Want to learn about our success?
[The story of how Simplero is doing]
So, did you watch Calvin's recent "State of the Simplero"-talk already?
If not, here is why you should do it.
And I would argue...
Why you should re-visit it, even if you DID watch it.
This talk is so darn riddled with gold nuggets you can use to steer clear of hazardous icebergs in your own business. I just watched it for the second time and was taking notes like crazy. I realize that your business may be a lot different from ours—but that is actually irrelevant.
Because Calvin is NOT giving sneaky-ninja-tricks for a specific type of business here.
He is sharing how Simplero has overcome some very hard challenges.
Finding a process for hiring the right people.
Figuring out how to price the product (and how we could have handled the change better).
How to set us up for more growth in the future.
And much more.
So find the 30 minutes and watch this video, I promise it will be worth it. By all means, put it on while you're making breakfast, or walking the dog – just listen and learn.
Community Manager at Simplero
Here is a transcript of the live video, if you'd rather read it:
All right, guys. Let's do this. This is Calvin from Simplero. Look at that new baseball cap. Today, I thought I'd do something new, which is, give you the state of the Simplero. State of the Simplero speech, I'm not the president of the United States, but I am the CEO, president, whatever, of Simplero, and I'll give you this state of Simplero. Just so you know, what's going on behind the scenes, the things that we're working on, struggling with, challenges we've overcome, et cetera. I haven't done this before, I'm thinking I'll do it maybe monthly, maybe that's too frequent. For today, I want to catch you up on last year, so 2018, where we're at now, what we're doing now and where we're going in 2019, so that you have a sense of what's going on behind the scenes here.
Last year was super interesting. It was probably definitely the most dramatic year in our company's history. I started this company way back in 2009, I started the product, 2010 I had the first customer started paying me at the end of the year. Then 2012, it was making enough money that it could pay for me and my wife and child support while we were living in India, which was pretty cheap. By 2013 it was enough to pay rent in New York as well and then, it's been growing since then. Now, we have a team of 12, 13 people or something like that and that's all. That growth is pretty much happened in the past year.
At the beginning of last year we were about, I think we were five people. Only two of those people are left, not counting my wife who is on the side doing coaching with the team and stuff. But, more come full time team members only Deanna who is Chief of Staff and I are the ones that are left since January 1st, last year that are still here today. All of those are new people, it's been a massive growth.
Finding good people have been a challenge for me and I'm happy to say that we've cracked it.
We figured it out, which is obviously super, super important for business like this.
I'm sure some of you guys can relate, you get so big, good at your work, the thing you do. For me creating the software and when I was doing customer servers and all these things but you just can't keep doing everything yourself. You have to figure out those other skills which are completely different skills of, finding, attracting, motivating, leading other people to do work and coaching them to develop their skills and all that. It's completely different ballgame being good at doing things yourself, but you have to transition to that at some point.
It's really been a journey for me and those of you who has been with us for a long time, you've seen some of that with people coming in and out that were not the right fit. Who are not there anymore for whatever reason, and that's been going on for years but now it feels a lot more stable. Before last year, I was very fortunate, there's a brilliant developer Nick, he fell into my lap. I happen to be in Copenhagen because of a dispute with my ex wife, and then a friend that I was going to have dinner with. We ended up all of his calendar shuffling and then he was like, "Why don't we just grab dinner tonight?" Then, nick was there and he came along.
Then we hit it off and we ended up working together for about a year and a half. At the end of 2017, he decided that he was going to, go start his own company, which obviously I am going to hate and resent him for forever. Just kidding. Totally understandable that he would want to do that. He went off doing that and that left me back to square one when it comes to developers.
For all of 2018, I was pretty much the only developer there and it wasn't for a lack of trying. We went through, at least 10 or 12 developers that we try to make work and just didn't work. Super stressful, hiring people that then don't work out, it's not like, they may be contributing a little bit, but mostly it's a drain. Mostly it's a drain, you're paying the money and you're spending a lot of time on it and overseeing and the quality of work. We still have work that our latest, people that we be like some guys and Ukraine, I even went out to Ukraine, flew out there in June to meet with them cause I was like, "Oh, this agency, they can seem to really be able to do it and find good people." That's a relationship I wanted to build on. It didn't work out.
