In this episode of the WP Minute+, Matt Medeiros interviews Scott Stapley, CEO and co-founder of BigScoots, a managed WordPress hosting company. Stapley shares the story of how he and his business partner started BigScoots in 2010 while still in college, focusing on providing exceptional service in the hosting industry.

Stapley discusses the challenges of scaling a hosting business, especially as an infrastructure provider. He explains how BigScoots differentiates itself by owning and operating its own infrastructure, allowing them to offer more resource-abundant solutions at competitive prices while still delivering top-notch service.

The conversation also touches on the importance of customer service in the hosting industry. Stapley emphasizes that BigScoots has built its reputation on providing unparalleled support, which has led to a loyal customer base and minimal churn. He believes that the service gap in the industry is growing, and hosting companies must focus on delivering value through exceptional service to succeed.

Stapley also shares his thoughts on the potential role of AI in customer support, stating that while AI can be a valuable internal tool, BigScoots will never replace human interaction in their customer communication.

Key Takeaways:

  • BigScoots was founded in 2010 with a focus on providing exceptional service in the hosting industry.
  • Owning and operating their own infrastructure allows BigScoots to offer resource-abundant solutions at competitive prices.
  • BigScoots has built a loyal customer base through unparalleled support, resulting in minimal churn.
  • The service gap in the hosting industry is growing, and companies must focus on delivering value through exceptional service.
  • AI can be a valuable internal tool, but BigScoots believes in maintaining human interaction in customer communication.

Important URLs Mentioned:

matt and scott

[00:00:00] ​

[00:00:00] matt: [00:01:00] Hey, Scott, welcome to the program.

[00:01:15] scott: Pleasure to be here. Thanks so much.

[00:01:17] matt: Big Scoots, proud foundation. Well, I’m saying you’re proud. I’m putting words in your mouth. You’re proud foundation plus sponsor, of the WP minute. We can’t thank you enough for helping, support independent WordPress news and journalism, in our WordPress space.

[00:01:31] matt: we’re happy to have your logo across all the work that we do. So again, big thanks. Two big scoots for supporting, supporting us here at the WP minute today.

[00:01:40] scott: rolls right off the tongue. Yeah, yeah, yeah, no way. I mean, thanks. Thanks for allowing us to be part of it. It’s a pleasure.

[00:01:46] matt: Scott, we, we just met minutes ago, Tim introduced us and dipped off the call. So we wouldn’t have a third channel in the podcast at it. obviously I’ve had heard of big scoots from [00:02:00] people on, on Twitter before, maybe I’ve even seen it, on LinkedIn didn’t really know about big scoots in the WordPress world, but my God, you guys are really making a mark.

[00:02:10] matt: in that WordPress managed hosting space, a very competitive space.

[00:02:15] matt: I was looking at your LinkedIn profile. And big scoots, big scoots started 14 years ago. You went from researcher to CEO. I didn’t see any other like tech startup space in the middle there. How did you make the leap from researcher? And what, what was that role? And how did, how did you get into hosting?

[00:02:36] scott: Yeah, well, it was more of a CEO to researcher continued forward with the CEO, bit. lots of in betweens there, but that’s the, that’s the timeline. yeah, I was, so we found a big scoots in college, in 2010. It feels like many moons ago. my business partner and I were eager to work together.

[00:02:55] scott: sort of leverage what we knew and knew. Well, he was an infrastructure, and system admin [00:03:00] guru. So he had his hands on the actual physical infrastructure that we still to we still do to this day. That’s kind of one of the interesting bits about how we differentiate from others in the market. Being that we own and operate everything.

[00:03:11] scott: but sort of just started from a point of, okay, you know, what can we do? That’s interesting in a interesting space that we really enjoy, you know, WordPress. It’s kind of funny at the time it wasn’t really established as we, so I mean, certainly not established as we know it today. but hosting, hosting was, was sort of that, interesting pie in the sky where we thought to ourselves, look, A lot of people don’t do this very well.

[00:03:31] scott: How can we do this better? We’re going to build something predicated entirely on service. you know, I’ve always been in tech generally, you know, just enjoyed it. Sort of just tech aficionado, I guess you could say. so the idea of bridge, you know, moving into tech, leveraging Justin’s skill set. we really kind of came together, you know, with me sort of on the sales and, and business side of things, wearing a lot of hats at the time, you know, taxes, accountants, you know, the rest of it that you have to do as an entrepreneur.

[00:03:54] scott: but he laser focused, you know, in his basement with the, you know, you know, the, the drapes drawn and, and [00:04:00] what have you just kind of focused on what he did. And, we’ve just, we’ve just iterated on service a hundred times over. you know, you know, a hundred times a week, I guess you could say up until today, you know, 14 and a bit years later, you know, we have a, an industry leading industry service leading platform, for managed WordPress.

