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Brad Williams (WebDevStudios)

Brad Williams is the co-founder and CEO of WebDevStudios.com. He is also a co-author of the books Professional WordPress and Professional WordPress Plugin Development. Brad founded the Philly WordPress Meetup in 2010, co-organized the first five WordCamp Philly events, and also co-organized both WordCamp US events held in Philly. He has been developing websites for more than 20 years, including the last 10 where he has focused on open-source technologies like WordPress.

Aaron: [00:08] Hi, this is Aaron and you are listening to the WP Square One podcast.

Micah: [00:14] And my name is Micah Wood. And with us today we have a special guest, the Co-founder and CEO of WebDevStudios, Brad Williams. Welcome, Brad.

Brad: [00:23] Hey guys, thanks for having me.

Aaron: [00:25] Yeah, no problem. Thanks for taking some time. I’m sure you’re busy.

Brad: [00:30] Sometimes.

Aaron: [00:32] Sometimes do you fake people out and you look busy?

Brad: [00:36] Hey, I’m very good at projecting whatever I need to look like online. That’s the easy part. Right?

Aaron: [00:41] Fair enough. So tell us a little about what you do, who you are, and what your company does.

Brad: [00:47] Sure. So like you said, I’m Brad Williams. I founded a company called WebDevStudios almost eleven years ago. We had our ten-year anniversary last year and we’re a 100%-focused WordPress design and development agency. WordPress is the only platform we build on. We certainly integrate with a lot of other platforms and services but WordPress is our bread and butter. Been having a lot of fun working with WordPress for the last decade plus. No signs of slowing down, so it’s been great.

Aaron: [01:19] That’s cool. What led you into web development, and I guess, specifically WordPress?

Brad: [01:26] I got into web development a long time ago, back in the nineties when the Internet first started kind of taking off. Mid-nineties. I was in high school, just tinker around HTML. I think I launched an Angelfire “website” with a couple of random pages to show my friends at school. But it definitely piqued my interest. I always liked the Internet once I got onto the Internet. I always kind of saw the potential back then. Not a lot of people were on; it’s mostly chat rooms and stuff. But that really got me interested in the Internet and the web and I just kind of took it from there. Ever since then, I’ve taken any class I could take. I would read any book I could read, dig through all sorts of online forums, which were much bigger back then, just to learn everything I could because there weren’t as many resources, obviously, as there are today. My school didn’t have programming classes; this is all very new stuff. I think they had just started a typing class around the middle of high school. I knew I wanted to be in the Internet. Wasn’t exactly sure how I ended up going to the Marine Corps. Joined the Marine Corps after high school. Was never big into school. The stuff I enjoy, like computers and tech, I would ace them in my sleep. Everything else, I was miserable at. So, I decided maybe I shouldn’t go right into college because it didn’t sound exciting, but I didn’t want to sit around.

[02:49] So I actually became, believe it or not, a programmer in the Marine Corps. I let the Marines teach me how to program even more. Did my four-year tour, got out, and got a job at a large e-commerce company. Worked there for five years and then once I felt like I had a little bit of an establishment in a career, learned the ropes a little bit more about online and business, decided to start WebDevStudios in 2008. Traditional startup. Looking back, it was insane. We had no clients lined up. We really didn’t have a lot of savings, like a couple of thousand dollars. I picked up my whole life from Indiana and moved to New Jersey to start WebDevStudios with my partner, sold my house, moved into his loft and stuff. Kind of went all in. I’m a little bit naive about it, but it actually worked out. So even though the entire economy was kind of taking a downturn, what we saw was people looking to invest in different ways because the stock market was crashing, the housing market was crashing, the economy just wasn’t doing good so people were like, “Maybe I should invest in this random idea I’ve had, random website I’ve wanted.” Companies were looking to invest in different ways and that’s really how we got a start. A lot of people were coming in the door even when the economy wasn’t that good and just kind of grew it from there and really got a passion for open source.

