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Matthew Pritchett

Christian, husband, father, business owner, developer.

Want To Be A High Performer? Here’s How To Start.

In case you haven’t read any other posts of mine, I talk about Chris Lema, a lot. Chris is someone that has made several big impacts on my career and life. He hired me at Crowd Favorite to solve big client services problems. He helped me build a foundation and vision for my own business at CaboPress. He has been a constant source of wisdom and encouragement to me, both professionally and personally, since I first introduced myself at WordCamp Austin in 2014 about as awkwardly as possible. 🙂

But I bring Chris up today to tell you to go read his latest post on hiring amazing people. Seriously, stop reading this and read that first. It’s awesome. Not only because Chris has hired some amazing people in the past and is doing so now at Liquid Web and can teach you how to do the same, but he is also showing you how to BE an amazing hire and high performer in the process. Here are the lessons that Chris writes about and that I believe he’s shown me.

 

Always be learning

One of the things that I hear great leaders talking about constantly is what book they are reading, what principle they are studying and a new skillset they are working on. This has always stuck with me. So I work very hard to find time to read. I always want to have 3-4 books going at one time. This way, I can read based on what I’m in the mood for. Believe me, as a father of 3 kids, a husband, a person involved in dozens of commitments, I know busyness. But I can always find time to read a few pages here and there and find that I finish books much more quickly than I ever thought I would. I also invest in my craft. Whether it’s taking a course on the latest JavaScript framework or trying to better understand the underlying code behind WordPress or Laravel, I am working on my skill set and mind whenever I can in a way that is both healthy and specific. High performers better themselves. It makes them more marketable and more helpful. It future proofs them. Someone who can always learn and adapt will never be without work for long.

 

Completely understand the problem

One of the things that I’ve always considered a true differentiator between senior level employees and mid-level or even junior employees is how well they understand the problem presented by a client, boss or other entity. Do they just read the given notes? Do they research? Do they ask questions? Do they take the time to think about the problem and not just solutions? These are all important steps. I know as a developer, my first instinct is to jump into a solution. My second is to think of as many solutions as I can and then pick the best one and dive in. But the truly best way to solve a problem is to tackle the idea of what the real problem is first. The person that understands the problem the best will always perform higher in the long run that those who just seek the fastest solution.

 

Never do something because it is easy

Stick around any agency long enough and you’ll hear a conversation like this between developer and project manager. One will say something like “the client wants to know if we can do X.” The developer will say, “sure we can do that, but it will be really hard and really expensive.” Or maybe even just flat out say no, because secretly it is “too hard.” One of the lessons I learned while working for Chris is that saying no because it is too hard is a missed opportunity for you and for the client. First, you could have presented the new request as a change order and made more money and been the hero. Secondly, a hard opportunity is almost always a place to grow not just your skill set, but also resilience and fortitude.

Build relationships

Chris points out that one of the keys to finding amazing people to hire is to always be building relationships. Not just to further your own goals either. Truly caring about people and their success is a great way to make friends and to build a network that is caring and passionate about you and your business. But that same principle is true for employees too. Care about your coworkers. Your boss. Your clients. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen coworkers become bosses, bosses become partners and clients become both. Business and life are always changing. How you treat people could be setting the stage for your next job or your next important relationship on a personal level. But beyond that, treating people well inside and outside the office is important. Don’t be a jerk.

Communicate Always

I and a growing group of people work remotely. I love working remotely. It allows me the freedom to spend time with my family while also solving complex challenges for clients all across the globe. For remote workers, communication is the single most powerful tool at your disposal. But beyond that, communication is vital for ALL people. My simple rule of thumb has become communicate early, often and always. I’d much rather be someone who over communicates than face the consequences of not communicating enough or at all. Communication opens the door to grace, mercy when things don’t go well and helps everyone feel the victory when success happens.

