Introducing Vito Peleg
Starting from the back of a van while touring the world with his band, Vito made the transition from a freelancer to an agency, growing to six figures by the end of year one, and to a team of 12 by the end of year three.
Tara: This is Hallway Chats, where we meet people who use WordPress.
Liam: We ask questions, and our guests share their stories, ideas, and perspectives.
Tara: And now the conversation begins. This is episode 105.
Tara: Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Tara Claeys.
Liam: And I’m Liam Dempsey. Today, we’re joined by Vito Peleg. Starting from the back of a van while touring the world with his band, Vito later made the transition from a freelancer to an agency, growing to six figures by the end of year one, and to a team of 12 by the end of year three. He is now focused on WP Feedback. Welcome Vito.
Vito: Hi. How are you doing? It’s great to be here, guys.
Tara: We’re so glad to have you here. Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? What an interesting introduction! I want to hear more.
Vito: Yeah, sure. Like Liam said, I started by building websites for clients from the back of a van. Actually my first experience with website was when I was 14. I was experimenting with like HTML and CSS, building something for skateboarding crew that I had when I was in school. That was back in GeoCities, even way before WordPress was even born.
The first time that I actually started doing this professionally, was while I was touring. And that was a kind of cool story because the band that I started with also kind of got known through digital and through the stuff that I’m doing right now with the agency and with a new product that I’m working on. And really quickly within a span of literally 30 days after we launched a digital campaign from my hometown – I’m from Israel, originally – we got signed here in the UK. That allowed us all to move on to here and start touring the world.
We went through the standard band process. We started with like 10 people in the crowd, then a few dozens, a few hundreds, a few thousands. And then the band broke up one day. Even though it looked like we were making it, and we were selling albums, and we’re touring and doing exactly what we wanted, we were all still very much broke. There was no money in that thing. That’s what drove me into starting building websites for clients after people saw what I did with the band and the activity that I’ve done online.
Once the band broke up, I said, “Okay. I was a bit lost for a little while trying to figure out what’s the next step. I’ve been into music for 15 years up until then, and I figured out I already have a little pool of clients here in London. So let’s see how far I can take this thing.”
I went for it. Within the first year, like Liam said, I already broke the six-figure mark that I put as a goal for myself before I started. Then I just kept scaling up, get scaling up, bringing on more projects and more and more people. And that’s when things started becoming a little dicey when it comes to managing multiple projects at the same time, and getting the clients to do what we need from them in order for us to progress the project. I’m sure you guys know what I’m talking about.
While I was doing the investigation of where does all the profit go when we have a team of 12 and everything should be running smoothly by that point, I noticed that it always came down to client communications. That was the source of all evil. So I really researched that and go right into it and try to figure out why this is happening and why this is breaking down.
The more I looked into it, I saw that it’s a huge, huge issue within our ecosystem, in the WordPress community, especially, mostly because most of us, when we start working on websites, we kind of want to do things, we just want to design, we just want to do something creative. And once we start, we realize that we’re not really our own bosses like we thought we would be. That now we have multiple bosses that are kind of pulling us in different directions. And unless we have a really structured way of pushing them down this process, things become a nightmare.
That’s when WP Feedback came to fruition with the idea of taking everything that is good about the process that we tried over a course, a few years, which is using emails, which was really efficient for us. And specifically using a support desk. But in terms of getting all the information we need, the best way was either screencasting, or with Zoom or Skype or stuff like that, or through having the client sitting right next to us.
So with WP Feedback, we took the advantages of each one and created a hybrid that allows people to literally put stickers on the live website – kind of like Post IT notes for your own website. And it collects a lot of crucial data for us as developers and as designers like… First of all, it binds the request to a div so exactly where the problem is. Wherever you’re coming from, you’re being redirected to the exact location where you see it with your own eyes. It also tells you which screen size the client was on, which browser he had on. So we’re basically killing all of this back and forth communications with clients, and making things just a lot finer and easier for both sides – for the client and for us. That’s where we are now.
Liam: That’s awesome. WP Feedback sounds really cool. I absolutely want to hear about that more. First, I’m a music fan. So I need to hear about your band. Let’s talk about it. What kind of music? What style? What did you play? Were you the singer? Talk to us a little bit about that.
