107 new customers, 17% growth, starting a wait list, 7 new team members, Alex meets Dan – November 2014 WP Curve monthly report

To say November was a big month in Curve land would be a huge understatement. Let’s get stuck into what happened.

107 new customers, 17% growth, starting a wait list, 7 new team members, Alex meets Dan: Nov @WPCurve monthly report. – CLICK TO TWEET

Dan met Alex!

November started off with a bang with Alex and Dan finally meeting each other face to face for the first time.

dan_and_alex

Despite going from scratch to a half a million dollar annual run rate in just over a year, Alex and Dan still hadn’t met face to face.

They decided to meet close to half way between Australia and the US (Hawaii) to discuss the plan for WP Curve for the next year.

A lot of what was discussed will come out in these monthly reports in the coming months however here are a few of the themes:

  • They went through the strategy for the blog and how they would be utilizing my time as the Content Marketing Manager. Expect some updates soon on that.
  • They discussed hiring, how they can keep the momentum going, particularly in the US timezone.
  • The quality of the service is always a strong focus and a lot of decisions were made around how to keep the quality high. The main themes there are keeping us well resourced, particularly in the US, keeping the team motivated and building a system for clients to get better access to the team.
  • The way we hire, pay, onboard and retain staff was a key component. We are implementing more rigid systems for this now and doing more to encourage team collaboration. Part of it will involve getting the opportunity to meet some of the team face to face in 2015.
  • Retention is an ongoing challenge and a number of ideas will be tested to boost retention. This may not happen till 2015.
  • We have allocated money for building our own customer-facing system on top of Help Scout. This will give us full control over scheduling jobs and make it easier for clients to explain things to us ‘live’. We have effectively allocated one full time developer per month to work solely on internal projects like this.
  • We will be refreshing the WP Curve brand to keep us ahead of the pack design wise.
  • We will look to hire another project manager in Dan’s timezone to look after that side of the world. This will most likely happen gradually by finding someone to work part time at first. Because we are in December, we may not pursue this till next year.
  • We will try to get all of these things done (and more) with our revenue and not pursue funding for now.
  • We still plan on continuing more or less with the current plan until we get to a $1m annual run rate. The original target date for that was July 2015, 2 years after we started the business.

There are more things to come out, but this is our current thinking of some of the high level changes.

17% growth to $52,328 monthly revenue

We hit our 10% monthly growth goal in November increasing from $44,480 to $52,328 (17%). We’ve now hit that target 17 out of 18 months since launching.

This figure is made up of $49,626 in Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and $2,702 in one off jobs.

MRR November

We had 107 new net signups this month. Our previous best was last month with 64. This was especially remarkable given we only accepted new customers for 3 out of the 4 weeks of the month. At one point we had so many signups coming through that we simply couldn’t take on more.

We took down our signup form and started a wait list for new customers. Within a few days we had 150 people on the wait list. We managed to hire a bunch of new team members quickly and we opened up again.

total customers nov

People, Product and Process

People

To keep up with the new customers we hired seven developers bringing our total company size to 30. We were a little bit slow to hire when the signups kept coming, so we had a bit of a mad rush once we realized we couldn’t cover the tickets quickly enough.

The new team members are settling in well and we quickly got the tickets under control. The Thanksgiving holiday came at the right time too!

Product

The service quality took a bit of a hit in November as the signups increased. We simply couldn’t keep up with the tickets and our response time blew out to around 20 hours (we aim for 6).

You can see our first response times for service requests in November (green) below starts about five hours higher than October in gray. Response time gradually increases for the first half of the month with the new customer onboarding, and declines rapidly when we stopped taking new customers.

Response Times November

This also had an impact on customer happiness which, in the end is why we started the wait list. In October we hit 13% unhappy customers which is something we were hoping to improve on in November. Unfortunately in the end we were only able to reduce it to 12%.