Communication, more than any other skill, will take you far in life and in business. Click To Tweet

Take Ownership

The single biggest idea that I took from my time with Chris Lema was about taking ownership. The idea that I don’t just work for a business. I’m not just pushing code. I own that code. I’m an owner of our business’s reputation and culture whether or not my name is on the building. People who take ownership, who strive to do their best work, be their best self, and make sure their team is doing the same, are performing at their best. Their desired employees. They are trusted colleagues. Managers don’t have to worry if something will be done right because those employees take ownership of making sure it’s bug-free, tested and ready for the client. They don’t just do “my part.” They make sure every part is in sync, ready to go and flawless. It’s not about perfection, it’s about responsibility and passion, caring about your work, and making the effort to improve everything around you. As a developer, we often delivered one section of code. A feature, a page, a set of styles. But ownership requires that we test to make sure everything else still works after integration. Ownership tests the entire project to make sure bugs haven’t come up. Ownership makes sure that the functionality doesn’t just match the spec, but achieves the client’s desired outcome.

Wrapping Up

So you want to be a high performer? Do you want to be someone who is sought after instead of having to interview at dozens of employers? You have to work on yourself. Work on these things. Improve them. Work hard. Build relationships. Communicate. Make a difference. Take ownership. Those are the people that I notice. Is that you?

 

Building A WordPress Plugin Business From Scratch

Building A WordPress Plugin Business From Scratch

Have you met my friend Daniel?

Daniel is a super nice guy who has tons of eCommerce and WordPress experience. He’s written lots of plugins and consults on awesome WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads projects. A few years ago, Daniel started Shop Plugins as a marketplace for some of his excellent plugins. But more than that, Daniel has his wife Amanda, have been a source of inspiration for my wife and I. You see, they have traveled extensively with their kids, they homeschool and are just generally kind and generous people.

As my family explores the next few years and what we want our lives to look like now that we’re a family of 5, we’ve been giving a lot of thought to homeschooling, work, and our goals. We’ve found that we value several things very highly. One of those things is investing time and energy in being together as a family. Another is our education, both the kids and our own. Another is financial freedom. We arrived in Chattanooga with a fair amount of debt. We’ve been working hard to get rid of it. But one of the things we have been working on to get us out of debt and into financial freedom faster is building products and offering services outside of our normal work life. For me, this is selling products. For Cindi, it’s tutoring, writing, and editing on the side.

As part of this journey, I want to catalog some of the lessons I’m learning as I’ve started my business, Pritchett Media. It’s been a trying time but filled with awesome rewards and learnings. Recently, we began to see the first real financial fruits from this pursuit. While in no way do I believe this makes me an expert, it does give me an awesome opportunity to share. So over the next few months, look for a series of posts on building a plugin business from scratch as I journal thoughts, trials, and victories.

Constant Improvements Make The Host – Liquid Web

One of my goals for 2016 was to get several plugins into the WordPress.org plugin repository. Not only do I value giving back to the community which has given me a job and lots of friends, but I saw this a viable way to raise my professional profile and possibly a way to start a business. I adopted a plugin, BuddyDrive, in 2016. Unfortunately, it took me into 2017 to create and submit my own plugin, WP Media Size. But now that I have two plugins in the repository, I can’t just sit back and wait. There are new features to write, updates to make, and bugs to squash. As a plugin author, I also never want to see that dreaded notice above my plugin that “This plugin hasn’t been updated in over 2 years!” that is such a turn off to so many. So I work hard to write new features and make updates to my plugins.

Updating Features

In much the same way, we’ve seen web hosts pull off massive brand and identity changes by releasing impressive new features, focus on customer service, and really invest in their product. Remember GoDaddy a few years ago? Most people shudder and quietly admit that they used GoDaddy back then, because they had no other choice. But now, GoDaddy does great things and has revived their brand and their product.

But then there are also hosts out there who don’t update. They are the same as they were in 2007. They promise everything and anything for three bucks per month. Never mind that they are shared hosting on outdated, overcrowded servers that haven’t seen a PHP upgrade since 5.2. In fact, I just worked with a client who was still on one of these hosts this past week. I brought the entire shared server down by running a migration script that I’ve run on hundreds of other sites and servers. It wasn’t a good experience.

