WPblab EP128 – Separating Your Identity from Your Product

In this episode, Jason and Bridget are joined by Cory Miller for a discussion on creation versus identity.

As product creators, how do you separate your identity from your product? Why does it matter? When you sell your product, who are you? With all of the acquisitions that are happening now, this is an important factor in the WordPress ecosystem both financially and mentally

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Product Acquisitions in WordPress

Pantheon recently bought Staging Pilot. Of course we know about Liquid Web buying iThemes and Genesis being bought by WPEngine. So, how does this affect product creators?

The hardest thing, though, was leaving the team, not the product. He’ll always be attached to the brand, but it’s really about the people.

“Some of my best friends in life were on [the iThemes] team.” Cory Miller

If it works for you, go for venture capital. But have some balance with your sweat and actual equity. It’s a big deal to be responsible for someone else’s paycheck.

“Always use somebody else’s money.” Cory Miller

How do you separate yourself from your creation?

Bridget set up the context of this discussion with a quote from the Game of Thrones co-writer.

“…I was very attached to the words I wrote, because I wrote them. It’s like a part of me. If I don’t like these, I don’t like me.” D.B. Weiss, Creative Brain on Netflix

Cory Miller says his startup was like a baby and for the first few years there were a lot of diaper changes. He brought it through infancy to kindergarten. He recognizes that it’s been a while since he felt those original growing pains.

“Up until now, I never saw myself as a creator… but Gosh the parallels are compelling.” Cory Miller

“When you build something whether it’s with your hands or your blood, sweat equity, …you do feel so woven into that.” Cory Miller

Build the life and the work you want.

The main question you, as a creator, need to ask yourself is this: how painful is it to do everything yourself? Or — how much joy do you have working alone. You can work alone. Build that life. But if you want to build a company, then you have to delegate and/or outsource.

We should not feel guilty for outsourcing tasks to others whether it’s housekeeping, development, marketing, or support.

How do you stop being a Micromanaging Creator?

Cory talks about Assembly Line leadership to get productivity. Throwing more people at problem isn’t more effective. If you care about people, they’ll care about you.

“When it comes to leadership, it’s one simple skill: care.” Cory Miller

In the creator mindset, it’s very hard to delegate, Cory says, because they are craftspeople at heart. And that is a tough situation when it comes to delegation.

Jason reminds us that having a branding guide is a good way to communicate the persona to others the way that Jen Miller and I do for our blogging and social media clients. They’re trusting us to represent them. The brand should always come first in a company — even over its creator. This allows people to be cross-trained, even in small companies, so the employees can go on vacation.

It needs to be psychologically safe in your organization for team members to make decisions with the values in mind. You need to be okay with that.  (Read Chapter 3 on Teams from this book. It’s worth it.)

“Do they feel safe to make a decision?” Cory Miller

Leaving a Team to A New Duck

How do you feel about handing over a team to a new duck to imprint upon? For Cory, he trusted Matt entirely. He knew his team would play their own songs. He is so proud that they can operate without him.

  • Be a leader through crisis and change.
  • Some people may choose to not continue.
  • Communicate the positives of the change.
  • Value the stories that you tell.

Being a healthy communicator is so important. Tell people what’s going on.

“In the absence of communication, people will make crap up.” Cory Miller

Advice to Growing WordPress Products

It is hard to go out on your own and start something new. It’s a tough struggle. Cory has a heart for entrepreneurs but realizes he’s far from the beginning.

  • Build a team that can succeed without you.
  • Be aware when your product has run its course.
  • Share the upward mobility options to the team.
  • Communicate your intention openly.
  • Values are communicated in stories.
  • Empower team members to make decisions.
  • Document your culture in a branding book.
  • Document your systems and processes.

“Curiosity, clean communication, circling back, and rumbling become part of the culture. Just like people, when organizations own their stories and take responsibility for their actions, they get to write the endings. When they deny their stories, people on the outside, like the media, take over the story’s authorship to write new narratives that could come to define the organization.” Brené Brown, Rising Strong 

Tool or Tip of the Week

This week’s Tool or Tip of the Week is brought to you by PeepSo. PeepSo is a super-light, free, social network plugin for WordPress that allows you to quickly and effortlessly add a social network or an online community right inside your WordPress site. Your Community. Your Way. Find out more at at PeepSo.com

Bridget recommends WP Feedback which is an amazing tool for QAing a website and/or getting client feedback.

Jason doesn’t have a window in his office – such a bummer to be in the basement — but he also has several monitors. So he loves Multi Monitor Wallpaper that allows him to have one cohesive image.

Cory recommends Transitions:Making Sense Of Life’s Changes. He leaned on this quite a bit in the last few years.

Do you have any tools or tips we should know about?

We’d love to hear from you. What are your experiences with this subject?

Tell us in the comments below.

Weekly Watercooler Discussions about WordPress and it’s community.

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