Our Greatest Mistakes<br />Presenter<br />David Coveney<br />interconnect/it<br />
Hello<br />I don’t mean just OUR company. I mean, all of us here.<br />
Mistake #1<br />We are NOT natural businessmen<br />
Flickr: jwyg cc-sa<br />
Mistake #2<br />We have the wrong number of people<br />
Mistake #3<br />We looked at other people too much<br />
Mistake #4<br />We avoid the community<br />
Mistake #5<br />Technical inferiority of others made us feel superior<br />
Mistake #6<br />We didn’t understand the handouts culture<br />
Mistake #7<br />We didn’t understand markets<br />
Was There a Point?<br />
Mistake #8<br />We’re too nice<br />
Mistake #9<br />We do too much on our own<br />
What Shall We All Do?<br />
To Do<br />Learn about business<br />Understand finance and where it comes from<br />Work with great people<br />Don’t be ...
A Few Classic WP Mistakes<br />Putting different types of sites on one WP Multi Sites Install<br />Fighting the GPL<br />C...
Thank You<br />David Coveney<br />@davecoveney<br />0151 331 5144<br />WordCamp UK 2011<br />interconnect/it<br />
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Interconnect IT's greatest mistakes (2011) WordCamp UK version


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  • I’m going to talk here from experience, but this is as much about all of us individuals and businesses and WP develoeprsas it is about us.We all make mistakes to some degree or other when running a creative business and I think these are quite common in the UK.Hands up anybody here ever made a mistake? Phew! I was worried for a moment it was only me!So let’s go to mistake number one.
  • I like this little guy. He’s happy, worldly wise (you can see even his head is a globe) and prepared for business. He probably understands finance and shit.I, however, am not any kind of business person by nature. Are you?Hands up if you’re trying to run a business?Hands up those who would say they are, by default, naturally good businessmen?Keep your hands up if you have business qualifications like an MBA or biz studies degree.Hands up those who believe they’re geeks first?Being a geek is tireless. You fix your neighbour’s TV settings, your mum’s laptop and your children’s toys. Saying no is hard for a geek, partly because any opportunity to show how clever you are is irresistible. A desire to please is useful, but whilst it’s handy in business, it has to go hand in hand with commercial nous.
  • Now, this is one that’s going to sound funny… because in any team, project or company you *always* have the wrong number of people.
  • If you have one person in charge of your project or business – or one person on their own, every decision goes through without any effective argument. What’s the problem with that? It’s the benevolent dictator thing – can be very effective for a while, but eventually, in *every* case of dictatorship, that one leader slowly loses touch with what happens at the pointy end of the business and becomes a liability.[CLICK for Matt’s Head to come in]RIGHT NOW, Matt Mullenweg is still a force for good in WordPress – but he’s a beautiful example of a leader who can carry decisions through without discussion. He does, mostly, discuss. Of course he does, but now and then, he goes mental. {cough} CAPITAL_P_DANGIT!
  • If you have two people then any disagreement is deadlocked. That becomes a battle of wills. On a few occasions, in our early days, that was us. Not a massive problem, but it can be difficult.
  • If you have 10 people, the majority vote will go through and the majority can be wrong. You also end up spending time trying to convince people of your argument. That can get expensive.What’s worst is that someone who’s popular but, generally, an idiot, like Ted here, can convert people to his way of thinking and start getting the majority vote. That can be bad.So, the conclusion to this part is that all businesses and organisations are, in reality, people businesses. No number is correct if you’re with the wrong people. If you want to run a good business with WordPress you’d better be a people person. If you’re not, work with someone who is.
  • When I was a child, about five years old, I’d moved to England but my grasp of English wasn’t fantasticas most of my life to that point had been in Spain.At registration in infant school I noticed that sometimes, after a name was called out, people didn’t always say “here” but things like “not in” or “he’s sick.” I had no idea what these words meant, but they sounded interesting and teacher accepted it. So, one morning, when my name was called, I experimented shouted out “notin!” I’d figured the word “notin” was a synonym for “here” because I’d been listening to others, but made the wrong assumptions.You can imagine the look from my teacher. She carefully explained to me that I was most definitely “in” and she wasn’t to be fooled. To which I, of course, responded with “que?!”
  • This business here, for example,has a lovely looking website that’s been highlighted on a couple ‘good design’ sites.They’re almost certainly brand new and make almost no money. Copying them would simply be to copy their mistakes. Or maybe, in fact, they’re beautifully well established, make lots of money, and are a bit humble? Who knows? Just by looking, you can’t tell anything.Here’s another example…
  • Who can tell me the market capitalisation of Microsoft? Appx $220bnWho can tell me the market capitalisation of the company who’s website I’m showing?[Listen to options – write them down if possible…]It’s about $190bn. Not quite Microsoft sized, but not doing bad eh? And in the same sort of ballpark.Can anyone tell me who it is? Well, it’s Berkshire Hathaway – Warren Buffet’s vehicle.Rubbish website, isn’t it? It suggests a small, uninteresting company rather than a massively capitalised (and, incidentally, overpriced) company.
