Starting and running your own business is HARD!!! One time in the early years of wpXPRESS, our power got shut off. We were living in St. George, Utah. Suddenly there was that spin-down sound and everything went quiet, like it does when the power goes out. Jill headed outside to see if our neighbors had lost power too, then she saw the notice: our power had been shut off for lack of payment. Money was so tight that I’d postponed paying the power bill for too long, and the power company shut it off. I called them and found out that they couldn’t turn it back on until after the weekend, even if I paid right then over the phone! 3 days without power…. Luckily we were leaving town and wouldn’t need it until after it came back on.
We were blessed and it all worked out in the end. But that’s just one of many stories I can tell you about how hard it has been to create and build wpXPRESS. And I’m sure many of you, our members, could share stories that exceed the difficulties and stress that we’ve been through, in starting and running your own businesses.
Start With Why
At a recent training for non-profits that I attended, the presenter reminded me of a hugely popular Ted video called “Start With Why—How Great Leaders Inspire Action” by Simon Sinek. Here’s my very brief summary of what Simon explains so well in that talk and his follow-up book:
The companies and people you like and trust the most are the ones who always explain the why first. People don’t care what or how you do things until they understand why. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to sell products to potential clients or create a better culture with employees, when you start by explaining why you want to do something, you’ll win people over much more quickly and completely. If you merely tell them what it is you want to do, or how you’re going to do it, your results will be much slower, less complete, and maybe nonexistent. But very few people and companies do this. Our natural inclination is to start with what and how even though we all respond best to why.
So that’s the whole point of this post: I want to answer the question “why?” Why does wpXPRESS exist? Why would I go through all the difficulties of bootstrapping my own small business? Why would I put my wife and kids through years of just barely getting by?
The Why for wpXPRESS
My father was employed by a small business for many years and eventually was able to buyout one of the partners to become a partner and small business owner himself. Another small business, a construction company, gave me my first “real” job (and it was serious, tough work: concrete). Later, small businesses hired me to do freelance video and web work. That freelance work paid for most of my college education. In short: I love small businesses. They’ve been a huge blessing in my life and they are a major contributor to the health of America’s economy.
First impressions are powerful. And in this age of search, many people’s first impression of most small businesses is their website. I think every good small business ought to have a great website that makes a really positive first impression. I want to use my passion for web design to help small businesses succeed, through making an excellent first impression on all those potential-clients who visit their website.
I’m a small business owner myself. I understand how tight money can be, as the story at the beginning of this post illustrates. So I believe that handcrafted websites should be affordable and not add stress to the already difficult job of running a small business. And they shouldn’t have to throw a variable-cost wrench in the small business’s cashflow, every time something goes wrong with the website, or something needs to be updated. In other words, small businesses shouldn’t have to shell out $8,000 for a great website and another $700 every time something goes wrong or they need it updated.
Money and possessions are not my reasons for creating wpXPRESS. Sure, I’d love to get to $120k/year. But science has shown that happiness does not increase with your income beyond about $120k/yr. That’s part of why it’s easy to set our goal at 250 small business members, and no more. It won’t increase our overall happiness if we get more, but it will make it so we can’t provide a customized service to every one of our members. We’ll be too big to know and help each one.
I’ve noticed a clear trend over the nearly 20 years since I built my first website. Whenever someone hires me and my team to build them a website to replace their current one, there’s almost always 2 main motivations behind their desire for a change:
- WordPress is hard to maintain. Whether it’s updates breaking things, not being able to find the right plugin, or the inconsistent interface, WordPress can be difficult to use and manage. We want help businesses to make website maintenance, support, and updates an easy and simple thing: just email us and we’ll take care of it!
- Their old website was no longer representing them well. First impressions may not be everything, but as I already mentioned, they are clearly very important. That’s especially true if you want to devote minimum cost into each new client you gain. So an awesome website that makes a great first impression is vital to any small business.
- Their website guy disappeared. A few times it was a relative and there was family drama that made them not want to work with that person anymore. Other times their website person literally disappeared. Like friends and family were considering filing a missing person’s report. Gone. And there was a whole slew of stories and reasons in between.
When a business’s website is not representing them well, the natural thing to do is go back to the person who built it. Unfortunately many website creators seem to be very good at disappearing. Since I’m almost entirely self-taught in web design, I guess I missed out on the disappearing-act training that so many others received. Instead, I structured our business model to ensure that we’re around and available. Being available means we update our member’s websites so they represent the businesses well, and do it without adding more cost or difficulty to their already hard job of running a small business. Our websites are both individually hand-designed and an affordable, fixed monthly cost for our members.
I couldn’t have arrived at this point without Jill, my amazing wife; Kurt, my former business partner; my incredible design & support team: Roge & Charry; and a number of subcontractors, friends, and family who helped us along the way. But there’s still more to do. We have bandwidth for about 140 more members, with fewer spots available each month.
The last thing is the what. Most people start here. That’s backwards! Since it’s less important if you’ve done a good job of explaining why (I hope I have), I’ll let you look around our website to read more about our WordPress website management, if you don’t already know.
I did want to announce that we’ll be doing some redesign on our website to better convey the why. Our home page should lead with why, and it currently doesn’t mention it at all! It dives right into the what and how.
What’s Your Why?
We’ll also do our best to “start with why” on our member’s sites as we build new ones. If you’re currently a wpXPRESS member, and would like your home page to better convey why you do what you do, please let me know. I’d love to talk to you about your why and how we can convey that on your site!
If you’re not a member, tell me your why, or how “starting with why” has helped you, in the comments.