[04:12] We worked with a lot of Drupal, WordPress, Zen Cart, Magento, some other stuff, Joomla even, just for the philosophies behind open source and ultimately kind of homed-in on WordPress just because it’s what we enjoyed using the most. It felt the most intuitive for us. It felt the most intuitive for our clients, so we switched to WordPress 100% in 2010 and we haven’t looked back. It’s been the best decision we’ve ever made. We’ve been busy ever since. Like I said, no signs of slowing down so it’s been a fun journey.

Aaron: [04:44] Nice. I have like a million questions for you, I think.

Brad: [04:46] That was long. It was like my whole life story right there.

Aaron: [04:50] Kind of curious being the geek that I am, what type of programming stuff did you do in the military?

Brad: [04:56] When you’re in the military, everybody goes through, or at least the Marines, it was pretty similar, all the branches. Everyone goes through boot camp, obviously graduate boot camp, you are a marine at that point. Then you go to marine combat training which is at some additional training out in the field, they call it out in the woods or wherever you’re at, for a few weeks. And then you go to your specialty school and that’s where they teach you your job. So in this case, I went to Twentynine Palms, California, which is, I’m not a big fan of the desert, it’s just straight desert out there. There’s like nothing. It was hot and miserable, but we’re out there for programming school for a few months. They taught us two languages. They taught us Ada, which most people haven’t heard of and I hadn’t heard of before I joined, but it was a very popular language with the military and with the government. It’s most known for programming rockets and missiles and stuff. This is like ‘99, 2000. Even at that time, nobody was really using it. They just hadn’t updated the curriculum.

[05:56] So we learned Ada half the time and then we learned Visual Basic 6, which was also a little bit behind the times because I think that came out around ‘96 or ‘97, something like that. But what it did teach us is the commonalities of programming which is just understanding things like conditional statements and arrays and loops and case statements and variables and all these things that are common no matter what language you use. It kind of laid that foundation. And then after school, that’s when you get sent to your duty station, which is generally where you stay for two or three or four years. At that point they were using Lotus Domino. Do you guys remember Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino? It was big for a while. I didn’t know much about it. We learned it when we were there and I think it’s kind of died off or at least you don’t hear much about it anymore. But government’s always a little bit behind technology. So that was kind of the same for me.

Aaron: [06:52] Yeah. I mean that was before like EXchange and all that stuff really took off. I mean, IBM was the, I guess, enterprise company. That’s interesting. So you went programming. When you started WebDevStudios, you were two people, right? And so were you the more tech-savvy?

Brad: [07:17] It was myself and Brian Messenlehner, the other Co-founder. We were both back-end developers. We actually met in the Marines. We met at school in the Marines, that’s where we met. We were both back-end devs. That posed an immediate challenge because we didn’t have that design eye. We weren’t designers. We could build, well we felt like we could build anything in the world from a functionality standpoint. But from a visual UX, UI pretty standpoint, it looked terrible, like most developers do. Early on we realized that’s something we needed. Our first hire was a designer because we had to fill that gap. And it was funny because obviously open source, generally speaking, tends to use open source technology. So WordPress, for example, uses PHP. We came from more of a Microsoft. We actually went from Lotus Domino into Microsoft and the classic ASP and ultimately into .NET. We came from this kind of proprietary environments, technologies over into open source where it was all about more things like PHP. But it really wasn’t too big of a jump because I don’t know if you guys remember classic ASP, a lot of similarities with PHP. It’s kind of a scripting language or at the time it was a scripting language so that transition was fairly smooth. Just learned some different syntax. When you start a business, you quickly learn what you’re not good at and that’s what you’ve got to figure out. How do we fill those gaps so we can be good at that, whatever that particular need is that people are looking for. In this case for us, it was design.

Aaron: [08:53] I think Micah should start designing. I think that’d be pretty awesome.

Micah: [08:56] Yeah. I’m sure that would be beautiful.

Brad: [09:01] We have a page on our website. If you go to webdevstudios.com, we have an about section and under there there’s a history, webdevstudios.com/about/history. And if you check that out, we have screenshots and a bit of a timeline of the company. It’s got screenshots of what our homepage looked like throughout the years. The first couple iterations, you can tell a developer designed these. Like I designed these sites. The second one is awful. It looks like a hosting company. I put a bunch of servers on it. I was like, “This looks so cool!” And everyone’s like, “Are you hosting? Why are all these servers on my homepage?” I thought they were amazing at the time but looking back they’re so hideous. I love that page though, just to see the evolution of our site. You can actually see when designers started to show up and make things look a little better.

