Time sure does fly when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? I think I had the same feeling at this time last year. Where did the year go?
Speaking of the past, if you want to read my previous year in review posts, here are links to them:
I’m actually posting this a little later than I have in previous years. Previously I’ve been able to get the review out before the end of the year. This year took me a little longer. But the good news is it’s done. Here we go.
Let’s jump right into some product changes.
Last year I had a goal to release at least one new plugin in 2019. As the year went on I realized that I was probably not going to be reaching that goal. This was mostly due to the fact that I felt the company was “fragmented” in it’s product offerings. There wasn’t a clear focus on what we offered, and I didn’t really know what to build. Or even if I really should build anything new.
I decided that I needed to figure out what the company was going to focus on selling. I decided on e-commerce related plugins since some of my higher performing plugins were already in the e-commerce space. The thought behind this is that I’ll have a better time selling to customers who I’ve already sold something similar to (an enhancement to their e-commerce store).
I also mentioned last year that I was open to the possibility of “trimming the fat”, or removing plugins from my offering that weren’t performing well or just didn’t fit in the mix. As it turns out I did just that.
Sale of Privacy WP
Privacy WP was a new addition to the plugin lineup in 2018. It was created in response to the GDPR laws coming out of the EU. The goal of the plugin is to assist companies with GDPR compliance by including data from third party sites in the WordPress data export and erase requests.
Over the remainder of 2018 and early on in 2019, I began to realize that I just didn’t understand the market for that plugin as well as I should for this product to be successful. It also was yet another departure from the norm of what I wanted to focus my attention on, which is add-ons to e-commerce plugins.
In August of this year, I sold Privacy WP to Van Ons, a website development firm based in Amsterdam. They already had a GDPR related plugin WP GDPR Compliance, which had thousands of users. It just made sense to let them take the reins and roll with it.
I wish them the best of luck with the plugin.
New WooCommerce Plugins
With the goal of focusing the company on e-commerce related plugins I felt like I needed to offer a few more e-commerce add-ons. I had a few ideas from feedback I’ve received, feature requests from customers and other people I’ve spoken to.
With that said, I’ve created four new plugins, which are all add-ons for WooCommerce. All of the plugins are available on AmplifyPlugins.com.
Auto Update Cart
By default when a customer updates the cart (i.e. changes quantities) in WooCommerce, they manually have to click a button to update the cart totals. If they go to the checkout page without updating the cart, they’ll be checking out with the wrong quantity of products. That’s definitely not a great user experience.
Auto Update Cart updates the cart automatically when quantities change so the customer doesn’t have to remember to do anything else.
Conditional Free Product
It’s nice to be able to offer customers a free gift if they do something special. You see it all the time – spend $25 or more and get a free water bottle. Or whatever makes sense for your customers.
With Conditional Free Product, you can give customers a product on your site for free based on the products in their cart, the total order value in their cart, or if they buy a certain number of a given product.
Disable Shipping Methods When Free Shipping Is Available
Have you ever checked out and intentionally picked an expensive shipping option when free shipping was available? I can’t think of a time where I have. Yet when we have five or six different shipping options available at checkout, we might miss that there is free shipping. We also might get frustrated and *gasp* abandon our cart because we think we have to pay for shipping.
Disable Shipping Methods When Free Shipping Is Available lets you remove all shipping methods when a customer has hit a certain threshold and now is eligible for free shipping. Of course there are some instances where you might want a paid option available (i.e. overnight delivery for rush orders), or even a free local pickup option, so the plugin lets you choose which shipping methods are still available to the customer when free shipping is available.
Restrict Purchases By Country
Sometimes shops will sell products that are not able to be exported from their country, or imported into other countries. There are all sorts of reasons for this such as legal regulations, and shipping company policies.
Restrict Purchases By Country allows the store owner to set a restriction on the purchase of a product based on the country that the customer is from. It uses the customer’s IP address to determine where they are located and puts in the appropriate restrictions. Of course, a customer could use a VPN to pretend that they are in another location. To combat this, the plugin also checks the shipping address against the list of restricted countries so that should the customer get to the point of checking out with a restricted product in the cart, they aren’t allowed to complete their order until they remove the product or change the shipping address.