Liquid Web Does Updates Right

So when I say that Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting platform is releasing an amazing set of new features at lightning speed, I’m not just talking. Chris Lema and the rest of the awesome team at Liquid Web have been working hard to add features and really listen to their customers wishes and needs. They’ve made improvements to speed, security, image processing, caching, staging sites, migrations, domain redirects, SSLs, and much more just in the time I’ve been using their platform. I’ve never worked with a host that has moved so fast on so many items in a way that was both well thought through and responsive to customer needs.

A lot of places try to respond to customers’ needs and end up screwing up their platform or building too many features to maintain. But Chris and his team have been in this game a while. Chris has been using and writing about hosting in detail for years. He knows what questions to ask and what the right solutions are. So when requests come in for a change to their platform, his team knows whether a solution is viable as well as if the problem presented is one worth solving. Here’s what Chris had to say about the innovative new features they have and are releasing at Liquid Web:

 

“Innovation is not just about playing with new toys – though we’re playing with lots of new stuff. Innovation is about thinking about problems in new ways – ways that change how we define the realm of solutions. It’s how we came up with our visual comparison feature.”
– Chris Lema

It’s why I’ll be sticking with Liquid Web. It’s why I recommend Liquid Web to anyonewhose site IS their business, not merely a part of their business. If Liquid Web sounds like a company you’d like to partner with, click here.

Have You Tried Liquid Web Managed Hosting?

I’ll admit, I never saw a post about Liquid Web managed WordPress hosting coming.

Don’t be scared, but note that there are affiliate links in this post. I only recommend products I use and enjoy. You can read more here.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve used a web host or two in my day.

In fact, I’ve used several dozen in the past nine and a half years of professional WordPress and web development. Only a few have made the list of recommended. Great places like WP Engine and Flywheel. Managed hosts with great customer service, excellent product, and narrow target audiences. These guys know WordPress, they know hosting, and they know how to create an experience that impresses.

But this post isn’t about them. It’s about a host that is relatively new to me. But one that is making impressive leaps in technology and in securing impressive market share in the WordPress space.

Enter Liquid Web

When I heard my friend and former coworker, Chris Lema, was joining a host, I was intrigued. Having spent time working in client services as a developer under Chris, I know that he’s a pro at team building, managing developers, and growing leaders. He’s also got a knack for knowing what clients need, winning big projects and sharing incredible stories. While he writes posts about great hosts and fantastic experiences, joining a hosting company was the last place I thought I’d see him.

But he did and I am glad that he did because what he and his team are creating over there is impressive to say the least.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress hosting solution and I’m impressed in every way. From support to speed, features to communication, Liquid Web is making a strong foray into the managed WordPress hosting space. I’m excited to see how they grow the platform. Every week I seem to be getting another look at some awesome new feature that I never realized I really needed. From automatic image processing and automated plugin upgrades with front and back-end bug checks. I’m so impressed that over the next couple of weeks, I’ve got a series of posts detailing my experience and some of my favorite features. Stay tuned!

 

2017 Travel Plans

Will I See You In 2017? Let’s Find Out!

UPDATED 3/9/17 6:38 AM – Again, unfortunately plans change sometimes. after much discussion, the wife and i have decided that cabopress wouldn’t be in our best interest as a family this year and so I have withdrawn my application. i will miss the event and the incredible people a ton this year, but know that i’ll be applying next year! If you’re going to cabopress, have a great time and drink a jack & coke for me!

Updated 2/7/17 2:35pm – Unfortunately, my plans for Pressnomics 5 this year will not be coming true. Several priorities have changed for us as a family since planning this trip and I will not be heading to PN5. I do have a ticket which I am looking to sell. So if you’d like to grab a discounted ticket, hit me up on twitter or in the comments. That said, all of the other events below are still on!