  • Sadly, this is more relevant to people who aren’t here than those who are. The community can be a great way to develop your early business and reputation and many of us fail to get involved. By being here, you’ve proved you’re engaging, at least now, with the community.If you’re a developer, fix bugs in WP, or popular but badly written plugins, and do better ones that you can put into the open source community.If you’re a designer, come up with beautiful themes for the community. Or blog. Or create a local WP group, or work on creating marketing products for like-minded WP businesses to help us get into more places. Your contribution to the community is welcome even if it isn’t just code or something that ticks Automattic’s boxes.
  • HOLY SHIT coming up…
  • Oh how we mocked rubbish sites of competitors, their flash pages and their “click to enter” links.My, how we giggled at the css errors their sites were riddled with.And we roared at their dreadful SEO.What. A. Waste. Of. Energy. I think it’s very easy for people like us, in this room, who are technically capable, to look around and feel as if we’re casting our pearls amongst swine. We’re so used to beautiful design, clear user experiences and beautiful layouts that we forget that they aren’t always the key requirements to success. Ling’s Cars is no failure. Trust me.We need a bit of humility in this industry – we need to accept that technical superiority is only a tiny part of what we do.
  • There are plenty of state handouts for businesses. And they can both help you, and they can screw you up. Just like they can mess up this guy above. They can help bring money to your business that will make you grow.Hands up anybody here who knows all the grants available to them and their business?OK, this won’t apply to all of you, but if you’re working in an area where large state or EU grants or incentives are being applied to try and solve local issues, then you might just have a problem because if you don’t understand the mechanisms in place then you’re going to be working in a distorted marketplace. That isn’t good for you. In fact, it’ll fuck you up if you’re not careful. If you can understand the grants culture where you’re trying to build a market for yourself, then you’re part of the way there – speak to local business advisers – for this, they’re incredibly important.An example: I have a quote somewhere in my drawers by a rival for a site that was for £8k, but £6k was marked down as training in the CMS and therefore eligible for Skillworks funding and resulted in about two thousand being taken off the bill as a grant. Two thousand. That’s either a big jump in profitability, or a way of being cheaper than competition. And I’m sure the CMS wasn’t WP if it needed £6k of training to learn. Either way – an honest player can suffer when the game is skewed like this. You may not even be eligible to apply for the funding your rivals can get.Similarly, when we were starting out in Liverpool, we were too late to get registered for 40% funding of ICT projects in Liverpool. Consequence? We looked very expensive, or we made less money. Either way, it was bad for us in the local market.Some companies got a lot of growth out of this skewed market in Liverpool. I daresay it happens elsewhere. Be very very wary of it.It’s not all bad, however. By being excluded from the local market we were forced to look further afield. Now, most of our clients are based in central London, where there is no grants culture, and where we do very nicely indeed.
  • Markets are weird, and they follow hockey-stick patterns. Let’s take an example of the smartphone market – who here has an iPhone? OK, who has Android? And who has Windows Phone 7? And Windows Mobile 6.5 and below? See – what we see there is a hockey stick –if you’re selling phone software the biggest market is… x and the next is y, and the rest looks like a rounding error.All markets tend to be similar – the enterprise market, the individual market, the sportsman market… the amount of money available to spend on a product can tail off quickly. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but you need to understand that within a market there are interesting effects and this is just one of them.I’m now going to use the illustrative power of skittles…
  • Earlier, I gave some of you an envelope stuffed with money. Please, don’t open it yet!I’d like whoever is BT’s procurement officer to come down here. Open the envelope. How much money do you have? It should be about 153?OK – if we represent your spending power with skittles, here’s approximately what you can afford relative to some other firms coming up. One and a Half Bags!So, who has ARM holdings? Big company eh? Come on down! How much do you have to spend?44? Ok, you can have a half bag. A bag of Skit.Who’s got Informa? They happen to be our largest client… Come down!Oh, 26? Right. Here’s 13 skittles. Hmmm doesn’t seem like a lot… but they’re big enough to afford us. They’re about to hit the FTSE100 – they’re massive! Just not able to buy a lot of sweets.Now how about AstraZeneca, the massive Pharma company? Here you go – four and a half bags for you – that’s more like it!And Who’s the purchasing officer for a big petroleum company? Who is it? Shell? Come here… you’re like a lottery winner. [Hand over 13 bags]But… the thing is, all of these big companies would make wonderful clients, but if you’re targeting a single organisation in the market, where might you find the richest pockets. Anybody? [listen to responses, see what comes – if UK gov mentioned confirm and call down, otherwise say it]UK Government, come on down! How much money do you have? OK, let’s give you some bags [don’t say how many, but start handing bags over. You need to give 77 bags – just count until you get to 77] - Right, finished. Erm, if you eat them all you’ll turn into Nyancat. And if you ever wondered why Simon Dickson is so happy, now you know :o)Oh – I nearly forgot! Who’s the procurement officer for Mothercare? Big company! Big website! Well done. Here’s your skittles. [Hand over 2 solitary skittles, ask for half of one back. Insist. ]OK, thanks. [look at UK gov guy] UK Government, sadly, what you have belongs to the people, so you need to distribute your wealth back into the local economy – free sweets for everybody! Paid only in tax :o)
