2015 has been an interesting year for me in so many ways. Partly because it's been supremely successful for the business and partly because it has been exceptionally challenging (and superb) on a personal level.
In the past (2012, 2013, 2014) I've focused largely on numbers for these year-in-review posts, and while I will include numbers below, that's not what I want to focus on. Numbers are important but they are only a small part of what makes up the business, so I'd like to spend a little bit of time on some of the other aspects that I feel are important.
In September of of 2014, I hired my first employee. In September of 2015 I reflected on how I would never again go at it alone. Building up a team has been one of the best changes I've ever made for the success of my business and my personal well being.
Today, the team that works with me every day consists of the following wonderful individuals:
- Sean Davis
- Andrew Munro
- Chris Klosowski
- Topher DeRosia
- John Parris
- Lisa Gibson
- Michael Beil
- Sunny Ratilal
- Rami Abraham
- Dan Griffiths
- Chris Christoff
- Kyle Maurer
Without them, I cannot even imagine where we would be. Of these team members, five are full-time, salaried employees, and seven are part-to-full-time contractors.
Growing our team has had some really significant impacts, though not just on productivity, customer support, and product improvement as you might assume. Obviously we're able to do a lot more with a larger team than we could with just one, two, or three of us, but there's much more to it than that. I've found that my own personal health has significantly improved as the team has grown. I believe this is for several reasons.
First, I can lean on them when needed. Whether it's a great day or a terrible day, having a team prepared to help prop you up is a wonderful thing. It's not just for me, however; we all lean on and support each other.
Second, with more hands on deck, it's easier for one to step away for a break, whether it be 30 minutes or several days. With a team of two, there's just one person to step in and pick up the slack. With a team of many, the extra work can be picked up and divided among the team members so no one is over burdened.
Third, the peace of mind knowing that everything will be okay if I'm incapacitated tomorrow is enormous. That's not to belittle the effect that it would have on my family and friends, but at least I can rest assured that our wonderful customers would be taken care of. I cannot begin to describe how much that prospect used to haunt me when it was just me.
I raise my glass to each and everyone of my wonderful team members for standing by me and supporting me. Each of them has made me better in so many ways. I only hope I've been able to contribute even 1/10th to them as they have to me.
I believe, as well, that we all contribute to the betterment of our other team members. Perhaps six months ago, we decided to add a #health-and-wellness channel to our Slack group. We use this channel to discuss various aspects of our health and life with the rest of the team. It varies from subjects on food and drinks to exercise. The important point is that it is a dedicated place that every team member is encouraged to participate in. When you take your health seriously, you can do great things. When your team, community, and family also take your health seriously, you can do amazing things.
As a team, we strive to work hard and excel. In 2015, we made a renewed commitment to working well and to treating ourselves well..
I have always believed that top-notch customer support is one of the pinnacles of running a successful business. We choose to practice that belief as a team, so every member of the team helps out in support, including me. Some members spend less time in support than others, but every member helps. No exceptions.
While the stats alone tell only the first sentence of the novel, I do enjoy looking back at statistics from our support portal, if for no reason besides vanity. These numbers, can, however, provide you and others with an approximation of the scale (big or small in your eyes) that we operate on.
In 2015, we answered over 21,027 support tickets across the three primary properties (Easy Digital Downloads, AffiliateWP, Pippin's Plugins). Below you can see a break down of tickets by the property they belonged to.
- Easy Digital Downloads: 11,515
- AffiliateWP: 5,387
- Pippin's Plugins (Restrict Content Pro and other plugins): 4,125
These numbers get interesting, and more meaningful, when we compare and contrast each of the properties revenue with their support load. Briefly, if we look at the revenue to ticket ratio for each site, we can glean some very rudimentary insight.
- Easy Digital Downloads: ~$48.8 in revenue per ticket
- AffiliateWP: ~$70.5 in revenue per ticket
- Pippin's Plugins: ~$32.5 in revenue per ticket
With that simple math, we can see that AffiliateWP takes less support per dollar earned. See below for actual revenue statistics from each property.
