WordPress business owners are operating in an exciting time.
Agencies are growing rapidly while the field for developing and investing in WP product surges. As the market matures, I see a lot of opportunity for startups and veteran businesses alike.
WordPress support services, in particular, is one vertical in this space enjoying a nice up-and-to-the-right ride right now. So much so, that former WebDevStudios employee Shayne Sanderson, founder of Maintainn, is headed back to his alma mater.
I had the chance to sit down with Lisa Sabin-Wilson, partner at WDS, to talk about the companies acquisition of Maintainn at PrestigeConf over the weekend. Shayne also stops by to share his experience from the other side of the table.
The value of support & services
As the founder of a WordPress agency myself, I certainly see the need for a company to have a support & services offering.
A majority of the WordPress projects we launch are for clients that are brand new to the WP ecosystem. Not only are they learning how to use the popular CMS platform, but also look to expand their web property opportunity.
It’s in this second stage that they begin to find their legs.
Either their first launch iteration begins to mature or they see new opportunity with the platform we’ve built them. Typically, that’s when the support calls come in and maintenance requests begin to gather. This can be a superb second stream of revenue right next to your project based income.
It’s also often overlooked as a great customer support tool. You don’t want launch your client into the wild and let them fend for themselves.
My interview with WebDevStudios and Maintainn
Lisa Sabin-Wilson of WebDevStudios
I had the chance to talk to Lisa while we were both in Minneapolis this weekend.
I will admit that it was slightly uncomfortable to open up my books like that – but it’s a necessary evil and something that has to happen if you’re at all interested in being acquired now, or in the future.
What new areas of opportunity are you excited for with the Maintainn acquisition?
Acquiring Maintainn gives us the ability to confidently extend our support and maintenance offerings at WebDevStudios – not only for our existing client base, but for new clients, as well as existing and new clients through Maintainn. It’s not that support and maintenance is adding anything new to our purview at all – we are, however, finding the demand for ongoing retainer agreements for support that encompasses simple updates and maintenance to more advanced level development and feature requests and all points in between.
Maintainn has an existing team and infrastructure already in place that allows us to slot that right into our existing workflow almost immediately for our clients while, at the same time, beefs up the bench strength for Maintainn’s existing (and new) service customers and gives them the confidence to really grow that side of the service, as well.
In terms of new opportunities with this acquisition? Time will tell and the sky is the limit – we are excited about all aspects of this acquisition.
This puts the WDS team at 32. Can you attribute your growth to something specific?
We’ve seen a great deal of growth in the past year in the area of enterprise client services. We’ve brought clients like Microsoft and the Discovery Chanel, as well as a few key government projects and higher education projects into our portfolio. These types of projects help us grow as developers, designers, as well as allowing us the financial security to grow our infrastructure confidently.
WebDevStudios remains, as always, bootstrapped – which is something we take a great deal of pride in. We’re excited about our recent growth and the outlook for additional growth in the near future, and Maintainn plays a large role in those plans.
Any words of advice for other business owners looking to acquire a product or service?
Communication! Acquisitions and mergers isn’t just about numbers and lawyers. Plan on spending some quality time with the team behind the company you are looking to acquire, especially if it is a situation, like Maintainn, where it is an ‘Acquihire’. Everyone should know exactly what they are getting into before any signatures go down on paper – – leave no question left unasked and no concern left untouched.
Acquisitions can be a pretty stressful time for both entities – and keeping the lines of communication WIDE open helps a great deal so that there are no last minute ‘gotchas’ or surprises and it ensures that expectations are equal across the board.
On the flip side, what advice would you share for founders looking to sell or be acquired?
At least in the WordPress community, the acquisitions that we’re seeing are all small business – – and sometimes, they are products or services run by one or two people. If you’re the least bit interested in being acquired in the future – you need to have all your ducks in a row and don’t be surprised when the interested party starts asking some pretty personal and private questions about things like finances, cash flow, taxes – – those details that you are used to keeping pretty close to the chest.
The acquiring party will want to know what your revenue looks like, so start keeping track of that – as well as P/L Reports (profit/loss) and be prepared to provide access to things like existing user base, analytics and proof of recent and recurring income.That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I’m finding it can be a stressful thing.
When I merged my company with WebDevStudios in 2012, I will admit that it was slightly uncomfortable to open up my books like that – but it’s a necessary evil and something that has to happen if you’re at all interested in being acquired now, or in the future. Get those books in order!
Shayne Sanderson of Maintainn
Here are some thoughts shared by Shayne about the acquisition.
I’ve never been known as a “business guy” but I know how to work hard and can see those values in others.
What’s the size of the Maintainn team today and what do you contribute it’s growth from?
Currently Maintainn is a team of 5 and growth has come from necessity. We’ve grown pretty quickly in the last year and the need for talented designers/developers has grown along with that. I see nothing but more of this happening in the future!
What are you most excited about with re-joining the WDS team?
I’ve known the folks at WDS for a long time (and even worked there previously), and am proud to call them all friends. They have an incredible team and having that knowledge/work ethic available for Maintainn clients is pretty awesome. We really enjoy working with WDS and I’m very excited to working with them even more closely now.
As a founder, can you speak to the specific challenges of growing a company today?
Growing a company today can be tough. What might seem like a good idea could easily fall short and what you never expect to happen can, so my advise would be to be prepared as best you can. Be prepared for the growth but also for the downfalls because both will definitely happen at some point and can cripple you if you’re not ready.
Are there any WordPress specific challenges you’ve faced? Community or otherwise?
We face WordPress challenges daily, it’s our business model! Regarding challenges in general, I can’t say that I can think of any off hand. The community is great and I came in fairly early on (2006), made the best of friends and have had nothing but a good time since.
What do we have to look forward to for the future of Maintainn and what will your role be?
The future of Maintainn is very bright! I’m the founder of Maintainn and will also now be Director of Support under the new arrangement. With the resources available from WDS we’ll pass along every bit of that to our clients (new and old) – it’s going to be great. I can’t think of a better team to be joining and our offerings are just going to get better and better.
I often get asked how someone approaches an acquisition of their company or product. Can you offer us any insight from your recent experience?
Acquisitions can be tough. My advise would be to just make sure you’re ready, look at all sides and see where benefits/risk are. If all pieces fall into place correctly it can be a wonderful thing, just as this one is. I’ve never been known as a “business guy” but I know how to work hard and can see those values in others. Maintainn and WDS compliment each other well and with the work ethic on both sides, this was not a hard decision for me to make.