Introducing Kyle Brown
Kyle Brown consults with business owners to help them learn how to use processes and software to become more efficient, scale, increase profits or just free up time so they have the freedom to do what they want. He is the founder of wpSaaS.net and blogs at kylembrown.com.
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Tara: And now, the conversation begins. This is episode 10.
Tara: Hey! Thanks for joining us today out here in the hallway.
Liam: We’re about to meet someone new. We’re pretty excited you’re here with us.
Tara: I’m Tara Claeys.
Liam: I’m Liam Dempsey.
Tara: This is Hallway Chats.
Liam: Together we’ll explore the stories of people in our community, stories of living and stories of making a living with WordPress.
Tara: Today’s show is brought to you in part by Liquidweb.
Liam: We sure know there’s a lot of choices when it comes to hosting your site WordPress site. Liquidweb is the managed WordPress partner that you’ve been waiting for; whether you’re a business owner, an agency or a freelancer. Liquidweb has you covered when it comes to performance, uptime, and ease of site management.
Tara: One of the things we love most is when your content goes viral Liquidweb doesn’t charge you more for a huge spike in traffic. They have transparent pricing and no surcharges.
Liam: Welcome to Hallway Chats. I am Liam Dempsey.
Tara; I’m Tara Claeys. Today we’re excited to have with us, Kyle Brown. Kyle consults with business owners to help them learn how to use processes and software to become more efficient, to scale, increase profits or just free up time so that they have the freedom to do what they want.
Kyle: Hi guys!
Liam: Hi Kyle! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little bit more about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? What keeps you busy?
Kyle: Sure. As you guys stated, my name is Kyle Brown. I was born and raised in the Washington DC metropolitan area. The answer was pretty accurate. During the day, I spend most of my time consulting with government agencies, enterprise companies and some small businesses helping them with processes and ways to become more efficient in running their businesses from day to day.
Liam: That is awesome. So within that day-to-day search for efficiencies tell us about how you use WordPress and how you help your clients use and take advantage of WordPress.
Kyle: Ok. So, I maybe left out a little bit of what I do.
Liam: (laughs) Ok. Feel free to fill in the gaps.
Kyle: I will. As an entrepreneur, you are involved in a lot of things. Sometimes, probably too many things. The portion of my time that is the heaviest dedicated to consulting is mostly you know during the day. In the night and evenings (and sometimes during the day as time permits) I work very closely with the WordPress community. This started a few years back. I was using WordPress in the early days when it was a baby…when it had just been ported into becoming WordPress. I always used it as a user making webpages (that kind of thing). That was a while ago. In the last few years, I’ve watched this ecosystem kind of grow and evolve. There are businesses coming out of it. There are services coming out of it. There are all of these great things coming out of the WordPress community. So I started looking at opportunities there to apply some of the things that I’ve learned in the corporate world or the consulting world. One of the things that we started to do (we being my company) we put a couple of plugins out to the ecosystem. We also put together a service called WPSaaS. It’s a Tier 1 support outsourced for WordPress business owners. Essentially this means that we provide the Tier 1 support for plugin business owners so that they can spend that time developing their business, marketing their business and growing their business.
Tara: So you provide support for plugin developers (not for WordPress website builder clients)?
Kyle: Yes. Primarily, our clients are companies that have developed software or developed WordPress plugins that serve a purpose. Sometimes we support themes. Usually, what generally happens is they take care of their support (the developer themselves or the designer themselves) who owns the business, or they hire or go through the pain of hiring someone and have them do it. Well, we take all of that of a headache away from the business owner.
We have a productized model where we charge a tiered rate for a small business. It is very effective because it scales with the business. It gives the business owner the opportunity to step away from providing support. We handle that portion of it for them.
Liam: That’s interesting then. Do you do then take the plugin if you take on a new client do you take the plugin and go away and study it and figure out how it works? Do you get guidance from the developers to get a good understanding of what typical issues they will encounter so that you are able to provide that support?
