Posts by "JR Farr"

Naive is the new black.

Back when I started my first business I was ignorant. I was innocent. More than anything, I was naive.

I didn’t know much of anything because I hadn’t been smacked in the face by the market yet. Just like most of us when we start out, you just don’t know what you don’t know. Along the way you find out this idea of yours is harder than you thought. No one cares that you launched your product. It’s a different story trying to get people to pull out their wallet. Driving sales and revenue takes hard work, patience and determination.

The worst part is, all the cynical bastards love to rub it in your face.

Today I realized something. After being smacked in the face over and over. Being told no again and again. Falling short on my revenue projections. And a million other failures on top of that, I haven’t changed. I’ve realized my biggest strength after all of it is staying naive. I still believe I can change whatever world I’m in and I’m 100% serious when I say that. If anything, I have more confidence and belief I can do even more now after going through all of that. I won’t let the scars change who I was when I first started.

Call me crazy but I prefer to be called naive.

Rethinking the 1 on 1 meeting.

If you work at any place with a team, manage a team or if you run a company I’m going to assume you’ve had a 1 on 1. I’m going to assume you dread them. I’m going to assume when you walk out you’re even less motivated because of how pointless it was. And I’m also going to assume they go something like this.

“Are we still doing this 1 on 1?”

“Oh yes, let’s do that. I was looking forward to zoning out for the next 15-30 minutes.”

“Ok so here’s the agenda. I did x,y,z and we grew X and we’re going to focus on this next week to make sure we’re on pace for our targets.”

And blah, blah, blah. And more blah.

Traditional 1 on 1’s are archaic.

Why are we doing this? It’s just another meeting to throw on the calendar. Let’s waste more time talking about what you did in the past and want to do in the future. There’s nothing real happening. It’s all wasted energy that could have been used on executing something meaningful.

And worst of all, both of you didn’t get anything valuable out of it and even if you did, the value wasn’t equal.

I’m here to ask you to stop. Please.

We live in a world now where reviewing your “weekly progress” can be sent in a short email. Status updates on a project are sent in automated reports from your project management software. Sharing a google doc outlining your quarterly plan for the future can be collaborated at the same time and in real time.

All of this can make the age old 1 on 1 become extinct.

Connect personally. Close the gap. Get to what’s important.

That’s exactly what I do in my 1 on 1’s. My goal is to close the gap.

I want to share what I do with my company, MOJO Marketplace. When it reached a point where I felt like I couldn’t have my hands in everything I started something called “MOJO Minutes“.

Essentially, every month I have 10-15 minutes scheduled with every MOJO employee. Yes, everyone. Sometimes it’s in my office, a couch or a walk to grab coffee but I try to keep my calendar open for things that are important and to me my employees are the most important before anything else.

The MOJO Minutes looks something like this if it’s their first one.

“The stage is yours. I want to spend the next 10-15 minutes getting to know “Mike”. I want to know what makes you tick. Let’s get to know each other personally, what do you need from me and what are we not talking about that we should be at MOJO.”

The goal here is simple. I want to connect personally, close the gap between the two of us and get to what’s important.

What happens next is where the real magic lies.

I keep mentioning “close the gap”. This is the most important part.

During traditional 1 on 1’s there’s no substance. There’s no connection. You’re creating “YES” women and men. They are just wanting to please you, take notes of what you want and get out alive. You never get to the juicy parts of what’s on their mind.

In short, your employees are your soldiers, usually on the front lines and they can give you the feedback to make the slight adjustments to stay successful. The problem with your agenda driving 1-1 is you’re widening the gap between you and your most important part of your company. Your employees.

By getting to know each other personally, you create a connection that brings you closer together. You’re closing the gap. You start to learn what motivates them. What their strengths are. More importantly, with a connection the questions start coming out as you gain trust and they become comfortable with you.

“I’m concerned about this issue, can I share what’s going on?”

“Why do we focus on X?”

“Do you want us working on this or that?”

“Do you need anything from me?”

You’ve connected personally and closed the gap on figuring them out and vice versa. They start figuring out what’s important to you as they feel more comfortable asking questions. You’re getting to what’s important.

There can be value in 1 on 1’s.

I’m not proposing if you have a company of 500 employees you need to personally meet with everyone. You can teach this method of 1 on 1’s with your leaders to get more out of your employees. Connect personally, close the gap and get to what’s important.