Ticket counts are a big part of support, but not all of it. We can also look at the productivity statistics to get a better idea of how we managed support in 2015.
Number of tickets resolved on first reply:
- Easy Digital Downloads: 47%
- AffiliateWP: 46%
- Pippin's Plugins: 49%
Average time to first reply (by staff member):
- Easy Digital Downloads: 15 hours, 45 minutes
- AffiliateWP: 8 hours, 5 minutes
- Pippin's Plugins: 14 hours, 57 minutes
Average response time:
- Easy Digital Downloads: 20 hours, 8 minutes
- AffiliateWP: 10 hours, 47 minutes
- Pippin's Plugins: 16 hours, 43 minutes
Average resolution time:
- Easy Digital Downloads: 3 days, 10 hours
- AffiliateWP: 2 days, 22 hours
- Pippin's Plugins: 3 days, 6 hours
Percentage of tickets resolved in 1 day or less:
- Easy Digital Downloads: 47%
- AffiliateWP: 46%
- Pippin's Plugins: 49%
Percentage of tickets that received a "Great" rating:
- Easy Digital Downloads: 85%
- AffiliateWP: 90%
- Pippin's Plugins: 89%
Note, this only includes tickets that received a rating. This is roughly 20-30% of tickets.
Support is by far one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. I've said it before but seriously, anyone that tells you that support is easy is either lying to you or trying to sell you something. Support is incredibly challenging, especially when it becomes an over bearing burden that drains you day after day after day.
I am not entirely thrilled with these stats as I believe we can do significantly better, but they do provide us a target to aim for in 2016. In the last several months, we have been working proactively to dramatically lower the number of tickets we process (which improves all other stats) and I'm excited to say that the initial results are very, very promising. Once we have definitive results, I will write about them.
As I said earlier, revenue is not the most important reflection for me here, but it is an integral part to running the business and is one of the primary elements that allows us to continually expand the team.
Easy Digital Downloads
In 2015, one thing became very clear to me with Easy Digital Downloads: we have about reached the peak of our natural growth. By that, I mean we now have to work harder than previously required in order to attain the same kind of growth we saw in the first three years. I believe this is entirely natural and is not even remotely something to be concerned about.
Extension sales for Easy Digital Downloads brought in ~$562,000 in 2015. This is an increase of 18.3% over 2014. Even though our growth rate has slowed substantially, that's still a very significant improvement.
Of that $562,000, $80,800 came from license renewals. This number, however, is far, far lower than I would like it to be. It means that the vast majority of our revenue comes from new purchases. That fact means we have not yet created a really sustainable revenue model, nor is it one where we can properly project future revenue. In 2016, I hope to have our renewal rates significantly increased and more than double the amount of revenue generated by renewals. We have several plans in motion to make this happen.
An additional $15,000 was brought in through our priority support services, bringing EDD's total revenue to ~$577,500.
From our revenue, we paid out ~$213,000 in commissions to 3rd party developers. This is a slight decrease from the amount we paid out in 2015, though that is to be expected. Three of the developers that were receiving commission payouts every month became salaried employees. With that in mind, we actually grew the amount that the average developer receives in commissions.
As I said in my 2014 review post, AffiliateWP has been the plugin that has reached the highest level of revenue generation in the shortest amount of time of any plugin I've worked on. This last year, AffiliateWP generated more than ~$380,000 in gross revenue. That's a 217% increase over 2014.
Much of the growth that AffiliateWP has experienced is 100% attributable to the awesome work of Andrew Munro, my co-founder of the project. In the latter half of 2015, we also brought on Lisa Gibson and Michael Beil to help with support and copy writing. This freed up a lot of Andrew and I's time to focus on developing the product further.
In 2016, I suspect AffiliateWP will surpass Easy Digital Downloads in its average monthly revenue.
The revenue that comes from Pippin's Plugins.com is two fold. It includes sales of plugins like Restrict Content Pro and Easy Content Types and also revenue from site memberships. There is also a small amount of revenue from plugins on Code Canyon that I typically attribute to Pippin's Plugins.com as that is where they are listed.