The older I get the more I realize I function better and am less grumpy if I have a plan well ahead of time and allow that plan to work itself out in my brain. For those that have known me since I was a teenager, this is a fundamental shift. I grew up very disorganized. I constantly lost coats, lunch boxes and pretty much anything that wasn’t attached to me permanently.

Around the time I got married, I experienced a shift in my attitude about work, patterns, and started to become more mature. I attribute this partly to my wonderful bride who encouraged and continues to encourage me to be a better man. I also attribute it, in part, to graduating from school. I always hated school. I love learning, but always struggled with busy work (i.e. homework) and sitting quietly through lectures. I did very well on tests, papers and presentations, but terribly on homework. Graduating from college and beginning to work was a dream come true (even though I had been working in some capacity from a very early age).

Fast forward to 2017 and I have begun to plan an entire year’s worth of travel between December and January. Secretly, I’ve even started planning 2018’s schedule, but don’t tell anyone. I’m hitting four events this year. That’s actually an increase by one for me over previous years but since each event is planned in advance it feels much less stressful.

I traveled extensively as a teenager and early in college. I’ve visited most of Latin America and many of the United States. However, as I’ve grown older I’ve also started becoming more and more of a homebody. In fact, I barely traveled the first few years of my marriage and it took work trips to bust me out of that! So this year I’ll be expanding to four trips and would love to see you at one of them! I’m excited about each of these trips as two of them are completely new to me and have been on my wishlist for years and two are events that I have immensely enjoyed in the past and am excited to visit again.

I’m also planning on brining my wife and possibly my kids on a few of these as I believe that they would enjoy them and people like Katie Richards, Lindsey Miller, Cate DeRosia, and more have all reached out and said that my wife should come or have just been generally encouraging to the women in our community. Each of you has been so welcoming without having even met the much better Pritchett.  I sincerely hope that she gets to meet each of you and that she becomes friends with you as you and your families have become with me!

WordCamp ATL

After leaving Dallas a few years ago where I had my first WordCamp experience in both attending (technically Austin, but it’s all Texas, right?) and my first two years of co-organizing (I blame Carrie Dils for this), WCATL and the awesome organizers there welcomed me in and put on a fabulous camp. Seriously, I loved this camp and it’s different vibe from WCDFW. I met some long time friends from online and got to see old friends. I don’t live in Atlanta anymore, but I’m still close enough for a short drive down for this camp. Can’t wait.

Pressnomics 5

This year I’m giving equal time to WordCamps and WordPress-centric events outside the Foundation. Pressnomics gets rave reviews every year and has been on my list since the original event. Well, I finally bought tickets and am going to be in Arizona come April! I really am excited to meet some of the awesome business owners that hit PN as well as spend some time growing my business, getting new ideas and I’ll even get to hang out with the owners of my day job Chris Wallace and Brad Miller (plus I’ll be meeting Brad for the first time in real life. 🙂 )

WordCamp US

San Francisco was on my list until it became WordCamp US. Sadly, the first year fell during a bad time for our family to be traveling and last year I had tickets but needed to cancel last minute as we ended up moving during December. But the next two years WCUS is in Nashville, just a stone’s throw from my new hometown of Chattanooga. I’m very excited for this camp as I’ve never been to one this large and I’m excited to meet new people, experience the largest WordCamp out there and parTAY!

CaboPress (maybe?)

I got the fabulous opportunity to be invited to join Chris Lema and so many other wonderful people in Cabo for 5 days of growth, community and business building in November in 2016. This event changed my life as well as my business. I’m STILL going through my notebooks from the event in January and coming up with new ways of implementing the things I learned there. Because it is such a focused event, it’s limited in the number of people that can go. So being an alum, there are only so many spots open for those that have gone before. So I’m very hopeful I’ll be invited back, but don’t want to take up spots for those that haven’t experienced this awesome event. But if I’m invited, I’m hoping to take my wife and I on an extraordinary trip to grow out business, relax, drink, and grow new and old friendships with fabulous people in our industry.