There's major features that they've worked on that we really want to deploy, but the quality of the code and all the little judgments that goes into writing good software just isn't there. It's still sitting on a shelf, we desperately want to get it out, but it's just a lot of work to go through. It's even like, "Yeah, it's done, but then cleaning it up." It's a whole different ballgame and it might be better just throw it out and start over, but then, that's also lame.
Anyway, so that's been the challenge in 2018. A lot of you have seen ... I've seen of responses from people who are like, "Oh, why aren't you doing this feature? Why aren't you doing that feature? Why aren't you doing this and that and the other thing?" We simply haven't had the resources in 2018 to do all these things. It's been me trying to be the CEO and run a company while doing all the programming and hiring 10 people, and getting them on board and getting them working together. We haven't been able to, and obviously for a software company, finding good developers is critical.
Finally, after trying, really trying hard on down a bunch of avenues that didn't really work. One fascinating thing is you get people who are like, "Oh, I'm the people's self image." About how good they are and how good they actually ... how good they think they are and how good they actually are. It's crazy. Some of these agents that we have found that were like, "Oh, very good quality." Then you're like, "Yeah, I really know." I think, our concept of a good developer is, I don't know, so high that it's been a challenge finding those.
I'm happy to report. We figured it out. We figured it out.
Finally, what I did, I was like, all right, I need to get all the resources of the company on board.
Another thing that happened, I have to backtrack a little bit. We hired ... it's not like a prepared speech, like a state of the union, no teleprompters or anything. I'm imagining, you can tell. We hired marketing people for the first time. I found this guy, Kasim or rather Kasim found us, also at the end of 2017 or before that they were a customer, they found the product, they loved it. He is the founder of a digital advertising agency, like basically paper, PPC, paper, click ad words, that kind of stuff.
We hit it off like really good chemistry, smart dude, fun, good sense of humor, fun to work with.
I first hired them as an agency to help us with marketing, wasn't able to bring results. Basically, acquire new customers cheaper than what we can make from them, but he did help find some direction to go and see if there're some findings, coming out of that. I decided that I was like, "I need to get this guy on board and get him over to us. I know he has his own company but we need to get him over here, because I think he can really the guy. Because, he loves the product and he's super smart and he's a good marketer, like a partner in crime to do that."
It ended up not working out, so we gave it to six months and then he pulled out and he was like, "Look, this company in order to do this. It wouldn't be my full time attention. Also, the whole PPC game doesn't seem to have been working for the company. We tried some other things that just didn't, we couldn't make work. He's like, "You know what, I have this other company, I have obligations there. I can't get rid of those. I need to focus on that." He was in for six months and then back out, but we also hired two other guys in marketing, Morton and Steven. This is the first time in the company's history that we've had anyone in marketing. We've been going since the 2009 ish and we've never ever had anyone, dedicated marketing.
Now we have two people, Morton and Steven. I was like, "While customers are still over there." I was like, let's get the marketing team involved in finding good developers. We figured out where to post, what to say and write, how to vet them and all that in a way that's very unique. I think, I'll want to do a separate video just about that. Because, we've come up with a really, really cool process, really works amazingly well, and it's fun and easy to maintain. Because, it's like I need to be able to vet these people without spending too much time on it. We found them a way that really works for that.
Long story short, now we have two really good developers on the board, we're hiring for two more. I think, that we might have some that we might sign on, we might wait a little longer to see what, when other candidates come in. We have a pipeline now of candidates coming in, we're looking to hire two more. That's a dramatic change that obviously, right? We need to have those people, we need to have a process for finding those people so finally we have that. That also means that now my time is freed up to do other things. Right now, what I'm doing is actually a meeting with a bunch of customers.