Vito: I was the lead singer and a guitar player. I was all so the manager and the guy that does all the marketing. It’s like you’re having a small business. You do everything, especially when in an indie band, only that you have four guys with you that need to work for free. That makes it even harder to manage.
The band was a hard rock band. We’re influenced by AC/DC, and Guns N’ Roses and that kind of stuff with a bit of a modern twist to it. Yeah, very, very niche. I think that actually worked to our advantage. Because, same as with business and with agencies, the more you niche down, the easier it is to find your audience and speak directly to them. It just came to be like that because that’s the music we grew up on and that’s the music we love listening to. You know, Zeppelin and AC/DC and all this kind of stuff.
Liam: Is any of your band’s music online still?
Vito: Yes. On YouTube, you can find a bunch of videos. It’s called Chase the Ace. Also on Spotify, I think it’s still up there.
Liam: Wow. We’re going to pause this recording while I go to YouTube.
Vito: We were good. We’re pretty good. For the time, that was an amazing experience to have.
Tara: Do you still play music on your own? Are you in the band now just for fun?
Vito: Now it’s just for fun. Usually, between my wife and I, she’s an amazing singer. Much, much better than I ever was. At home in the evenings, we just jam together. I’m on the piano and the guitar, and she sings. That’s the extent of my music career at this point.
Tara: That’s good that you have that sort of unwinding thing. Do you work long hours? Your office is not your home? Or is it?
Vito: It was for years. Up until last year, we were…even all the guys were coming to my home. We had a room that started as being like just my own room, but then just adding more tables and stuff. Pretty much like the rooms that you guys are sitting in, only with four other people in the same space. We were bumping into each other every time. But now we have our offices here in London. I have the team in house and there’s a bunch of people abroad as well. So it’s divided between this and that.
I am working crazy hours, but I like it. I enjoy working and I don’t see it as a chore or as something that I’m wasting something. I’m actually looking at it as I’m investing into something that I like and I believe in.
Tara: How was the transition for you working for yourself and growing quickly, as it seems like you did and now having a staff? How have you learned to make that adjustment, manage other people, have the commitment of paying other people, all of those things, and then also transitioning from a client service business to now a product business? Talk a little bit about that transition.
Vito: It wasn’t an easy transition at all. More than anything, I would say it’s mindset. Because once you are in control of everything, being a freelancer, being a one-man band, I mean, you kind of feel that you have the responsibility over every little aspect of the business. And as you grow, as you scale, you need to relinquish this power and actually, give the employees the power to do what they feel is right and what they feel they need to do to expand themselves as well.
That was a tough thing to crack. At first, I was really micromanaging. And even when it comes to design, “You should move this logo three pixels to the right, and you should move that thing.” So that was hard to stop doing. And I think you said something really true, Tara. When it comes to having this team with you, you have a huge overhead that you need to maintain every single month. I kind of use that overhead as the driving force for the growth.
So whenever I felt that I can, even though I didn’t have enough work to give to another employee, whenever I felt that it’s going to happen soon, I hired someone already. Then it just kind of pushed me to bring in more work and systemized things better, so that once the end of the month comes, I’m not pulling my hair out.
About the transition to a product, once the team was already here, and as we were doing more and more client work, we got some really interesting projects over the years. It was still really hard to manage on a larger scale. And I think everyone talks about this kind of glass ceiling that the agency model has, that you reach like 20k, 25k per month, and then from there, it’s just a nightmare to scale further. And that’s usually because you have so many moving parts with the agency model. And people have their own desires, they have their own plans, they have their own way of doing things. So managing clients on a high scale and managing the team on a high scale became really hard.
That’s actually when I really looked into it. Like I said, the idea for WP Feedback came from that specific problem. Even though I knew that the next step for me, if I want to keep growing, I have to go product. And this is something that is really important to understand. That if you really want to go big, the agency model is not the right place to be. It’s not a sustainable model for years to come, that you can actually keep expanding your activity every single month.