Micah: [09:50] Nice.

Aaron: [09:51] Now I’m totally distracted and I’m looking at it. I started in ’96 and I started learning PHP in 2000, 2001 and resources weren’t out there. I’d go to Barnes & Noble and buy a PHP book and that’s kind of how I learned. I mean, somewhat similar paths. I have a business partner, too.

Brad: [10:19] I always say this: everyone likes to learn differently. All three of us, we’d retain knowledge in a different way. Some people like to read books, some people like to dig into articles online, some people would rather like a video tutorial, some people need to be in a classroom environment. It’s just whatever our preference is and how we’d like to learn. Books were a biggie for me early on and also, like I mentioned, the message boards. When I truly started to understand actual web development—that included like database driven web sites and stuff like that—it was because of forums. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with SitePoint; that was where I started. It was actually called something different back then. I think it was called Webmaster Base or something, but they had a pretty active web development design forum. I spent years in there, going from just asking questions and learning to— At some point, I started to answer more questions than I was asking. I ended up being a moderator for a number of years and won the Classic ASP Guru Award in a couple of years, which I guess isn’t that cool anymore since that’s a dead language. That was a biggie for me. You think about it now, they’re not dead, they’re still out there but they’re just not as big, I think, of a part of learning, at least of the tech field, as they used to be. You just don’t see them as often, you know?

Micah: [11:37] True. Yeah. I remember when I first got started, I was in the SEO space and I was going to make a name for myself in SEO and that’s exactly what I did. I’d go to the forums. I didn’t know a whole lot necessarily. I’d read a book, a really good book, but that was about it. I just started going and answering as many questions as I could and I started following the questions I didn’t know the answer to. I ended up being so prolific. I landed my first client that way.

Brad: [12:08] I mean, it’s a great way—it still is. Forums, they’ve evolved a bit, right? You have things like Quora where it’s more like a Q and A, but that’s just an extension of a forum. It’s just somebody asking a question, people answer. And the only difference is there are easier ways to highlight the best answer or the accepted answer or whatever. But if you think about it, I’ve thought about this in the past about how forums and being public about your learning through forums because everything you’re publishing, if your public forum is public, putting yourself out there and saying, “Hey, I don’t know how to do x, can somebody help me?” I think that’s what’s actually triggered the whole passion for open source because it’s kind of similar. Open source is about giving back, putting yourself out there, opening up your code, sharing and helping each other, and it’s intimidating to do that, right? It’s intimidating to put code out there and say, “Hey, look what I built. Anybody could use this on GitHub or something,” and just to wait for that first piece of feedback where someone’s like, “Well, this is garbage. Why did you do it this way?” But I think by being so open and out there in the forums, I was already, unknowingly, getting through that weirdness of putting myself out there. So by the time I got into open source, it just felt natural. Like, of course, I don’t mind writing a blog post about how to do XYZ, even if maybe I’m wrong because that’s one of the quickest ways to figure out if you’re wrong is to put it out there and let somebody tell you. Inadvertently I think I pushed myself into open source through forums, which I think is kind of cool if you think about it.

“I don’t mind writing a blog post… even if maybe I’m wrong because that’s one of the quickest ways to figure out if you’re wrong is to put it out there and let somebody tell you.” @williamsba

Micah: [13:36] You’ve co-authored a few books yourself, correct?

