Mixergy and Jason Cohen – Best Business Advice Ever

I have been a long-time listener and viewer of Mixergy content and have to say it’s always top-notch.  Each interview I listen to always has a takeaway for me, always a useful nugget to try.  Andrew Warner, host and founder of Mixergy, recently talked with Jason Cohen of WP Engine.  This interview was over-the-top for me with all the goodness Jason shared.

For me, this interview had it all.  Jason discussed how he and his time started WP Engine but more importantly how they found customers before actually creating the product.  This is so important and seems to be to most difficult part of starting a business.  We developers tend to have an idea for a product, go out and create it and then sit back and wait for customers..who never come because you created something no one wanted.  Jason discusses and idea he had which potential customers did not want to pay for and he dropped it.  WP Engine was customer tested before it was conceived.

Jason found potential customers via LinkedIn:

The first one is, I’ll tell you how we did some tools for consultants, and I’ll tell you how I got a hold of those consultants and how I got them on the phone. It’s exactly what I did, and anyone can do this. You go to LinkedIn, and you search for the type of person that you want to interview. In this case it was WordPress Consultants, but you could say just people who have WordPress in their blog, you could say designers, you could say anything obviously, there’s something you can do on LinkedIn to roughly find them.

Then I simply went through anyone that I could find, and, of course, looked through their information a little to see if it would make sense. And I found people who were professionals, that is, they charge money for their time. Then, I contacted every one of them, which is easy, since, as they are consultants you can find them and their e-mail addresses and they answer it because that’s their sales line. So, it’s very easy to contact people who are professionals in the field. So, I would send an e-mail to each one, and this is what I’d say exactly. I’d say, “Hey, we’re thinking of building these new tools for WordPress.

You are exactly the kind of person who we’d want to use these tools. I would love to get your opinion on what you’re doing because it seems like you’re someone who’s doing something nice in the world and I care what you think. I also know that you’re a consultant and you have an hourly rate, and I’m happy to pay for your time, in fact, you can quote any rate you want since this is just a one off. If you want to charge $200 an hour for the one call, I’m okay with that because I’m not just trying to “pick your brain”, I will compensate you for your valuable time but I really want to know what you think.”

Here’s the result, I had 30 hours of interviews, because I literally logged them so I know. One hundred percent of them agreed to the interview, and one hundred percent of them said “Oh, you don’t have to pay me. This would be fine.” OK? This is why I’m saying anyone could do it. And, by the way, they didn’t really know who I was per se, because I didn’t come through a blog.

Discussion of the growing pains associated with WP Engine are discussed in detail, what worked and what didn’t.  If every business did this we would all learn so much.

This blog is hosted on WP Engine and I have seen those growing pains first hand.  During the early months it seemed this blog was down more than it was up.  Support at the company was what kept me from pulling the plug, fast response and even when they didn’t have an answer they were transparent and explained the issues were not resolved.  I’m sure I have needed more support than most others but each time WP Engine support is there, willing to help and solve the problem. This kept me as a customer.

Other areas which hit home that Jason discussed:

  • Partners
  • Transparency
  • Marketing
  • Contracting
  • Assistants
  • Giving Up

Anyone who has an idea or is struggling getting to the next level should take the time to listen to this interview, maybe even twice.  Take notes and try some things out.  I would call this episode a blueprint for business.

Blog Move to WPEngine

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I have been having a lot of problems lately with my self-hosted WordPress instance on one of my Linode “slices”.  It seems around 2:00 AM, starting a few weeks ago, CPU utilization would spike to astronomical numbers and only get worse.  The solution was to reboot the node and things would return to normal.  This is not exactly a great way to spend my time as I am not a Linux admin guru nor do I want to be.

The strange thing about this sudden CPU problem is that nothing had changed on the node, no configuration changes, no upgrades…nothing.  Peering at the processes causing the issue revealed the culprit to be Apache.  A few hours of trying to fix this myself made me come to the realization that I was really wasting my time and I needed to move my WordPress site to someone who knew what they were doing.

After a bit of investigating and feature/price comparison, I settled on WPEngine.    They offer just about every feature that made me self-host in the first place, including being able to manage my installation; WP versions, plugins, themes, skins, etc.  They do offer things better than my self-hosting provided:

  • Managed Linux, PHP, MySQL, etc.
  • DDos Protection
  • Managed Backups
  • Memcached
  • Managed Firewall

These are all the things I don’t want to have to worry about and don’t have the skills to manage correctly.

So as of January 12th, this blog now runs on WPEngine.  Oh, they also offer expert support and I can vouch for it.  I took full advantage of it after totally hosing up importing my current blog into the new site.  They helped me quickly and I was up and running in a matter of a couple hours, it actually took the longest for the DNS changes to take effect.

The company consists of industry veterans who are WordPress experts indeed.

The site seems much snappier now and I don’t have to worry about CPU utilization on it any longer.