Not everyone likes Business Tracks
I know there are some people, like my friend Jake, who don't appreciate the business tracks at WordCamps. There are several reasons why different people don't like the trend – a trend I've been suggesting, equipping, encouraging, sponsoring, speaking at and coordinating.
Sometimes it's the topic or talk – because seriously how can you explain what it takes to build a successful business in 25-45 minutes.
Sometimes it's the person talking – because calling yourself an expert doesn't actually make you an expert.
Sometimes it's the perspective – because different people define success differently.
And sometimes it's the distraction – because people fear that WordCamp schedules will have tech talks replaced by pseudo biz ones.
Honestly, I understand all of that. And I understand the fear of a trend in the making that could get out of control….
Running a Business is Hard
I know that business tracks at WordCamps often have sessions that don't seem like they apply much to WordPress specifically. I get that. In fact, if you listen to the talk you quickly realize it applies equally well at freelancer events.
So the question becomes – why not do it at a freelancer event instead of at a WordCamp?
And my answer is that the reason these talks make sense in the WordPress community, at the events which gather the community, and where best practices are shared, is because running a business is hard. If we don't help people, if we don't give back, those people may not be there the following year.
The WordPress community has a high value for giving back. So it makes logical sense for those who are succeeding to give back to those that are starting. We do it for developers. We do it for designers. We even do it for noobs. So why wouldn't we do it for those trying to run a business?
WordCamp Orange County's Business Track
The trend is taking off, despite its detractors, because there's desperate need. This part of the conversation hasn't been had often enough. And tweets, while fun, aren't great contexts for business sharing. So pulling people together to talk shop – of what's working and what's not – makes sense to me.
At San Diego's WordCamp we held a business track on Sunday, so as not to detract from all the great Saturday sessions. In Miami, they held their business track again on Sunday.
Today, we held a different kind of event at #wcoc. It was a Q & A session (business topics only) for three hours. It was a moderated event where we invited people to tweet questions (#wpMBA) which we answered via a panel.
For people who wonder if these sessions are being run by “experts” – no one on the panel called themselves one. But these were serious founders and accomplished folks who shared not only their insights but also their foibles. Often people learn just as much from that, as they do from the good tips.
As you can imagine, the trend, the one I advocate to folks planning WordCamps, is to do it on Sunday. That way you can have all the regular sessions on Saturday, and then offer it as an alternative to dev day (not necessarily replacing it) on a Sunday.
My Final Thoughts
I have no trouble with friends like Jake who don't love business talks at WordCamps. I don't agree 100% with any of my friends, even my panel co-contributors. It's not a requirement to be friends – we don't have to agree on everything.
What I know is that different people have different “bents.” My friends Syed, Steve, Karim and David love helping people think about their companies. Even without a panel, they'd be doing it. They can't help themselves. And they're accomplished.
Creating venues for them to share their insights – at a WordCamp, at a freelancer conference, or anywhere – is a no-brainer for me. Their default is to share, equip, and encourage budding entrepreneurs.
At the same time, I know WordPress consultants, and small dev/design shops that want and need help growing. That first hire, the second one, product development, pricing, and support – all create questions.
As long as both groups exist, I think there's going to be a demand for talk, trainings, and Q&A panels. And I love that.