Over a year and half ago, something significant in my life happened. I relinquished all control of my business endeavors by coming together alongside four entrepreneurs to form a software company called Copyblogger Media.
Above is a picture of me and my partners Brian Clark, Sonia Simone, Tony Clark and Sean Jackson. Some call us the Breakfast Club, others have their own choice words.
At the time I made the decision, it seemed like a pretty good idea. Fortunately for me (and my other partners), I still feel that way. In fact, I feel that way more than ever.
What I’ve never done, however, is share the reasoning behind the move and why I took a million dollar company that I had built and placed it into the hands of other people.
Sometimes you gotta say what the…
In all honesty, there are some pretty simple reasons why I did this. Some of them might make sense to you, while others – not so much.
The bottom line is that ultimately I believed in the vision that Brian Clark cast about building a company which offered 3 things that online publishers need to succeed.
Aside from that vision, there were a number of reasons that led me to the decision. These were things that I struggled with being a solo entrepreneur, and ultimately I choose to trade in complete ownership for a bigger picture.
Here are the real reasons why I left my solo gig to join Copyblogger Media.
1. I hated my inbox and nearly had a nervous breakdown because of email.
This one is no joke, so I’ll give you the skinny on what pushed me over the edge. When you run your own company, you are responsible for everything.
I mean everything.
A couple of years ago I went to New Mexico on a ski trip with Cory Miller and got food poisoning. When we got back to the cabin and in between bouts in the bathroom, I opened up my inbox and had more than 100 emails sitting there.
I’m not talking about spam emails or notifications of blog comments – I’m talking about legitimate “need to personally respond to” emails that would have (and did) take hours to work through.
As owner (and every other position) of StudioPress at the time, I was in charge of all aspects of the business. Customer service and pre-sales questions were for me to attend to. In addition to accounting, product development, support, et all.
The appeal of joining forces with others and deflecting that correspondance was something I couldn’t deny.
2. I couldn’t market my way out of a cardboard box.
I won’t completely sell myself short here, because at the time of the merge StudioPress was doing over six figures a month in sales.
Brian Clark promised me that he’d double sales with StudioPress, and that happened in half the time he had expected. Our site traffic has tripled since then as well.
Eh, that’s because he’s quite the content marketer.
At the time I had no idea what content marketing really was. But it all sounded good, and so far everything has worked out.
The truth behind the marketing element of my decision was that Brian, was um, Brian Clark. He ran with guys like Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse, and that appealed to me.
After all, both of those guys are now running the Genesis Framework on their sites, so somewhere along the way we did something right.
The bottom line was that I needed a true marketer for the product, and it wasn’t me.
3. My dedicated server at (gasp) GoDaddy was continually crashing.
Two years before the merge with Copyblogger, I was running into some serious server issues. I had originally signed up with GoDaddy on a shared hosting plan, which quickly became a problem.
So much that I decided to fork over $200/month for a dedicated server with support. Because I really didn’t know a thing about hosting and all that comes with it.
Anyway, even on the dedicated server I was experiencing problems, and at one point it took down StudioPress (and its $3,000 daily revenue) for almost 3 days.
Eh, not good.
Soon after the merge, we moved the StudioPress site over to a very special hosting environment. Not only were the configurations set for optimization on the site, it was managed by people who knew what they were doing.
After some things came together, we officially launched our own WordPress hosting service, which is built with performance, security and expertise in mind.
I don’t lose sleep any more when it comes to hosting or related issues. We have some incredibly smart and talented people running that division.
4. The idea of supporting 75,000 customers by myself nearly drove me to drink.
When you have a lot of success, it usually doesn’t come without a price. For me, one of those prices was support.
Can you imagine even a fraction of those people asking one or two questions a day on our support forum? Or how about 10?
Welcome to the world I lived in back in the day.
It’s true I started to pay a few community members to serve as forum moderators – but the idea of being fully responsible for helping that many people each and every day was more than daunting.
And you know what?
Some of those people live across the pond and were asking questions while I was sleeping. Try waking up to pages of unanswered posts that you need to respond to.
There are currently over half a million posts on our forum.
I’ve been blessed with a support team that’s part of our company which not only bends over backwards for our users, but allows the hair on my head to slowly grow back.
5. I desperately needed a designer, because I am certainly not one.
While I managed to sell a few (thousand) themes to folks, it wasn’t because they were pretty. I’m probably my own worst critic, but the fact that I was designing the themes for StudioPress didn’t lend itself well longterm.
Most of the success I had in the early days was based on opportunity, and being one of (if not the) first to the premium WordPress theme market.
It was becoming painfully clear that I needed to step up my game, or I was going to go down like the Titanic. And water was coming into the boat.
Along came Rafal Tomal.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain who he is, as he’s pretty much made a household name for himself these days as being the Lead Designer at Copyblogger Media.
I mean, go take a look at his website to see what I’m talking about.
The increase in sales at StudioPress was part marketing, but also a result of our themes looking a hundred times better than when I designed them.
6. My analytics, optimization and conversion skills were rather putrid.
It didn’t take me long to grow an affection towards my partner Tony Clark. Also known as Nestguy on Twitter, together we’ve formed a bond so tight that we consider ourselves brothas from anotha motha.
Not only does he work alongside me now on the product/support side of Copyblogger Media, he’s pushing and encouraging me to learn more about the things I’ve known nothing about.
Analyzing traffic, converting that traffic and consequently increasing revenue.
I never finished college and certainly don’t have a degree in any of this stuff. To be honest, I didn’t know what a landing page (much less a call to action) was until we formed the band.
I’m continually stretched to dig deeper and to figure out how we can make more with what we have – which is Tony’s fault.
Ok, I’ll stop beating myself up and get on with why I’m writing this.
Do I really think I’m worthless and couldn’t be successful on my own? Of course not.
The problem I was dealing with back in the day was that out of necessity to keep the ship afloat, I was becoming the jack of all trades and master of none.
I was spending too much time fixing people’s accounts, setting up forums and not enough time in keeping up with technology and in business development.
I was practically a warm body in some of these roles, and it didn’t do me (nor my customers) any favors by begrudgingly corresponding out of necessity.
I wasn’t where I belonged, and most definitely wasn’t in my sweet spot.
It was a struggle to wake up everyday and get it all done, but I knew the “impossible” would rear it’s ugly head by the time I needed to shut down for the day.
So, by any chance do you know what I’m talking about?
Fess up, or at the very least lie and make me feel better.
I can’t be the only entrepreneur out there who dealt with responsibility overload and was on the brink of turning off the lights and shutting the door on it all.
How is your business going? Where are you at with your business plan? Are you stagnating and struggling to take the next step?
Sometimes it takes a course of action by YOU, while other times it’s an outward display of what I call luck.
The phone call that changed it all.
When Brian Clark called me to ask if I had any interest in forming a multi-million dollar company that would build software for thousands of people to use, it didn’t take more than two seconds (in my mind) to say yes.
I played it cool, possibly a little hard to get, and ultimately expressed interest.
It was kinda like Steven Tyler saying “hey kid, you want to play bass for us?”
A year and a half later, I’m in the band playing music that I love. I’m in charge of my own instrument and don’t care that I’m not the lead singer with all the groupies.
I’m just glad my story didn’t have a tragic ending, and that the road ahead of me is a lot longer than the road behind me.
Life is good. Peace out.