[00:04:15] scott: so, you know, we came from a place, of just being, Interested and excited about offering good service. And, and we sort of pivoted all our ways through up, up, up until WordPress. And I mean, we love where we are. the researcher bit, that was kind of an interesting personal, situation. I was in college for,it was pre med at the time, but biomedical engineering was the, degree path that I was on.

[00:04:35] scott: I did finish it, perhaps pretty unrelated to what I do on a day to day basis today. but it was exciting. So med school was my original,inspiration, for sort of, digging in and, and going hard. But, you know, WordPress has been, has been exciting really ever since. So.

[00:04:50] matt: Was it, was it Justin who liked the internet and hosting bit of it? Like, was it, was he building, or were you both building websites on the side? Like, what was it about hosting that was like, Oh, this [00:05:00] is a market I want to go into?

[00:05:02] scott: Yeah, so I mean, hosting is just foundational to every online business in every facet, you know, even with like site building esque type solutions and other types of SaaS platforms that you might be able to like build a business around, you still need hosting at the bottom rung of everything. And that was very interesting to me, you know, how do we, how do we create this foundational level of service that is just better than what else is, you know, from our viewpoint, it started with infrastructure, right?

[00:05:28] scott: If you own the whole stack, you can really affect change on the whole stack. So, you know, that started with, you know, ultimately it started with a single server and that, you know, obviously ballooned into racks and top of rack switches and core routing and edge routing and everything else, eventually, you know, building out our own network and incorporating all those elements of it, you know, our own portal, you know, team, obviously, you know, big piece of, of, of growth as well.

[00:05:49] scott: but it really just, came from a point of, you know, Justin was certainly, he, he worked in the same data center that we co load our first, server. And so naturally he kind of had an inkling in a, [00:06:00] in an in for us, made sense at the time, but no, I mean, I was building websites, so that was kind of my, my take on it.

[00:06:06] scott: I, you know, from a, from a, you know, I w I had a small design agency and I would, I would build develop the websites. I had a small team with me, at the time. And, Yeah, the writing was on the wall. I mean, service was lacking then, in the hosting industry, it’s lacking perhaps even more now. So, you know, we just stayed true to our guns and, you know, service was what we wanted to dig our heels into.

[00:06:27] scott: And that’s what we, that’s what we did. But, always online, you know, ever, ever since. You know, you could be really, at, you know, as, as young as I can remember, I was, I was, I was on the computer, figuring out ways to, you know, build this and, and, and make something interesting and, and Justin, you know, being more of a system admin infrastructure, role, it, it really just, it just really blended itself quite well, you know, 14 years later, here we are.

[00:06:50] matt: For you young kids out there, co load server. So what that is is people used to, I used to, because way back in the day I worked for an ISP internet service provider before [00:07:00] my, my job at Pagely, well before my job at Pagely, I used to, I used to be the system admin for this web hosting company where I would throw Dell servers in the back of my Nissan Maxima.

[00:07:11] matt: Drive it to the co location, install it, plug it in, put in the hard drives, format, put everything in. And now you couldn’t just go to a website and just spin up a cluster of servers back then. but even today it sounds like you’re building out that same infrastructure. Like you’re buying the steel and Selling that off with your layer of probably software and service on top of it.

[00:07:35] matt: Do you, do you now own the co loc, the co location or the data center? Do you rent what, you know, what can you tell us about what you own at big scoots to give people the picture?

[00:07:44] scott: Yeah. So the, you know, the, the, the metal, right. The, the bare metal, I guess, as, as they say, yeah, all owned and operated completely out of iOS, we have an on prem office, adjacent to our suite in, the care, the most connected carrier neutral facility in North America, 350 Cermak. So it’s given [00:08:00] us an opportunity.

[00:08:00] scott: Ultimately we’re just down the street from where we started, but it’s given us the opportunity. a very interesting opportunity to ultimately engulf ourself in the most connected location, effectively in North America, just, just by its positioning and its age and, and sort of its, its, its prowess in, in, in the telecom area.

[00:08:17] scott: you know, there’s actually a, but I think, I think it’s like a better part of a five year wait list now to get into the data center, but we were just kind of, kind of young and silly and we’re like, Oh, that’s cool. You know, you know, we didn’t at the time we were just kind of working, working the,you know, working the path, trying to figure out, you know, the best deal and whatnot, but it really, it really turned itself into a really, really, really good decision.

[00:08:35] scott: from a, from DC ops and sort of logistical perspective, you know, Chicago is really well positioned for a lot of,infrastructure providers in the area, like, like CDW, you know, super micro just to hop, skip and a jump away. you know, Dell has a, has a, has a warehouse there. it’s very easy relative to the rest of the country to get our hands on infrastructure.