Basically, anyone who wants to talk to me, I'll get on a call, hear what are their dreams and wishes and concerns and whatnot.
See what we can do to meet your needs and wishes better. If there's some relatively small changes that we can do right away in the product, then I can do that easily because now we have the other guys doing, development and taking care of the other day to day stuff. I'm spending a lot of time doing that.
In between, travel, I'm traveling San Diego on Friday. I'll be meeting with Richard Branson, which is very exciting. It's a little scary. I'm a little scared and nervous about that, but also excited. I'll be going to Denmark in early March, for a little bit, then I forget if there's more travel coming up. Anyway, in between all of that meeting with as many customers as I can, and just trying to just like really getting a sense of like, what are the things that you guys really want and how can we address that better.
Something else that happened in 2018, was that we changed our pricing structure. It was something that we've been looking at for years. It was actually something that I had tasked Nick with figuring out how to do something about, or coming up with some proposals for that didn't really happen. There you go. We talked about it for a long, long time. Here's the challenge that we had, was this our pricing went from $100 to $400, or even like 333 if you were an annual. If you're out in the Max Plan back then, you're probably like, you are in the product. That meant, you're probably going to go annual and so it was really from $100 to $333.
Meanwhile, our competitors' pricing went from $29, typically $30, maybe even 15, in some cases, up to, thousands of dollars, thousands of dollars a month. I was in big problem strategically, because what that means is that if you're just starting out, then we're too expensive. But, if you're doing really well, then you're getting it really cheap. We're losing customers as they're starting and that means if they start building their list and building on some of the other platform, it's a lot harder to get them to move over later than if they get started right away.
We heard that over and over and over again. "I'm really going to come back when I've, I'm just going to go build my list over here and then I'm going to come back when I'm ready." I'm like, "Great, awesome, likelihood that people are actually going to come back? Not huge." For $100, you didn't get automations and worksheets and a bunch of other things, you have to pay 150 to get all that. We wanted to give people the opportunity to build their list before they were already at a much lower cost. Where it's so cheap that are so comparable that you're just like, "All right, that's not an excuse to go somewhere else because this is just like completely comparable pricing."
In order to do that, when you're taking a price that goes from this to this, then what happens is all of a sudden a lot of people, some who were paying us 100 or 150 found that they could downgrade to 29 or maybe like 39 or 49 or something like that, but like dramatically cheaper. Well, that's awesome. Right? But, if you don't also include the other side where some people end up paying more than we would lose a third of our revenue overnight and we're doing fine, but we're not doing so fine that we can lose a third of our revenue and keep going. We would have had to fire people if we wanted to do that.
We had a couple of options grandfathering everybody. It was simply not an option, because if we did that, then everybody who would be saving money, they would switch the cheaper plan. Everybody who wouldn't be saving money, they would be key stay at their current plan. We would lose the maximum number of the amount of revenue, not this whole pricing change. We didn't come out ahead. We did not make more money as a company from this pricing change. We just redistributed how it was paid for.
Would it be nice if you could do that in a way that didn't rejigger everybody's prices and that didn't cost some people's prices to go up? Yeah, that would be awesome. I just don't know of a way to do that. Are there things we could have done better? Absolutely. We've done a lot of things better communication wise, bringing people into the conversation way more. We have the conversation for like two, three years at the company and we're really struggling with how to figure this out.
Finally, a little over a year ago in January, we were like, "All right, this is the pricing that we believe in, that we're going to go with doing a lot of analysis to get to that point." Then started to roll it out for new customers in the beginning of the year. Then, finally we were like, "All right, at some point we're going to have to switch everybody over." We want to give people three months notice, plus if you've been paying attention and seeing that, it wasn't a secret that these were the prices for new customers, but then current customers were like, "Why do I have to pay this, when new customers can pay that? That's not fair either.
We had to make the switch at some point.