Kyle: Absolutely! What we do here is no different than what I did in the in the corporate world. You sit down (each client is different), and you learn not only about the product itself. So we take the time to learn about the product…what it does, what it doesn’t do and what some of the issues are…anything the company/business owner has learned since they made the plugin available to the public. We take all of those things and we build systems around those things so that we can provide that same level of support that the business owner him or herself would support. Another thing that we do (which isn’t talked about much is the tone of the company, the vision of the company, the way the company thinks and how they present themselves to the public. We also study those things as well. , We interview the business owner and work with the business owner for a short period of time before my team would actually just take over…as much of it as the business owner would want us to take over.
Liam: That’s really interesting.
Tara: It seems important.
Liam: Yeah. It’s something I don’t think I would’ve thought of on the first round of doing that. It makes a lot of sense. It kind of leads us to the expression Kyle (speaking of vision and tone) one of the questions we like to talk about is a definition of success. What is your definition of success whether it’s personal or professional?
Kyle: That’s a very good question. I think about that quite frequently. Where I’m at now in my career and my life, success to me means having the freedom to do what you want to do and when you want to do it versus what you have to do. That is my idea of success.
Tara: Yeah. We hear that pretty frequently. Where would you say that you are on that journey?
Kyle: I’d say that I have put a significant number of hours in toward reaching that. I will say two things. One is that I’m always listening, always learning, and always trying new things. I don’t think that’s ever going to stop. That’s true for an entrepreneur and just in life in general. So a portion of it will always be happening. I feel as far as WordPress goes, WordPress is a very interesting (at least to me) is a very interesting ecosystem. Before WordPress, there has not been a lot of opportunities to get a product out into the world. I’ve tried several different things and failed with a lot of things. I’m actually very proud of those because I learned a tremendous amount from all of those failures. The thing where WordPress is unique to me is that it presents itself as this thing that you can find a place for yourself in and contribute. You can make the world a better place by contributing to the community while also potentially making a living. That’s something that is talked about a lot and discussed. Very rarely do you see it actually (at least in my experience) I’ve never really seen it manifested anywhere where I see it happening in this WordPress community. I say all that to say that I feel like I am very close to being at the place of success. I think that I am there. I am there already but you know we all as humans have this way of always thinking we need to do something else and always thinking that there is something else down the road. So I think that I am there already. WordPress is going to help keep me there. Maybe that’s the way I should put it.
Tara: Yeah. It sounds like you’ve put a lot of work and thought into it. How do you keep it all together? You started the other business while working another job. It must be hard at times, stressful and tiring. How do manage that?
Kyle: Before I started consulting (it’s only been about four years) before I started consulting I had a real traditional job working at Verizon Communications which may have heard of. I worked there for 15 years, and I learned a tremendous amount about business during my time there. However, I was also working 12 and 13 hour days on a regular basis, weekends, and holidays. Taking those weekends and holiday hours and those hours beyond eight, I made a commitment to myself that I would slice out just enough for consulting somewhere in the eight hour a day range and everything else that I had been giving to the corporation would then be given to my corporation. So it wasn’t really a hard transition for me to make because I had already been doing it. I’m sure many other people already are doing it in their day jobs anyway. I just got disciplined and took the time that I was given to the corporations and applied to my corporation.
Tara: That’s great.
Liam: Yeah I love that. That is awesome! Kyle? Within your definition of success and your focused eight hours a day, what is the one thing, the most important thing that you do every day to achieve that success or to maintain that success?
Kyle: Just continue to learn. Always be looking for opportunities to learn or improve. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. I try not to rest on any particular subject. If it appears that there’s something that is not working properly, then I’m looking to improve it if. If I feel like it can be improved any further than I’ll look for something else to learn about and improve on. You know? There was one other thing that I didn’t mention from the last question in terms of how I do all of these things at the same time.
Liam: Go ahead and fill that in. Please do.
Kyle: It’s very important, and it’s not just me. It’s a combination of the team that I’ve put together over time. It’s giving them processes or systems that they can follow and use in my absence so that the business runs on autopilot as much as it can with very little involvement from me. So the amount of time that I’m putting in now is very much focused on vision, leading, and objectives. The day-to-day details are handled by the great team that works for the company now. So it’s not just me. It’s me and those guys and gals.