In terms of also systems that you have in place, even driving clients in, everything is customized. Even if you niche down and you know who your target audience is, we build our solution based on the request of the client. So you can’t really do something that is out of the box, if you will.
So every time it’s just reinventing yourself. Which is a huge and an amazing learning experience, especially when you want to go into product later on because you’re basically launching products on a monthly basis, say five times a month, say 10 times a month. But once you give that product away, that’s it. You can’t profit from it anymore unless you do more work that is bound by man hours.
Liam: Let me ask you a question about building a team. You built a team to provide a service. So you’re an agency, you’re delivering design and development and probably some related consultancies. And there are people who really like the service side of that, the human interaction, the “Hey, this is a new problem that we’ve never dealt with, let’s go and solve it as a team.” Those aren’t necessarily the same people who want to make a product. Not to say that that product doesn’t create challenges or that it can’t be team building or anything. I’m not a product person, but product is you’re working on some actual data software, and you’re trying to fine tune that software, you’re listening to people who use it and trying to make that better. You’re not providing a service. You’re not answering one client’s business need.
Liam: How has the transition for your team been? Have you gotten anybody say, “Hey, Vito, you hired me to be a designer for clients and I love that one day we’re working with this agency and the next month we’re working with that kind of firm, and then we’re working with the local council, and then we’re doing this. Now all I’m doing is building UI for a product.” How have you managed that? How does your team flow through that?
Vito: The bigger we grew; I went for bigger projects. So it got to a point where we were working on… other than the new clients that are coming in and getting those smaller websites, let’s say, we had already a few pillars within the business, which are products or businesses that require us to do modifications and to expand and add more features on a monthly basis. So we had some of that already by that point.
Liam: Exactly you were building someone else’s product? Am I understanding you correctly?
Vito: Yes. We joined with a few startup founders that didn’t really have… well, it was basically just selling out hours to them. But they weren’t really technical people, so they needed a technical guy on their side or technical agency on their side to get their vision out there. And the vision evolved like a product should have.
I keep telling this to my clients. That website never ends. It’s always an iterative process to make it better and to increase the value that you and your visitors can get out of it. So we did a lot of that. But to be honest, and I think that the guys would agree with me here. As soon as we moved to the product, things became so much easier. It’s unbelievable.
When you make a sale, that’s it. When you’re doing an agency work, you make a sale, and then a storm starts and everything starts moving, and all of these pieces need to work together properly. There’s a lot more laid back feeling to it when it comes to development. And you can focus on things that you believe will actually drive this thing forward. Even though we’re listening to the customers, especially WP Feedback, this is the main value that extended here.
So within the Facebook group, most of the features that we’re launching are just based on customer requests, and people that are telling me that this would be amazing for their workflow. And if a few people like that post, boom, it’s done a week or two weeks later.
Liam: Cool. It’s a lot more laid back. And it’s a lot easier to manage on a larger scale. I can’t fault this model, maybe because it’s really new to me. So I haven’t seen everything still burning and crashing down like I experienced with the freelancing model and with the agency model sometimes. But for now, everything is incredible.
Liam: That’s awesome. I like that. We’ve talked about going from band member to freelancer, to agency owner, to product owner. And that’s been a journey. And as you were just touching on, it seems to be a journey of success, and inevitably success comes on the back of heartaches and challenges overcome.
Liam: I wonder with that in mind if you can share your definition of success with us, please. Whether it’s a personal definition or a professional definition, or a mix of both.
Vito: I would say there are two things to it. In terms of what is the success as the goal, what is the goal and there’s the way of how do you get there. What you need to get there. I would say that passion is the most, most important thing. Every time that I felt that I’m not doing something that I really enjoy doing, I didn’t stop, because that’s not a good thing for business. But I already started looking for the next step and what I can do to improve my experience of my business, and how I can reach further. So passion is number one. There’s nothing that can replace that.
After that, I would say that its focus. This is something that I learned…I already had this entrepreneurial spirit. When I was even younger, and even in school, I always had these things happening, these little schemes running. As I grew, I learned that the more you focus, the more you decide on one thing that you’re going to be the best in the world in, that’s a lot more powerful than trying to split your energy and split your resources to five different ventures, five different ideas. And it took me years to actually implement this because I was all over the place for years.