If I were to do it over, I would definitely have talked a lot more to a lot more people, figuring out the people whose prices were changing and what plans could we do. Maybe we don't need to start all the way down at 29, maybe we can start at like 49 and then include membership site and product or maybe the next one up is not 99 but 79. We're looking right now at tweaking some of that to make it more, affordable for some people.
We're totally fine with losing some revenue, we're totally fine with losing. Our budget was like, we can lose at least $20,000 a month in revenue on this whole ordeal. That's fine. We're okay with making that of investment, so that we can set ourselves up to grow faster in the future. That was the whole exercise, but we couldn't lose a lot more than that, without having to lay off people, which is obviously not what we want to do and is not beneficial to the community. It's not beneficial to you as a customer that we have to lay people off and we can't keep moving the product forward. So, that would be bad stewardship on our part if we allow that to happen.
I think, we missed the mark on the middle plan, and so maybe we'll split that up a little bit we're researching that. We're trying to do it more right at this time, we were doing not more right, but do it right this time and talked to some people. We're not, we haven't decided, we're just like bouncing around some ideas and we need to do some math and see how it would affect everybody, how it would affect us and in aggregate. In that case, if we can grandfather people or something, or maybe some grandfather ish where you have people stand in plan or something. We just want to be mindful of doing it right this time.
One argument that we came up with that, the thing about grandfathering is such a classic thing. If you're not familiar, it just means basically, let people stay on whatever plan they're on, for as long as they want. We've done that in the past, with a result that there are people who are still in plans that we'd phased out, five years ago. We were studying all this stuff and came across someone who argued, like grandfathering is actually, even though it's traditional in software as a service business, it's actually not fair.
People should pay based on the value that they get from the product. Why is it fair that someone who's been there for a long time should pay less than someone who's coming in new? It's not exactly fair. It's always fine to reward loyal customers, obviously, but grandfathering forever isn't entirely fair either. That was the thing that made us start to think, "Maybe we don't have to do that." Just being like, "You know what? Prices change. It's a fact of life that that prices do change. You're right, it goes up every so often or at least usually."
So, we're like, "Okay, well in that case we can actually make this change." Otherwise, it was like, how do we do it? Alternative, it would've been very gradual, there'd be a change and then another change and then another change and then another change and then another change try to get to that, you expand it from this narrow scope to this broad scope. A lot of people saw it as greedy, money grab, whatever, but it really wasn't greedy in the sense of like, "Oh, we're just trying to extort more money from people." Because like I said, not.
We did not make out in better and we were losing, we lost money. I don't know what the exact status of it is to be honest, because it's with transaction fees and people coming in and out and it's like very, very, high to say exactly, but we're definitely not seeing it like a big jump in revenue or anything like that. If anything, then the opposite, a lowering. The intention was never to get ahead or make more money from the existing customers, the intention was to set up as up for success in the future and attracting more customers and doing better down the line for the benefit of everybody. We were coming from a place of stewardship here.
Anyway, if I'm talking to people right now, who were hurt by the change and I'm doing everything that I can to figure out how to make it right for people who had been challenged by whatever. Obviously, everybody who the majority of people ended up just paying less and they don't have a problem with that generally, so as the people who ended up paying some more. If you're one of them like hit me up calvinsimplero.com happy to hop on a call and talk to you and see what we can figure out.
That was another big thing that happened in 2018. We don't plan on doing anything major or drastic like that again, like I said, we might make some tweaks, probably find some middle ground between the 29 and 99 plans right now. We'll loop you in on that before we make any final decisions on that. What else? 2019, we have a lot in store. We really want to invest heavily in the product, still so, which is why we're hiring. We added as a designer, we've never had a good designer in board. I've been wanting to find one, but never managed to do so until recently.
Again, this guy dropped in our lap. Sebastian, he's really good, he's working for us as a freelancer. I really like his work really, he really gets the complexities of the application and he's able to simplify it down to something that we can implement. That's very, very exciting. You should start to see that, show up in all areas in the application. It's pretty obvious when you look at it that we've never had a designer on board, it's developers trying to do our best, designing stuff. I'm very excited about that.
