After James came back from WordCamp Asia he found out that his role at Stellar had become redundant, and he no longer had a full-time job. It was during all the mass layoffs during the spring of 2023. Now was the time to launch his business.
James had a moment of realization while in this situation. Yes it was overwhelming and disappointing to no longer have a job, but he had this project he was building. His audience was providing traction, and it was continuously growing larger. He said it felt like God had laid the runway for him to be able to take off, because his success was in a spot it never had been before.
Fortunately James’ wife was working and able to support their family, so he had the opportunity to dive into this new adventure. It all fell into place at just the right time.
Since taking the time to work towards building TeamWP, James has been on a podcast a week almost, been in newsletters, had press releases written, and articles in the WPTavern. TeamWP entirely took off in awareness. Now he needs it to take off in regards to finances.
James second piece of advice is,
He pointed out how that might seem obvious, but it’s a lot harder than you think. For example, someone could tell you they’re going to go build websites, but what does that look like? How can you articulate that in a sales pitch? James is a strategic thinker, so he’s put a lot of thought into the topic of monetizing projects.
Originally, he said he didn’t want this to be a money making business. He wanted it to be a contribution to the community. The Team Experience Survey was always going to be free, as he wanted it to be something that could be done every year. Then anyone could use that data to inspire their internal culture and teamwork.
However he’d always thought there were things they could do to make money. And when TeamWP became James’ primary project, that’s when it became time to take advantage of those monetization possibilities.
One of the products they sell is a facilitated employee engagement survey. A potential struggle with an employee survey is that you won’t get open and honest feedback, because it’s not anonymous and confidential. You can say it’s anonymous and confidential, but if it’s being facilitated through your team someone will know.
A lot of companies will hire a third party to manage the data and present findings rather than individual results. This provides a way to ensure anonymity and confidentiality for the employees participating in an attempt to increase the accuracy and honesty of the feedback.
Their first main product is called the OpenTeam Culture Compass, which is a facilitated employee engagement survey for your team. TeamWP takes the data, analyzes it, and provides reports that show areas for improvement.
Now that they have data from the Team Experience Index, they’re able to have a benchmark, and show people where they compare to other businesses in WordPress. So they can see where they score, and areas where they can improve.
The other product they have is what they call OpenTeam Certification. The idea here is that a lot of industries have third party verification of things they say about themselves. James uses the example of LEED, which is an environmental or sustainability target in the construction industry. So if you’re building a building, you need to get it LEED certified.
Another example of certifications in the community James uses is B Corp. It focuses on companies that care about purpose and profit. Not just contributing to your bottom line, but contributing to the world’s bottom line. B Corp verifies that those companies are working with a social conscience.
James wanted to bring this concept to WordPress, because it’s old enough and big enough to use it. The OpenTeam Certification is just that. It uses the Team Experience Index to get the company’s score, and then there’s a secondary assessment where they interview individuals within the team. That way they can make sure that what the company is telling TeamWP is actually true.
So the company and employees have some Q&A that they do, and they combine that with the results of the survey to help TeamWP get a sense of whether their team is actually an open, people first company.
One of the values in having that certification comes with hiring. If you have two identical companies someone is trying to decide between, they’re likely going to pick the company that has a certified people first culture. It also helps you know that the people you are hiring will likely have that focus on the community and healthy culture you’re striving for.
James comes from a marketing and design background, which really came in handy when it came to creating the assets for his brand, and having a solid foundation to jump off of. He went to school for interactive multimedia and graphic design, and then spent 10-12 years in marketing. He’s done most marketing disciplines under the sun.
With all that experience James knew, theoretically, all the things he was “supposed to do”. But he’d always been on a marketing team, so marketing TeamWP by himself has been an interesting experience. Knowing enough of the WordPress ecosystem has helped a lot, however.
James’ third bit of advice is,
“Because every relationship you have there, every insight you have, puts you one step closer to that community, and makes it easier to get the wins out of it.”
He points out how he wouldn’t have been able to talk about TeamWP on all the podcasts he did if he hadn’t spent the last ten years investing in relationships and building connections.
James and I both agreed that WordPress tends to be a very approachable community, and a lot of people are all experimenting and working together.
As fantastic as it sounds to own a business and be your own boss, James points out the reality of being an entrepreneur. He says, “Anyone can start a business, not everyone can sustain a business.” He goes on to discuss how important it is to stay very clear eyed, and stay focused on your goal. It isn’t a perfect process and it isn’t going to be a straight shot to success.
James is thankful that his wife is able to support their family, because without her TeamWP would never have become what it is. Owning a business isn’t for everyone, and it is really scary.