Introducing Dave Smith
Dave Smith is the founder of Gravity Wiz and a Rocketgenius developer since Gravity Forms’ infancy. He is a fun, friendly guy who enjoys being productive just a little too much.
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 77.
Tara: Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Tara Claeys.
Liam: I’m Liam Dempsey. Today, we’re joined by Dave Smith. Dave is the founder of Gravity Wiz and a Rocketgenius developer since Gravity Forms infancy. He is fun, friendly guy who enjoys being productive just a little too much. He says he is still working on that. Hi Dave! Welcome to the show.
Dave: Hey Liam and Tara. How’s it going?
Tara: Good! We’re so glad you’re here with us today. Can you tell us more about yourself?
Dave: You know? I’m just a regular old guy who’s been working in the WordPress space for a while and like I said, I really enjoy working and really enjoy meeting new people in the community. So let’s chat.
Tara: Alright. Well start by telling us how you got started.
Dave: So basically my experience with WordPress kind of begins with Rocketgenius. We all worked at a company together before the day. Those three guys over there Carl, Alex and Kevin. They left another company called Channel Blade and started Rocketgenius. Then, maybe a year after they started that (this was before Gravity Forms this time) I got laid off of from Channel Blade. As soon as they found out, they called me up. They were like hey! Do you want to come to work with us? We’ve got this really cool product that working on there’s lots of really cool stuff you could do here. I said of course! I don’t have a job. I’m willing to do anything!
Liam: That’s a timely offer.
Dave: Yeah. So I got over there and basically it’s just been WordPress and Gravity Forms ever since.
Tara: Well I know that I have used Gravity Forms for just about as long as I have been in WordPress. While we don’t endorse products, I will admit I am a fan of Gravity Forms and enjoy using it. Tell us a little bit about what it’s been like being there since it started and seeing the evolution of Gravity Forms and other form plugins coming into place and how that has been for you.
Dave: It’s been a lot of fun. Just kind of taking a step back from Gravity Forms itself, just working at Rocketgenius has been an experience. They really take a lot of pride and care in their employees. Then again, I have been friends with these guys for a long, long time as well so that adds another level of intimacy to that working experience. Anytime you’re in a company that basically is family (again, I’ve known these guys for 12 going on 13 years now) it’s fun! It’s just like every day you go in, it’s like a second home going into the office. It doesn’t feel at all uncomfortable there. It’s great. We just get together and we really ironed out some productive working patterns. We all know each other’s personalities now. We know which hills to fight and die on and which ones where you ask you know what? I want to pass on this one. Of course, like when I first started with them way back when I was 18 (I am 31 now) I have matured a lot and they have also matured. So it really is (like I said, I will probably keep beating on that motif) it really is like family. When you grow up with somebody you know? So it’s been awesome as far as seeing Gravity Forms itself also grow in that kind of setting. We brought a lot of new people on the team now so that dynamic has definitely changed a little bit. I think you lose a little bit of that intimacy when everyone’s local and every one is in the same office and everyone has known everyone for so long. But then it’s also nice because it adds like so much (I don’t know the word is) but you just get new perspectives and new opinions and new blood into an old body. It comes alive again. So you kind of see these resurgences of ingenuity and motivation when you bring a new exciting employee on board. Especially in a small company like that where I’ve seen an employee have a huge impact. So yeah. As far as how it’s done in the community as a whole? You know you’re probably going to hear me talk about this too. I have really liked pulled back from the community so I really don’t actually have a great perspective. I kind of adopted like five or six years ago, I kind of adopted this idea that I didn’t want to be too distracted by what everybody else is doing. I knew what I wanted to do with Gravity Forms and my own thing. I just found myself like kind of get into that comparison game a little too much. I was like you know what? I’m just gonna ignore everything else. I am going to do what I’m really enjoying and what feels good to me. I’ll leave Carl. Carl always is the one with his eyes on the community. He’s always like watching what plays people are making and who’s moving which pawn pieces. So I can let him do that. I’ve just been along for the ride. I’m working hard and enjoying it.
Tara: I think that’s a good answer to the question. That’s how you have evolved and responded to the environment that you are in. What a great testimonial to your workplace and the environment that you are so enthusiastic about your coworkers and the team that you have. It sounds like it’s really, you’ve been there long time. You don’t see people staying 13 years or 12 years that you’ve been there? That’s a long relationship. So you have your own side gig related to Gravity Forms. How does that work alongside your employment with them?