[00:08:51] scott: And, as of late, that’s been more important than quite some time ago. I mean, COVID really kind of messed up a lot of the supply chains, but, having your own bare metal really [00:09:00] allows you to create really, really interesting, dynamics around the amount of resources you can provide. Good. for the, for ultimately the amount of dollars that the end user or WordPress site owner might spend, for example, in cloud computing, you typically get priced out of higher, clock speed CPU cores, which can very oftentimes be a major contributing factor to performance.

[00:09:24] scott: If you’re a dynamic site like e commerce or membership or something like that, you’re going to find that CPU becomes your bottleneck. You know, all those dynamic queries need to get funneled on through CPU. The faster it is, the better chance you have of those completing in a good amount of time for your visitors, find their way off, off your page.

[00:09:39] scott: if you can build yourself a piece of infrastructure ultimately, and, and provide that piece of infrastructure for what could be, maybe a 20 or 30 percent cost savings for somewhere on the order of about four or five times the amount of CPU and memory, that’s an interesting dynamic. That’s an interesting dynamic to a, a site owner who can, who can, who can manage their scaling costs and not have [00:10:00] to worry about performance at the same time.

[00:10:02] scott: if you look to scale horizontally, in the. Or rather vertically, you know, if you look to scale up your CPU, in a lot of cases, you just run out of choices, you know, if you’re with some of the larger providers, you’re given X amount of PHP processes and the CPU is just given to you regardless of, what you would prefer or not, we can custom build that solution and ultimately we custom build those solutions with really cost effective, Or sort of a profile in mind.

[00:10:28] scott: So we’re going to use our knowledge, select the right CPUs for the right workload, and ultimately be packaged those in plans that are easy to sign up with on our website, but signing up for a similarly priced plan between us and our competitors, by the fact that we own our own infrastructure, we’re able to be, Considerably more resource abundant.

[00:10:49] scott: we layer on top of that, a lot of managed services, a lot of human hours, time and attention being spent on all these sites. So naturally our price points still need to kind of be where they are to deliver the level of service that we, we do [00:11:00] deliver, but it creates this really, really interesting dynamic where you can ultimately save money in most cases and, and hit those, those targets.

[00:11:07] scott: Really, really top levels of service and performance at the same time. So really, really interesting dynamic. And it’s a lot of that’s predicated on the fact that we own and operate our infrastructure, you know, a burden to bear most hosts wouldn’t want, but being that we’ve done it for so long, we’ve become very good at it and, naturally it’s, it’s, it’s exciting.

[00:11:26] scott: It’s really exciting.

[00:11:27] matt: Did you start the company, well let’s say 14 years ago, were you, did you start with WordPress hosting in mind or was it just traditional hosting? Hey, bring over your HTML and static sites or whatever and then you moved into WordPress eventually. How did that transition happen? Or did you start with WordPress sort of as a leading, as a leading service?

[00:11:46] scott: Yeah. So, you know, I mean, WordPress certainly existed at the time. That’s for sure. but it didn’t exist as we know it today. It was more of like a blogging type platform. wasn’t a lot of business or commerce that existed in the same way that it, that it does on it now [00:12:00] today. we existed in Chicago with sort of a focus on the Chicago land businesses.

[00:12:04] scott: So some fortune 500s, you know, some folks who wanted to leave the on prem Sort of, infrastructure management, to a professional organization such as ourselves, you know, whether it be hospitals or businesses or what have you folks who needed their infrastructure managed, at the time we’re doing like private clouds and stuff like that too.

[00:12:20] scott: This predates, you know, obviously AWS and whatnot, you know, but, even at that time we, we were managing WordPress. we just didn’t really. Call it managed WordPress. We were just a managed hosting provider. these days we’ve sort of coined the phrase site specific management, and that goes much more in line with the level of service we aim to deliver.

[00:12:41] scott: And also cause kind of a unique nature in which we provide managed WordPress services. So site specific to us, what that means is like we’re logging into your actual website, we’re, we’re adjusting plugin configurations. We’re watching for. You know, stuck PHP processes and plugin conflicts and database inefficiencies and all these other sorts of things that will plague every single WordPress site out [00:13:00] there.

[00:13:00] scott: and we’re sort of the partner to a WordPress site owner to alleviate those technical challenges and, and do so in a lot of cases proactively. so the sort of bridge between, you know, where we started as sort of a managed services provider and where we became, you know, sort of this managed site specific.

[00:13:18] scott: WordPress provider is really just more defining what it was that we set out to originally do. We were always going to do that. We were always going to be very hands on and part of the, the, the customers, the WordPress, the site owners or the application owners, team ultimately. but we became, much more sort of entrenched with the WordPress community just because it was a much more exciting place to be.