Brad: [13:39] Yes. A co-author of the Professional WordPress series, Professional WordPress: Design and Development, and then we did a plug-in book as well. We’ve done three different versions of the first one, which is really due for an update, especially with all the new stuff that’s come out recently. Again, another way of kind of putting yourself out there. That’s definitely probably the most nervous I’ve been in the WordPress space. Writing a book, it needs to be accurate. It needs to be factual. It’s a technology book, it’s not like an opinion piece or a sci-fi novel. This is like a factual, this-is-how-you-do-it book. The first one I wrote in 2009 and again, this is a decade ago. There wasn’t as much out there on WordPress. You think of all the various documentation and resource sites and stuff available. Really the only thing that existed back then was a codex and it’s a Wiki so you kind of had to take that with a little bit of skepticism. Just because it says something, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right. Trying to find out some of these things and writing on topics that I didn’t even know until I had to write about them was very intimidating. And then to put out this book and say, “Here it is, a definitive guide on how to develop code for WordPress,” was scary. Ultimately, it was a great series of books we wrote. It still has four and a half stars or something on Amazon to this day, people still buy it and it’s still, by and large, pretty accurate. It’s just missing stuff that didn’t exist back then. So again, that was another good exercise in putting yourself out there, doing the best you can and if you made mistakes then own up to it and fix it the next time around.

Micah: [15:21] Yup. I forget what time frame it was. I actually discovered your book. I had been doing development for a while and had actually been learning things the hard way. Google this, Google that and figure it out. And then I think I found your book and by the time I found the book, I was relatively familiar with most stuff, but they were definitely some sections in there, I was like, “Yes, this is awesome.”

Brad: [15:46] It’s a great resource because it has it all in one spot. I still use it from time to time, I’ll pull up the PDF. People think that developers would know how to build with whatever system, that they just have all that knowledge, that they can get to it on the drop of a dime. And there are people out there like that, but it’s not common. We can’t remember all this stuff, but we know where to find it. We have a rough idea of what we’re looking for. I mean, I’m sure you guys have heard it. Any one in technology probably excels at Google. Because that’s what we do. We find. We don’t always have the answer, but we know how to find it. We know how to look it up, to sift through the garbage until we find the right answer and how to implement that into what we’re doing. Same type of thing. It’s a great resource for people. You can read it top to bottom or you can just flip right to the section you need to know about. Definitely something I’d like to dust off and look at doing a new edition for soon with Gutenberg out the door finally.

“Any one in technology probably excels at Google. Because that’s what we do. We find. We don’t always have the answer, but we know how to find it.” @williamsba

Micah: [16:39] So you mentioned obviously that you like to learn with books. What basically caused you to decide to help write a book?

Brad: [16:50] It wasn’t like something I had on my list of things I wanted to do, like this big kind of pie in the sky list of whatever goals for myself and my career. It was really kind of random. I remember Matt Mullenweg, he put out a blog post about it like, “Hey, O’Reilly’s looking for some authors. If you’re interested, contact Carol.” I had her information. I thought, “Why not?” I just shot her an email and said, “Hey, I’d love to. This is what I got.” I had been blogging on my site pretty regularly for a few years at that point. I’m not so much these days, but back then I was. Basically, as I was learning things, I was writing about it. “Hey, this is how you do X, Y, Z in WordPress”, or, “Are you trying to do this? This is how you do it.” I was just writing about it for my own knowledge and to share. That’s really all it took. I showed that to her and she’s like, “Great! Here, talk to this guy. He’s leading it up.” Then I got signed on to it and away we went. Really just kind of right place at the right time. I threw my hat in the ring. I don’t know how many people I was up against.

[17:50] David, Hal, and myself wrote the first edition and it went really well. It was definitely a big learning experience, writing and having deadlines and it took a lot of work. Like I said, I had to research so much stuff and make sure that it was the absolute best that I could make it at the time because I didn’t want to put out something that was obviously terrible or incorrect or just garbage because that would reflect badly on me, reflect badly on the company and it’s worked really well. So it was a fun ride for sure.

Micah: [18:21] Nice. So tell us a little bit about your journey from building a technology agency, essentially, from being a developer to now CEO. How’s that different?

Brad: [18:36] Well, I don’t develop, really, anymore. So that’s the biggest difference. It all depends on your goals, right? I’ve talked to people about this quite a bit. When you start a company, you may not have all the goals, you just want to make it work somehow. But as it matures a little bit, you guys start thinking like, “What am I doing here? Do we want to stay small? Do we want to stay a couple of people? Do we want to get a little bit bigger? Do we want to get massive? What’s the goal?” Our goal, we did want to grow. Back when we started, and even when we started to grow, there weren’t a lot of agencies that specialized in WordPress. There was literally just a handful. And as we started to grow, we quickly realized we’re one of the larger agencies that focuses in WordPress. At the time, that’s great. I like being thought of as one of the larger agencies, maybe more successful working with bigger brands and stuff. But then ultimately, we determined the goal wasn’t to be like a thousand people or even hundreds of people. We liked having a larger group but also somewhat intimate. We’re thirty-people strong. Some people will say, “Wow, that’s really big.” Other people will say, “No, it’s not that big.” Ultimately in the grand scheme of the Internet and companies that build websites, it’s not that big. We’re a small company.