Drop the agenda. Lose the status quo. If you’re managing people and you implement this strategy it can make your team feel like they have a sense of purpose, feel respected, feel acknowledged and more motivated then when they walked in. You will have effectively closed the gap and in return you’ll both reap the benefits.

Let’s not make Google Material the next Twitter Bootstrap

I’ve been having some passionate conversations about “floating action buttons” which were introduced with Google material design.

New MOJO services dashboard

Partly because the past 7-8 months we’ve been working towards launching what we’re calling V2 of MOJO Marketplace. With our existing product being more of an integration we haven’t focused as much as we wanted on our actual brand and product – MOJOMarketplace.com. My mind has been focused on crafting the perfect product for our users. Being a two-sided marketplaces where you’re trying to please both buyers & sellers, the task is even harder.

In my opinion, our creative team has found the perfect balance in utilizing material design into our new interface but that didn’t come without some heated conversations about design direction. More sneak peeks at Dribbble.

Google Material isn’t one size fits all.

I cringe at the site of floating action buttons being used in all types of applications and use cases. Over the past 2 years after the Google introduced material design, it’s definitely been a breath of fresh air but this has to stop before it turns into a hot mess.

Don’t get me wrong. I love material design. In fact, it’s amazing. It’s perfectly executed and thought through by it’s creators. It’s because of how much I love what material design is doing for the web that I would hate to see it become the next Twitter Bootstrap.

 

The FAB is FAB, just not all the time.

Let me explain. I’m not here to preach design principles, I’m here to make sure we’re designing responsibly if you will. I want to challenge the makers, the designers and the doers to think before your FAB. Just because we let Google do all the hard work and layout some beautiful design guide doesn’t give us the right to misuse it. Take time to read through the goals of material design.

For starters lets not have more than one FAB per screen. Again, if you take time to read through it all, it’s very well documented.

Usage: Only one floating action button is recommended per screen to represent the most common action.

FAB’s for days

Consumption vs. Action

Lately I’ve been talking more about this concept a lot with my product & creative teams. I would argue with all the other 80/20 rules out there that same ratio has to be relevant when it comes to your users interacting with your product. 80% of the time users are consuming something while 20% of the time their taking action. Honestly, as I’m writing this, it could be 90/10.

When you’re designing your product or application think about the behavior on the screen. What is the user REALLY going to be doing inside your product? I’d bet they’re consuming more than they’re taking action.

Mobile vs. Web

This is where I feel like things are really starting to get out of hand. We’re taking these design principles from Google Material and polluting them into everyday web application.

Seriously why? I don’t get it.

Unless you’re InVision where you’re primary users are the designers pushing the web forward you have no business messing with FAB’s all over your web product.

Let’s just talk about Google themselves for second while we’re on this subject.

Let’s take one of their most popular products, Gmail.

I use Gmail everyday. While I’m working on my laptop I opt to use the web interface from Gmail. On my phone I use the Gmail app as well. With that being said, the experience from the web to mobile is drastically different.

Gmail web interface

Web app for Gmail

Gmail mobile interface

Mobile App for Gmail

I’m sure you can instantly see the difference. There’s no need to add a FAB on their web application because they understand the context of their users. If you’re using Gmail on the web,  you’re using the product a lot differently compared to when you’re using it on the go.

But what about Inbox by Gmail

Inbox by Gmail

Inbox by Gmail

Why the difference?

To recap, now we’re comparing Gmail Web App, Gmail Mobile App and Inbox by Gmail.

Could it be that they haven’t gotten around to implementing material design into their Gmail web app interface? I highly doubt it. Could it be that they don’t want to mess up a good thing they’ve got going on already? Not the case most likely.

My gut tells me Google created Inbox as a way to test everything they’ve learned from Gmail for their personal power users. It’s not all about Google Material design. It’s a whole concept on cleaning up the noise that email brings to each of us every day.

I truly think a company like Google understands their users, how they are consuming vs. taking action and they understand the context of users intentions.

Design responsibly & harness design trends

You know how marketers ruin everything? They ruined email, they ruined SEO, they ruined paid search, they ruined social media and will most likely ruin the next thing. Let’s try to not ruin these design trends by using them without context, without understanding their purpose or why they were created.

Think before you FAB and design responsibly.