[00:13:42] scott: I mean, there’s so much going on. All of the time. it’s incredible to see some of these businesses, that exist, in and around the WordPress space. And it’s, it’s amazing being part of it, but,you know, just the site specific sort of nature of our, our service lends itself very well to WordPress.

[00:13:57] scott: Cause as a WordPress site owner, you’re going to want to [00:14:00] focus on building your business. You’re not going to necessarily want to focus on building a technical team. So it was just, it was just such a, such an easy fit.

[00:14:07] matt: I, this might be, maybe Justin remembers the pain of this, but I remember back in the day when I was the, the sysadmin, so the question is, do you, do you have a thing that like kept you up at night when you first started the business? Was there like an application that kept crashing that you’re like, Oh my God, there’s this thing I have to do at like two in the morning every Saturday that I don’t want to do for me.

[00:14:27] matt: I remember, no. When I was at this ISP, we were like one of the very first customers when cPanel came out and there was, I think Ion Cube was the name of it, like an email client. Maybe it still exists today. I remember that’s that that server would die all the time on me. And we also had a Windows IIS server that we constantly had to, VPN and reboot like always on a Saturday afternoon in the summertime.

[00:14:53] matt: We had to do that do you have any of those those fun? Hopefully fun, moments when you were first growing the business That was [00:15:00] particularly challenging that you can kind of look back on now and say well that was tough then But I can kind of laugh at it now

[00:15:06] scott: I mean, you definitely called out like the two, you know, number one and number two, maybe they’re both tied at number one in terms of, you know, kind of problem children over the years for any and all system admins, you know, you described a mail server, which is just, you know, incredibly taxing to manage.

[00:15:22] scott: and then you also, you know, and then windows just in a nutshell is always kind of a beast of its own, but, certainly those two are good. Good front runners, network operations and just dealing with scale, I would say is, is absolutely, you know, number one on the list, though, you know, network effects, everything it’s, it, you know, delivers entire production traffic to everything underneath it and figuring out, you know,sort of creative solutions to otherwise very complicated problems.

[00:15:50] scott: certainly, certainly kept me up at night. but, you know, higher, higher, good team and, and those problems tend to go away. So that’s, that’s been sort of a,the, [00:16:00] probably the most traumatic thing over the years, I would say trying to figure out how to manage and effectively run, you know, enterprise class network and, And, you know, we, we did, it was exciting.

[00:16:09] scott: I, I think, you know, I, I might even throw like WordPress into the ring there, you know, in the early days, like it didn’t have, a lot of the same support for various services that has today, right. Even, even then a lot of people wanted to push the envelope on performance, but things like, you know, NGINX and, and Lightspeed and PHP, FPM, and like some of those other sorts of things that are just like commonplace every day.

[00:16:28] scott: I mean, certainly. Like CloudFlare above all else. you know, it just, it just didn’t exist. So you would have, you know, services constantly failing, you know, when you were trying to push the envelope for WordPress performance, and, it was, it was incredibly complicated and, and very difficult to manage at scale.

[00:16:44] scott: back then before, you know, systems were in place and, and, and, you know, processes are as they are today.

[00:16:50] matt: I want to talk about growing big scoots. Do you have any outside investment? It’s not hosting is not an [00:17:00] easy game without probably some capital for certainly marketing promotion and stuff like that. We’ll talk about that maybe in a moment. But how are those early days of scaling and growing the business?

[00:17:10] matt: More hosting customers, more support staff, more engineers, et cetera, et cetera. How was that growth curve in the early days?

[00:17:18] scott: Yeah, the, a lot, a lot of pains, you know, a lot, a lot of pain and suffering, you know, blood, sweat and tears, as they say, there was, several years, I wanna, I wanna say the better part of, four or five years, you know, we didn’t take a dime out of the business, everything was reinvested back into it, we were very lucky, very fortunate that we were both at times in our lives,You know, I mean, I used my student loans to fund my, my living, for example, you know, and,fortunately it worked out and could have been a bad, certainly a bad bet, but,you, you know, a lot of growing pains, especially as an infrastructure provider, I mean, on, you know, kind of unmatched really, because you, you think about scale and you think about this sort of like linear,ahead of you and you think to yourself, okay, you know, we’re going to fill up this one server and then we’re going to buy another one and we’re going to, you know, use the exact same amount of clients that we’re going to do it again and we’re going to do it [00:18:00] again.

[00:18:00] scott: But we don’t realize is that, you know, drives fail. You don’t, you know, clients use different amounts of resources. You know, you eventually need to get. Switches, you know, you, you realize that there’s a cost associated with that and managing those and they need to be redundant and then they need uplinks.