Liam: I am sure your team is grateful for the shout out. I couldn’t agree with you more. Let me let me ask you what I think is a Tara question. You’ve talked about one the most important things that you can do to achieve success, and that is continually learning. When you discover something within your processes that isn’t where it needs to be, or the level of efficiency is wanting or you think you can deliver better quality. So you’ve learned there is a problem. How do you go about studying and addressing that? Where do you go to learn?
Kyle: That’s another good question. So the processes are just like software. They are always changing. They should grow as your business grows. They should be changed as your business changes. We keep them very lean. We keep them very agile. If we identify something that was working just fine yesterday and today for whatever reason is not longer as efficient as it was (which is a very common thing) we break the process down. We take a look at it. We do some analysis on it and determine how it should be handled going forward, and we make the changes. I think there’s a sort of a misconception about processes. I work with a lot of developers. I still work with a lot of developers every day. There’s a perception that processes are stiff and rigid and they’re very restrictive. They need to be flexible and be able to move which is what a lot of developers like to do. That’s just not true. It can be true in some instances, but that’s all driven by the leadership. If the leadership allows that to happen that’s on them. A process should be a just as flexible as the code, a plugin or any other software application. When it needs to be changed, there’s an exercise that everyone goes through as far as the software development cycle goes. You look at the requirements, you pivot, and you make adjustments and release new code. A process should follow the same exact principles. That’s what we try to do.
Tara: So along the same lines when talking about learning, one of the things that we hear a lot is that people rely a lot on the WordPress community and other communities to learn about new processes, to learn about what’s new, business techniques and code and all of those types of things. Can you talk a little bit about your interaction up to now with the WordPress community? Whether you’ve attended Meetups and WordCamps and whether you spoke at these types of events?
Kyle: Yeah, sure. As I mentioned before, I’ve always used WordPress (since 2.x). I don’t want to date myself too bad here, but I really don’t remember when it was…it was .x) I remember that. I just used it. About three years ago I was part of an online community of entrepreneurs that were interested in building startup tech companies. The recommendation was made to use WordPress. The WordPress community is a great place to go and cut your teeth and learn about the online software business. So I just started talking to people who were business owners already in that space. That actually just began as a journey. I found myself at a couple of conferences of accomplished business owners that is held in Arizona called PressNomics. I attended that and got to meet people and know people. I started to spend a lot more time talking to people online that were in the community, hanging out in the repository from time to time at .org and just looking at some of the challenges people were having. My focus was more on the customers who were using the products and not necessarily the developers. They just gave me a real sense of some of the needs in the community, where the community was in terms of being an open source community and where it was growing. The discussion of business just won’t stop coming up in the WordPress community. So from this, I’ve just gotten more involved. I’ve written a substantial amount of information on my blog about how to do certain things in WordPress. I like to focus on all the things that you can do in WordPress without paying the large amounts of money for off-the-shelf products that do the same thing. But you never hear about the WordPress version of it. Those are the kinds of things that can help people who may not have a budget or may be on a limited budget. They can achieve some of the same things that they would if they were unfamiliar with the WordPress community.
Liam: Kyle? I love that last bit where you talked about where you love to see people using WordPress in ways that are perhaps unconventional. I’m going to go ahead and put you on the spot. We haven’t talked about this yet. Ok. What’s been the most interesting, the most unique or the most “whoa!” That’s really cool use of some kind of WordPress product, feature, plugin where it wasn’t following what the plugin was originally designed for? Somebody took that plugin and did something really kind of unique and interesting with it?
Kyle: I’ve seen a lot of examples of that. I don’t want to be selfish and mention something that we actually did.
Liam: Go ahead.
Kyle: We have a product called WPdocs. It essentially leverages a lot of the functionality that is already in WordPress. It allows you to turn WordPress into a knowledge base plugin or a knowledge base application. Just like you would find with…I’ll use ZenDesk as an example…because I think a lot of people know what Zendesk is…or a help desk or HelpScout docs. They both have this knowledge base add-on component. It helps you build a knowledge base. WordPress lends itself perfectly to that because it’s all about categorizing and storing content that’s searchable. You login with your username and password and registration. All of that functionality is already there in WordPress. It was very easy to add a few things here and there to turn it into this knowledge base tool that is basically built on top WordPress.
Tara: That sounds really great. We’re going to send you our sponsorship package after the show.