[19:53] There came a time when we got to a certain size where it was more valuable for me to run the company as a CEO than it was for me to be writing code. I think anybody that starts to grow a company beyond a few people, you’re going to come up to that line and you’re going to have to make a decision. Do I want to run this company, continue to grow, continue to work with clients and processes and work with the team, and really steer this boat as the CEO or the captain of the ship or do I want someone else to do that and I will continue to do what I do: be a developer, maybe more like a CTO, whatever that looks like? And I was okay with that. I felt like, at the time and my age and where I was going, I was okay with taking a step back because honestly every developer at the company at the time was better than me, and that was on purpose. They should be the best of the best and that’s what we wanted. I was already probably the weakest developer on the team, so I don’t want to hold the team back and I think I was better suited and still am to run the company forward and drive it forward. It’s just a conversation you kind of have to have with yourself of where you want to be on it.

“I was okay with taking a step back [from development and becoming the CEO] because honestly every developer at the company at the time was better than me, and that was on purpose.” @williamsba

[20:58] And you see this a lot with developers over time, over their careers. At some point, you’re going to kind of hit the ceiling with the company you’re at, whether it’s your own company or you work somewhere else, you’re going to hit the ceiling of where you can go as a dev. And then you have to make the decision, “Am I comfortable staying here? Do I want to maybe move to a bigger company that has a higher ceiling as an engineer or developer or maybe do I want to take that leap and go into more of the management side of the house?” And it’s different for everybody. You’ve got to go through pros and cons and figure out what you want to do and what’s going to make you happiest. That’s the choice I made and I haven’t looked back. It’s been great.

Micah: [21:33] My understanding is that making that transition, at least for some of the people I’ve talked to, has been kind of difficult because you go from being an isolated individual and then having to deal with a lot of people issues. Was that an easy transition for you?

Brad: [21:55] No. I mean honestly, like one of the— Is worst the right word? I guess. One of the worst parts of the job is dealing with personnel issues, maybe co-workers not working well together, things like that. You have to deal with them, but it just feels like it’s just something that shouldn’t exist. I just wish whatever drama didn’t exist and it’s taking my focus away from the more important stuff. The more people you have, the more you grow, you’re going to run into it. You’re going to run into issues that you never expected. Whatever it may be, things will happen that you couldn’t have even predicted and you have to be ready to figure it out. And ultimately, especially when you’re at the top, you’re going to make those decisions and you have to stand by them. You have to live with it. It’s a hard job because you have to sometimes make the tough decisions that maybe not everybody at the company agree with. Just a tough call. I mean, the worst thing you have to do is let people go, right? Firing somebody is the worst thing in the world. But, I do it and I’ve done it and it’s just part of the job. If you’re not able to do something like that, then you shouldn’t be in that position.

[23:11] I always remind myself, I make these tough decisions to make this company successful because we have thirty individuals at our company that we support and we have thirty families that we support. So multiply that thirty by however many. And if for some reason I don’t make the decisions that are best for the company, I could end up ruining the company and all of a sudden I’ve destroyed the careers of thirty plus families. That makes it much easier to make those hard decisions because you just have to keep that in mind. I’m doing what’s best for the company, what’s best for my team and their families and sometimes that is making those tough decisions. It gets easier, I think, with experience and over time, but it never is easy.

“I’m doing what’s best for the company, what’s best for my team and their families… and sometimes that is making those tough decisions.” @williamsba

Aaron: [23:54] It’s all good advice. I had to make that decision of, “Should I continue to write code or should I run the company?” And that’s difficult. That’s a weird thing because I really enjoyed being a geek. It’s hard to hire somebody that has the ideas and visions that I have. Making those decisions are kind of difficult.