The MOJO on MOJO – 2016 Edition

I

can’t really explain why but I’m suddenly back to a time where I was so into blogging and telling my journey online. Sharing where I was going professionally. I miss the story telling. I miss those keyboard warriors telling me how hard everything is going to be. I miss the haters. I miss the support from friends all over the globe. With everything I’ve had going on, I haven’t had a desire to write openly for quite some time. Plus, since my company MOJO was acquired almost 4 years ago, me and the team have been head down building on top of what we started. Lately, however, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the vision & strategy on where I take MOJO next and maybe that’s why there’s this sudden desire.

I’m excited. I’m terrified. I’m eager. I’m all the above for the future.

Over the past 7 years of running MOJO, I have experienced ups & downs. I hope by recapping and writing the next phase of that journey it may help me process my thoughts. Hopefully along the way I bring value to someone in the same boat.*For all those entrepreneurs looking for some motivation

Before we talk about the future, let’s recap.

I referenced the last 4 years but there’s so much more to the story than the last 4 years when it comes to MOJO. Here’s a quick overview of what I’ve been doing with MOJO since it all began.

2008

It all started when I registered WordPressThemeMarketplace.com. The concept was more of “Etsy for WordPress”. Along with this idea, my brother Clayton and I thought it would be cool to register WebHostingReviews.com, among others.

How did that end? We let them expire. Oops, big mistake. Haha.

After a little under two years of playing around with concepts it turns into MOJO Themes as a project to sell premium WordPress themes.

2009

Towards the end of the year MOJO Themes pivots for the third time into a buy & sell marketplace for themes.

Why a marketplace instead? I didn’t feel like I had the chops to design & develop the best themes. The last 5 years had been spent working at an ad agency where all I did was work with Google, learning adwords, SEO, affiliate marketing, conversion testing, etc. and I was damn good at it. I knew using those skills I could help other talented creative professionals sell their work on the marketplace.

I pitched Brady Nord at coffee shop about the idea. He joins as co-founder of MOJO, the glorious little green monster comes to life and the entire marketplace starts being built from the ground up.

2010

MOJO Themes finally launches to the world. Little did I know, I just entered the internet with the worlds hardest business model and we were tasked with building a two-sided marketplace.

How do we solve the chicken or the egg problem?Oh shit moment…

It was a long, drawn out process and the formula was simple. Wake up, work hard, sell potential designers & developers on why MOJO, wash, rinse, repeat.

One thing we did before launching in March 2010 was we developed a marketing campaign around the new and upcoming Apple product we all now know as the iPad. We called the campaign “March Padness” and put together enough cash to buy 3 brand new, shiny iPads. The top 3 sellers who uploaded the most items for the launch of the marketplace would win a brand spankin’ new iPad. Within just a month, we had close to 30 items on the marketplace and we were ready to open the doors.

In 2010, we launched, built the first designer and developer collaboration system called Joint Forces, released an affiliate program and we were close to hitting our first 10,000 users. We also had Isaac, Nick, Mike and Will join as an integral part of the team who are still with MOJO today. 😉

2011

Swinging into the new year and fresh off our very first annual Cyber Bundle we were feeling pretty confident about what we had already accomplished in the last year. We decided to take the money from the previous years bundle and use it to hire Brian Hoff to redesign the entire marketplace. Boy oh boy, was the final design gorgeous.

In 2011 we grew by 612% year over year.We were doing something right

It’s one of those decisions where if I were asked 100 times to do it, the answer would always be yes. It created a lot of buzz for us and we finally launched V2 of MOJO Themes in April 2011 along with our first Anniversary Bundle. The next 10,000 users came on board within just another 4 months. We of course ended with our second annual Cyber Bundle and capped off another great year.

2012

Like the year before, we hit the ground running. By the middle of the year we had already hit close to 50,000+ users on the marketplace and things were moving along as we planned. As good as this year ended there was a hard lesson we also learned.

LESSON #1: In short, stay focused on what your “north star” is. Don’t get distracted.

Understand your ultimate goal and make every decision based off that. It doesn’t mean you can’t pivot but stay focused. Here’s what happened to us.

For starters, the team had decided to explore building some SaaS and application based WordPress products. We built one of the first drag and drop builders, we launched a theme for affiliate marketers that ended up selling over 5,000+ times in 7 days (oops), we were signing up beta users on our first version of Managed WordPress Hosting for marketers, we bought ProPhoto Theme from 8bit, we were building an event based WordPress theme, we launched a few content/tutorial sites around WordPress & Magento. Oh and we launched our second marketplace, MOJO Code. Meanwhile, we were running one of the largest WordPress theme marketplaces along the way. I say all of this, not because it’s some great accomplishment but I think if everyone on the team could go back, we would choose to stay focused on initial vision. We got sucked into a lot of other product launches and ideas that took us away from our core.