  • Now, you may be wondering – why did this guy decide to induce Glyceamic shock in his audience and what does it have to do with WordPress?Well, just understanding one tiny part of what marketing experts know can help you to see that it’s not a trivial field. Understand your target markets and you can make money far more easily than if you’re just fumbling in the dark! It may be targeting a vertical market, like the Theme Force guys are doing, or it may be targeting the public sector. But whatever you do, know your stuff.Next…
  • Remember that guy before? Will Code HTML for Food? If you’re too nice, that’s how you end up.This here is a photo illustrating the early-point of one of our most expensive recent mistakes.Stage 1. Prospect calls. “Can you build a site that does X,Y, and Z?”“Sure!” we say. We quote… £30k ish.Stage 2. “No way,” says he “Must be cheaper. It’s WordPress! WordPress is cheap!” We suggest he removes some things from the spec, he does, we requote at £15k. We get the booking.Stage 3. The wireframes arrive and they’re like the above… and they turn up horribly late, in fact, just as the build start date arrives. In all, some 80 odd pages of documentation were provided for this project. At this point we didn’t stick to our guns, put the price back up and be prepared to walk away. We didn’t want to lose the money. But you know, this design wasn’t for WordPress. Designing for WordPress isn’t about designing every possible layout – it’s about finding and explaining the convention of the site being built. The designer of the above wireframes was NOT designing for WordPress. Instead he was designing a series of documents that had interactive elements – which is NOT what WP is about.Not only should we have been less nice in accepting this work, we should have insisted that we worked with a designer who actually understands WordPress.
  • We try to do too much, sometimes. We run a little business, we manage the money, we do the marketing, we do the sales, we manage our servers, we manage our clients, we clean the office, we stretch ourselves. By doing that we end up grey and stressed looking like this chap.Sometimes, we have to concede that there’s stuff we’re not good at. So, we’re moving our server management out – it’s either Namesco or Kumina who run our machines and then we’ll stop worrying about it. We have accountants to do our final accounts and work out where we can save tax money. We have a building that’s fully managed so we don’t have to worry about cleaners. The more burden we take off ourselves, the more profitable we find we become. This was covered in Simon Wilson’s talk yesterday.
  • Now, we’ve seen the mistakes above, but what can we do about it? How can we run businesses that won’t get in trouble or be outdone by others?Here’s my tips…
  • And lastly – a list of classic WP related mistakes that we’ve seen, but not necessarily made ourselves! Some were by clients, some on themes and plugins we’ve dealt with, and some by us!
  • Interconnect IT's greatest mistakes (2011) WordCamp UK version

    1. 1. Our Greatest Mistakes<br />Presenter<br />David Coveney<br />interconnect/it<br />
    2. 2. Hello<br />I don’t mean just OUR company. I mean, all of us here.<br />
    3. 3. Mistake #1<br />We are NOT natural businessmen<br />
    4. 4. Flickr: jwyg cc-sa<br />
    5. 5. Mistake #2<br />We have the wrong number of people<br />
    6. 6.
    7. 7.
    8. 8.
    9. 9. Mistake #3<br />We looked at other people too much<br />
    10. 10.
    11. 11.
    12. 12. Mistake #4<br />We avoid the community<br />
    13. 13.
    14. 14. Mistake #5<br />Technical inferiority of others made us feel superior<br />
    15. 15.
    16. 16. Mistake #6<br />We didn’t understand the handouts culture<br />
    17. 17.
    18. 18. Mistake #7<br />We didn’t understand markets<br />
    19. 19.
    20. 20. Was There a Point?<br />
    21. 21. Mistake #8<br />We’re too nice<br />
    22. 22.
    23. 23. Mistake #9<br />We do too much on our own<br />
    24. 24.
    25. 25. What Shall We All Do?<br />
    26. 26. To Do<br />Learn about business<br />Understand finance and where it comes from<br />Work with great people<br />Don’t be snobbish about others<br />Weed out time wasting<br />Understand your target market<br />Don’t be too nice<br />Charge enough to invest back into your work<br />Do great stuff<br />
    27. 27. A Few Classic WP Mistakes<br />Putting different types of sites on one WP Multi Sites Install<br />Fighting the GPL<br />Clever plugins don’t always succeed<br />Thinking cheap, because WP is cheap<br />Developers who think they can design<br />Designers who think they can code<br />Belief that caching is the solution to performance problems<br />
    28. 28. Thank You<br />David Coveney<br />@davecoveney<br />0151 331 5144<br />WordCamp UK 2011<br />interconnect/it<br />