This figure has improved significantly since we started the wait list and got the bigger team up to speed. However in hindsight we probably should have acted earlier. We are going to be paying closer attention to this in December, with a medium term aim of getting it consistently under 5%.

Process

There have been a bunch of changes to our processes in November. We hired a fulltime Virtual Assistant who is helping us with admin tasks. That will free Julie up for helping more with management and client facing work.

We have also been working on our own system for clients to log into. This will help us do a bunch of things that we can’t currently do with Help Scout. This includes things like allowing clients to prioritize jobs and having better systems for when jobs are becoming difficult (and we run the risk of clients being unhappy. We can do some of these things in Help Scout but for full control we really need that to be in our own system.

We will still use Help Scout but we will just add our own layer on top to give us more control.

That system has progressed quite well and should be ready by the end of December. In the meantime we have made a few changes that have improved things a little bit:

  1. We now have a ‘workflow’ setup in Help Scout that tags any ticket that is older than 12 hours. This makes it easy for the team to spot problematic tickets and escalate them to the team leader.
  2. We have created an ‘Admin’ mailbox to get all of the internal jobs out of the main support mailbox. This will make our metrics more accurate, and give us a clearer idea of what jobs we have active.
  3. Our admin staff do a weekly job of reporting on where our response times are at. From now on they will tag Dan and Alex in those updates (via Slack) and make sure they get a response from them on whether or not to hire. In the past they’ve missed a few of these messages which has caused problems.
  4. We have a new process and a budget for managing staff birthdays. We let the team know via Slack and we send them a small present.
  5. We decided to no longer offer PayPal as a payment option. It was making it difficult to standardize things when we have customers on multiple payment methods. So from now on, any new customers will be Stripe only.

We will be doing more little things like this over the next few months. We are hopeful they will have a small positive impact on the service, however we think having our own system will have the biggest impact. We are looking forward to that being ready.

Website traffic

We had another great month in November for website traffic with 44,418 visits. This was lower than October’s 54,905 visits, which came from the book launch. But it is still a substantial increase over September 2014 with 37,673 visits.

 

Traffic sources

Here are our top traffic sources. Comparing our top traffic sources from September and October we can see that most of the traffic is much more qualified, which explains the increased signups with less traffic.

The two top referrals came from Dan’s interview on Smart Passive Income, the podcast episode is nearing 700 comments, most of which involve website reviews. Smart Passive Income was already one of our top referrers.

Another top referral came from a landing page on Chrisducker.com. This page offered some bonuses to anyone who joins WP Curve through the page. One of the bonuses was a detailed website review by Dan.

We are really thankful to Chris and Pat and have had quite a few customers sign up through them.

Acquisition Nov

Top pages

The WordPress speed post is an evergreen post but performed better than average as a result of being linked in the show notes of the Smart Passive Income Podcast.

Dan’s new post on reviewing websites was very popular, especially considering it was published near the end of the month. The 7 Day Startup page is still bringing traffic. The wait list mentioned earlier got a lot of attention also.

Email List Growth

In November we had 984 new email subscribers, another record breaking number.

Content

We produced 3 articles on the blog in October, all of which were very popular.

Dan was also interviewed on 8 different podcasts during November. This brings our total content output to 11 pieces.

There were a few things that stopped us hitting our goal of 15 this month.

  • Dan and I spent a lot of time going back and forth on website reviews which weren’t published on the blog.
  • I’ve been getting used to working efficiently with Dan and that process has taken a while. Next month we will produce more I’m sure.
  • I’ve been working on a big article on visual content that will be released this week.
  • We didn’t pursue any guest content in November because we are still finalizing that process. That is almost done now, so we will be getting more guest contributions in December.

We are aiming to end 2015 with a bang with 15 pieces of content, and a couple of epic pieces.

Any questions?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Info about this report

We do these reports to help other entrepreneurs get real information about running a startup. Dan did the 1st report in 2012 when he was earning $0. Here is the full archive. Here is a post we wrote recently on some monthly income reports from other startups. If you like the reports we’d love you to share it.

