Mason James Spreads Happiness, One WordPress Site at a Time
July 13, 2012
Ever wonder how other FreshBooks customers run a business? Customer portraits connect you with your fellow FreshBooks peers to share guidance and inspiration.
Mason makes people happy with their WordPress experience. He currently runs one of the largest commercial WordPress support teams on the planet, at WPMU DEV. Passionate about helping others, WP Valet is his latest endeavor into premiere WordPress hosting, maintenance, and support. Finding that there was a demand for support after a site is developed, Mason realized it was the perfect opportunity to step in and fill the void.
What’s WP Valet all about?
WP Valet provides end-to-end support for WordPress websites. We take care of single site installations, Multisite networks and BuddyPress communities. It’s all hosted on a super fast server with caching, content delivery network and regular back-ups – all the good stuff you need for your WordPress site, but never got round to doing yourself.
As well as providing hosting and maintenance, we offer support, through a ticketing system, and an email system. Our platinum customers get telephone support time with me and my guys. We also provide one-to-one consultations so that we can work out how to best use WordPress for your business.
Did you do something similar before this?
Most recently I’ve been running the support team for WPMU DEV, a premium plugin provider for WordPress-based sites. My experiences in supporting WordPress-based products and creating a support infrastructure have definitely molded me uniquely and prepared me for what we’re doing at WP Valet.
At the same time, my experiences as an outside freelancer and consultant let me see a gap in the WordPress ecosystem. My team would build a shiny new product for a customer and deliver a beautiful, fully functioning website, only to be contacted 6 months down the road because things were no longer working well.
These folks needed someone on their side monitoring the site regularly, but didn’t necessarily have the means to hire a full-time CTO. At some point I realized I was spending as much time supporting previous clients as I was managing new projects – and it occurred to me there was nothing in place for these customers after development was finished. Thus, the idea for WP Valet was born.
Were there big surprises in running your own business?
Time management is probably my single biggest issue. It’s important to find tools that allow you to get your work done, but that stay out of your way when they aren’t needed. A consistent schedule is a big help – scheduling time to get things done and time for breaks. I struggle to maintain a healthy balance there as much as I struggle to meet deadlines.
What do you love about your job?
More than anything, I love contributing to other people’s success. WP Valet allows me to ensure each client’s success and celebrate with them in that. When issues arise, creative problem solving kicks in. I also love that I work with folks who are experts in their respective fields. Working with such a wide variety of businesses keeps things fresh and interesting. Plus, as a business owner myself, I understand a lot of the issues they face each day.
What’s a typical day at your company?
Emails, emails, Skype calls, emails. Seriously, our business is all about relationships – not just with our own clients, but with the partners our services are built on, and the other companies and independent contractors that build the products we help maintain. Staying in touch lets folks know they are valued and also allows us to keep a pulse on how they’re feeling about our services.
What the positives and negatives of being your own boss?
Well, the positives are that I get to make my own schedule and work from wherever I want. A negative is that I also have to sleep with my boss. Seriously, he’s everywhere and if I didn’t get through the whole daily list, he’s there reminding me at the end of the day. Getting out of your own head and creating time/space where you’re relaxing and enjoying life is critical to finding a maintainable pace and a good work to life balance.
What advice do you have for small biz owners just starting out?
Have a plan and set realistic expectations and goals. Next, have a contingency plan. We back up all of our clients sites twice a day on totally separate services. Why? Because there’s no such thing as a foolproof plan. Having a backup plan can really be a game saver.
Secondly, plan your marketing – in advance. You can have the greatest business idea in the world, but it’ll only be a success if folks know it’s available. Many small biz owners avoid this, but it can be very easy and natural. Just share your passion for your service and show how you’re helping meet others’ needs.
What is the one thing you’d love to do or happen with your business?
Really, it’s about long-term success. I hope to be able to look back over several years and find that our very first clients are still on board and finding continued success in their business and peace of mind with their websites.