For my first WordCamp of 2020, I’ll be in Atlanta April 18-19th. I’ll be giving a talk on WordPress Security: Demystified, which is really just a companion talk to my blog post “The No Bullsh*t Guide to WordPress Security” posted over on tinyShield. I can’t wait to visit Atlanta again and see all the wonderful WordPress people of the area. We’ll see you there!
On August 20th, 2018 I committed the first version of tinyShield, a new security plugin for WordPress, to the WordPress repository. Since then, the plugin has slowly increased from version 0.1.3 to 0.2.5 in just a few short months. Development has been steady both on the plugin and backend and more is coming in the way of marketing and partnerships. Below you will find the article I wrote on the tinyShield.me website giving the back story on how the idea came about and what the plugin does.
I’m proud of the little plugin and I whole heartedly believe it will grow quickly and bring together the protection of WordPress sites through the cloud sourcing functionality. Read more below!
Tomorrow night, I’ll become the Board Chairman of the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce. This is a first for me. This is actually the first official board that I’ve served on and that just happened just last year. In preparation for the evening, I had to write a speech. For historical purposes, this is that speech. You know, just in case.
There have been several times in my life that I have inherited the reins of an organization from others, and every time that I stand in front of a group of people and accept those reins, I am reminded of the very first time. It was my senior year in high school that I was chosen to lead the Central Davidson Spartans JROTC Battalion as the Battalion Commander. Imagine a 17 year old version of Adam Sewell, no beard, no salt and pepper hair; standing in front of a large group of strange people, with absolutely no preparation of a speech – nervous, and standing in front of podium just like this one. With nods to Winston Churchill, George Washington and other famous public speakers, I started blurting out what I could pry out of my mind at that time. Unfortunately for me, the only thing I could come up with was…. “Let’s Do Great Things”. That was it. That’s the entire speech. I mustered a chuckle and stepped away from the podium. Fortunately or possibly unfortunately for you all tonight, I’m better at preparing now and can also wing it just a hair more efficiently.
So starting out tonight, I would like to thank those who thought it a good idea to put me into this position. All I can say is, let’s see what happens. Secondly, I would like to thank everyone who has ever served and is currently serving on the Chamber Board of Directors and as Chamber Ambassadors. These people are those who made this organization what it is, a beacon for business progress in this community.
As we start down the road that is 2018, I want to continue to build upon the work others have already started. I want the chamber to continue to play the role it always has – to be a champion for the small business owner. To give opportunities to people like myself in ways of networking, to engage in the community, to help others, and all while attempting to make Lexington a better place to live, work and play. However, for some, it may not be clear what the chamber actually does.
Before ever stepping on the board last year, one of the questions that I struggled with myself and heard others state was “What does or what can the chamber do for me?”. I probably have heard more people than I have toes and fingers ask this very question. I have made it one of my goals this year to answer that question for the members of the chamber, potential members in the community, and for the general public. There are a few ideas in how we can accomplish this and we will be working on this in the very near future. I want it to be easy to say, “This is what the chamber does for me.”
Furthermore, there are so many small jewels of business here in Lexington that are members of our Chamber. Companies that some may have heard of or may have seen their logo but have no idea what they do, who they are or exactly how far their reach is. Companies that have clientele from around the world, have won awards in their industry, have wonderful, friendly people working hard to make their own path in the world. And we just simply drive by these buildings, day in and day out. Everyone, including myself, should pull out their Chamber directories and find two or three businesses that are located or operate within Lexington and learn more about them.
I am in a unique position with MyGeek Technologies, that we have the honor to work with a lot of these businesses on a daily basis. We see what these companies do, we see who works there, we see the value that these companies bring to our community. I want to give these businesses a platform to stand on, a group of people that are at their backs, and an organization that they can be proud to be a member of. We need to shed light on the businesses that make our community what it is.
That is my goal as chairman.
Thank you all for attending tonight – now Let’s Do Great Things!
I love visiting other towns and cities. Especially ones that are still small with more mom and pop businesses than corporate entities. The people who run these small businesses generally have more flexibility in their marketing, menus, and services, so you’ll see some experiments from time to time.
For example, I once visited a small town that had an independent frozen yogurt place. It was a nice layout, clean and the service was great. What really struck me though was what they did after I paid.
They said that for any order over five dollars, they would give the customer a gum ball. You could place the gum ball into one of three bins, each of which represented a different local charity. Whichever charity had the most gum balls at the end of the month would receive a donation from the yogurt place.
I absolutely loved the idea. It lets the customers know that this business really cares about he community. It makes the customer feel good knowing they are supporting a charity. It also helps promote the charities to the public. It’s a win for everyone.
I stored this idea away for a while but recently brought it out for a trial run. I modified the idea slightly to better fit our business model and called it MyGeeks for Charity. We picked two local charities and let the community decide which one would receive a percentage of our residential sales. The public would vote for their choice on our website, once per day for a period of three months. When the voting was over, we’d review the votes to ensure integrity and we’d award the winner a check.