Liam: (laughing) Nice one Tara! Kyle? Let me let me change gears on you just a little bit.
Liam: You talked about your career. You talked about building your own business. You shared with us your definition of success and the single most important thing that you do every day to achieve and continue to achieve that success. Can you share a little bit about what might have been or what is your biggest challenge? What was your biggest challenge and how did you address that? How are you currently working to address that?
Kyle: I think the biggest challenge that I’m having right now is time. Even with putting processes in place and people in place, there is just no substitute for time. There’s only so much that I can do as a founder with the limited number of hours that we have in a day. I am also a father and a husband. So a significant amount of my time goes to the family. I believe family is extremely important.
Liam: I agree.
Kyle: Yeah right? I didn’t always feel that way early in my career. So a lot of my time goes to the family. After I slice the pie up with all of the systems in place, the processes and all of talks and motivational speeches, there are still only 24 hours in a day. I think time is probably my biggest concern. The way I’m addressing that is just continuing to scale the business and grow the business. I repurpose the resources as they are made available and to add more people to the team who can help take on some of the tasks that I’m currently taking on.
Tara: That’s great. Kyle? Can you tell us something not work related about yourself? We know you have a family. Is there anything unique?
Kyle: There isn’t anything not work-related about me.
Tara: Just work. Gosh! That sounds familiar.
Liam: I don’t believe that for a second.
Kyle: Let me try…not work related… I’m a big fan of movies. I love what Netflix and Amazon are doing as far as the independent films. I think there’s a lot of unique content out there. I love to work with my hands, build things and do carpentry work.
Tara: That’s great! One of the great things about movies that I discovered is that you can watch them while doing certain types of work. You can multitask.
Kyle: Yes. Absolutely!
Liam: Always back to the work.
Tara: The taskmaster that I am. That’s when the binge Netflix comes into play.
Kyle: Listen. If you work hard, you have to play hard.
Tara: You are exactly right.
Kyle: I do love to read. Reading often takes me back towards work for whatever reason. So that’s why I mention reading.
Liam: Kyle? Let me ask you this. It’s kind of a question we like to put towards our guests. As you look back over career, life and what have you what is one piece of advice…the best piece of advice…whether it was personal, professional or maybe a combination of both? What, is the single biggest piece of advice you ever received followed and got the most value from?
Kyle: Wow! I talked to a lot of mentors. I’m always looking to talk people who have accomplished things that I want to accomplish. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback. One thing that probably jumps out at me the most when you asked me that question is to always keep your focus on your objectives. There’s going to be so many different things that happen. We’re living a life where you’re working 9 to 5. Taking care of your family can be complicated enough, but you know trying to start a business, grow the business and run the business brings on a whole other set of complications. It’s very important to just keep your eye on what your objectives are. That way with all of the noise that is going on around you will seem minor and temporary as long as you maintain focus on those objectives. If I could throw two of them in there…another one just came to mind.
Liam: Please do.
Kyle: It’s a marathon. It’s not a race. It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It may not happen tomorrow. It may not happen next year, but it will happen as long as you keep at it. Looking at things with that perspective definitely helped me. It helped me think of things differently than I had been. It helped with the strategy a lot.
Tara: It sounds like focusing on being patient when you’re in it for the long haul is hard to do. It’s important and is great advice.
Liam: I love that. Thank you.
Tara: Kyle? It’s been great to have you on the show. We’re going to wrap it up. We loved hearing about what you’re doing what you’ve done. We wish you the best with all the products that you are doing and your support system. Where can people find you?
Kyle: So I blog over at KyleMBrown.com. I’m @kylmBrown on Twitter.
Tara: Great. I’m sure people will look you up. We loved having you. Best Wishes!
Liam: Thanks, Kyle! I really appreciate you stopping by.
Kyle: Can I say one more shout out that I did not mention earlier?
Liam: I think you should.
Kyle: I spoke at the WordPress DC Meetup where I actually gave my first talk at a WordPress Meetup. It was in February. I definitely wanted to mention that.
Tara: Great. I hope to see you at more.
Liam: Thanks for having that Kyle. Thanks for your time. It was great chatting with you.
Kyle: Thanks for having me guys.
Liam: Have a great evening.