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Another Awesome WDS Year Down and Many More to Go

As the end of 2015 approaches, we have joined the masses in taking stock of the passing year and started setting our sights on the next. The last few years have been a big jump for us and we’ve grown a lot. These transitions haven’t always been easy (that’s why they’re called growing pains), but we’ve come out stronger and better than ever. We saw a lot of changes in 2015, particularly structurally, as well as hit a few milestones that we are STILL jazzed about. 

Let’s take a brief tour through recent WDS history to get you completely caught up to today:

Team Growth

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Prior to 2014, WDS worked in one group that took on projects based on developer availability, which was a controlled chaos, but chaos nevertheless. During that time, we transitioned from being a company that focused on small builds (blogs and businesses) to a full-scale design and development agency that took on enterprise clients; the kind of clients we looked to work with (and started to sign) expected high levels of customization and design work that was not only attractive, but effective, so we adjusted accordingly. This period also led us to narrowing our spotlight: we stopped splitting our labor between creating premium products and client services to focus exclusively on the latter.

As our workload increased, it became clear we needed more leadership and structure, as well as more people. As a result, at WDSCamp 2014, WDS created teams with a more hierarchical structure–including dedicated project managers and developer/designer leads.

In 2014, we also added a third team to our mix when WebDevStudios acquired Maintainn, a WordPress maintenance and support company founded by Shayne Sanderson. We were pleased and proud to bring Maintainn into the fold; combining their super-skilled folks with ours has allowed us to offer more comprehensive services to our clients. In 2015, we’ve been able to utilize this acquisition to offer clients a seamless transition from site build to ongoing maintenance and give them the opportunity to truly see their investment (their site!) in action. Being able to offer this has been huge for us; we get to provide clients the opportunity to keep their site in the hands of people they know and trust. 

In 2015, these teams became more focused, allowing us to take on bigger clients and more complex projects. After facing a few unexpected challenges in 2014, we pushed forward to update our operating procedures and standards–an endeavor in streamlining our workflow and boosting our efficiency that has extended well into this last year. Creating standardized processes for how we handle clients, projects, and internal communication has transformed the way that we work, and is something we’re continuing to do as we grow.

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In the last two years, as the teams were truly hitting their stride, we also had the opportunity to expand other parts of WDS, including our marketing. Dre Armeda came on as the VP of Operations and led the charge on amping up our marketing efforts. In turn, this led to hiring me at the beginning of 2015. Since then, we’ve had a steady concentration on developing a more extensive strategy and refining our process moving forward.

One of the big things we set out to do was organically grow WDS’ presence on the web, and of course, content marketing is a major part of that. When we started collaborating around what we wanted that to look like, we realized that our major assets (our ragtag team of jaw-droppingly smart misfits with varied life and professional experiences) overlapped with our fundamental values (education and community), and that we could utilize this to our advantage.

Both learning and teaching, as well as contributing to the WordPress community, has always been high priority for WDS, and we wanted our content to reflect that. As a result, in the last year we’ve more than doubled the number of posts put out during the course of the year. While some of those still include the basics, like which events our team members will be attending, the vast majority of our blog is dedicated to sharing what we’ve learned, what we love, and what we’re trying out, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. 

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Over the last year and a half, we’ve seen our teams flourish into glorious, productive beasts, ready to take on pretty much anything, anywhere. As these teams have matured and improved the way we work, we’ve seen our folks do what they do best: get business done, learn well, and create fantastic work–even when the workload is intense!

Superheroes Stepping Forward

Part of that team growth is not only reflected in terms of numbers, but also advancement. Over the last year, these folks got promoted:

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We created a few positions that hadn’t previously existed in their current iterations (Client Communications Specialist, Chief Marketing Officer, the Director of Engineering, and Maintainn’s Project Manager). All of these, of course, include tasks that were being completed before, but these positions were created to help ease the workload on those who were doing two, three, or four jobs at the same time and provide a concerted effort in areas that were being underserved.

We also said goodbye to some folks we adore; we were sad to say goodbye to Patrick Garman, Stacy Kvernmo, and Shayne Sanderson, who moved on to new endeavors.

We’ve Learned Some Stuff

We’re a relatively small company, but we still work with big clients. As a result, much of our education has been a baptism by fire! Over the last few years, we’ve learned a few crucial things:

Get everything in writing.

The necessity for the Director of Engineering position became clear when we realized that our communication with clients wasn’t absolutely everything it could be. In the past, we made the mistake of not having every minute detail planned out and assumed it would be fine–only to find out that this sometimes wasn’t the case.  By refining our process for project discovery and signing clients, we elevated the level of service we provide. We now have the ability to forecast more accurately, to be more efficient, and to make sure that everyone is on the same page–about absolutely everything.

Don’t be afraid to ask for accountability–both from your team and from your clients.

This is where the importance of leadership comes in. If you read our blog, you’ve probably already read a few things by our project managers on the importance of taking responsibility when leading a team; our three amazing PMs (and the developer leads they work with) have fearlessly served as advocates for both their team members and the clients they work with. Their motivation, organization, and fortitude has helped us all work better.

Know how–and when–to grow.

One of the conversations that is constantly taking place is: How and when can we extend? We work with big clients, but we’re still a small team. By being conservative but proactive in the way we hire, we avoid straining our resources.

Value the folks around you.

While we’re always accepting applications and have pushed for new hires throughout the year, you may have noticed that we love to promote from within. We’ve been lucky; we have a team of people who love to learn, love to teach, and have an overwhelming sense of humility when it comes to what they know and where they came from, as well as a strong sense of commitment (read: mild workaholism) and determination. As a result, we’ve ended up with a lot of die-hard WDS-ers who have grown within the company. Reward the folks you work with–not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes your team better.

WDSCamp 2015 was also an extraordinary demonstration of how our team is valued. The bonding was real and it was derived from the company culture created by our executives. That culture prioritizes value even in day-to-day interactions; the politeness, appreciation, and admiration, both expressed directly and when someone isn’t around, would be too Pollyanna-ish to be believed if it weren’t so obviously sincere. This is a fundamental component of how and why our team can do what it does so well.

Cause for Celebration

This last year has been good to us! We’ve been fortunate to accomplish quite a lot: 

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WebDevStudios in the New Year

Moving forward, we’re super excited to see what happens for WordPress in 2016 (and beyond). We’re looking forward to seeing how utilizing WP-Rest API enables us to provide more unique experiences for our clients and getting more focused on JavaScript as a team. We’ve spent extensive time working on stabilizing the WDS workflow and process, and we’re excited to see where that takes us next. We will be driving more focus toward certain products like Maintainn, AppPresser, and more. Lastly (but not least-ly), you’ll see us at more events, both domestically and internationally; we’ll still be a presence in the WordPress community that we adore and you’ll see us at other tech events as well.

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Shoutout to Simon for creating these gorgeous images

It’s a new year. 2016, we’re coming for you!

9 thoughts on “Another Awesome WDS Year Down and Many More to Go

  1. Wanted to add a follow up comment here: Thank you to everyone on our team who helped give me details on WDS history prior to my starting date and who gave me feedback on this post! Like so much of what we do, this too was a collaborative effort!

  2. Love this post! Congrats on another successful year and looking forward to many more celebratory posts like this in the future.

  3. A terrific, upbeat post. After reading it, I felt a new sense of purpose and direction. My small company can also grow, and our greatest assets are our people. Thanks for starting off the new year on such a positive note.

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