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.