In 2015, Pippin's Plugins.com earned ~$105,000 in plugin sales and ~$27,000 from site memberships. There was also $1,600 earned from plugins on Code Canyon. This brings the site's total revenue to ~$134,000.
For plugin sales, this is actually a bit lower than 2014, but that's not surprising to me at all as my focus has been almost entirely on Easy Digital Downloads and AffiliateWP for the last year. In 2016, however, I do have a renewed focus for Restrict Content Pro and intend to substantially elevate its revenue.
In total, the three primary properties generated ~$1,076,000 in revenue for 2015.
There are several other less-significant revenue channels that help fund the business. These include affiliate earnings, sales commissions in other plugin stores, contract work, consulting, and more.
These other channels generated ~$63,500 in revenue for 2015, bringing our total company revenue to ~$1,139,500, more than a 45% increase over 2014.
Revenue is great, but seven digits of revenue does not necessarily mean we're doing great. Sure it means we've figured out how to bring money in, but what about money going out?
In 2015, we were profitable, and profitable enough to say that we are very secure and quite comfortable as a business.
On a personal level, 2015 has been pretty significant to me.
Throughout the year, I had an internal struggle eating me from the inside. There were times when I was genuinely concerned that I was becoming someone I really did not like. At one point, I realized that I had become much more quick to verbally lash out and to chastise. This bothered me more than I can describe. I believe it stemmed from a number of factors, both in my personal life and business, but was never been able to pin point exactly one reason. I'm just glad I realized it when I did and worked to address it. Acknowledging that a problem had been festering in me was the first step in curing it.
Today, I believe I'm a better person than I was a year ago. I am also a much happier and more content person than I was a year ago. I would be hiding behind a shroud if I told you I didn't have some really dark periods this last year.
While I have had my challenges, this last year has also been tremendously enjoyable for me. I've truly enjoyed watching as my oldest daughter begins to really show her personality and become more independent, life-loving child. It's really fun to watch. And it's been wonderful to see the joy in my children's eyes as they grow and play together. It is a reminder every day that we all need to hold onto the child within us.
This past year I also began taking my personal health much more seriously. I made an effort to walk 2-3 miles every single day and ride my bike or run 3+ times per week. When riding my bike, I strove for 5-20 miles each time. When running, I aimed for 2-5 miles at a time.
As it's winter in Kansas now and often very cold, my activity has slowed down, but I'm still determined to keep it up in 2016.
Aside from the physical benefits of increased activity, the mental and productivity improvements it has made have been huge. It's abundantly obvious to me that on the days I am physically active are also the days that I make the most progress on whatever it is I'm working on that day.
Seriously folks, get active in any and every capacity available to you.
As we begin the first days of 2016, we look onward to what we hope to accomplish in 2016 and where we hope to go. While I'm not one to set a lot of goals, there are a few things I'm planning to accomplish in 2016:
- Visit New Zealand. My wife and kids actually depart on January 13th and will spend two weeks there. As one of the places I've always wanted to visit, I'm really excited for this trip.
- Dramatically reduce the number of support tickets we receive on all three properties. This is already in motion and is happening through several different avenues simultaneously.
- Bring on two or more new team members, or transition current contractors to full-time.
- Double the revenue of Restrict Content Pro.
- Announce to the world one of the projects we've been working on behind the scenes.
- Ride, run, or walk 2+ miles almost every day.
- Spend more time with my family and remember to play often and work less.
Awesome year indeed! Congratulations for your success, you really deserve it! Kudos to you, Pippin!
BTW “Announce to the world one of the projects we’ve been working on behind the scenes.”…. Wow… so finally you are launching WP-Pippin’s brewery?? 😉
Not only are you an inspiration with the quality of work you produce, but your approach to life is admirable. I often forget to take breaks, stop working & enjoy the more important things in life, and your writing is a nice reminder (you’re also an excellent writer, btw).
