As the final sentences are being written on what is chapter 2017 I am sitting in a Starbucks in Chattanooga, TN on what is the morning of Christmas Eve.
Reflection is something that I do on an almost daily basis, but rarely do these sessions get captured in any digestible fashion. I have, and continue to try and build the habit of journaling these moments. I’ve still a long way to go.
This one post doesn’t aim to make up for my lack of journaling or the fact that I have only posted twice on this site over the entire year. It is however an olive branch to the more thoughtful side of me that wishes he was more consistent.
The Birth of Saturday Drive Incorporated
One of the conversations that I have been having with my business partner over this whole year has been our organizational and legal structure. This conversation has been about administration & taxes, future projects, future partnerships, and our overall goals.
Countless hours of theorizing between ourselves and with our attorney and accountant have been spent deciding what was best based on a few key objectives. Okay, not countless hours. Our legal and financial advisors counted and billed for all hours accordingly. 🙂
Now that the dust has settled we have decided to start a new service corporation to support all of our other businesses. Our main company is now called Saturday Drive. This company holds all property, payroll, and resources for our other projects.
Along with the creation of Saturday Drive, WP Ninjas, LLC has been renamed to Ninja Forms, LLC. While we have always been known as the WP Ninjas in the WordPress space, it was not the brand that we ever promoted. This caused confusion and brand splintering. Also, since Ninja Forms was the only real product of WP Ninjas it made since to just let Ninja Forms rise as the dominant brand.
We Adopted Holacracy
Early in the year when we hit about 10 team members I began to notice that we were feeling some growing pains. I found myself spending larger and larger portions of my day putting out fires and granting permission for team members to act in various capacities of their jobs. This wasn’t going to go well for them or me if something didn’t change.
I started reading all kinds of material and listening to podcasts on the topic and during one of these sessions I came across Holacracy.
Holacracy® is a self-management practice for running purpose-driven, responsive companies.
By empowering people to make meaningful decisions and drive change, the Holacracy practice unleashes your organization’s untapped power to pursue its purpose in the world.Holacracy.org
In short, Holacracy is an organizational system that authorizes anyone within the company to recognize a gap between the way things are and the way they could be and to take action or implement a more lasting system to solve that tension. It empowers each person to be an entrepreneur in the specific roles that they fill.
In June we fully adopted the system and philosophy of Holacracy and I think I would classify it as a smart change and a successful one although there have been some challenges.
Two types of people struggle with Holacracy. Those who want to be in charge and those who want nothing to do with leadership. This is because in Holacracy no was in truly in charge in the traditional sense. While it’s true that no one is a manger in Holacracy, everyone is called upon to lead. This requires care and development to do it well.
A Growing Staff
Along with all the reorganization, we’ve also expanded our team. This year we took two part-timers and made them full-time. We also hired three new full-time team members. Two developer roles and one support role were filled this year bringing our total team size to twelve.
My hope is not to hire anyone else this year while we work out the kinks in our new structure and develop our team internally. The challenge is that we’ve been growing quite fast so I’m not sure I can pull that off. We have pretty strict percentages that we try to keep payroll at so only time will tell.
Projects New & Old
One of the big shifts that was brought about through our restructuring is the various roles within our team. We always want the people who work with us to be challenged. I want to be challenged. Around the middle of the year I began to sense that we had kind of been on auto-pilot.
We were growing, but it just seemed like the work was becoming stale or routine. This made us make some pretty dramatic changes. My business partner and I pulled out of day to day operations of Ninja Forms and put someone else in charge of the product.
At the same time we did that we pulled one of the developers off of Ninja Forms so we could have them start on some other projects we have wanted to work on.
So what do my business partner and I do now that we are not in Ninja Forms every day? We still handle administration and team specific stuff within the business. We spend a lot more time thinking about the bigger picture. And my favorite thing is that we work on what might be considered “secret” or “special” projects. These are things that have the potential to 2x our company with each one we tackle. They are small, but impactful projects that otherwise get neglected because we can’t afford to take someone off the product to work on them. I could write a lot more on that, but I’ll leave it there for now.