So, will I be seeing you in 2017? If so, leave a comment, tweet at me or drop me a line in my contact form. I’d love to meet you, say hello, grab a drink or catch up.

Want To Change Your Business? Start With CaboPress.

A business conference in Cabo? Sure…

This was the response I received from many of the people that I told about my recent trip to Mexico for a conference. While humorous, my experience was much more than margaritas on the beach. I had the awesome privilege to spend five days in Cabo San Lucas at Chris Lema’s CaboPress. Chris has put together the top minds in several different verticals and disciplines inside of WordPress and created a truly unique and insanely helpful experience in the WordPress community. Having launched one Software as a Service (Saas) product in 2016 and preparing to launch my second in early 2017, I was ready to start attending conferences that would help me grow as a business owner and not just as a developer or WordPress community member, which has been my focus in the past. CaboPress was a truly transformative experience for me in regards to my business. Here are a few of the reasons why:

The host

Chris Lema, in case you didn’t know, is a fantastic leader, conference organizer and all around good guy. I read Chris’s blog long before I ever met him. My first real interaction with him was to say hello awkwardly at WCATX in 2014. Just a year later I would be interviewing with him to join the team at Crowd Favorite as I came to trust his skills as a leader and was excited to work with and under him as a developer to grow my talents. While neither of us is at Crowd Favorite anymore, working for Chris elevated my respect for him and the knowledge that he can bring to growing companies. So when he put out the call for CaboPress and then accepted my application, I was floored. Having now spent five days with Chris at his favorite resort and getting to speak to him one on one about life and business, I can say that I can think of no greater person than Chris that I would want to head up such an amazing conference. I only travel 3-4 times per year for business and anything from Chris in the future is on my list.

The sessions

The sessions were overseen by “hosts” whom Chris had brought on to lead conversation in a general direction. While anything was up for discussion, there was a specific topic for each hour and a half discussion. Ranging from hiring to branding, the discussions were a place to ask scary questions, hear from industry experts, and offer advice on things you had been through that were pertinent to other’s lives and businesses. Each discussion was needed by at least a few people in the group and most of the time they were fairly even in attendance as the topics were desirable and helpful to most everyone in some way. Each session left me with actionable intel on what to do in certain areas of business. On top of that, how easy is it to talk about business while hanging out in a pool?

The people

Wow. To say that Chis lined up an extraordinary group of business owners would be a massive understatement. People came from all over the United States and the world to grow and learn. There were agency owners, freelancers, product makers, podcasters, and bloggers. Each person was there to learn, but also to share. Rarely do you meet a group of people that pay that kind of money to grow and invest their business who are so willing to listen as much as share and truly care about helping the person sitting across from them reach the next level without ulterior motives. I was paired with two amazing couples for lunch the entire week and cannot say enough how encouraging and smart they were. To have face time with such awesome people and to listen, talk, encourage, and share with them was an experience I would have paid 3-4 times what I did. Thanks to the Danner’s and Levesque’s for being so welcoming, encouraging and real. Thanks to all the other folks that took time to sit down, learn my name, and just talk about life, business, and struggles.

The Resort

The Fiesta Americana resort is one of only two five star resorts in Cabo San Lucas. The rooms were spacious, well decorated and the beds were comfortable, even for a big guy like me. Having spent a lot of time in Latin America growing up, I didn’t feel like I was anywhere but the highest quality resort. The staff at the resort were some of the best staff I’ve ever encountered. Whether they were desk concierge or hedge trimmers, the attention to detail, friendliness and passion for their work spoke volumes about why the Fiesta Americana is awarded so highly. The restaurants were amazing and there were plenty of places to choose from everyday. The food was a healthy assortment of flavors and palettes from throughout the globe and I didn’t have anything that I didn’t enjoy. Part of the experience is that everything is included. So food and alcohol were available to you any time day or night and came with a friendly “can I get you anything else?” from the staff. My wife and I are considering vacationing at Fiesta Americana ourselves in the future based on my stay at CaboPress.