[00:18:13] matt: And how do you get a riser from one part of the building to the other one? Now you need multiple uplinks. Now you need DDoS protection that it just kind of goes on and on and on and on. And you really, you know, we were a bootstrap business. And then rinse and repeat that like five years later when the technology, you know, the new Intel chips come out a new AMD to now you’re like, okay, now the faster hard drives are out and then you find yourself reinvesting in that capital. Yeah.

[00:18:36] scott: It really just never stopped. I mean, originally, you know, everybody were on spindles and then those spindles were okay. We’re doing a 15k. I still remember them. Everybody was

[00:18:42] matt: Yeah, I remember those

[00:18:43] scott: 7200 to 15k. Yeah, the cheetahs, right? Very good cheetah drives, I think.

[00:18:48] scott: And then, you know, they did almost nothing, but, you know, it was exciting at the time. Super expensive for almost nothing. And then, you know, eventually it transversed into, you know, caching layer, right? SSEs are very expensive, but you could [00:19:00] incorporate them, like, Within the caching layer on a server.

[00:19:02] scott: So you have SSD caching with spindle drive supporting the majority of it. at some point in time, you know, central storage was, was part of our, part of our platform where we would, we actually had, you know, sans and we would deploy, you know, enterprise SSDs in there and it’s just, you know, network, right, like fiber optics, you know, how, how, how do you, how do you scale from a, you know, single siloed, you know, virtual machine up into.

[00:19:24] scott: You know, a real solid like internal network fabric where you know you do have load balancing and all this other sort of stuff and it just there’s so many points. You know, literally hundreds, you know, you asked a somewhat simple question, but there’s probably hundreds of like lived examples of how it was sort of like a serious pain point and sort of overcoming it, was, was just, you know, frankly, a lot of trial and error.

[00:19:48] scott: you know, we’re fortunate. Today to have a really, really, really amazing team where we can actually think through problems and like, you know, make, make good [00:20:00] decisions right out of the gate. But, yeah, in those early days, you know, it was just, just Justin and I just, just figuring it out. And it was, it was, it was, It was a lot of work, a lot of stress.

[00:20:08] scott: you know, a lot of examples. I have this one, one, one very vivid example of, I was doing a, biomedical,yeah. what was it? Bioengineering, final exam. And,I skipped the last question so I could head out into the hall to, to answer a client call and, teacher was super frustrated, super mad, told her what I was doing and she gave me the extra time later in the day to finish up that last question.

[00:20:29] scott: But, you know, just, just a lot of that kind of like back and forth, trying to, trying to kind of make life work at the same time you’re, you’re trying to run a business. But, certainly that was. That was many years ago. but frankly, similar problems today, you know, it’s a lot of, a lot of, you know, how do you overcome, you know, the next step and, you know, you, you think back on the experience that you’ve had, hopefully you lean into the better decisions than the, than the worst ones.

[00:20:51] scott: And, if you’re lucky, you have a good team to help support you as well.

[00:20:54] matt: It’s a double edged sword hosting and maybe even specifically [00:21:00] manage hosting. You do have looking on the website, you do have sort of standard shared hosting. I think I saw it starts for 7 a month. Maybe that was with the annual pricing, but even WordPress hosting starts at 35 a month. Again, that might be annual pricing, but still what we have is this conundrum where folks.

[00:21:20] matt: See wordpress. It’s free, right? There’s so many web hosts available. There’s always this sort of race to the bottom with customers. And if we’re just looking at wordpress managed hosting, a lot of people might look at that and go, Oh my God, 35 40 bucks a month. I don’t want to pay that. Right? So on one hand, you have this challenge where that sort of sets the, Sets the tone for the customer customer who comes to you who’s willing to spend 40 50 bucks a month Might be a better customer than the person who only wants to spend five bucks a month The challenge is 30 40 bucks a month.

[00:21:57] matt: You still need a lot of them. All right to [00:22:00] really push this thing forward I remember at my old gig our entry level price And so then there’s the flip side which was the one of the problems that that I had as a account executive is You Our hosting started at 500 a month minimum. So now, now we go to the other end of the spectrum where people are like, Oh my God, 500 a month.

[00:22:21] matt: Like, what are you going to do for me? And it’s like, no, no, like really to support WordPress, it takes a lot, right? Like it takes a lot. And that’s where your service kicks in. How do you balance how much service you’re giving folks, at still such Low affordable prices. Tim was mentioning before customers rave about you all and customers are super happy, you know, and they’re super happy running into Tim at the upcoming word camps and previous word camps he’s been to.

[00:22:48] matt: So how do you balance that? How much service and support you provide for an ecosystem that just requires so much of it, especially WordPress.

