Thoughts From Two Founders Who Recently Sold Their WordPress Businesses

Last month, WP Engine acquired StudioPress. Brian Gardner, founder of StudioPress, recently shared his thoughts on why he didn’t want to sell the business, but did.

Making a decision that not only affects your livelihood, the livelihood of your partners and employees, and the livelihood of an entire community isn’t for the faint of heart. It certainly wasn’t a responsibility I took lightly and spent quite a bit of time wrestling with.

The fact of the matter is this: When you make a decision that affects thousands of people, you have to wrestle with it. And then wrestle with it some more.

Brian Gardner

I appreciate Gardner’s down-to-earth perspective on how he reached the decision to sell.

Ryan Sullivan, founder of WP Site Care, sold his WordPress maintenance and support business to Southern Web. On his personal site, Sullivan describes what it has been like to run a business the last seven years and drifting away from the reason he created the business in the first place.

As the team grew, I slowly moved further and further away from the reason I started my business in the first place. It’s a trend that’s talked about extensively in the E-Myth.

People start a business because they love what they do, but then the growth of the business, management of people, and demands of administrivia become too much, and the person who started the business finds themselves in a totally foreign land with no roadmap for how to get back to the thing they once loved.

Ryan Sullivan

Merging with Southern Web allows Sullivan to get back to what he enjoys doing most, helping people and businesses with their sites. Sullivan also shared a great piece of advice, “Ask for help before you think you need it.”

Both articles are great reads and provide insight into the tough decisions founders inevitably have to make.


5 responses to “Thoughts From Two Founders Who Recently Sold Their WordPress Businesses”

  1. Running a business is not easy. I certainly hope the leadership at SP and WPSC take some well-deserved time to recoup before coming back with their next businesses. Still, feels like a lot of acquisitions so far this year. Maybe time to take this as a sign of a larger trend in motion.

  2. If the business grows beyond the management ability of the founder, it’s good to handover it to another company. It’s good for customers and for the founder as well. He can focuses on what he does best, and the customers will receive more value.

  3. During my dance trying to do The WordPress Helpers, Ryan was one of the folks with the biggest issues over my attempts at “encroachment”.

    Now I see why.

    Interestingly, through all the vitriol, neither Ryan nor anyone else ever asked what it is I do for a living. The answer was and is “take all the stuff passionate founders find out they need to do in order to run a business off their plates”. Ryan and other members of the community sure are passionate.

    What’s funny is that the underlying message these folks miss—and by ‘these folks’ I mean similar percentages of my WordPress Community detractors and target clients who trip over my company—is that there are people better suited to back-room minutae than they are just as there are people like them who do creative stuff better than I do.

    Starting a business is hard work. Running a business is hard work. The first step to bridging those facts is understanding that you need to, and having a passion for both sides. Even if your passion for one is knowing that someone else should do it.

    Given the number of comments that most posts here attract and that after thirteen hours this looks to be only #3, I think the blind spot is pretty obvious.

  4. Good for customers? Not really. As a long-time Studiopress/Websynthesis hosting customer (where I’ve been looked after brilliantly) I heard today that my monthly bill will shoot up from $75 to $290 if I stay with WPEngine.

    There’s no grandfathering offered (just a token one-time discount), and apparently although they have an army of salespeople there’s no scope to meet half way or slightly change terms of their packages (I have one relatively high traffic site and three much smaller ones and they want me to go on their 15-site plan to accommodate the visitor numbers).

    I get that hosting is a low margin business, but nothing says “customers are a commodity, gotta make the numbers” quite like this inflexible attitude does. It makes me worry how helpful or useful WPEngine will be if there’s ever a problem.

    Are any other Studiopress hosting customers having trouble making the switch?

    • For what it’s worth, I was a former Websynthesis customer and moved to WPEngine about a year ago.

      I regret nothing. The cost was higher, but the service, support, stability and tools more than made up for it. The staging/development/production capabilities reduced the dev cycle issues (for me) significantly.

      I don’t know the stats on your sites, but you may want to compare whether separating them out into their own accounts would reduce your bill.

      If you don’t need a ‘managed’ platform, there certainly are other, much less expensive, options.


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