Too big to fail

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Its pretty crazy that I work at a company like WooThemes and have a 35 minute drive to work and back everyday. Crazy because we’re a company with 33 employees, at the moment, which embraces remote working; we only have about a third of the company at our only office in Cape Town.

I do get to be in the office at whatever time I like, meaning I skip rush hour traffic. My driving time per day would be closer to 2 hours if that weren’t the case.

What’s probably crazier, though, is that I genuinely love my drive to work. Yes, I do! See, on the way in I get to gather my thoughts for what needs to be done that day. On the way back home I get to reflect on the day. All by myself. Awesome.

A couple weeks back on the way in to work I’d been thinking about an issue we had on the site. A bug had been deployed which caused all sorts of issues for my team to sort out. We’d recently improved our development and deployment processes using a modified git-flow workflow for our development. We’d essentially introduced a much more stringent set of rules to our development process that lost a little bit of agility. It had been a massive improvement on what we’d been doing before, but still allowed for that bug to be deployed to the live site. To prevent that happening again I started thinking about more rules we could put into our development process.

So, in the space of a few weeks we had gone from a cowboy-like approach to our site development to a process that had a load of rules. We had so many rules in place, in fact, that we had to put together a couple of pages on the site wiki about how everything now worked.

Madness! Why had this started happen? Well, it wasn’t because I don’t mind sorting the site out at odd hours. I’m often up till the early hours fixing something. It was because I genuinely didn’t want any bugs on the site which prevented our customers from getting to the products, viewing our documentation or getting support. Our site has always been one of our most important assets, but it has now become such an important asset that I never wanted it to fail. Ever. ( That’s obviously impossible, but we try :) )

Looking back at our recent price updates, its this same idea that drove our decisions with the new business model and the reverted license terms. We have more than 100 000 paying customers and a staff of 33 people. Most importantly we now create products which enable other businesses and individuals to make a living.

I don’t want to ever make see WooThemes fail, and I’d like to think that a lot of people wouldn’t ever want to see that happen. That’s not something which we fully control, but we can look at the data and make the decisions that would prevent that from happening, as much as possible.

We learnt a lot about how we should deliver our message when making the kind of changes we made in the price updates (I know I’ll never use the work ‘chunk’ ever again). And, how we should treat our loyal customers. But, we’re not going to ever shy away from making these kinds of decisions, or introducing processes and rules to ensure our customers get the best support, product or sales experience.

We’re a big business supporting big businesses. The rules, decisions and policies we put in place now are because I believe we’re too big to fail.

3 thoughts on “Too big to fail

  1. I love that you’re blogging (just hit the “publish” button!). :)

    I tend to agree with your sentiment, here. For me, it’s not that we’re too big to fail, it’s that we cannot allow for failure, due to the size of our business.

    Here’s an interesting perspective; failure is deliberate.

    If one works under that assumption, the converse is also true; success is deliberate.

    Therefore, if both are deliberate, they should be able to be turned off or on, at will.

    Success: on. Failure: off. :)

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