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About

Kyle is the founder of Conversion Cake . He is the author of "The College Entrepreneur" A book for students who want to break into entrepreneurship. Follow him @kylethegray

50 responses to “107 new customers, 17% growth, starting a wait list, 7 new team members, Alex meets Dan – November 2014 WP Curve monthly report”

  1. Dan Andrews says:

    amaze! great voice here Kyle as a fan no less entertaining to hear your recounts. keep up the great work guys

  2. Jake Hower says:

    Kicking goals, great work.

  3. Great post, Kyle!

    A huge month indeed — big shout out to Dan and you for reviewing hundreds of sites during our busiest month. Epic effort. Here’s to a big December to close out the year strong.

    Go CURVE!

  4. Barry Moore says:

    Congrats on all your success guys, it’s great to see.

  5. Jason Bragg says:

    great to see you honestly portraying your unhappy rating.
    it took a hit. you acted and it is bouncing back.
    your customers appreciate the honestly and trust you to keep working for them in the future.
    sweet.

  6. Lovin’ it guys! Hey Dan and Alex, when you met, what most surprised you about the other person?

  7. Adrijus Guscia says:

    Congrats guys! Hard to believe there haven’t been too many JVs yet, only few, and you’ll kick ass for sure with next ones..

    Looking forward to see the article about Visual Content! Very interested in that..

  8. Lisa Rothstein says:

    Love the concept — I’ve got a few sites I’m involved with (a couple of my own, one for my husband) and I wish there were a bundled solution for people with more than one site. Some sites are just a landing page. None needs all that much help but it would be great to know help was around when I need it for ANY wordpress site i own without having to have a separate subscrption for each one.

  9. Kyle Gray says:

    Thanks Dan, It was a really big month to jump aboard the WP Curve team. There’s so much going on here and I am excited be a part in how the next year here will unfold and how I can best help out.

  10. Kyle Gray says:

    Thanks Adrijus! Dan and Alex are true bootstrappers for coming this far without a JV.

    We should have the visual content article up shortly! I’m excited to hear what you think of it.

  11. Simon Kelly says:

    Congrats! That’s great that you have these processes down, especially the ability to hire 7 quality team members within a short amount of time. I like the idea of the system you’re building on top of Helpscout, that sounds super useful as there are definitely some limitations with the Helpscout system when you are working on “jobs” as opposed to just email support. Keep the content coming 🙂

  12. CaseyStevens says:

    It’s great to see all your work guys. Well done

  13. Harry Duran says:

    You guys have been going gangbusters. This has been really fun to watch since we last spoke. Wishing you both the best…

  14. Dan Norris says:

    Thanks Jason yeah we have a bit of a way to go but it’s back at a more acceptable level now.

  15. Dan Norris says:

    I thought Alex being 120kg would be able to hold his beer a bit better lol.

  16. Dan Norris says:

    Hi Adrijus we have hundreds of affiliates. The last time I checked we had more affiliates than customers. We have had some good support from the start from guys like Chris and John Dumas and others and have had partnerships with other established WordPress companies who have consistently sent us leads.

  17. Dan Norris says:

    Hi Lisa yeah I’d like this too. We are too busy to get our heads around how this will work right now but I’d like to experiment with it in the future. There are a lot of people in your position.

  18. Adrijus Guscia says:

    Cool. I do mean maybe more big JV like you did with Pat etc.. dude like Neil Patel comes to mind for future etc.. good stuff!

    1000 customers this year?

  19. Val Hudgins says:

    I love that you guys plan to be so sharing and transparent, but that was a HUGE first meeting in Hawaii! I want to hear about what you drank, who got sloshed, what ideas did you trash and did you go surfing?! Looks like we need to get you both interviewed on yet another podcast. Keep up the great work! Cheers!

