The Future of Prospress: Our 3 Year Goal

This is a transcript of a talk I gave at the Prospress meetup in December 2016. I’m publishing it here to share some of the philosophy of our company, and plans for our future. If you like what you read, we’re hiring and would love to chat with you.

I mentioned at the end of the Q3 townhall I was beginning work on what I called Prospress 2.0, which involved looking at the way we work to find ways we could be more effective as an organisation, especially as we grow.

That’s what I want to talk about now.

To do this, firstly I want to take a huge step back from day-to-day or even quarter-to-quarter view and look are the essence of Prospress.

Prospress is founded with the mission to help people prosper with WordPress. We proudly show those 3 words at the top of our website because they are the core of why we exist.

We do this because prosperity on the individual level gives people a special sense of pride and the means to live a better life. On the global level, prosperity can help avoid some of the awful events of history. If we can contribute in some small part to those things, our work matters, our lives have purpose and hopefully we leave the world in a slightly better way than we found it.

We focus on WordPress in our mission for many reasons. Some personal, like my fondness for the philosophy and community around it. Some more practical, like the way its popularity helps increase our impact.

Importantly, its GPL license also ensures we do it with open source, which means no one can ever take away the tools used to achieve prosperity from the people that earn it. We do our work on WooCommerce for all the same reasons.

Missions are a bit pie-in-the sky though. In practical terms, how can we achieve this mission?

How we can achieve this mission

It’s really quite simple. There are 2 approaches:

  1. We help people sell more. Ideally, we also help them sell more with WooCommerce than they could with other platforms.
  2. We help more people sell. And help them sell with WooCommerce, instead of any other platform.

With this in mind, Subscriptions was a great first product. 5 years ago, there was nothing in the world that was great at giving small business integrated recurring payments with their eCommerce platform. And automatic recurring transactions are a great way to sell more.

Robot Ninja will also help achieve the first tactic. By avoiding lost sales, it naturally will increase sales.

I hope in time, we will also start to do more of the second. In fact, if we are smart, Robot Ninja can grow into something to do the second.

So that’s the core of our mission. I hope it’s clear and meaningful for you.

One thing I’ve never done is extrapolate this mission to provide a guiding light for our work.

We’ve always loosely worked towards annual goals. In 2015, we worked towards releasing Subscriptions 2.0. In 2016, we worked toward Subscriptions 2.1 and what we called Next, which is now Robot Ninja. Both important & achievable goals in line with this purpose. But not forward-thinking and ambitious enough to really move the needle toward our mission.

As we grow, we have the opportunity to think longer term, which also allows us to be more ambitious.

I want to introduce a way for us to take advantage of those opportunities, and also help manage our growth as a team.

By 1st January 2020, 100,000 customers will sell more with WooCommerce because they use our software each month.

That’s it. A simple goal to guide our work.

Despite its simplicity, there are actually a lot of important things tied up in this goal:

  • First and most important, we need to be able to measure usage, something we can’t do yet and will need to be able to do to know we’ve achieved it.
  • It’s ambitious and will have a marked impact. If we can help 100,000 people prosper, we have made an impact with our work.
  • We are targeting customers, which means people who pay us something, not just users or downloads.
  • Churn is accounted for by mentioning monthly usage. We’re not working toward a metric measuring sign-ups but ignoring people who don’t continue to get value from our software.
  • With the use of the word because, we are aiming for a causal relationship between our software and sales, not just correlation. That means our software needs to directly result in more sales and we need to be able to prove that.

Why this goal?

I feel this goal perfectly captures our mission, and is hard & ambitious, which is exactly what a goal should be.

Equally important is what this goal is not. It’s not a lot of things. It doesn’t focus on revenue or profit, but rather people. This means many potential business opportunities won’t fit this goal, like custom development services with a large price point but small client base.

Ultimately, this goal also focuses on impact. A more general goal I have for us is to use software to have a disproportionate impact on people’s lives based on our team size. This goal is a practical way to work toward that.

Why have a longer term goal?

I hope this goal will provide a guiding light for our daily work. One important outcome of that is to decentralise decision making. Instead of me being involved in all decisions, each of us simply needs to measure our decision against this goal.

For example, to decide whether to add a feature, ask yourself: Is this feature the most impactful thing I can do to move us closer to 100,000 customers?

As we grow, this becomes increasingly important to be effective as an organisation. Each and everyone one of you will be able to make decisions on your own, without waiting for my OK.

On the individual level, this allows me to fulfill the promise of autonomy each of you received in your offer letters. On the team level, it allows us to move faster in the same direction.

To achieve this goal from my perspective, my role will change: less focus on writing & reviewing code, more focus on growth, both of our team through hiring and our customers through acquisition & retention.

How you achieve the goal is up to you. You are free to choose, change, challenge anything if you believe it will help achieve this goal better. I’m setting the goal and will support you in how you want to achieve it.

That’s it for now. We’re not going to spend time during this Meetup talking about or mapping out how each of us plan to achieve this goal. I want everyone to have the rest of the year to think it through, then Ali and I will begin working with each of you as part of one-on-ones to look at how you want to do that over the next 3 years.

Final Thoughts: Prospress 1.0

Last month when I asked in the one-on-ones about when you were most happy working here, almost everyone talked about a beginning. Whether it was when creating a new brand, like it was with Ali, building a new plugin, like it was for James. The start of something new is always an exciting time.

This is the very beginning of Prospress. I started thinking about this process as Prospress 2.0, a way for the company to work in a new way, but as my thoughts clarified, I realised everything until now has been beta testing and v0.1 of Prospress. This is our version 1.0. Try to remember that as we go through this process. Appreciate this time. When we look back on it, 5 and 10 years from now, I hope it will be a fond memory for all of us.

This is a transcript of a talk I gave at the Prospress meetup in December 2016. I published it here to share some of the philosophy of our company, and plans for our future. If you like what you read, we’re hiring and would love to chat with you about working together. Take a look at our open positions.


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2 responses to The Future of Prospress: Our 3 Year Goal

  1. Patrick Rauland

    I really like that you focus on people. Your goal isn’t about revenue, churn rates, newsletter size, etc.

    I don’t often agree with Neil Patel; but one of the things he says is that if you want to make more money find a way to help more people. Seems like you’re doing that. 🙂

    • Brent Shepherd
      Post Author

      Thanks Patrick! Neil, and you are right, the essence of any business has to be about serving people. Regardless of whether they are called customers, clients, readers, users or something else, without creating value for people, there will be no growth in any metric you set… at least for 30 years or so until the robots become self aware. Then we can create businesses to serve people and robots.

      That said, we do set smaller goals around metrics like newsletter list size, but they are for measuring the tactics leading towards our “one big goal”. I try hard to keep revenue and other business metrics focused on what they are really for – managing operations – rather than confusing them as being the primary purpose of the business.

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