With my wife’s medical issues (more on that later) I really didn’t want to do much travel in the early part of 2019 until she started doing better. In the first half of the year, I only attended my local WordCamp in Phoenix. With everything else going on at home, travel wasn’t a huge priority for me.
In September I attended Pressnomics, which was only about a two hour drive from home, so it wasn’t too far out of the way. I attended and spoke at the last Pressnomics in 2017, so I had a good idea of what to expect from that conference.
The conference venue, presentations, and attendees were all top notch. I had really great conversations with a lot of old friends and even met some new ones.
Finally, to close out the year I attended WordCamp US in St. Louis. Again, I had a really good time catching up with old friends and a great time meeting new people while checking out a new city.
On a personal level this year, in a word, was amazing.
I mentioned in last year’s year in review that my wife had some very significant medical issues from seizures in September 2018. She continued to have seizures until early May 2019. While that in and of itself doesn’t sound amazing, the progress she’s made since then has been remarkable.
Other than the obvious health implications, one of the downsides to seizures is that my wife couldn’t drive. In Arizona where we live, patients are required to be seizure free for at least three months before they can drive. My wife, prior to this, took our kids everywhere. It was a huge adjustment for us to now rely on me as the sole driver. I jokingly referred to myself as the family chauffeur.
Fortunately, in August 2019 my wife got her license back, and outside of the handfuls of medications she takes every day, you wouldn’t know that anything was wrong with her.
She even gave a speech at WordCamp Phoenix 2019 where she talked about this experience from an entrepreneur’s perspective.
Invitation to The White House
I’ve written and talked openly about losing my brother in Afghanistan in 2010. This loss classifies me and my parents as a “Gold Star family” – one that has lost a military family member in combat. It’s a “club” that no one wants to join.
In early May of this year, my father called me and told me that he got a phone call from The White House (yes, that White House) telling him that President Trump was inviting us to a ceremony to honor Gold Star families.
At first, my bullshit meter was flying off the charts. Why would the President want us to come to The White House? It’s probably a prank call or a scam, right?
Well, I was wrong. A few days later we received an official invitation from the President and Mrs. Trump.
This event has been something that President Trump has now done for each of the three years he has been in office. In all there were 50 Gold Star Families present at the reception.
We heard that it was possible to arrange for a tour of the West Wing from another Gold Star family who attended one of the previous receptions. We reached out to the person who coordinated our RSVP to see if it would be possible for such a tour.
It turns out it was possible.
When a tourist goes to Washington D.C. they typically get a tour of the East Wing. The tour we got was of the West Wing, which included the Oval Office, Cabinet Room, Roosevelt Room, Press Briefing Room (the room you see all the press conferences in on TV), White House Mess (dining facility), and the door outside the Situation Room.
The Situation Room is a secure room used for national security purposes. While curiosity had me wondering what was beyond that door, I didn’t really want to know. Although someone did open the door while we were in the hallway outside, and we got to see the clocks on the wall inside the door. I saw nothing else, I swear! ????️♂️
We were prohibited from taking photos anywhere inside the West Wing except for the Press Briefing Room. I’d imagine that’s because almost every square inch of that place is on TV on a daily basis.
Cameras in the back of the deceptively small room. My parents and I at the front podium. Me sitting in one of the press seats. Me being a goofball and acting like I was a member of the press with a question. What you see on TV. Me at the podium. Couldn’t actually stand behind the podium though.
I did say that we were prohibited from taking pictures inside the West Wing. Outside we were free to snap away ????
My parents and I outside the visitor’s entrance to the West Wing. This is the entrance to the West Wing where dignitaries usually enter. The press room is through the white awning in the foreground.
The next evening we returned to The White House for the Gold Star Family reception. At the reception, we were greeted by the most thorough security screening I’ve ever seen. If you think TSA airport screening is thorough, you haven’t seen anything like getting into The White House when you were expected to meet the President.
After getting through security we were entertained by “The President’s Own” Marine Corps band, drinks, and hors d’oeuvres. We were able to speak with other high ranking military and government officials like Deputy Secretary of Defense, David Norquist who were mingling with the families.
We also were given an opportunity to meet President Trump and his wife for a photo.