[00:22:58] scott: Yeah. Well, I mean, to be clear, I mean, [00:23:00] You know, we built a business on, on 5 a month customers. So we’re, you know, we, we love every, every shape and size of, of, of a customer profile. and, I, I like to think that we deliver at every level as well. naturally shared hosting is meant to be. More of a lower cost, you know, shared solution.

[00:23:18] scott: And the expectation is that there’s more of a do it yourself element to it. manage WordPress, I think would be impossible to deliver at the level that we do it at, if we didn’t have certain margins baked into our business, being that we own and operate our own infrastructure, our own network, our own data center space and what have you, you know, the Google.

[00:23:35] scott: Cuts as it were, you know, the margins that they take away from business are significant. we’re also a business that’s laser focused on service. So we’re known for service. We’re not known for that race to the bottom pricing and, you know, black Friday promotions. So if you sign up with us, it’s very likely that.

[00:23:50] scott: You’re never going to leave. you know, we have a churn, rate of, you know, less than I want to say it was like 0. 4%, last time I looked and, you know, [00:24:00] and, and you don’t see that, you don’t see that in hosting people just chase the solution, right? Like people have problems, they have issues that they can’t necessarily get solved and they keep looking for a new place to get those solutions solved.

[00:24:11] scott: ultimately we, we solve those solutions. So although our price points might be. Really value centric. The reality is, is that we make up costs on the infrastructure and network side of things. We also make up a lot of costs on customer acquisition because we really don’t have much. The CAC, it’s really flatlined around just people knowing the level of service that we deliver on and expecting it, certainly keeping us honest about it.

[00:24:36] scott: but we have a solution and a system and a platform that delivers and does so. every time. I would add to that, that folks on the bottom end of the market, you know, who are just getting started for the first time, all the way up, Through effectively billion dollar companies and in certain elements.

[00:24:55] scott: they all lack the same thing in and around hosting in, in that they don’t [00:25:00] have good service. folks on the upper end in the agency realm, they don’t have clients, execs, managers. They don’t have system admins senior enough to be able to identify. Complex issues, improve core vitals and performance on like a site specific level and do so repetitively across like their entire portfolio And on the on the on the other end of the spectrum folks getting started for the first time They don’t necessarily they can’t find sort of the hand holding And the appreciation and the time well spent with with each and every person to really understand what their problems are You know get them over that first hurdle, even if it’s basic things like logging into wordpress installing a theme You know, these are types of things that we’re very happy to do um And, And it’s great.

[00:25:43] scott: It’s great for business. You know, people like to talk about it. You know, you think about, you know, your, your everyday life and issues that you’ve had, perhaps, outside of hosting. You know, you can certainly draw a lot of issues from hosting, but if you look outside of hosting, you think about other areas of your life, whether it be your, I don’t know, your cell phone bill or your, your internet or your [00:26:00] cable provider or whatever.

[00:26:01] scott: There’s always issues. If you, if you call them. They don’t respond for a week, they send you a letter in mail to upsell, meanwhile, you know, you’re having a cable for a month. Like, that’s a common scenario. if that same cable provider, alternatively, you know, showed up on your doorstep, you know, willing to fix that issue in a handful of seconds, or perhaps identified an issue before you even reached out for them, you know, you’d be so excited to share that good experience that it just, it just kind of becomes a little bit flabbergasting that, that, You know, you’re, you’re, you’re just, you’re just, you feel so excited about that opportunity to share that you, that you just do.

[00:26:31] scott: So we have a very disproportionate amount of, you know, good conversations and, you know, likes and, and, and reshares and, and just, just sort of spreading the good word around and doing so at, at every level. you know, we have some of the largest WordPress agencies out there speaking to us about, you know, development for their clients because they know their clients are going to get, you know, bespoke solutions that are ultimately going to solve their specific problems.

[00:26:56] scott: and at the same time, you know, people just getting started for the first time, maybe taking a course, [00:27:00] you know, we’re always in those conversations because it’s like, okay, well, if you get stuck at this point, you know, the excuse is going to help and it just makes it easy.

[00:27:08] matt: would you say word of mouth is one of the largest driving factors for growth in your business?

[00:27:15] scott: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s the only, it’s the only driving factor. I mean, word of mouth is sort of the, the result. ultimately service is, is, is really what’s important. You know, the way that I look at it as far as growing the business. Tim, our new CMO, he’s come on board. you know, we’re an interesting point in the business where, although we’ve become, you know, we’re an established business, you know, with, you know, an industry leading service and platform, but we’ve never sort of told the story and sort of Tim’s here trying to help.

[00:27:45] scott: And it’s interesting that the easiest story to tell is really just kind of listening, you know, getting out there and connecting with people and just sort of listening to the problems that ultimately we’ve done a pretty good job at solving, which is just just a lack of service. [00:28:00] So, you know, having Cutting it infrastructure, really optimized network delivery.