Dave: So it is interesting and people are always like okay so let’s talk about the elephant in the room here, like the conflict of interest there. I’m not sure that you could do that in any company. But I think there is a certain amount of luxuries of being a family is that there is a lot of trust there on both sides. Me: that they’re not going to eat me up. Them: that I’m not gonna do anything to hurt the company. So when you have the idea that I’ve heard expressed internally is Gravity Forms just really wants to encourage the third-party ecosystem you know? Whatever they and you know we can do to allow that ecosystem to blossom we really want to do. I am not sure if you’re familiar that we actually just released a new community section of the website which includes a directory of add-ons as well as new forums that are unofficially supported. We don’t provide official support there but we’re still keeping an eye on it. We’re trying to encourage people. But the idea is to encourage the community to have a place that you know we’ve officially endorsed to go and communicate. As long as our end goals are aligned and that everyone involved wants Gravity Forms to succeed, then there really ends up not really being a big conflict of interest. I learned early on to talk to Carl. He’s pretty much like the project manager I guess you could say of Gravity Forms. I would just talk to him early on. Like now, whenever I have a new idea for an add-on for our plugin for Gravity Forms, I’ll just talk to him. Like Hey! This is what I was thinking. Where is this on our internal roadmap? He is always very forthcoming. He wants you to do the things that internally we’re not planning pursuing because again, it helps the community.
Liam: Just to clarify for listeners, Carl is Carl Hancock of Rocketgenius for people who don’t know who he is. That is really interesting that supporting the wider form ecosystem, Gravity Form ecosystem and ensuring that Rocketgenius doesn’t pursue an avenue of development or functionality, that if somebody else is willing to explore how to make that happen that it sounds like it’s more just more than just a high-five. You probably have some development ideas where you can get the assistance with that too.
Dave: Oh absolutely. Carl is definitely a thinker you know? He’s like one of those guys that when you pitch an idea to him, he’ll come back to you with honestly, sometimes more than you are really looking for. But it’s all good. It’s all good feedback. You’re just like ah Dang it. I didn’t really think about that complexity you know? He has already thought through it for you. You’re just like Dang. Now I need to go back to the drawing board and rethink this original core idea I had.
Liam: Yeah, I get that. You’re just want a little like yes or no. Oh wow that’s not gonna get done this weekend is it?
Dave: People want to do that? He’s like yeah these are all the use cases. I’ve seen it. I am like wow! So it’s pretty awesome. He’s definitely one of those people you typically don’t want to go to him and surprise him with an idea. He’s like yeah, I’ve been thinking about that. I’m like oh, ok.
Liam: That’s awesome. So let me ask you little bit about success as we’re talking about having a productive enjoyable workplace and a business on the side. Then I’ll ask you to tell us about your business little bit more later in this conversation. I want to ask you what is your definition of success? How would you define it in a personal way or in a professional way. Maybe the two overlap.
Dave: Dang! Good question. I think most people would agree, success is like a moving target, you know? I think it’s human nature to never be completely satisfied with where you’re at and always to want more. But I think that for me now I really have measured especially in the last few years, I measure success by being able to do what I want to do rather than in a mile marker you know? I spent a month in Croatia in 2018. It was just an incredible experience. It was one of those moments where you are just sitting back on a Croatian beach sipping a Croatian beer and you are like wow! This is a good life! Instead of chasing a certain amount money or a certain amount of sales, it’s like my lifestyle or my business and everything that I am doing for work allows me to do this. To be clear, when I was there, I was still working on Rogetgenius. I was still working on my Gravity Wiz stuff. I felt very successful. I think that they do overlap as far as the personal and the professional. I think that kind of comes with the idea of when you, even though I work for Rocketgenius I still very much work for myself with the Gravity Wiz thing. Working for Rocketgenius is more or less working for yourself because it’s not like a don’t look over your shoulder at what you’re doing. It’s very much ok. This is what we need you to do. Just get it done at such and such date. Outside of that, if you want to come into the office, come into the office. If you don’t want to come into the office, don’t come into the office. So it’s a very casual work environment where I think that with most people you would have the same struggles that people have with working remotely anywhere and working for themselves. You have the same struggles with Rocketgenius because of just how casual it is.
Liam: So that success is a moving target and success is being able to do want you want to do. I want to circle back to the way that we introduced you. It was an introduction that you helped formulate with us. It was about being overly productive or too focused on productive. I guess that probably means you set goals for yourself maybe around the business or around personal hobbies or around travel or whatever it may be. Sometimes you lose the forest for the trees or you get so busy trying to make that goal happen that the enjoyment and the fun of it is lost because you’re sweating the deadline of the detail of whatever the work is. Is that accurate? If so, talk us through that. How do you balance that? How do you say to yourself or learn not to be overly productive?