We want to build, we want to invest in things like segments, automations, adding conditions, automations and making that visual builder, really polishing up everything about membership sites and how that works and courses. How you connect them with products and making that a lot easier to whether you're dripping or doing a class or doing what I like to call a Content Soup. Where it's like you have a big library of lessons that people can search and find things in et cetera. That kind of thing.
What else? Yeah. Christina says we asked them to have 20 products in 99 instead of five. Yes. It would. The challenge obviously is like, yeah, I know I appreciate that. I appreciate that. We're looking at something like that. It was like, challenge is just finding something that lets us like make a change that's beneficial to people without, having to lay off too many people or any people for that matter. Anyway, '19, we're also looking at a bigger visual campaign builder type thing. I haven't nailed down exactly what that's going to look like, but I'm very excited about that thing.
We want to invest more, the idea is like when you do campaigns, I haven't seen any tools out there and do it in a way that I really like it. We're trying to find it, how to crack that in a way that nobody's ever done before, which is always exciting and challenging. But, when you do a campaign, like the option sale that we did. How do you visualize that in a way that you can see the whole thing, along with automations are one piece of it and they have their own little flow, but there's a bigger picture of the automation or a campaign of where people come in and via which affiliates and what's your conversion and how does that all. We want to figure out how to show that visually in something that actually works and does functionality. You can see everything from lists, landing pages to products, to upsells to affiliate programs to view all of the things that go into a campaign. That's something that we have on the docket for 2019.
Let me see what else, shopping card is a big wish, from people, being able to sell a few physical products. That's on our list. Then, on the team front we're looking to hire a head of support as well. I think, we got a guy, just finally finalizing that. Someone who can really add some leadership and direction to the support team. Support team is doing amazing, something that we're very proud of. We love, giving the best support that we know how to do, but we want to keep investing there and adding more structure, making sure the guys are really good, making sure that the feedback loop to the product team works. We hear the things that come up from customers, so that we can, more often than not respond really quickly to something that a customer rings up and just may fix it right there in the product. That kind of thing.
What else? Something I was thinking, we offer concierge right now. We want to offer also marketing and coaching, marketing consulting and coaching so we can really help you grow your business. Both coaching is mindset and the marketing is, understanding who your customers are and how to reach them and everything like that.
We want to be able to offer those services to you, so that you can be more successful, which obviously is good for us. The more, unsuccessful customers don't stay, we want to do everything we can to make you successful.
One of those things, is we want to do some more, there're some courses ourselves, an entrepreneurial marketing business course that we ... where we give, tell you everything that we know and how to do it with Simplero. My thinking there is that it's going to inform Simplero as well as we do, a course on business and marketing, entrepreneurship mindset, all that stuff. Then it's like, right, here's what you want to do. Right now to do that in the product it's a little cumbersome. Let's straighten that up. Let's clean that up. Simplify that.
Another area that we're working on right now is onboarding. The first experience that people get when they sign up for a new account and find their way around, get up and running with it and become happy, successful, and paying customers trust. We're working on improving everything about that process, which is obviously good for the company as a whole and for the community. Because, it's like bringing new customer is obviously what allows us to hire even more people, to make the product even better.
For all of you guys who are our customers, you're probably going to seize benefits from that as well because we're aiming to make the product easier to use. One of the tools is some checklists that we have plans for you guys to be able to use yourselves. We want to do more campaigns, more Done-For- You Campaigns. We want to make it so that you can create your own Done-For-You Campaigns and your own Done-For-You Campaigns and share them with other people or sell them.
Lots of things planned, you just have to tackle one thing at a time.
I think, that's the State of Simplero, State of the Simplero right now. I've been going long enough, I think. But, it was like catching up on a whole year back and stuff. Next time I check in we should be able to do it quicker. I'm just catching you up on what's new since last State of the Simplero.
Thank you for watching and have a fantastic day. I'll see you all again. Bye.