[00:28:05] scott: you know, call for enterprise relationships, you know, onboard solutions, engineers, like, you know, some of the best, best system admins that are out there, all this stuff is, is great for service. But ultimately, if you can listen to the problems that a customer is having and, and, and really deliberately deliver solutions on, on sort of a detailed per customer basis.

[00:28:23] scott: it’s, it’s very unique, pretty hard to do. and, and frankly, we’re. We’re, we’re darn good at it. So, telling the story just about service is, is really what our strategy is going forward.

[00:28:36] matt: You have three primary navigation items, on the Big Scoots website, and I would say that anyone who maybe saying that they have great support and great whatever human interaction. Would, it’s very easy to sort of gut check that you go to their website and you look and you look at your three primary navigations, its product and then clients and why us [00:29:00] and you’re putting that clients, you know, your, your case studies, the, the folks that host with you and you’re putting why us, you’re sort of selling yourself first and foremost, in my opinion, anyway, whereas normally you might go to, I don’t know, any sass or especially any hosting site and it’s just going to be, you know, product features, pricing, Whatever, you know, support docs, you know, all in like the primary navigation, whereas you’re leading with that, your, your little chat bubble actually says speak to a human versus just like get support.

[00:29:29] matt: So let me just put you on the hot seat for a second.

[00:29:32] scott: Yeah, pop it open. See if you get a reply.

[00:29:34] matt: Yeah. No, I don’t want to do, I don’t want to do that live.

[00:29:37] scott: You’ll get one. You’ll get one.

[00:29:39] matt: what, what’s your take on, on, on AI? I mean, a lot, I’ve been listening to, obviously I listen to a ton of podcasts. I have friends that are in the AI space who are building products for call centers for, you know, live chat support, trying to get everything done with AI.

[00:29:54] matt: Do you have a take? Do you ever think like you’ll switch to an AI generated chat system? What’s your take [00:30:00] on, on AI and how you can incorporate it?

[00:30:02] scott: Yeah. I mean, those, those are, those are two completely different questions in my opinion. you know, my, my take on AI is, you know, super exciting. how we’ll utilize it as a business is really as an internal tool. we actually have some initial. Sort of inroads, you know, as, you know, naturally very technical people.

[00:30:20] scott: there’s just a lot of, interest and appreciation for what AI is and what it can do. so sort of, you know, let’s call them a lot of kind of like after hour projects and what have you, in and amongst our team, really figuring out ways to find better solutions to commonly asked about or inquired about problems, really at no point in time.

[00:30:41] scott: Ever with just sort of a stern and completely, you know, completely, honest, response. Would I, would I say that, you know, would it ever become sort of the first, Communication point with us. We would never put a bot up. We would never put [00:31:00] AI between a customer and ourselves. we’ve done a lot with our portal already.

[00:31:07] scott: So there’s a customer facing portal very much in line with, you know, sort of a WP engine or Kinsta style portal, you know, where you can, you know, clone and stage and you request new installs and all the rest of it. That was that that’s been a solution for us. For a very long time. And we’re always iterating on it.

[00:31:20] scott: in addition to that, that, that same portal provides insights to the admins. So our admins leverage the portal for really quick, proactive insights, you know, for example, uptime, downtime, responsiveness to, to a particular website, stuck processes, you know, storage issues, there’s about 40 different data points that we monitor and we do so, proactively.

[00:31:37] scott: So that way we can address issues in advance of them actually hitting the customer. A lot of our customers. actually their first outreach with us is a response to one of our proactive monitors. So it’s a it’s a really good way to impress customers. But naturally we have this entire portal and ultimately it’s a tool that creates efficiency for our team.

[00:31:55] scott: So, for example, you know, monitoring. You know, tens of thousands of [00:32:00] websites, you know, for, for, for reliability and responsiveness and security and so forth, sounds like a pretty daunting task. And to my knowledge, no other host does that, but if you create a solution that ultimately empowers the admins who are, who are, who are leveraging it and, and creates efficiency, you can really scale service in a way that maybe you hadn’t previously thought of, really create, you know, fixing the issue before it becomes, So to speak, and that’s something that we’re very good at.

[00:32:27] scott: I think AI can help with that. I think we can look at our literally hundreds of thousands of closed solution tickets, pull from that, trends and traits and commonalities and try to find ways to just be better from a proactive approach. but in terms of initial outreach, you know, solving problems, you know, what can I help you with today?

[00:32:49] scott: you know, is it a domain issue? You know, can I get you, you know, that, that type of stuff drives me nuts. And, and it would just, you know, regardless of how it might affect the bottom line, it would just, it would just abs, it just, It wouldn’t [00:33:00] fly. It just, you know, I don’t care what anybody says. It’s, it’s, it’s never going to replace sort of a human greeting you, you know, even, even if it is ultimately just pleasantries and, and just, just getting you to where you would otherwise have gotten through AI, it’s still a touch point, where, you know, a customer can have a great interaction with a member of your team and even at that level, it’s, it’s, it’s just not worth it.

