For the last three years I've been a regular attendee of a network of localized technology conferences called WordCamps. These conferences normally range from 200-400 developers and designers who work with WordPress – and many of the attendees are local (though some travel across the country to attend).
To simplify the background that you need to know for this post, you should understand three things:
- They are often 2-day events – with one day for developers and designers to learn in short training sessions
- The 2nd day is often a developer day – where developers sit together and get their “code” on.
- The 2nd day attendance can be as small as 3 people or grow to 30-40.
But I Wanted to See a Change
As I've stated several times on this blog, while I know and understand WordPress well, I'm not interested in taking the corner on being an incredible developer. I don't want to be an amazing designer. That's not me. So if you want to talk design, plugins, themes, or core -there are tons of amazing folks to talk to.
But if there's a corner I want to hang out in, it's the business and/or entrepreneurial one. It fits me. I know startups. I know business. And I know what it takes to help young companies grow from 2 to 20 to 200 staff (not saying you want/need that).
I don't say this because I'm trying to sell you anything. I just had the hope that we could create local or regional conferences in the WordPress community where business advice, best practices, and lessons learned could be shared. And I knew that I wasn't the only person in the community that knew business or wanted to see this happen.
Three Things are Needed to Change Anything
But if you want to see something different, you can't just sit on the sidelines and complain about it. So here's what I did – and the reasons why I did them.
1. If you want to see something changed, you need to step into a position where you can have impact. I had been asked if I wanted to join the organizer's team for WordCamp San Diego back in November of last year and I decided that it would be an excellent way to give back to the community. Additionally, however, it would be a great position from which to suggest changing the 2nd day from a dev day to a business development day.
2. If you want to see something changed, you need to cast vision and gather a team to help. No single person can pull off a business training day with 8 speakers, food, and video capturing (for future sharing). So I invited my friends at VeloMedia to sponsor the day, come shoot video, and it's CEO to share with us his insights on contracts. I also asked Jason Tucker of WPwatercooler fame to record the speakers (each speaker spoke in two rooms) as well.
Probably where I needed the most help was in delivering fantastic and amazing content. While I could create a curriculum of topics and line them up, I needed more than myself and Karim (VeloMedia's CEO) to speak. So I personally invited today's speakers to come and share their stories.
Dre Armeda shared the Sucuri story and blew people away with specifics on bootstrapping.
Joshua Strebel shared the Pagely story and surprised people with the amount of failure that can be overcome when iterating to success.
Karim Marucchi of VeloMedia walked people thru the 10 must have portions of contracts to protect yourself.
Steve Zehngut of Zeek Interactive shared different kinds of customers and how to manage them.
Wes Chyrchel of Crowded Sites helped us think about how to navigate the challenging moments when clients are frustrated.
Drew Poland the Zen Freelancer helped people thing about work/life balance.
James Dalman, of Dalman Designs brought insights on value-based pricing.
To say that they were all amazing is an understatement. They brought the house down. Everything I could have dreamed of couldn't compare with how well today went.
Which highlights my point. You want to make a change? You need more than yourself. You need to engage and enroll others to help make that change happen. And while it starts with casting a vision, make sure you enroll folks who know how to execute – because if not, all you'll have is a nice discussion about a nice pretty vision.
3. Lastly, if you want to change anything, you need to validate the timing. Could this business track day have happened last year? Sure. But was it likely? I don't know. I think something happened last November when Joshua Strebel created and ran the first Pressnomics event – bringing key folks from around the WordPress community together to talk business. He took the risks and broke new ground.
And that's critical to change.
I often tell people that the risk of failure goes up with each change you introduce at a time. But running a business track wasn't as risky because Pressnomics had existed. It wasn't as risky because it was part of WordCamp, so we weren't creating a new event. It wasn't risky because we kept the location the same as before for Sunday. In fact, the only change we made was the content.
Timing, when it comes to change, is critical. You need to make sure you're offering a change that is wanted. After all, tons of change accompanies marriage or childbirth. But we want that change because we're ready for it and expect it. So when you want to make a change, make sure people are ready for it.
In our case, people were ready. So we saw not 3, not 20, not 40 folks attend, but over 100.
People like to say change is hard. I don't agree. Like I referenced before, people enter into all kinds of change eagerly. The trick is making sure you've done these three steps. Do that, and I think you'll find change isn't as hard as you thought. Today more than 100 people made my point for me as they gathered together and declared (by their actions), that they were ready for something new.