Liam: Well, focus can be hard to develop. If passion and focus are the tools of success, what’s the single most important thing you can do every day to be successful?
Vito: The best thing that you can do is have a daily plan. The way that I would say is what I like to do is I plan tomorrow, today. That’s how I call it. So every evening, I just sit down and figure out, “Okay, what’s going to happen tomorrow?” I also have my 30-day attack plan, as I like to call it, which is like every 30 days you have the goals for the month, and what you need to achieve by the end of this month. The daily thing is just a breakdown of the plan that you’ve done before that.
But by doing this, you’re not thinking. Again, it comes back to that focus. You don’t need to spread yourself too thin if you are just executing. If you know what the days looks like, and you just follow the plan that you stated a day before, and you just follow your own instructions, then you’re not going to end up spending an hour on Facebook mindlessly scrolling down. Or if something wasn’t done, you wouldn’t allow yourself to go and watch Netflix or do these kinds of stuff that are just sucking out energy in my mind. So planning generates focus, and execution generates success.
Tara: Yeah. Is that something that you learned as you’ve grown this business? Or did you have this same model when you were in your band – you always been organized and productive focused?
Vito: I was very productive focused, but I was very far from being organized. It was all like things were just thrown my way, and I’ll just be turning fires and just running with different ideas and every new shiny thing was just was drawing me to it. I had to learn it.
And it’s something that you do over time. I guess the more you’re in business, or the more you’re doing entrepreneurial activities, you’re recognizing patterns. You see the ups and you see the lows, and you’re starting seeing things from a little bigger perspective that allows you to not jump on everything that comes your way and just say, “Okay, this will pass because I saw with similar stuff that happened. And if not, I can jump on the bandwagon later on, and that will still be fine. So right now, I’m just going to focus on what I already planned on doing.” It took a long time to get this down.
I still need structure and discipline to make it happen every day. It’s not easy. It’s a lot easier to just end up walking around talking to the team, just scrolling on Facebook and doing all these kind of random things. But it all comes down to just that list. I knew that at 1:30 today, I’m meeting you guys. So there’s no way I’m going to lose my focus on that.
Tara: Right. Well, it sounds like that’s probably helped you get to where you are with your company and with your business. Do you use it at all to help you stop working? Because I can tell you’re passionate about what you’re doing. And you said that you work a lot and that you love it. But you’ve also said that you love music and you’re able to spend time in the evenings doing that. So do you structure that to force yourself to stop working? For me, that’s important, and I’m not very good at it. So I’m wondering if you have any tips or if you’re successful in that way.
Vito: And I’m not that successful in that way. I do keep working. If something needs to be done, I’ll make it happen. That’s my mindset around this. Even if it means trying to work on a Saturday or a few more hours later. I just try to make sure that the load that I’m giving myself will be spread out throughout the week. So I don’t need to do that. But especially now with the launch and everything, hours are piling up because once I finished my day stuff, then the other stuff are still there. The stuff that didn’t get attention while I was focused doing my day to day work, like replying to sales requests or making sure that everything is happening on plan with the roadmap and all of these kinds of things that are just on top.
Running Facebook ads, that’s now the big focus for me in the past few days. So I would say that in addition to the action to the intense action hours of the day, I do have a couple of hours that are allocated to learning. And whatever is left after that, I try to make it happen. If not, they’re just going to be rolled over to the next day because I didn’t plan tomorrow today.
But I think that learning is a huge, huge part of this. And this is something that I never stopped doing. I love buying courses. This is another passion of mine. I buy courses, and I just implement as much as I can. Even if it’s a massive course, and I can only take two nuggets, two gold nuggets out of it, that’s fine with me. I’ll just take these and say thank you and move on to the next piece of information I can consume.
Tara: That’s a lot of information. You’ve shared a lot of good ideas and thoughts and I guess in its own way advice with us, which is something else that we ask our guests to share. And that’s if you’ve received any advice that has been really meaningful and helpful to you that you’ve incorporated into your life that you can share with us. Is there one thing that comes to mind when you approach your day or your business that has really stuck with you that you can share?