With all that being said, this was also the same year we were approached by GoDaddy and Endurance International Group about an acquisition. By the end of the year, we had tripled revenue year over year and went through a full acquisition with EIG and signed News Year Eve. It was an exciting time for all of us and we were eager to get started on the next phase of the company.

Why did we stay after getting acquired? It hadn’t even been a full 3 years since launching our brand. We had reached a lot of our goals but now being part of a company like EIG, we were more than excited to take the brand to whole new level and we were of course incentivized to do so.

2013

Entering our first year post-acquisition, MOJO Themes becomes the first and only recommended WordPress Theme Marketplace on the homepage of WordPress.org.

At this point MOJO Themes is well over 100,000+ users but our focus quickly turned to how we figure out how to navigate EIG’s house of brands and how we integrate our platform and community into it. We would ultimately launch the new brand of MOJO, now known as MOJO Marketplace. The new name allowed us to expand to more than just themes and would be the name to take us into the future of the brand and platform.

Within the first year, we integrate with Bluehost and various cPanel brands.

2014

By year two, our next goal was to integrate into the second phase of the brands by launching MOJO Marketplace across another set of brands. We would eventually launch across another 30+ brands including iPage, FatCow, Domain.com and more.

We also launched a new product line with WordPress services for our customers. These would include basic setup services to complicated site migrations for WordPress customers. We also started the first version of the MOJO Marketplace WordPress plugin in preparation of launching the marketplace natively inside WordPress itself.

2015

Now onto our third year, we had another challenge of further integration. This years being none other than HostGator.

We would also kick off the future of development of the platform API’s in preparation for improved integrations into the brands. We would see the WordPress micro services explode into a big part of the MOJO business this same year.

2016

Ah yes, year number four. We’re actually getting pretty close to the time of this post at this point which is October 20th, 2016.

At this point, we’ve integrated into all the brands, we’re managing all of the 1-click installs, installing close to 200k+ WordPress installs a month, over 1M+ monthly active users on our WordPress marketplace, what was the plan for this year?

Along with all the success, it has come at a price and another hard lesson learned. With all of our efforts focused on integrating into to other brands, we let the MOJO brand sit by the way side.

LESSON #2: Looking back, I wish we would have continued our work with the MOJO brand in parallel with our internal integrations.

All in all though, 2016 was the final year of head down work in preparation for everyone to see what MOJO has grown to be. We may not have talked a lot about what we’ve been working on or invested as much as we should have in the MOJO brand itself but we needed to lay the foundation. We still have a lot to show for it and now we’re coming into 2017 like a Mike Tyson punch.

Today, MOJO Marketplace is a leading marketplace with 5.5 million users. The platform connects buyers to 7,500+ digital goods and services from designers and developers across the globe.

2017

So to recap the recap, we’ve gone from little green monsters, “oh shit” moments, Mike Tyson, and now we’ve entered the future. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am to start sharing what we have in store for MOJO Marketplace.

We have had so much focus inside of the EIG brands and let the MOJO direct brand become almost stale. That’s enough of that. There’s so much we’re wrapping up as we head into 2017 and I’m so excited for the team to see all the hard work and patience payoff.

SIDE NOTE I gotta be honest though, it feels good to finally have something to point to when people ask “what have you been up to?”.

Anyway, who’s got their MOJO back after reading this post? I know I do.

 

Keep going.

It’s been said, the best things happen right before you feel like giving up. Whether it relates to life, business, school or whatever you’re dealing with. For me personally, I’ve dealt with all the above.

Recently, I was at a business conference and I gave a presentation on what I’ve learned since having my latest business acquired. Once I got off stage, I had so many new friends to connect with and asking further questions. It was humbling and caused me to reflect on how I had got to where I am today.

I thought a lot about the struggle. The late nights. The second guessing. The this way or that way. The excitement. The hard things we had to face that no one on the outside would ever know.

But what I remember most was thinking about giving up right before everything came together.

When you’re in your late twenties, have a mortgage, 3 kids to take care of, you can only go so long (years) before the pressure starts to become too much. Luckily, I never doubted what I was set out to do and fought through the desire to get another job or raise more money. We took on the hard things head first and came out stronger.

The rest is history. Keep going.