Brad: [24:22] A good example, look at Jason Cohen over at WP Engine. He was a founder of the company, really grew it from a startup to a legit, real player in the hosting space for WordPress managed hosting. There you go, WP Engine mug. Ultimately, he decided that his passion is on the technology side, not the CEO administrative side, and made the decision to bring in a CEO, Heather, to run the company and he became CTO so he could focus on what was his passion and where he felt his value was best for the company. I think that is a perfect example of somebody making that hard decision of, “I know I started this company, but it doesn’t mean I need to be at the very top.” He’s still obviously an executive officer. He’s still a C-level officer. He’s still very much in charge but he’s focused on what he’s passionate about, which is the technology side of the house. And I thought, obviously that was the right call because that was years ago and now they’re this huge company that has a whole building in Austin, so they’re doing amazing. I look at that as a really good example of someone who had that conversation with themselves and realized, “This isn’t the best spot for me. So let me get to where my value is the best to make this company succeed and let somebody else run that part of the house.”

Aaron: [25:40] Makes sense to me. Shifting gears slightly but still sticking with your story, Micah, do you want to hit him up with the big question?

Micah: [25:50] If you were to start over again today, what would you do differently going off of the WP Square One, right? If you start back at square one, what would you do different?

Brad: [26:03] I would think most of the things I would do the same. Just so you know, this is just coming off the top of my head. I can’t think of one massive thing I would do differently. There are smaller, I say smaller, they’re still big decisions, but not like company-directional decisions. One thing I know we did way too late was hire project managers. We were five years in, probably, before we hired a product manager. I was actually PMing at one point, my wife was project managing at one point. She basically said, “If we want to stay married, I can’t project manage the projects that you’re on.” That was an eye-opener. Like, “Okay, maybe we should get some professionals in here that know how to project manage.” So when hired our first product manager, it’s a scary thought.

[26:46] At the time, the way we looked at it was mostly unbillable. We’ve changed that stance and now it’s a pretty much billable role. But at the time we were like, “Oh, this is unbillable. They’re not devs. They’re not writing zeroes and ones. How do we charge people? Are we going to have enough money to afford them?” And within like a week or two, we were like, “Wow, we should’ve done this years ago.” Because it was like night and day. What actually happened was our projects got more successful, the clients were happier, our retention rate went up, our developers were happier because it was less chaos. It was more organized, satisfaction across the board went up with our company and with our clients. We realized this was something we should have done a long time ago. We just always felt like we could do it because that’s what we did from the start, you know? And honestly, we were passing spreadsheets back and forth with client tasks. Imagine that. Like, “Here’s everything I did today.” Like fifteen lines in a spreadsheet and they come back with feedback on each line and it was wild.

[27:50] That’s one that definitely sticks in my mind is that those non-bill roles, those PMs, are vital to making a project successful and ultimately making our clients happy. And if the clients are happy, you keep that retention rate up. Our best clients are the ones we’ve had for years and we’ve done numerous projects for and we know both sides and we know each other inside and out. We know how we work and we really jive together because we just understand each other. It’s so much easier to get new work from existing clients than to bring in new clients. So that’s a biggie. Get somebody to manage those projects and know what they’re doing early. It’ll end up paying for itself. And you can bill for that. I didn’t really think about it at the time. It is absolutely a billable thing. The clients need it as much as your team needs it. So sell them on it because they should be paying for that.

Aaron: [28:37] We kind of include that in our scope. We have a certain amount of percentage for project management. I guess we hired a developer first, that was our first thing, and the second hire was a project manager just because I’m not good at it. I’d rather have someone that’s a little better with the shaking hands, smiling. I’m a little more rough around the edges. I’m sure people have said worse.

Brad: [29:10] Well, that’s good. I mean the hire PM early is a great move, for sure. I tell a lot of agencies, big and small, if they’re asking for advice, that’s a biggie. If you don’t have PMs, get them. They’re worth it.

Micah: [29:24] Yeah. That’s the thing too though. If you’re lucky enough to have done it, you don’t realize that you dodged a bullet. But then, if you didn’t do it then, like you said, you don’t realize until you do it.