Vito: Yes. I have my inspiration wall. I can show you guys because I have the camera here. But this is something that… Let me show you. My entire office wall is like a huge cork… What do you call that? Cork wall?
Liam: Corkboard. You have it. Corkboard.
Vito: Exactly. It’s a wallpaper of corkboard where I just add all of my ideas and all of my aspirations. So whenever I look up, it’s there right in front of me with my immediate goals. This is something that I took from Sam Ovens, who has an amazing course. I don’t know if you heard of this guy. But he is the guy behind consulting.com. His course is just incredible.
He talked about just having a small corkboard with a few ideas next to you. But I exaggerated it as I often do. So now the whole wall is just filled with ideas and concepts and my client avatars and my funnels and my journey from before until three years ahead and my immediate goal in terms of how much revenue per month, my immediate goal in terms of how many clients or users. Now it’s changed to users. Everything is up there.
Liam: Is that overwhelming at all?
Vito: Actually, it gives you clarity because instead of shuffling through your mind, which that’s… Because my mind is racing, or it’s always racing with kind of different stuff all the time. And just having it out there and knowing that this is what I need to look at and this is what I need to focus actually gives you a lot more clarity than trying to run these ideas again and again.
Liam: Yeah, I can see that where if it’s up there, and it’s clearly laid out, – we got a quick view of it, but it looked like it was pretty well structured – that it would be helpful to have those regular reminders.
Vito: Yeah, yeah. I try to go there like once. There’s even something cool here that within the beta group while we’re doing this product, I posted something on there. As soon as you post something on a Facebook group, you can see who saw it. As soon as you click there’s who seen this post. So as soon as I click there, literally seconds after there was only like five people in there, but they all look the same. So it’s all like black and white pictures, scruffy, had a bit of a beard, bald, most of them. Liam, you’re exactly my target audience.
Liam: I don’t have a scruffy beard. I trimmed it today. I trimmed it. Come on now.
Vito: That kind of laid back, not suited up kind of people. So I took this picture, and I was like, “Oh my god, this is so amazing.” I printed it out and now it’s there on the wall. So I see these five people every time I go into the office. And these are my bosses as of now.
Liam: Vito, we’ve got a couple of minutes left, and I want to ask you a different question. If you had a magic wand, and you could bring your band back to life and live that dream, or wave your magic wand and maybe be six months to a year down the road with WP Feedback, and everything’s going swimmingly, what would you do? What would you do? What is your heart telling you?
Vito: When it comes to the band, I wouldn’t do it again, to be honest. A lot of times when we’re doing something out of passion, we lose track of reality. Even though it was an amazing experience, and this is exactly what we imagined when we were 14 in our bedroom, jumping up and down with the guitars, it was really hard. When you live on the road and you don’t have your headquarters, it makes life tough. I wouldn’t do that again.
With WP Feedback, yes, I would jump ahead. I would definitely jump six months ahead just to see, even if it’s just put a glimpse, to see what’s going on, and to see if all the stuff that I’m doing now actually worked. Because you never know. Whatever you do, only in retrospect you can say this was a great move or not. So yeah, that I would.
Liam: Fair enough. Well, on that note, we’re going to have to leave it here because we are out of time. Vito, what an absolute pleasure getting to spend time with you today on our virtual hallway. Thank you so much for joining us.
Vito: Yeah, it was definitely my pleasure.
Tara: Thank you.
Liam: Before we say goodbye to you, Vito, please share where people can find you online.
Vito: Sure. You can go to wpfeedback.co. It’s a really revolutionary kind of tool, so you definitely want to check that out. Also if you have some questions, or you want to reach out to me, you can go to our Facebook group, which is WP Feedback Community. There’s a really interesting and a really nice buzz. This group is buzzing. I’ve done these things many times before and I haven’t really had this similar experience with how much people just love something, how they feel as passionate as I am about this product. So you should join us at the WP Feedback Community. I think that’s it.
Tara: Thank you. I look forward to checking that out, and your band.
Liam: Chase the Ace. Thanks, Vito. We’ll see you soon. Bye for now.
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