Dave: So I’m definitely in the position now where a lot of my struggles with work are no longer deadline oriented. Even my personal deadlines of oh! You have to have this certain project done by such and such date. I think most of my stuff now is (especially with selling a product online) there is a certain grind to it, you know? You get really excited when you open up like a fresh notepad and you’re about to start your first email or your first newsletter or whatever you’re doing. It’s the same thing you know when you start an actual software project. You open up the file, you have your nice little filename and your about to start writing code. It’s so motivational at that time point. Once you’re like (I think we’re 6 or 7 years into Gravity Wiz now) there’s a point where your grinding it out, you know? You’re just like ok. I’m not incredibly motivated today but I need to do this work. I need to get it done. I think to some people that might sound like, I don’t know like sad or it might take a little of the sheen off of an otherwise that sounds so awesome working for yourself and having your own business. I think that anything worthwhile in life is going to have it hardships as well. I don’t remember if you guys are married Liam and Tara, but it’s the same deal with marriage. It’s not always easy. You’re not always in the honeymoon phase. I think the best managers are the ones that really put in the grind work day in day out. Like waking up and saying hey! I’m going to keep doing this marriage. I feel the same way about business. You just keep doing it even when it gets tough. It’s cyclical. You’re going to go through phases where you are just as excited as the first the first time you started that project.
Liam: Yeah. Absolutely. I can say that Tara and I are married, but not to each other. We have both been married for a number of years at the very least. I really do appreciate that cyclical nature of whether it’s lifework, newsletters, marriage, or parenting. Being a parent is awesome and great but there are some days where it’s a challenge. It doesn’t mean that I love my children less on those days. If anything I love them more because I force myself to do what needs to done or at least I listen when I get told to do it and I go and do it anyway even though I don’t want to in the moment. So yeah, I get that. Your analogy around newsletters was great because I use that a lot with my clients. I say hey! We should have a newsletter. Newsletters are really fantastic and everybody loves doing them until the fourth issue.
Dave: Oh yeah.
Liam: Like what else are we going to say? That’s good, I like that. I like that kind of perspective.
Dave: If I could, I’d like to tie this back into the actual, original question which was like the balance aspect. For me, that grind is about setting limits on how much I will grind, you know? One of the big things I’ve been dealing with right now is support. It just never ends. It’s always coming in. So I had to make some commitments with myself as far as what I would actually do for support. One of those is, I’m not going to do evenings anymore. I am just not going to work evenings because I want to have more time to do things that aren’t about WordPress, aren’t about Gravity Forms, and aren’t about sitting in front of a computer. And evenings just seems like a very natural time to go out and be social and do fun things. So get up early and work hard all day long but once I’m done with my Rocketgenius day that’s it. I think that has been a really healthy but challenging limit that I’ve been placing on myself. So if you guys see me providing support in the night, don’t judge me.
Dave: I’m still a work in progress.
Tara: I was going to ask if that’s hard because people who like to be productive and who work for themselves (as you’re defining it, right) there’s really never an end to the support tickets. It’s a bottomless, endless thing. There are always more coming it. You’re never done.
Tara: You’re never done so you have to be able to call what the end of the day is. I have a hugely hard time with that. I’ll find myself procrastinating through the day and it’s 5 o’clock and my list is still pretty long. I know I can just keep going, right?
Dave: Oh yeah.
Tara: I think that’s a real struggle even if you set that as a goal for yourself; sticking to that goal and shutting off when you say you’re going to.
Dave: Oh yeah. Not only shutting off like the computer but shutting off your mind after you’re away from the computer. That’s been a real struggle for me my entire career. I would turn off the computer and then I would still be sitting on the couch thinking about the problems. You know?
Tara: Then you have to get up and get on your computer because you don’t want to forgot. I have gotten up out of bed. Oh my gosh! I forgot to change the settings on the site I just launched today to allow it to be searched by Google. It’s some silly thing like that that pops into your head that you need to go take care of right away.
Tara: I want to ask you a little bit more about that Croatia experience that you had and what that took for you in terms of (I want to use the word courage). It takes a little bit of gusto or moxie or whatever the word is to actually pick up and do that. We all dream about it and talk about it, especially as we get to a certain point where you’re comfortable where you are. Making a move like that as exciting and awesome as it is when you’re there, I think motivation to do it can sometimes actually be hard. Was it hard for you or am I making that up?
Dave: No. I completely agree. It was definitely one of those things or ideas that sounded like a good idea when I signed up. The closer I got to it, the more I was like dang! Why did I sign up for this? This is going to be so intense. It’s going to be so grueling to try to get all my work done while I’m in a different place with a completely new work set up. Yeah. It’s like one of those things, once I got there it was like this is not a big deal. Then I realized I made it up. Beforehand, it’s all a mental game. I’m actually going to South Africa in January.