Ninja Forms is Bigger than…
Ninja Forms has had an awesome year in 2017 and thats with so much more work we know we need to do. That fact makes the growth even more exciting. Here are some of the highlights.
Revenue grew 60% over last year.
This is pretty incredible growth at our size. In 2016 it slowed because we were completely focused on our 3.0 launch that didn’t happen until late in the year. There were plenty of factors that made that kind of growth possible:
- Natural growth from regular attention and releases.
- Automatic renewal for licenses kicked in in the middle of the year.
- An accident. No, really. We increased revenue by 30% one month over the other without intending or knowing why. More on that in a future post.
Ninja Forms Hits 1 Million Active Installs
One of the big milestones of the year happened just near the end of October when Ninja Forms crossed the highly sought after 1 million active install goal.
There are currently only 29 of the 53,000+ plugin hosted on WordPress.org that have reached the 1 million mark and we are so honored to be one of these rare plugins.
Perhaps even cooler is the fact that Ninja Forms is close to being, if it isn’t already, the most activated drag and drop form builder for WordPress. I can’t even begin to express how awesome and unbelievable it is that we’ve been able to accomplish this in just a few short years. And you can be certain that we aren’t even close to done. 🙂
Health Care Crisis
I don’t have to tell anyone in the US how absolutely jacked up our whole health care system is. I have been feeling this as a small business owner for some time, but with my premiums about to go up another $300+ I was extra motivated to find some other solutions.
I started to find out some things about my own team that was concerning as well. It seemed many were getting the cheapest coverage they could and then avoiding going to the doctor when they or their family members were sick because it was too expensive.
As a small business starting out we couldn’t afford to do anything like provide health benefits to our employees in the beginning. We always tried to assist with our pay scales, but with my personal mission to help others be successful, I knew it was time to do more.
Starting January 1st we are now providing 100% health, dental, and vision benefits, for all employees and their entire families. It’s extremely expensive and it is certainly causing us to rework our annual budget in some drastic ways. But now my team and their families can go to the doctor immediately without any worries. My team can stay healthier.
On too some personal stuff. I didn’t travel very much this year. I had only planned on three trips. Pressnomics, CaboPress, and WordCamp US. I ended up adding WordCamp San Diego because my friend Chris Lema asked if I would do a talk for his curated business track. I then added the ZenTribes Couples Retreat.
It was very nice not traveling much and focussing on my company. I spent that time and money working on culture, direction, and training, although I still could have done a much better job at that. Sometimes I still get caught in my head and don’t project that effort outwards when I should. I’ll be working on that in the coming year.
I don’t know what travel will hold for me in 2018, but I know there is only one event that I will not miss if at all possible, meaning as long as I get invited back, and that’s CaboPress. It has become such an important part of my personal and business growth. It’s a time where I recharge and reignite my purpose. There is something magical about the combination of people and location that energizes me every single year.
Some Personal Stuff
My Father Passed Away
I owe everything about my work ethic and determination to my father. He demonstrated what it looked like to work hard to provide for his family and how to succeed when the cards were stacked against you. I don’t even know if it would have been possible for me to build the business I have today if it weren’t for that example.
This year he passed away and it certainly had an impact on me emotionally and physically. I’m still recovering from the toll that it took on me although I don’t know that you ever fully recover from losing a parent like that.
A Continued Focus on Health
The last quarter of this year have been really hard on me. I joined a group of entrepreneurs who are focused on improving their health and it’s been a fantastic support for a challenging feat.
I was doing well at the beginning with exercise, counting calories, and cutting out soft drinks. In a very short time I lost 20 lb. and was feeling invigorated. Then in October I got sick and I have been sick on and off since. It’s destroyed all my progress.
I am now struggling to get well so I can get healthy and stay well. I also think I may have re-injured a hernia that I had repaired a few years ago so I may have to go through all of that again.
Dammit, I am getting healthy this coming year, even if it kills me! 🙂
Wow! This went on a lot longer than I planned so if you made it this far thank you for taking the time to read about my year. I hope your year was filled with joy and growth. I look forward to see what you do in 2018 and I hope I hear all about your adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and especially in person.
Our lives are only rich because of the people who touch it. I want to have a very rich 2018 so I hope to encounter many more of you than I did in 2017. 🙂