When Mason James hired his first contractor and launched WP Valet in 2012, scaling up wasn’t part of his master plan. He knew he couldn’t do it alone but couldn’t imagine having more than a small team. His first contractor, Kim Lipari, became a partner and helped to bring in more customer requests than they knew how to handle. Four years later, the team is now 10 employees and 6 full-time contractors, and the company is hiring aggressively to fill more positions.
Today WP Valet is dropping the “WP” from its name and rebranding as Valet. The company started out providing monthly professional services and support for WordPress website owners, but expanded to take on more client work after acquiring a local design agency.
“In 2014, EasilyAmused merged with us and we acqui-hired their team,” James said. “James Tryon came on board as our Creative Director to continue leading this team. This made a huge difference as it doubled our team size and allowed us to provide a much higher level of design and development.”
The rebranding announced today is a reflection of Valet’s expanded services. “We’re still 100% built on and using WordPress and think it’ll be an integral part of websites for a long, long time to come,” James said. “But we want to expand our customer reach as well.
“Our services are centered around best practices that are applicable to all websites – regardless of their platform. And finally, our customer needs include branding, design, strategy, and a ton of other things that don’t specifically require WordPress. The new Valet brand provides us room to have these discussions.”
Growing the team to take on more custom development, in addition to monthly website support services, has paid off for Valet, which is now a multimillion dollar company.
“We’ve seen steady growth since we started in 2012,” James said. “We’re proud to be a grassroots startup with no funding or investors.
“Our revenue is split pretty evenly between monthly support and individual custom development/design projects. Part of our rebranding goals was to line up our presentation with what we really do today.
“While migrations made up a third of our revenue in the first year, it now accounts for less than an eighth! Overall our revenue is in the millions, though closer to 10M than to 100M. Year-over-year revenue growth increased about 45% in 2015.”
Raising the Bar on Support
As Valet continues to scale its support services team, James is on a mission to change the WordPress support niche. When the company was first starting out, they became well known for handling migrations and maintenance.
“We reached out to a couple of companies and asked if we could do some migrations for them,” James said. “We wanted to better understand their setup and expectations. This resonated well with a few of those companies and we ended up doing thousands of migrations, growing the team to four people who exclusively handled migrations on a day-to-day basis.”
However, James never aimed for WP Valet to be a migrations and maintenance company and is determined to reshape customer thinking about monthly support.
“The truth is, WP Valet was founded on the idea of ongoing professional services,” he said. “It was never meant to be specific to migrations or maintenance. The real passion was to make sure website owners had all the strategy, insights, and support they needed to operate in the month-to-month requirements of running a business.”
James is hoping to change the support niche so as not to perpetuate the idea of “maintenance” to customers. He said that he doesn’t like the word and avoids it on purpose.
“Most of our customers are not ‘brochure sites’ with WordPress,” he said. “They’re businesses. They rely on their sites to help create revenue.
“I frequently tell our potential clients, ‘Maintenance is fine for your dishwasher, but your business should always be pursuing growth!’ We do this by creating real, targeted metrics for our clients across several key areas of site performance and provide them with the ability to see these stats at any time. More than that, we work pro-actively to make sure key areas like site speed and traffic are improving without the client needing to open a specific request.”
The Valet team plans to focus on performance benchmarking this year while continuing to support the monthly needs of their customers. According to James, 50% of their revenue still comes from the regular monthly support plans. Balancing the rapid growth of the support team while managing projects as a full service agency is a delicate balancing act.
“Growth and scaling are absolutely terrifying,” James said. “When people ask me about how fast we scale, I respond with something along the lines of ‘as much as we can without me lying in the fetal position under the piano in the den.’
“I’ve found that it’s more natural for me to identify and take action on failure then it is to measure success,” he said. “Finding success can leave me with a ‘now what?’ feeling so I’m learning to enjoy the moments and victories on the ride.”