Chris, I want to say thank you for this incredible opportunity. CaboPress 2016 changed my business in so many ways before I even got back. It changed my thinking, my priorities and my community. I built new friendships, revitalized old ones, and came back with a renewed vision on what my business could be. If you’re looking for a way to change your business for the better, CaboPress is a great investment and definitely a must have. Here’s to seeing you there in 2017!

My Workflow

My Workflow 2016

I’ve written in the past about some of the tools I use to do everyday development. In the past six months, I’ve updated my workflow to include some new tools, get rid of ones that weren’t effective anymore, and overall upgraded my development chops. Here are a few of the things I use and how I use them.

Code Editor

I learned web development using Dreamweaver, like many others. What started out as a job responsibility to manage the website led me to doing things with Dreamweaver’s drag and drop editor. Eventually this led me to changing the code manually. That led to an intense love of coding and eventually I settled on Coda 2 as my editor of choice. Coda had so many of the tools I needed baked in that it lasted me through 5 years of development. Recently, I’ve been trying other editors and IDEs. Finally, I’ve settled on Atom, an open source editor from GitHub.

Atom is one part editor, one part community. It’s a hackable editor where almost anything you see can be styled, configured, or edited. There’s a thriving community surrounding the application that create style themes, plugins, and tutorials on how to make it do just about anything. Since I do mostly WordPress and front end development, I have several plugins installed to help with that.

Local Environment

If there is one thing that has helped me move from amateur to professional in web development early in my career, it was the idea that development should occur locally and then be deployed to servers. This paradigm is of the utmost importance as it places safeguards into your workflow preventing many of the mistakes, fatal errors, and production level downtime that can plague a site, app, or project.

Since I need PHP and mySQL for WordPress development, I can’t just use files and then view them in browser locally. Over the years I’ve used lots of different types of local environments. I’ve used my MacBook Pro’s base installs of those applications, I’ve used virtual machines like VVV and HGV sitting on top of Vagrant, and I’ve even explored custom setups and Docker boxes.

Currently I use an assortment of the above environments. I have some sites on VVV, a vagrant setup that was created by 10up, but is currently a community maintained project. I also have a few projects on HGV by WP Engine. This is also a Vagrant setup that is heavily linked to how WP Engine’s servers are setup in production. It includes the ability to switch versions of PHP and several other goodies under the hood. But lately, I’ve been testing Pressmatic, a GUI interface sitting on top of a Vagrant setup. It has some very nice features built in like remote tunneling, SSL, and multisite out of the box and all with one click. It also seems far more stable than its other vagrant counterparts and therefore needs less time for me to be in the environment debugging instead of billing clients for code.

Languages

Over the course of my career, I’ve written code in everything from HTML, CSS, JS, Gulp, Grunt and more. I’ve written code for apps and frameworks like Angular, React, NPM, and more. In the course of most days, I write a lot of HTML, CSS, JS, and PHP. That’s where I live and breathe most days.

It seems everyday a new Javascript framework is popping up or a new JS to native framework takes shape. While I constantly want to be learning new things, I personally find it difficult to choose a framework to learn knowing that it could be out of style in less than a year. For now, I’m concentrating on learning Javascript itself deeply and brushing up on software development core concepts.

Flexibility

Overall, flexibility is the name of the game. Working with small nonprofits, I get to choose the stack and workflow. This means a LEMP stack, Pressmatic as my local environment, using Gulp to compile scss into CSS, and running everything through PHPCS with the WordPress Core standards turned on.

But other times I work with large, international enterprise level clients. In these cases, they almost always have a workflow that must be followed. These can include deployment procedures using applications like Rundeck. Many times they require accessing servers and applications using VPNs which can limit the local environment solutions available to that project. Learning to be flexible and solve problems quickly and efficiently is one of the best skills a developer can have.

In the next post in this series, I’ll cover deployment processes, QA and testing, and source code management.