Congrats on what sounds like a successful year. Best of luck getting those ticket numbers down. And I can’t wait to hear about your new project.
It’s nice that you’re doing well both as a company and personally.
This is the best, and most honest, year in review post that I have read for 2015. Congratulations on your success Pippin—it is well deserved!
It’s good to know that plugins important to my clients are being built and supported by people who work to keep themselves and their business healthy. WTG Pippin & Co.
Good to read that you have defeated your dark passenger!
A fitness tracker really helped me to keep on moving and feeling feeling better every day, even on cold days where i am not much motivated to get my bottom up from the office chair. A little competition in the circle of friends like “who made the most steps in a week” can be entertainment and healthy for your working team.
May all your wishes for 2016 come true
Is this new project somewhat related to night owl? 🙂
It might be 🙂
Just posting my bet here. I’m guessing the new project is a saas 🙂 I wish you all the best Pippin!
It’s all about finding that happiness, my friend. And it doesn’t come from the BLING BLING ?
Here’s to a massively successful 2016 for you and your crew!
Congrats, Pippin! It was a good read. The new product, is it SaaS?
Good luck for 2016.
Always enjoy reading your posts – especially those that are more reflective.
Here’s to a killer 2016 for you and your team, Pippin.
Kudos to you, Pippin! You really deserve it! I wish you an even better 2016! And about that secret project… Finally you are launching Pippin’s brewery? ;D
That would be fun but I can tell you it’s still web related 🙂
Pippin – thank you for your incredible transparency. I’m going to have to dig up your previous years’ posts to compare numbers to numbers but that’s just the technical details.
Your personal transparency is refreshing and encouraging. I’m expect you’ve connected with Cory Miller by now? His presentation at WC Denver ’15 on entrepreneurship & mental health is a must-see if you haven’t yet. I was there.
I agree wholeheartedly with the exercise to productivity correlation. I’ve actually been tracking my exercise vs. mood for the last 6 months and there is a STRONG relationship there.
My team has grown from 1 part-timer to two full-time employees and a contractor this year. Building a team is like building a family. It’s great to nurture and watch it grow. It makes the technical numbers (while still important) comparatively boring.
Here’s to 2016!
Awesome reading your post. Read some of your last year ones. They motivated me to reach new heights in my business. Thanks for being so inspiring!
Welcome to New Zealand. Hope you have a wonderful time here.
As a New Zealander let me tell you will not be disappointed at all. We really are Middle Earth.
It’s nice to see that the business is doing great. I use your plugin (EDD) on my website and honestly, it’s the best plugin on the market for selling digital products.
Keep it up, we support you 🙂
You produce great plugins and provide the best support I have ever experienced. Thanks very much and keep up the good work!
Great write up Pippin.
I appreciate the inclusion of acknowledging and dealing with the dark times. I was in the same boat due to a variety of reasons, but have begun to climb out.
Personal happiness cannot be undervalued when you’re trying to create a solid foundation for your business, your customers, and most importantly, your family.
I also like how you’re making health and activity a priority. I’ve recently started walking/biking daily and I can attest to the increase in productivity and the decrease in stress.
Plus, my dog loves more walks and my two toddler boys love more bike rides:)
Keep up the good work. You’re openness, honesty and helpful nature supporting people (like me) are great examples of things we should all strive for.
Pippin, thank you for sharing such intricate details of your life and business. I love all of your plugins that I’ve used. AffiliateWP is hands down the best Affiliate management plugin I’ve tried (and I burned through a lot of them)!
Count me in for a Restrict Content Pro license sometime this year.
I do have one question on the EDD renewal revenue that you want to improve in 2016. How much of the low number is related to churn versus giving discounts to people to renew? For those that were churn, any feedback on what caused it?
Wishing you, your family, business, and team a Happy and Prosperous 2016. Hope to see you again at WordCamp US next year.
Thank you for the kind words!
You’ve brought up an excellent point: the lower-than-desired number is due to both churn and discounts. We discount renewals by 30% so that will automatically make the total revenue less.