Tara: Oh cool. I was going to ask if you were going to do something else like that.
Dave: Yeah. I went with an organization which was one of those things that made it a lot easier to pull the trigger on it. It’s called WiFi Tribe. What they do is basically just get a bunch of remote workers that have their own remote work and then invite them to come to such and such place. They have a whole list of chapters. That’s what they call each destination they have. So you just go and sign up. Then you show up there. Like I didn’t even know where I was going to be staying until three days before I got on the plane to fly to Croatia. But you get there and they kind of give you a real quick like hey! Welcome to Croatia! Here’s where you’re going to be staying. Here are the 19 other people that are kind of in your group. We will meet you guys in a week. Every week we will touch base with you. We make sure that you’re enjoying yourselves. Other than that just live your lives here and have fun.
Tara: I just pulled up the website. Oh my gosh! This looks amazing. How cool! What a great thing to have discovered.
Dave: Yeah. It’s funny because I was actually reading an article when I discovered it. The article was actually bashing the idea of doing this. It was saying all the bad things about it. I was like this sounds awesome! What are you talking about? This sounds like the perfect way to travel.
Tara: Yeah. The photos on here…wow! Very Cool!
Dave: You meet some really awesome people too. I think that if you have the interest and the courage to go and can make that jump, you can imagine the other kinds of people that have that same interest and courage.
Tara: Did your wife go with you?
Dave: No. Oddly enough I am divorced.
Tara: Oh sorry!
Dave: Which is…no…I’m not sensitive about it all. That’s how I knew that marriages took a lot of grind work. But yeah, so it’s been like five years. It’s not a sensitive subject at all. That was part of my like hey! I’m getting old and I want to make sure that I look back and feel like I did something that I’m proud of and that I experienced life. Again, I was really glad I went. It was definitely really an awesome experience.
Liam: Awesome! That is really neat. I like that. I like that. You already covered the question that I was going to come up with. It’s logistics and how did you decide where to stay and where to go. It sounds like all you to do was go on the website and pick.
Dave: That’s right.
Liam: That makes it logistically easy.
Liam: Having moved internationally a couple of times, it’s not very easy when there is more than one person involved. It gets even harder when you start to have children moving too.
Dave: Yeah. I can imagine.
Liam: If there had been a WiFi Tribe when I wanted to move from wherever I was, it would have been a lot easier. Dave? I want to ask you another one of our big questions if I can. It’s about advice. What is the single most valuable piece of advice (it may be personal or may be professional) it may be both that you’ve ever received and successfully implemented into your life?
Dave: I am going to loop back to kind of what I was mentioning earlier when Tara asked me about how I thought about the community with the other add-ons around Gravity Forms (not add-ons but actual plugins and other forms plugins). There is value in knowing what your competitors are doing. It can also be just incredibly disruptive and distracting from what you actually want to do. I think a lot of time, people talk about when how the iPhone came out it was at this revolutionary product and then you know in the years that followed pretty much all other phones became iPhones. I think to a large degree like I just really come to value just focusing on your own vision and trying to not be so heavily influenced by what other people are doing. You know, obviously stay in the loop. Don’t completely seclude yourself from the community. But at the same time develop some convictions about what you want to build and then just dig deep and build it. I think that you’re going to feel so much more satisfaction in that then just trying to play feature tag where if they do this feature then we’re going to do that feature. If they do that feature then we’ll do that feature. What do you want to do? OK, now do that.
Liam: Yeah. I think that makes a lot of sense. I’m no part product owner or product developer. I’m a services guy (as is Tara). She’s a services woman. But that whole point of yes it matters what our competitors or other people in the community are doing, I don’t even use the word competitors, I don’t see other agencies and providers as competitors. But what others are doing because we don’t want to be out of touch but I also want to run my business the way I want it to run so that when I have to grind, it’s something that I still want to grind about so to speak.
Liam: Cool! I like that. I’m going to ask you another question unless Tara there’s something you want to jump on about. Dave? I want to talk to you about challenges. Maybe I’ll even focus it a little bit because you haven’t shared much about Gravity Wiz yet. I would like to hear about that especially as we’re not that far away from all the the holiday season here in America…things like Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday and there’s got to be a Wednesday at some point coming up. What’s been with respect to Gravity Wiz (you said it’s been going about 6 or 7 years now) what has been your biggest challenge to date and how did you overcome it? Or if it’s a current challenge, how are you working on it? How are you trying to get over it?