Career

I’ve Joined The Lift Team

As of Monday, August 1, 2016, I’ve joined the team at Lift, a digital product agency. I’m super excited about the work these guys are doing and excited to see where the future takes us.

Unfortunately, this also means that I have left Crowd Favorite. Working with Karim and the team was an incredible experience and I feel like I learned far more than I would have thought possible. I got to work on some super projects, befriend some incredible people, and gain valuable insight into working with enterprise clients to build on my knowledge in that area from previous gigs. I leave on the best of terms with Karim and the rest of Crowd Favorite and wish them all the best. This was a situation where I wasn’t looking to make a change, but the right position came along at the right time.

I’ll be working with a breadth of clients ranging from enterprise to nonprofit. I’ll also be doing a bit of product work on Lift’s series of products. I’ve already missed the Crowd Favorite team since I left, but I’ve been warmly welcomed by the Lift team and they’ve made me feel right at home. If you’re looking for an agency that specializes in design and user experience, give us a shout!

Mastermind Groups

5 Reasons Mastermind Groups Will Change Your Business

If you are the parent of a toddler or know someone who is, then you’ve likely experienced those moments in life where your child (or children) are throwing a fit over literally nothing or will not obey even though you’re trying to get them to do something they want to do.

It can be insanely frustrating.

To be honest, I experience these small moments about 2-3 times per day with our three year old and 2 year old. More times than I would like to admit, I lose my cool. I yell. I send them to a time out. I dole out punishment based on how mad I am, not how grievous the offense is.

But I’m slowly getting better at this.

You see, my wife and I are part of a community at our church of other parents. We meet weekly and encourage one another and talk about our wins and failures. We study materials that make us better parents, adults and general people. We hold each other accountable. It’s been incredibly rewarding and helpful for us to grow as parents and as people.

But when it comes to business, many of us assume we have to go it alone and continue to jump from fire to fire, idea to idea and failure to failure.

Why?

For the longest time, I assumed that I needed to play with my cards held tightly. That I shouldn’t let others see my insecurities. That everyone else was competition. But I was wrong.

I kept hearing about mastermind groups from people that I respected. People who’s businesses were flourishing and had the respect of their teams and customers. How being in a mastermind had changed how they did business.

So I reached out to several people and asked them if they would like to be a part of a mastermind group with me. We’d hold each other accountable, provide help and answers to questions we had faced before and, most of all, learn from each other. Thankfully, they said yes. In fact, they brought friends. Soon, we were meeting every other week and things started to happen.

Mastermind groups are great accountability

The first thing we started to do was explain where we were in our businesses.  We all have things we’re working on and need to be held accountable for. Sometimes, we just don’t feel like writing that 1000 lines of code to finish a feature on an application or client site. Or maybe we’ve been slacking on writing blog posts. Or doing our bookkeeping. Or literally anything. Those are the times that a mastermind can reach in and say, “Get off your butt and get working!” We all need that sometimes.

Mastermind groups are great because you self report what you want to get done between one meeting and the next. Then they hold you accountable throughout the gap between meetings and at the meeting. If you continually don’t meet your goals, there are consequences. Several groups I’ve spoken with said they even kick members out for repeated failures as this demonstrates a lack of investment in the group.

Personally, I’ve noticed a huge increase in the amount I get done with my own business each week because I know my group members are going to be asking about tasks. It’s motivation. It’s helped me to keep moving in building my business when I could have easily stalled out like I have done in the past.

Mastermind groups let you be your real self

Showing others your real self is the only way to begin to fix your real problems.

One of the biggest challenges I saw in starting our group was being real. Both my ability to be real and believing that my group mates were being truly real with themselves and us. But as we’ve gotten to know one another, it’s become obvious that each person is in the group to grow, to succeed, and to be honest about what they are facing, struggling with and succeeding in. It’s allowed me the freedom to let them see the real me and be open where I’m struggling. Showing others your real self is the only way to begin to fix your real problems. Having someone in the business world that I can do that with has been a huge burden lifted and has allowed me to grow as a business owner and leader.

