2017 Recap

December 18, 2017 5 min read

I’d like to use this first post of 2017 to summarize the year, a new tradition that’ll ensure at least one post for every lap the earth makes ‘round the sun.

It’s been a busy year with a few big milestones for us, the biggest being a transition from me” to us.” Raina’s been working with me for more than three years, and starting this month she’s employee #1, entitled to all the perks and unpaid vacation we enjoy here at the company. We met working together, got married along the way, and continue to work well together, and I’m eager to see how Working Concept can grow and improve.

For those expecting bullets, here are the highlights:

  • Helped behind the scenes with Peers 2017, which came to Seattle in April for its fifth incarnation.
  • Published four Craft plugins: Cloudflare, Versioneer, KeyCDN, and Bugsnag (for Craft 3). I write a bunch of Craft plugins and publish few, so it’s been good to get something out there.
  • Hit a perfect 100 for Google PageSpeed Insights, after finally grappling with CriticalCSS and more intense caching. If you’re an active client reading this, you’ve benefitted from this quest in some way.
  • Migrated BlipBleepBloop, our tiny hosting operation, to much faster and more stable infrastructure without pricing changes.
  • Boosted overall project efficiency adding Gulp workflows to old and new work.
  • Got started with Craft 3, which hit RC2 just before I published this post. (If "RC" only reminds you of soda, just know it’s getting close to its big launch.)
  • Helped some exciting young software companies define and refine their visual identities. We’re excited to watch them grow!
  • Launched a 17-language site for distinctly different audiences spanning four continents.
  • Watched speed and SEO improvements bring an existing client more business.
  • Launched our very first pro-bono project for a neighborhood non-profit that helps neighbors in need get clothes, transportation, and help paying bills.
  • Ushered projects old and new into the era of https.
  • Started using a CRM, which you’ve noticed if you brought up work and I "magically" remembered to follow up methodically. More on this below.
  • Spent quality time with Laravel and Vue, leading to a few client projects and a handful of internal tools for monitoring project health, scheduling meetings, signing contracts, and automating Trello tasks.
  • Luxuriated in this bountiful age of text editors, occasionally setting aside Sublime Text 3 to work smarter with PhpStorm and sometimes cheerily with VS Code.
  • Committed to using Bugsnag and Pingdom to stay vigilant with active projects.
  • Managed to be the second-most-useful moderater on the Craft CMS Stack Exchange site. Stop by, ask an inappropriate question, and I may be the one to remove it!
  • De-integrated the CMS from some old Craft and ExpressionEngine projects that are better off static for the long haul.

Modest Marketing

How many times have you heard the statement “We like to let our work do the talking.” That’s modesty. And in marketing, there’s no place for modesty.

Alex Goldfayn, The Revenue Growth Habit

Despite my enthusiasm over a helpful project management book, the year’s greatest business development has been the notion of business development. A different book that I didn’t like helped me approach the idea of sales, for my business, without feeling my soul start to wither. I read it following some interesting discussion in a Slack group, and had my most moving annual epiphany.

But first, you should know I’ve been running my own business to accomplish two things:

  1. help people solve interesting problems
  2. continue eating and sleeping both legally and indoors

For a tiny company like mine, I’ve seen sales as a misguided effort to win money rather than do good work. I’d rather under-promise and over-deliver, I’ve been lucky enough to always have work, and I’ve had little need to sell anything. Since it launched, this site has continually communicated less about what we do. I’ve been getting away with it, not updating testimonials and case studies with glee. My epiphany, courtesy of Alex Goldfayn, is that I’ve been letting existing and unrealized clients down:

  • Existing clients aren’t aware of an evolving skill set, sometimes surprised to learn we do a particular thing or that we’d solve a problem differently than we might have a year ago.
  • We’re primed to lose work with good, inactive clients when all they see is the site we built many years ago. If they want something fresh, there’s no reason to consider the maker of the old thing with only a few blog posts to indicate they’re alive.
  • We have to spend a significant amount of time compiling work samples for potential new clients, who must ask for them given the absence of a portfolio or case studies on the site.

If you’re reading this (hi, and thank you!), you’ve fallen into a carefully-placed trap. I’d like to do a better job of conveying how we might be able to help without wasting your time. I’ll be using a CRM to make sure I follow up on any new work you might want to tackle. I’ll be updating this site to better communicate what we do and show examples. (A secret HAQ page was a recent start.) I have more ideas, and hopefully they’ll help us both do better work together in the year ahead. Happy almost-2018!

Matt Stein’s face

by Matt Stein

Full stack tinkerer, sporadic blogger and Craft CMS fan occasionally found on the devMode.fm podcast.

Updated 6/16/19 at 6:05pm