Dave: Honestly, I think it touches on pretty much every single thing that we talked about today. I think that just historically the biggest challenge I’ve had is when you’re doing something alone, you have no support system to lean back on when you’re just…when you’re done with the grind. You’re over it. You’re exhausted. When you’re going solo there’s just nothing to fall back on. So then what happens is you fall back on nothing. You just stop for a little while and then you kind of get back into it again. I think one of the best things I ever did was I brought my brother and a guy named Clay Griffiths on board as partners. That definitely helped with the motivation so much. Just like you know on the days that you’re off they’re on. It’s just encouraging. Also, just knowing that ok like this at this one really big challenge you’ve got to to work on. Just knowing that you have somebody that you can reach out to and just get that assist with is huge. Then the other challenge I really have Gravity Wiz was it was definitely a very very slow start as far as getting the return on investment. So at the beginning there were definitely like a lot of times where I was like comparing myself to how successful other products have been. I’ll just look at it and it would just discourage me so much. I was just like wow! This product came out and it made this much in the first year and I haven’t even made you know that much in the first two years. So you know you can really internalize those feelings if you dwell on them too much. That was around the same time where you know what? I am going stop looking at what other people are doing. Again, I think some people aren’t as susceptible to that. I think I’ve grown a lot since I started this policy of not comparing myself. Now I can look at some other person’s success and not feel threatened by it and feel a little bit more like celebratory for them. I’m glad you’re successful. I think that also ties into what I was saying earlier about how I measure success now. I measure success by am my living the life I want to live rather than is my product or business making the right amount of money? It’s so arbitrary. It doesn’t really matter. I want for nothing right now therefore I should be happy. I think when you start to embrace that idea you just become happy.
Tara: I like that. That you want for nothing and you’re happy. You were always kind of looking for what’s the next thing.
Dave: Yeah, absolutely.
Tara: Being where you is a great realization to come to.
Dave: I think of that comes with age as well. Like you just get a little older and things just don’t matter as much as when you’re younger you know?
Liam: Different things matter.
Dave: Yeah absolutely.
Liam: But that comparison circle that am I doing as well as the next team. Am I making as much money? That’s something that we measure by in modern standards. Well at some point money becomes important because it’s hard to pay bills without it. But yeah if our needs are simple then $100 goes a lot further than if we need the latest and greatest of everything.
Liam: I imagine I can tell just from to chatting with you that you are not an overly stressful guy (at least in this conversation here). I imagine the lack of that constant stress, worry, or recurring stress and worries are probably worth a fair amount of money. It hard to put a dollar amount on it. But yeah, I don’t need the extra money if I can avoid that worry or stress.
Dave: Absolutely! I made a lot financial sacrifices in order to get rid of stresses. I got rid of my…in 2017 I actually spent an entire year as my New Year’s goal…I’m going to get rid of everything in my life that causes me stress. The biggest thing was I actually had a rental property. It was on the advice like (I love you dad if you ever hear this) but my dad had gotten me to buy this or he encouraged me strongly to buy a house when I was really young. I bought it and the market crashed. I was just like man I’m going to landlord it now until after the market crash and I make my money back. Eventually I just realized (again in 2017) like this house is causing me so much stress. So I took a huge hit to get rid of it. But I have never been happier to just get rid of something. It was such a relief. It was one of those things I didn’t realize how stressful it was to me until I was actually rid of it. Then I was just like oh wow! I can live the rest of my life like this?
Tara: That was a big step.
Tara: Yeah. It’s hard to make those decision sometimes. I think you are right when you look back. It seems easier because you realize
Dave: how well it has panned out.
Tara: how it resonates In your life.
Liam: This is awesome. Dave? This has been a fantastic conversation. A half an hour has come upon us way to quickly.
Dave: Yeah. It snuck away from me too. I was like Dang! Is that countdown right?
Liam: So before we say goodbye to you please share with us and actually you didn’t really even get into it. So can you in about 30 seconds or so tell us who Gravity Wiz is? And as part of that or maybe when you’re done with the 30 second overview, tell us where people can find you online.
Dave: Absolutely. So Gravity Wiz is just the company behind our plugin called Gravity Perks which is just a suite of just really solid Gravity Forms plugins and our biggest thing is support. We support the heck out of these add-ons you know? You’re not going to find any Gravity Forms add-ons that are supported as well as these. You can find us at GravityWiz.com. Actually, that’s part of my year of stress. I actually got rid of everything except for Gravity Wiz. So that’s the only thing I do now besides Rocketgenius.
Tara: Great. Thank you very much.
Liam: That’s awesome.
Tara: Thanks again for joining us.
Dave: Thank you Tara. Thank you Liam.
Liam: We’ll see you soon.
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