?



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Mason James

Hiya Vlad! Thanks for the welcome :)

1) What is the the task that you guys get asked most often to do for your clients?
A. Speed up my site please!
Speed optimizations is by far the biggest request we get. In tandem with that is usually a laundry list of "small fixes" or customizations that interrupt their regular work flow or annoy them on a regular basis.

2) If you could change one thing in WordPress what would it be?
A. Language translation/management is still a huge pain. Even when setup correctly it's not intuitive to most content publishers. Media management still has a ways to go too, but that's getting a lot better :)

3) What do you perceive as the biggest threat to WordPress continuing to grow its marketshare?
A. It's much easier to show growth when you have less marketshare. With WordPress having as much as it does already, continuing to grow will be a challenge. The rest API is the most exciting new development to me and it's progress will ensure WordPress adoption for a long time time still. Externally, I think Facebook is a pretty big threat (internet.org)

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Donna Cavalier

Sorry I'm so late to the party. I don't know if you're still around, but thanks for answering these questions. I love that you don't throttle requests, but educate users. That's great! I've looked at several of the services in this space, and honestly, I can never remember which is which. Help me remember you over the others. I seriously need to refer several clients to a service like this. Simply put, why you? Help me to remember you when I refer clients, and not the rest.

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Mason James

Wow, Donna!

What a wonderful, weighty question for me. Here I thought I might get away with a "What ticketing software do you use?" or "How fast is your average response time?" but no way, let's cut right to the chase! (seriously, I dig it)

Why us? To put the answer, simply "We make life easier. We got this."

Where do you see valets in real life? When an event is of utmost importance and when expectations are at their highest! That's exactly where WP Valet fits in as well :)

More completely: We provide services - and we really, thoughtfully provide them. The educational, pro-active stuff I mention above? Yup. That's all part of it. Since we're talking about services, I'll use a metaphor that's near and dear to me - food!

A good food service experience would include (here in the US anyway) a tasty beverage - Coke Zero if you're me. Good service would imply that Coke Zero is generally available. A company may have a staff member (in this analogy, a waiter) check up and see if you need a refill - that's helpful. They may also have a tool that helps them keep your Coke Zero topped up in the form of a soda fountain. That's also helpful. It's more-scalable (cause they don't have to pay a person) and you have unlimited access to the soda. Pretty good!

Many companies try to offer the same "self-serve" style. They'll leverage a tool (even an awesome one like ManageWP - which I highly recommend) to help them provide this. Again, that's all good. You may have to do some work yourself, but at least there's Coke Zero.

Great service would include having a dedicated waiter who takes the time to check in and make sure the Coke Zero situation is going well. They'll ask how you're doing, how your food tastes, and, noticing your glass is empty, they'll ask if you would like any more.

That's great! As long as they're around, you're not worried. You know you can have Coke Zero throughout the meal. This is challenging for a business because they need attentive people who enjoy customer service and interaction. The end result though is totally great.

At the far end of the spectrum you have a fantastic, world-class service experience. This includes a human again, but this time you never have to ask for the Coke Zero refill. In fact, you never even heard them ask either! Any time your glass was half empty a new glass appears. Great service requires a human that understands context. They see the event is important - an anniversary or a birthday - and they know how to engage or stay in the background out of the way. They won't interrupt conversation, but wait quietly ~anticipating~ your needs before you think of them. They're ready with the wine list, ready with drinks, dessert (and also ready with the check :D).

That final experience, of truly excellent service, with your needs anticipated and met before you asked. And as part of the expected service they even provided guidance (insights!). When you weren't sure what option was best for you or other members of the party, the server anticipated that and provided recommendations. Again, you don't have to ask, the server anticipates any hesitation and pulls from their knowledge to provide insight wherever required and stays out of the way, taking care of your beverage and everything else that makes the entire dining experience enjoyable.

Is there a character limit on these AMA responses!? What we do at WP Valet is train our associates in the art of excellent service. All of our valets from designers, to backend developers to SEO consultants or anywhere in between are trained and regularly guided in providing top-tier service. From little things like going over the words we use and the way we talk, to larger things like a company-wide ability for any valet to spend up to $50/day on any customer need - no permission required. Just do it!

We also chose our name very carefully. Valet's immediately provide the connotation of an elevated experience and superior service. You don't see them at Burger Kings or the Motel 8. Where you see them are in the places where the event is important and the expectations are at their highest. That's where you'll find us too and, I think, it's what makes us truly different.

Whew. Thanks for your question, Donna. I think now I'll skip the coke zero and grab a nice red wine instead :)

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Donna Cavalier

That was an excellent answer, and I will definitely remember your company now. Thanks!

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Nemanja Aleksic

I hope you take late questions, I always miss the AMA deadlines :)

1) What part of your service is the biggest time sink for your team?
2) Is your whole team remote? How are you coordinating your effort?
3) How do your clients usually found you?
4) If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

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Mason James

I take late questions. Sure!
1) What part of your service is the biggest time sink for your team?
A. Communicating bits of data/intelligence between team members or whole teams takes a lot of thoughtful effort. It's not enough for one person to receive a support request, login, and fix it. The fix needs to be recorded and readily available so that anyone on that team or any other team in the company can read about it and apply it so we don't lose that information because the same person isn't around next time. That's really challenging!

2) Is your whole team remote? How are you coordinating your effort?
Whole team is remote. We do a morning 'stand up' call where we all do a quick check in. Throughout the week our team meets in tactical meetings to go over anything that is stopping them from getting work done. These are all done in hangouts. We use hipchat and slack throughout the day as well as team calendars and a project management software called Wrike to see who's doing what. This is a big challenge in going from 3-4 to 15+

3) How do your clients usually found you?
Most commonly from referrals. Either a customer who enjoys the service and refers us on or a vendor that leverages WordPress but in a slightly different space - agencies that don't provide monthly support, hosting platforms, and even premium plugin/theme shops tend to be good partners for us.

4) If you could do it all over again, what would you change
I think I'm still figuring this part out. Last year we spent a great deal of time/effort/money creating software tools because what was available only hit about 80% of what we needed. This was really stupid and cost us quite a lot. I'd also say we should've focused earlier and with more deliberate effort on client communication - sharing the work we're doing with the client early and often. In keeping customers, most of the time it doesn't matter how well-written and clean your code is if they don't feel that they've been treated with incredible care and had thoughtful communication throughout.

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Geet Purwar

Thanks for amazing service.
I hope if you don't mind, can I ask about the revenues/profit month and sass/software services used by thewpvalet.
Wish you best.
Thanks

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Mason James

We don't share revenue/profits outside of the company [yet]. Internally I do try to make that information pretty transparent. As a services company anything below a 65% profit margin is unacceptable, 75% is preferable, and we generally operate above 85% profit. Those are numbers that we've found mean we get to pay the team well and set ourselves up for ongoing success. Since we don't have investors or boards or anything else our only accountability is to our clients and ourselves.

sass/software services we use: Wrike, AgileCRM, HelpScout, BitBucket, LastPass, Orion (ManageWP), DeployHQ, Slack/Hipchat (yeah, both right now), HarvestApp, * QuickBooks.

Of that list, the new ones that I'm most excited about in 2015 are AgileCRM (before this we struggled to find a good CRM), Wrike (incredibly flexible - we use it for loads of project management, internal knowledge base, time tracking, and more), and Orion (which allows us to get to wp-admin very quickly without sharing passwords, run updates in a dev environment for that and then updates are pushed to testing and live via git)

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