We ran this from April to June and I have to say we got a great response from it. We have over 1500 votes, an article in the newspaper, and most importantly new business. I continue to have people comment on the contest and what a great idea it was.
What’s even better is that all parties involved gained visibility during the contest and potentially new business or donors.
From our initial trial run I do believe we will do this again, but with some modifications to the contest. Primarily a shorter period of time – likely a month rather than three. In addition to the time, I will likely give a set amount rather than a percentage. The reason being we have no idea how much revenue we will have during the time and I want it to be worth everyones time since they are promoting it as well.
There’s always ideas out there for an opportunity to market your business. You have to keep an eye open and watch the small guys rather the large corporations. We small guys have much smaller budgets to work with so we are generally more creative. Go visit your favorite mom and pop restaurant, and see what they are doing differently.
Over the weekend, I gave a presentation at WordCamp Asheville that focused on customer service. As part of my presentation, I suggested that a freelancer has a process that they put each customer through. That is a onboarding, project work, and offboarding. Adhering to a process like this keeps everyone on the same page and helps to keep an open line of communication.
As I mentioned during my presentation, part of my onboarding process is to ask a series of questions to each client, a questionnaire if you will. I personally don’t have one written down but just a group of common questions that gets the drives our conversation. I don’t keep strictly to these questions, but it’s a good place to start.
Since my presentation, I had a request to share my questionnaire. Since I don’t have anything written down, I figured that I would put together the most common questions I ask my web clients.
I believe a lot of small businesses lack adequate customer service. This is especially true in the freelance market, but its also apparent in local mom and pop establishments.
Just yesterday I went to a new restaurant in town that has reopened itself under a new name, with a new menu but with the same owners. The inside of the place looks wonderful, the food was great, but the customer service experience had a lot to be desired. When I walked in there was a sign to “seat yourself”, but no clean tables were available. I stood there for several minutes with waitresses flying by and not saying a word to me. Finally, I flagged one down and asked for a table to be cleared so I could sit down.
A few weeks back, my employee’s and I were discussing how we should handle a particular situation that had arisen with one of our clients. We work with a lot of non-profits, which means we are often able to procure software for them at no cost or a reduced rate. With this client, we had assumed that the software they needed would be donated (as it had been in the past), but because of pricing changes the vendor was no longer able to donate their software. This meant additional costs that neither we nor the client had budgeted for. Thus the topic of conversation, should we pass the costs along to the client, or eat the loss?
One of my employees in particular balked at the notion of absorbing this expense for our client. “No other company out there would do that.”
As part of our business model, we offer flat rate pricing as a way to allow our clients to budget for their IT support costs. This is beneficial to them because they know what to expect and can budget for it rather than being hit with $1,000 this month and $4,000 next month. This fixed cost factors in a lot of things, including some of the software that we use for our clients. In our contract with this client, we factored in a donation from a software vendor to cover the costs of a piece of software that we would have otherwise purchased. Since this assumption had been spelled out in the contract, we could legally pass the cost on to the client. The client would most likely understand the situation, since donations come and go and they have to work with what they have. But, this would be an unexpected IT expense that they had not planned on.
After much internal and external debate, I opted to eat the cost.
The reason behind this decision is simple. This was a sudden cost that was not budgeted for by the client. Rather than forcing my client to dish out money they had not expected and risk breaking my commitment to my client (to keep costs level and expected), I’d rather be the one to take a slight hit.
So maybe my employee was right, maybe there is no other business that would do this for their client and most likely the client would understand the situation. But because I feel that trust is one of the key traits to a great client relationship, I decided to keep that trust intact. There are several traits to a great client-vendor relationship that factor into customer service, and I plan to write more about these in the future.
To sum this up, I believe it’s important to the client-vendor relationship to not break the trust of the client. That is, go above and beyond to keep to your word to the client, even if it’s not in the contract. The more the client trusts you, the longer the relationship will last.
In the computer tech and IT forums that I frequent, it seems there is always discussion about backups. What works best, or someone asking the questino to the community on how they personally handle backups; do you use onsite backups or offsite, tapes or disk. The list goes on and on.
While the backup market is huge with a number of players in the game including extremely large companies like Symantec down to really small open source guys like duplicati. It’s an ocean out there in regards to this topic and each backup solution is a fish. Each varying in characteristics and abilities but one thing remains the same; you need to catch a fish.
Late last year, I was driving around and passed one of our local coffee shops here in town and the idea just hit me. The idea sprang from other brain-storming sessions on business growth and marketing. I personally am not a fan of the buzz words “growth hacking” or the like because it all boils down to marketing. The trends in marketing change just as they do in any other industry and depending upon that, it more or less dictates what marketing methods you can use to grow your business.
For example in the business-to-business arena, traditional marketing does not have a decent return on investment (at least not in my experience.) Traditional marketing would include things like newspaper ads, radio commercials, billboards, etc. What we’ve had to do is find other methods of marketing that stick out from the normal methods used by other competitors or rely more heavily on word-of-mouth marketing to push us forward. The book “Guerrilla Marketing” reflects our approach much more than any traditional marketing method..