Brad: [29:36] Yeah. You don’t realize until it’s there and you’re like, “Oh wow. So that’s how you create an agenda before the call. And that’s how you send out a meeting recap. And that’s how you hold both sides accountable to what was agreed on and timelines and deadlines. And things are getting out the door on time and there’s less friction with the client if something’s delayed.” It put us in a professional bracket. I think that’s when I really looked at us really, across the board, a professional agency versus just kind of winging it and figuring out as we go. That’s when we really took that leap forward.

Micah: [30:08] Any other intentional or possibly strokes of luck that you wouldn’t trade for anything?

Brad: [30:16] I mean, there’s always luck, right? Like I mentioned at the beginning of the timing with us starting the company and like you don’t know you’re in a recession. When 2008 hit, things are going down, but nobody quite knew what it meant and didn’t realize how severe it was until 2009. And then it was like, “Oh my God.” Companies are going bankrupt, there’s bail-outs. Everyone’s foreclosing on their houses. That’s when I’m trying to sell my house. At the time, it didn’t look great and it only seemed to get worse. But ultimately I do think what helped this company make it was all of that, as odd as it sounds. If that all happened again, I don’t know if it’d be the same because the Internet was very different ten years ago, so I don’t know. It’s hard to predict if we were going another recession. My expectation would be it would be bad. But who knows? So, some luck there for sure.

[31:18] The move to go all WordPress in 2010, it might sound like a no brainer now, but remember 2010, custom post types didn’t exist. Multisite was still a separate thing. This is like when WordPress was actually a blogging platform so it was risky for us to do that. Even though we were building more than just blogs at the time, we were really, really bending WordPress to do things that it could do but it wasn’t necessarily built to do. “If you put it in this category, then it will load something different.” It was very intense, the way you had to bend WordPress to get to do what you wanted to do back then. So it was risky, but it quickly paid off because it focused our message. We’re WordPress, that’s what we do. We’re not trying to be everything to everybody. We do WordPress, 100%. With the growth of WordPress, between 2010 and probably ‘12, it just really started to take off and really became like a legit CMS and we were right there at the start.

“We’re not trying to be everything to everybody. We do WordPress, 100%.” @williamsba

[32:16] There was definitely luck and I think there always has to be a little bit of luck anytime you start a company, like in any industry, but you just have to do it. Like I said, it’s the easy thing to say, right? Everyone’s like, “Just do it. Just get out there and do it.” The only reason I made it work is because I did dive in headfirst. I didn’t just dip my toe in while I kept my full-time job, my cushy job, and my house in Indianapolis. I quit my job, I sold my house. A twenty-two hundred square foot house. I went to move into the loft with my buddy. It was like resetting my life at like twenty-eight, moving to a different state where I only knew one person. But if I didn’t do that, I don’t think this would’ve ever happened. I don’t think it would have worked. So sometimes if you’re truly passionate about it, “just do it” is good advice. Just jump in headfirst because then there is no other option except for success. And you know that.

“If you’re truly passionate, “just do it” is good advice. Just jump in headfirst because then there is no other option except for success.” @williamsba

Micah: [33:08] True. Yeah. It reminds me of my favorite Ron Swanson quote: “Never half-ass anything. You should always whole-ass one thing.”

Brad: [33:17] Ron Swanson is a very smart man and he’s got a lot of great quotes.

Aaron: [33:23] I think we should end on that quote. Perfect quote. How can people find you if we want to get in touch with you?

Brad: [33:33] Definitely check out our website, webdevstudios.com. For the devs out there, we have a really, really great blog. I’m really proud of the content we produce because it’s, again, another way that we like to give back is we allow our engineers time to actually pick topics that interest them. Maybe some new technologies they’re playing with, maybe existing technologies and how they’re using them differently. But there’s some amazing content and we’re pumping out articles every single week. If you’re a dev, if you’re an agency owner, there’s really great stuff out there for you. It’s not just promotional stuff. And on Twitter, I am @williamsba.

Aaron: [34:08] Awesome. Well, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

Brad: [34:10] Yeah, thank you both. Glad to be here. It’s a fun show.

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