Mastermind groups can kick your butt when needed

While we haven’t had to do this too much, I have no doubt that if I was repeatedly failing to meet my deadlines and not showing up to meetings, my mastermind group would politely, but forcefully, tell me to shape up. Part of being in a group is being fully invested and holding each other to the highest standards. Everyone gets sick, has family emergencies, and life happen sometimes. But the expectation is that you show up to all meetings, do what you tell the group you’re going to do, and be a person of integrity. When you don’t do that, you should expect someone else of integrity that cares about you and your business to help you own it and correct it.

Mastermind groups can prevent you from needing to fail

While no group or anything else can prevent you from making mistakes all the time, I’ve been so thankful to my group for answering questions and asking them in ways that have prevented me from making mistakes in my business. I’ve asked ethics questions, marketing questions and even coding questions and gotten great advice every time.

Failing can be  an important part of the growth process. Just look at Slack. That came about due to the failure of a gaming messaging platform. But failure and mistakes can also be expensive. Learning to miss them from others wisdom can be the difference between a thriving business and a financial failure or collapse. So don’t be afraid to learn from failure, but also be ready to ask questions and even provide wisdom from your own experiences, both wins and fails.

Mastermind groups are an awesome way to meet people completely different than you

Our group has people who are just starting out. We also have someone who has been in business in many different industries and roles for years. We even have a co-owner in a New York start up. It’s a diverse group. I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. Learning from people in different industries, platforms, locations and stages of life has been awesome. But this doesn’t mean you can’t gather with a group of people who are all in the same stages. Just be sure to bring in people occasionally to make sure you aren’t falling prey to group think. Even with our diverse group, I’ve been thinking about proposing that we bring in guests every few months to ask questions of and receive external wisdom from.

Meeting several new friends and colleagues through my mastermind has been awesome. As I get to know these people even more, I can’t wait to see how they and their business grow and succeed. We’re hopefully in it for the long haul and we’d love to hear how mastermind groups are helping you succeed.


If you’re looking for a group or have a group that is looking to add more people, I’d love to help you connect with others looking for the same. Simply comment below or drop me an email.

family

Thoughts on Side Projects and Family

If you don’t know John Saddington, entrepreneur, software engineer, indie developer, and family man, you need to stop right now and go read his blog. The whole thing. I’ll wait.

Ok, now that you’re back, 🙂 I hope you read his most recent post on this topic. I have a huge amount of respect for John. I was super excited that I was moving to Atlanta, knowing that he was in this great city. But shortly before I moved, he up and moved his own family (I don’t hold it against you, John). While I still hope that one day we can grab a beverage and chat, I continue to follow him digitally via his blog.

Family Matters

After reading his post on family and side projects, I thought about my own recent experiences with balancing my full time job developing websites and applications using WordPress, spending time with my wife and two girls, and working on my upcoming product, Mission Plannr, I figured I’d offer some feedback.

While I wholeheartedly agree with John’s sentiment of not being perfect and still trying to figure this thing out, I do think there are some good principles and practices that can be helpful.

Be there when it matters

There are key events in your family’s life that matter. Birthdays. School events. Anniversaries. Holidays. While this doesn’t mean you will or have to make every one, being there when it’s important not only makes your family happy, it builds trust and deepens the relationship. This isn’t just pertaining to side projects either. Sometimes you have to step away from full time work to put family first.

Be there everyday

While this isn’t for everyone or every situation, I make the effort to spend some sort of time with my kids and my wife everyday. Usually, this means pausing when they arrive home, eating dinner and helping get the kids washed up and put to bed. Then my wife and I spend a few minutes chatting about our days and the next few days. Then I usually return to working on side projects. While exceptions are made, this allows me to be present, be a parent, and be an influence on my children daily. A reminder that I love them, daily. The one time this doesn’t work physically is when I travel for work or to conferences. While I don’t do this too often, when I do I make sure to video chat at least once a day with all of them.

What about you? How do you handle family, work, side projects and all the other things that compose our lives? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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