15 Years Ago, To This Day. (Our Story)
15 years ago something very significant to my life took place (and I know Carson would say the same). Wealthy Affiliate was born, September 10, 2005.
As I sat down to write this post I really started to go down memory lane. The ups and downs to running a business are real, and to be completely frank with you there were times that we felt like giving up. There are times when it feels like your back is up against the wall and nothing is going right. There are also times when you feel you can't do any wrong and everything you touch will turn to gold.
These are the highs and lows of running a business and these are what many entrepreneurs use as their motivation to push forward in business.
I want to share some of our history with you today, some insights as to where we have come from, and where we are headed in the future. I am going to share some of the biggest failures here at WA and explain how that motivates us. I also want to share how we have handled success along the way and what sort of impact that has on our overall decision-making process.
On a company side I want to offer you insight into our working day...how we run our business, and the ethos that surrounds the Wealthy Affiliate engine.
September 10, 2005. The Day We Opened Our Doors.
I remember going out for dinner on the night of Sept 10, 2010. I was on my way to an oyster bar with some friends (and my now wife), and I received a text from Carson...on my flip phone lol.
"Dude, we just had a sign-up!"
We were ecstatic, and not because it was our first sale within the online world. Quite the opposite. We had both independently been operating successful affiliate marketing businesses for 3 years prior to joining forces with the creation of WA.
It was exciting because our new "idea" had gone from through all the states that a new business go through, to the point of generating revenue. We came up with the concept, we bought the domain, we developed the product, and we released it. Someone then felt our service was valuable enough to pay $29.99 per month for access.
Looking back, our service was almost comical compared to where we have come.
We Started Out as a SIMPLE Keyword List Site.
You read that correctly. For those that don't know our backstory and why we started Wealthy Affiliate, I am going to fill you in on here.
Wealthy Affiliate started out as a keyword list site. Every week Carson and I would manually put together keyword lists, along with example PPC ads, and products that someone could promote in that industry. That is it. Nothing more complex than that.
There wasn't' even a way to communicate with us, or get support. You got what you paid for, you did what you did with it, and if you wanted to stick around it was a recurring monthly cost. No free Starter membership, just one membership. Either you paid for access, or you didn't.
Our cost structure 15 years ago didn't look much different than it does now.
$29.99 per month
$359.88 per year
$49 per month
$495 per year
Our pricing has gone up slower than inflation, and much slower than the rate at which we have improved the platform and service at Wealthy Affiliate.
We have literally gone from offering people one keyword list per week, to what you see here today. The evolution hasn't happened overnight though, and it hasn't come without a myriad of good decisions and bad decisions along the way. But those are all natural components of running a business, you have to expect the good with the bad.
And that is where I want to start out here, I want to provide you with some insight into some of the best learning experiences we have had over the years with Wealthy Affiliate, and hopefully these can provide you some insight into your own business.
What Failure in Business Has Looked Like?
Failures come down to decisions you make, and although the term "failure" is pretty broad, they are a natural part of growing as a person, and as a business. I don't want to get too cliche with my failure ideologies, but they are truly a critical point in your business. They improve your ability to be able to fail (and come out of it). When you fail often, you truly comprehend the elements of your business in every respect that are working, and those that simply are not.
Ideally, this leads to improvement. Worst case, it leads to you shutting down and giving up. There are many moments along the way in business that I feel other people would have simply thrown in the towel, which I also feel gives us a true competitive advantage. We simply don't know how to quit, even when there are moments that suck the wind of our sails.
Looking back, here are some of the biggest failures in business to date, things that could be handle differently, and how they should have been handled differently.
(1) Not trusting in decisions. We have spent many months on projects in the past. Projects that we created with conviction and based on tangible evidence that they were needs and requirements. This is followed by us chasing our tails, and often times pulling back entire "code" releases. This has happened more than once in recent years and I think there is a sense of panic when something doesn't show intantaneous results.
(2) Focusing on the wrong things. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on aspects of your business that simply will not pay off. This could be in terms of a better user experience, a better product/service, or something that is not an actual "need" for your service. It is easy to get caught up in the wants sometimes, when there is very little value or pay off.
(3) Scope Creep. A small project can spin out of control very quickly when you approach it with the "it would be cool if it could do this" mentality! There are lots of things that are "cool" and that would make a platform better, but that is where iterative and ongoing improvement comes into play. Wealthy Affiliate iterates and improves every day and sometimes we forget that we don't need to include EVERYTHING that you want in the first version of a platform.