After the photo, we were brought into the East Room to honor the fallen military members with a candle lighting ceremony.
By the way, these are the only public photos I was able to find of the ceremony, which I assume were taken by White House staff because no members of the press were present. It was a very small and private setting.
After the ceremony, I was expecting that we would get ushered out of The White House by some burly Secret Service agents. I was wrong.
We were allowed to stay longer and we were even offered desserts to snack on as we got to explore the East Wing, which was like a museum filled with history of prior Presidents.
China from Presidents Washington and Adams China from President James Madison I never noticed before, but President Reagan was a pretty sharp dresser ????
Speaking of the Secret Service agents, they were not at all like what you see in the movies. Most of the ones we saw were very friendly, and even answered our questions about the rooms we were in, or other things like the artwork we were looking at.
Drive On Podcast
Last year I started a YouTube video series of lessons that I learned while serving in the military. I stopped producing new videos for that late last year with the intention of picking back up after the new year.
That never happened.
What eventually took its place was a new podcast that I created called Drive On Podcast.
The focus of the podcast is to provide hope and strength to military veterans who might be struggling after returning home from deployment or after getting out of the military altogether.
When I first started the podcast, I wasn’t really comfortable with the whole podcast production process. It was a strange, foreign beast to me. I didn’t even tell many people about the podcast until I recorded a few episodes. I’ve since learned that this isn’t the best launch strategy for a podcast, but live and learn.
Since no one really knew about the podcast for the first few weeks I didn’t have any guests until I was a couple months into the podcast. I’ve been consistently turning out new episodes with new guests week after week ever since and I love doing it.
Guests share the stories of the struggles they went through and what they’ve found that helped them get out of whatever situation that they were in. Hopefully someone, whether military or civilian, will hear these messages and be able to benefit from them.
2019 Goals Report Card
Last year I ended my year in review with a few goals. Here’s how I did.
- Increase my reliance on outsourcing. This year I definitely have increased the amount of work I outsourced. While some of the people I’ve outsourced the work to have changed I’m still able to free up my own time by relying on the expertise of others. Counting this one as a win.
- Reevaluate existing plugins. I wanted to be able to focus on plugins that were performing better than others. With the sale of Privacy WP, I was able to do just that. I probably could do a better job at this, but I took a step in the right direction, so let’s call this a win too.
- Keep an eye out for other plugins to acquire. I did not acquire any other plugins this year. It actually surprised me because I was actively looking for plugins that would fit well in the e-commerce plugin portfolio I’m trying to build. There was one opportunity earlier in the year, but it came with other non-ecommerce plugins so I decided to pass. I’ll call this a win too, because I did look but wasn’t going to act on anything that wasn’t a good fit.
- Increase revenue. I didn’t hit the goal that I had from last year in terms of how much revenue would increase. To be clear revenue did increase, just not by the amount I anticipated. I can’t say this is a success because I fell short of my prediction, but an increase in revenue is never a bad thing, right? I won’t make excuses for falling short of the prediction other than the fact that I was a little too over ambitious with my goal. Reality is a pain isn’t it?
After setting goals for the upcoming year for the last few years I realized that a lot can change during the year. Things that might be a priority in January might not be as important later on in the year. As a matter of fact, I very rarely look back at the goals I set at the end of one year during the next year until I start to write the next year in review post.
My goal though for 2020 and beyond is to work on my focus. In the last few months, I’ve felt somewhat scattered in the work I’ve been doing. Ultimately it hasn’t helped me become more productive, and business has probably suffered because of it.
I also have a “secret” project that I’m working on, which with any luck should be largely completed in late spring/early summer 2020. Depending on the success of this project it may drastically shift my priorities. This project is going to remain a secret for now, but I’ll drop hints as it nears completion.
With all that said, I don’t want to set specific goals like “grow revenue X%” or “acquire X plugins” or anything like that.
What I do want to focus on is the building of good habits and removing bad habits.
Whatever my focus is on throughout the year, I want to do more of the things that will help me achieve the goal I’m working towards and less of the things that will distract me from achieving it.
I guess the theme for the year will be “focus”. Eliminate distractions and prioritize actions that will increase the likelihood of positive outcomes.
What about you? What are your goals for 2020?