Cape Town WordPress Agency Meetup a great success

The idea of organising the WordPress Agency Meetup started in Sevilla, Spain while I was attending WordCamp Europe. The planning spanned a couple of months, it helps to give people plenty of warning. We were lucky enough to have WordCamp Cape Town endorse the event, which helped us get some interest.

We had 18 people from 12 different agencies join for this collaborative agency meetup day. We managed to all fit into one large bus, which was a great opportunity for the group of people to start connecting.

We drove from the Waterfront in Cape Town through to the Fairview Wine Farm where we started our day off with a small cheese and wine tasting at 10am. It was pretty early to get festivities started, but the social lubricant definitely helped to bring down barriers and get people talking.

Our next stop was Spice Route where the remainder of the day played out. We started with the sessions and lunch at the Biltong & Barley restaurant. Then we closed off the day with a beer tasting at CBC.

Below are some notes taken during the sessions, these will probably be more valuable to the meetup attendees, see notes below:

Session 1: Balancing Projects

I facilitated this session and before kicking off the first session, I did a quick introduction of attendee names. As I went through the names we realised that two of the attendees sitting next to each other had the names “Bruce Lunnis” and “Lee Stuttaford”, they are are now collectively known as “Bruce Lee”.

This session aimed to get everyone’s input on how to manage some challenging aspects that affect most projects. Here are some notes we took during the session:

Quoting / Estimates

  • Ask for an indication of budget up front.
  • Establish what the client wants, educate the client, car analogy, do you want a Porsche or a Mercedes? How much can you afford?
  • Get your developers into the meeting, Get your developers and designers together, designers are your IA.
  • For some larger projects that require a lot of valuable Development Time, one may charge for the scoping, Assuming the Agile approach:
    • Make sure the client knows what they want to achieve.
    • Understand what is the problem of the client
    • How many sprints until we deliver the first version of the solution?
  • The traditional billing model follows the traditional waterfall project management approach, where the client accepts one estimate and everything is included in one massive quote. A more flexible way that makes the project easier to manage is to charge per sprint. If your company is agile, why not get your client to buy into the process and work with you that way?
  • This is a challenge for many companies though. All attendees were interested in this method but many fear that clients will just go to another agency that does work ‘Waterfall’.
  • This decision can sometimes be reputation oriented.

Kickoff and beyond

  • Kickoff meetings or a workshop for evaluating the project and produce the scope/spec document.
  • Work in sprints, speak to your client every week, communication is key, what have we done, what are we doing next, tell them about the problems, build trust.
  • Charge for content loading, charge less, but do charge.
  • Float for project management.
  • Level Level, dedicates 60% of the time to new projects. If they plan a developer full time, we actually try to plan 60% to 70% of his billable hours to leave room for support and other activities.
  • Discussion about ROWE – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROWE – Results Only Work Environment is a human resource management strategy wherein employees are paid for results rather than the number of hours worked.
  • Scrumban – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrumban
  • Encourage your developers to speak to clients.
  • Your client is sort of like an employee and have deliverables too. If you use sprints, a good idea is for one sprint to be about work for your clients, like getting the content in.
  • Always be upfront and honest with the client and communicate early; whether it is good or bad news, the client will respect you for it rather than a missed deadline and bad communication.
  • From Human Made (Jenny), clients remember that they get good quality, they forget how much it costs.

Session 2: Building a Team

This session was facilitated by a friend of mine Johann van Tonder who works for an International Distributed Agency called AWA Digital. I didn’t get many notes during this session and will add more content once I get notes from other attendees.

Recruitment

  • Where do you find good employees? Networking, Not Recruiters, Conferences, Open source contributors. He might not be the guy, but he might know the guy. Interns, In house training.
  • A great talk by Mind Valley CEO Vishen Lakhiani was mentioned: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8ZFU4FoNvY
  • Don’t employ someone who is looking for a job, employ someone who wants a career and/or a mission.
  • Good interview questions:
    • Why should I not hire you? Shows self awareness of one’s shortcomings.
    • Where do you wanna be in 5 years?
  • Induction, Training, 3 Months.
  • Important to conduct exit Interviews.
  • Another great work on Recruitment and company culture related TED Talk that was mentioned, People over Profit

Managing and Motivating Teams

  • Internal meetings are a more often than not a massive waste of time, they don’t have enough focus.
  • Before every meeting establish a clear plan > Goal (purpose) > Outcome > Who > (Next) Action > Key Decisions.

Work Life Balance

  • This is a topic that is so often ignored in today’s work culture. We briefly discussed how to encourage work life balance. The main suggestion was to advocate.
  • You owe it to your clients to give yourself time off” – Johann van Tonder
  • There is a great TED Talk mentioned on ‘How to make the work-life balance work’ by Nigel Marsh – Author of Overworked and Underlaid

Conclusion

This meetup was a first for everyone attending. The results were very valuable for all that attended. We certainly forged some new friendships and hopefully it was the start of something bigger.

For those who want to get involved in community discussion, you can join WPSA slack by signing up with your @chat.wordpress.org email accounts if you have one, or otherwise you can get a quick invite here – http://wpsouthafrica.org/ – There are numerous channels there and even a channel for the Agencies to join.

We should definitely do another Agency Meetup, but what should we talk about next time? Does anyone out there have any suggestions?

Credits & Thanks:

  • WP-Rocket for sponsoring our transport.
  • Leo Gopal for the wine gift packs he bought everyone.
  • Jenny from Human Made for paying half of the bill.
  • Taeke from Level Level for paying for the beer tasting.
  • Johann van Tonder for his session on “Building a Team”.
  • Sarah Nicholson for assisting in organising and brainstorming.
  • Everyone who attended for being awesome!

Quotes:

“Team WordPress Cape Town – What a great day! Lots of laughs, and deep insights too – I for one feel this is the beginning of something bigger.”

Lee Stuttaford

“Was honestly super cool, I really had a lot of fun, learnt a bunch and was great to meet you all! I don’t think we should wait too long before having another one of these.”

Ed O’Reilly

“Such a good day with amazing group of successful, intelligent, driven professionals. What an honour and pleasure to spend the day everyone.”

Ashley Shaw

“It is days like this that prove to us that in an Open Source Driven Ecosystem, we are not competition, but rather collaborators – thanks for the great day of insights and friendships made – And thank you Ashley for the ambition and persistence in setting this up.”

Leo Gopal

“Thanks to everyone for an awesome day. Loads of insights and value!!”

Charl Pretorius