(4) Too good to do the little stuff. As you start to experience success, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are too good to be public facing. Although this is something that we certainly haven't fallen into for 10+ years, there was a point where we felt it was crazy that we were actually supporting each and every person (including starter members). To be honest, most companies don't but WE ARE NOT most companies. We like to do things differently, which is why we are still around 15 years later and not a single company that existed in this space when we started out still exists today :)
(5) We have over complicated business. A keyword list site, converted well. The value is there. But sometimes the more value you offer, the more complex the marketing message becomes. It is easy to tell people about a list of keywords/ads/products that you have put together to help them create successful pay-per-click- campaigns. We have sometimes committed to projects that didn't make sense and would have led to a much more complicated business and certainly one that is more difficult to explain.
Everything that we created, we aim to be the best at in that given space and you can expect that to be an ongoing focus moving forward. From hosting, to websites, to writing/research platforms, to communication, to education, the expert help and support. Expect big things from us.
And that leads me to the next thing I want to discuss, how we have handled peaks (success) in our business, and some things that are very important to understand when things "feel" like they are going well.
And With the Dips, Come Peaks in Business.
Sometimes it can feel like everything is going your way in business. Your business is improving, your audience incredible happy with the value you are getting, and financially business is growing.
One thing that is very important when this happens. You need to remember your roots. You can't let any level of success get to your head, as it can be taken away from you in an instant. Also, the way you portray yourself is your brand.
Carson and I are real people, with real lives, and we came from very humble beginnings. We were given no help along the way, we had to pay for our own education, and we started WA (and prior our affiliate marketing businesses) from a seed in the ground.
We were, and are, no different from anywhere here. That is something that we will never forget and we will always push forward in an ethical manner. Whether it is fighting the "bad guys" of the industry to make it safe for the general consumer, or staying in tune with the latest policies related to proper privacy rulings within the online world. Our ethics come first and foremost and drive our business.
We plan to keep it that way, and that is something that you are going to see reaffirmed on our end as each and every day passes. Stay humble, stay hard-working, and stay ethical. That is our approach to experiencing growth in business.
But can growth last forever? I mean seriously, what motivates us to keep pushing forward...
After 15 Years, What Keeps Us Going?
So at what point in business do you feel "enough is enough"? What is the inflection point where you actually lose interest within your business and want to move on?
Those are questions that you only start asking yourself once you lose the passion and fire in your respective business. I can tell you that the fire has never burned hotter since we started 15 years ago today. To be completely honest, we have never been this motivated and excited about business.
We have never been more motivated by technology and our capabilities as a software company.
We are positioned with a significant team of key engineers that are working on the WA engine behind the scenes. As much as the training here will help you with your education and advancing your skill set, it is the technology that will allow you to efficiently operate and grow a successful business (or several). We are a technology company and have a very lean team of 25 all-star software engineers working day in and day out to maintain the platform here. Of course, always working on MANY never seen before projects behind the scenes.
We have never been more motivated to help people.
This means YOU. We want you to get help when you need it regardless of your experience level in business. I still refer to others for help when I need it and I have been at this 18 years. We know that providing a community that incubates the idea being able to get help when you need it as well as helping others in a pay it forward manner is ideal. It has to start from the top and this is going to continue to be a key focus moving forward and it is going to become very apparent.
We have never been more motivated to provide the ultimate education experience within the online world.
There is no single way to build a business online. In fact, there are easily 20+ different business models that are entirely effective and can be implemented once you have a core knowledge and foundation. We can teach all of those. There are also meaningful ways in which you can provide "current" training, and keep training ahead of the curve.
These have been focuses in the past, but are going to be amped up in terms of focus as we move forward. We are really excited about the future of training and education here within WA, and I know you will be too when you see what we have planned.
We have never been more motivated to be better tomorrow, than we are today.
We know we can be better. We will never be perfect, no company is. The drive for perfection is something that is a focus of ours and although it is not achievable, we certainly can come close. This is going to lead to a great deal of improvements and innovation on EVERY front here at WA in the upcoming months and years. We can be better, we will get better, and the journey to get there will be ongoing!
We are truly excited to be part of Wealthy Affiliate, and we thank you for putting your trust in us. Our goal is to continue to maintain your trust simply by getting better, and taking all of your feedback (positive and negative) and improving on our service.
We take things year by year, but I can tell you that WE ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE. We will continue to led this industry for many years to come and we are PUMPED about the next year ahead...and the next 15!
Again, I want to thank you for being part of our journey, and letting us be part of yours. 15 years has flown by to be honest, and I am not just being cliche here. Since we started out, a lot of changes have happened and when know that constant "positive" change is the biggest driver to any successful business.
We are here for a good time, and a long time! We appreciate you, we appreciate your support and trust, and we promise to continue to put YOU first moving forward.
Here's to the next 15!
Kyle (& Carson)