Thank you for your best site in WordPress land.
Currently I am working on a WordPress plugin but I don’t know how can I create business around it, I realized that you are a best person that can help me and advice me about it so if it is possible for you please help me about it.
Please advice me how can I learn about business for WordPress plugins.
As I saw one of your goals is to double Restrict Content Pro plugin revenue, so my question is that how you want to achieve this goal? Maybe this question can help me to know about wordpress plugins business.
The first thing I’d recommend doing is identifying what kind of market there is for your plugin. Some plugins are inherently valuable and (more easily) easy to sell simply because of the market they are in. Others can be far more difficult because the market is more niche.
Once you know your market and you’ve built the plugin, the next thing is to just get it out there. Remember: no one will ever purchase your plugin if it’s not available for purchase, so get it out there. A marketplace like Code Canyon is a great place to start.
Doubling the revenue of Restrict Content Pro will be a multi-faceted challenge. There are two main items that we will focus on to make that happen:
1. Improve the product itself. There are numerous weak points that cause customers to go for other solutions we need to address.
2. Modify the business model of the plugin to one that better encourages customers to purchase the high level licenses. For this, we will be emulating AffiliateWP’s model.
Thank you for your response and your advices, I will consider your advices.
Where can I find AffiliateWP’s business model, is it here.?
Yep, that’s it!
The best part of your update for me was the personal side of things. It reminds me that while there are a few corporate titans in the WordPress world, most are just regular people doing something they love that inspires them. And I find that in itself inspiring.
Also just knowing that you view your success in more than monetary terms is refreshing to say the least.
Many congratulations on your current success and even more good wishes for the achievements yet to come.
Well done, Pippin. Here’s to an amazing, insightful and prosperous 2016.
Great to hear New Zealand is on the agenda and your family are on the way today – I hope you enjoy my country as much as I enjoy your work
Great reports and insights. 🙂
About renewal rate concern, I would like to share a solution I am considering to similar problem.
I feel people are more likely to renew if its a single subscription. Something like you are doing on AffilateWP but without lifetime license (i purchased lifetime license though).
From user perspective, it’s easier to manage single purchase rather than multiple small purchase. Also if some or addons gets updates, a user is encourage to renew complete subscription.
I think like theme “club”, if there is a club approach to entire addons store, it might increase renewal rate.
Negative side is – it will be hard to work on revenue sharing maths for third parties.
If you like idea, you may consider different types of subscriptions where all subscriptions may access to all/similar set of addons, but will differ in support level (e.g. response time, support channel).
Best wishes for 2016. 🙂
Congratulations on a successful year both personally and professionally. Also, thanks for being so open. I’m sure it’s a great help to a lot of people.
I’m curious about the support tickets. How many of those are from non-native English speakers. It looks as though you have EDD translated into 26 different languages. Just wondering how much of a challenge that poses.
We also face very low recurring revenue numbers and I believe it’s common for WordPress plugins. We recently experimented with offering lifetime updates on renewal (after first year) and saw good conversion there.
I can’t agree more about support — offering quality support is intensive. Takes a lot more time than development time for us. So far we kept main developers on support, but we are now looking at self help (easy access to documentation / knowledge base) and someone else handling Level 1 support.
Maintaining profitable growth is going to be the biggest challenge as any business matures. All of us take on new ideas to grow and not all of them work out. Yet that’s where the next million is hidden.
Love all your (and your team’s) work. Wish you a super successful 2016!
You’re one bright guy! We look up to people like you. You employed yourself plus a few others.
Do you have a post about your company in its early days, how you came with the idea to develop plugins, how you ran it, etc? It’s always interesting to read these inspirational posts.
Wow, congrats. Given how much customer interaction you have I have often wondered if you ever have time to do anything besides work so glad to hear you’re making strides in all areas of life. You’re basically my WP role model, so I really appreciate these annual reviews. Here’s to an even better 2016!
Thak you for the kind words!
So much Inspiring. I pray you will get more success in this year.
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