  20. Dan’s dry sense of humour surprised me – he’s always making jokes.

  21. Kyle Gray says:

    Thanks Alex, it was a wild month to join the team! Thanks for your help in getting me up to speed here. I really enjoyed working with the review actually. Coming from a conversion optimization background, I could jump right into those.

    Go CURVE!

  22. Kyle Gray says:

    Thanks Simon, as we develop and test the system further we will share what we learned. Hopefully it can be helpful for you too.

  23. Dan Norris says:

    Thanks Simon yeah I think it’s going to give us a lot more control.

  24. Dan Norris says:

    Thanks Harry much appreciated mate.

  25. Dan Norris says:

    Hey Val, thanks for the comment. Here are some answers.

    1. What we drank – We went to the Yardhouse every single night. They have 135 beers on tap and I think we drank most of them ha. The Belgian sours were the goto beers.
    2. Who got sloshed – Alex might answer that question
    3. Trashing ideas – None really, it was more just working things out. I think we agreed on most things, it was just a case of writing it all down.We ended up with a 5 page doc that we’ve been working through since.

    I think I’ve done about 15 podcast interviews since I’ve been back I’m exhausted! Get Alex on and ask him what happens when you try to outdrink someone who owns a beer company 🙂

  26. Dan Norris says:

    Our main issues are keeping up the quality of the service and hiring so we are focusing on those 2 things as opposed to getting more leads. It’s a nice position to be in. I don’t think we’ll grow too much more this year. Typically December and January will be slow months and last February was the only month that we haven’t hit out 10% growth target so it might be some slower months coming for us. I guess we’ll see.

  27. Val Hudgins says:

    Love it! *sends note to Troy Dean to interview Alex about beer* (Thanks!)

  28. Congratulations on another epic month and great to see you focusing on improvement even in the midst of success. Wait list is a great idea for taking control of growth.

    Looking good in those matching shirts by the way, who is your stylist. 😉

  29. Dan Norris says:

    Thanks mate. I wear mine everywhere. It’s my best shirt.

  30. In that case, I need to get you a couple more!

  31. Adrijus Guscia says:

    Definitely awesome position to be in terms of leads!

    Good luck with hiring!

  32. Awesome, congrats! Thanks for sharing too.

    Has any investor contacted you?

    If yes, what’s your opinion about getting external investment at this moment?

  33. Noah_Everton says:

    Nice write-up Kyle. You’re on it like white on rice.

    In so many ways now.

  34. Make mine a 5XL, lol.

  35. Hey Cesc – we’ve had some interest, but it’s not something we’re going to pursue right now. We’ve got plenty of work to do in the meantime and from all accounts, fundraising sounds like a full time job. With that in mind, with the right investor and right approach… we could 10x or 100x this business… stay tuned!

  36. Haha. Dan is half man, half machine.

  37. Dan Norris says:

    Hi Cesc we’ve been approached informally about this and we’ve talked about it. We have never really needed it though, so it’s never been a priority. We want to get to $1m / year first as a short term goal. Once we are there, we probably have a few options that we don’t have now and we might come back to the investment idea not sure.

  38. Hugh Culver says:

    This is fantastic. You guys are inspiring lots of us to pull up our big boy pants and get to work on our business processes. Thanks for awesome write up!

  39. Dan Norris says:

    Haha thanks Hugh.

  40. You guys are rocking!

  41. Thanks! It will be interesting to see how that goes.

    It would be great if the “patient, long-term investor” was more common.

    That way, at least founders can choose between quick and profitable exit, or faster but long term growth.

    This is one of the few examples I know about about the “patient, long-term investor” I was mentioning before:
    http://www.homebrew.co

  42. Thanks for answering! See my answer to Dan above.

  43. Dan Norris says:

    We choose faster but long term growth without an investor 🙂

  44. Guest says:

    Ideal path IMO.

  45. and are they funny?

  46. Ha – he’s very self-deprecating, but also extremely funny (if you get the sense of humor).

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