[00:33:24] scott: In my opinion, to, to save the few bucks that, you know, you don’t need to, if you do it

[00:33:28] matt: Human interaction will be the next premium people pay for for

[00:33:33] scott: Yeah, well, that’s, it’s going and it’s, it’s the, the, the service gap is only growing, right? Like, you know, it’s only been, you know, you can only exist on the tailwinds of WordPress growth for so long, right? You know, WordPress has been accelerating up into the right for, for so long. still, you know, still growing nowhere near where it had been.

[00:33:53] scott: How as a host, are you going to position yourself, you know, into the next phase of, you [00:34:00] know, what the WordPress ecosystem looks like? And certainly, Detracting from your support team, you know, there’s, there’s, you know, there’s been, you know, just, just speaking plainly, there’s, there’s been significant layoffs.

[00:34:12] scott: There’s been significant,you know, detraction on from R and D, you know, in some of these larger agencies. And it’s, you’re thinking to yourself, like, You know, although the bottom line has to make sense at a certain level, on the same token, I feel like people are missing the button here. Like what, what really gets people excited and what people are really lacking is, is service.

[00:34:32] scott: And I think, you know, taking away from those things just, just doesn’t make any sense. So existing on the tailwinds of WordPress and sort of just, just being a host that whether it be race to the bottom or just sort of being in that space, just right time, right place. I think is no more. I think you have to provide actual value.

[00:34:47] scott: And I think the best way to provide value is, is to do so through service. Just, just hands down. And that, that service translates to performance, translates to security, translate to scalability, reliability, translates to all that. So.[00:35:00]

[00:35:00] matt: Yeah, I’m a big believer that we’re going to see You know, I, I think over the last few years, especially since the release of Gutenberg and the block editor going into WordPress core and site editor and all that stuff, you know, I think we had that dip where a lot of people freaked out. Like, this is not for me anymore.

[00:35:20] matt: you know, developers, like the folks that, You know, we’re champions of WordPress, a decade ago. we’re just like, ah, it’s not for me. I don’t, I want, I don’t want to do this anymore. And they sort of skipped town for a little bit. And of course it was a challenge. Rocky road, right? When the Brock, when the block editor was going into, into core.

[00:35:34] matt: Anyway, all of that is to say is I think we saw ourselves a little dip in terms of excitement of WordPress and you know, people just being excited and providing services for it to now. Services coming back again, right? So if you’re a freelancer or an agency, I’ve seen it. I mean, I’ve heard from people who are like, I gave up four years ago, five years ago, and now I’m back because the other tool I was using just, it just, [00:36:00] I just kept hitting the wall.

[00:36:00] matt: I couldn’t customize it. I couldn’t get themes for it. I certainly couldn’t get plugins like I could get for WordPress, but at the end of the day, there also wasn’t any community around a lot of these other either closed sourced platforms, or if they were open source, they were just far too small.

[00:36:15] matt: Where you just found yourself sitting in the room by yourself. So you’re just like, I’m going back to WordPress. I think we’re going to have this rise, of services again for the freelancer, creative, boutique agency. And if that’s you listening to this podcast, let me know if you think I’m right. But number two, work with, another creator.

[00:36:34] matt: Brand like big scoots who also appreciates that human connection, right? Because the better things can happen. It doesn’t have, you don’t have to start your agency or your service and look for the most lowest price for hosting because you’re afraid to put out the money or whatever it is. You work with people, build up a relationship.

[00:36:52] matt: And I think that relationship, that human thing is going to be oh so important for the next decade. If we [00:37:00] get it that far, the next decade will be very important for us to, to formulate that stuff.

[00:37:05] scott: Yeah, value and ultimately the perception of it is, is really key in our space more than it’s ever been. And yeah, if you’re, if you’re a developer, if you’re an agency, new or old, I think you’re always struggling ways, struggling for ways to provide as much value as possible. And that goes, goes for everybody, ourselves included.

[00:37:22] scott: If you, if you think about a WordPress site owner, whether they be brand new to WordPress or an established agency or business, they all lack the same thing, which is some level of service. And I would say that’s the case for basically every type of service in the, in the WordPress ecosystem. So whether it be hosting, whether it be, you know, design development, it really doesn’t matter.

[00:37:42] scott: There’s always a lacking of service. So, you know, if you’re an individual who’s willing To look and find value in as many places as possible and then provide those to your, your clients or your end users, you’re, you’re always going to win because there’s always people running in the other direction as businesses, you know, trying to cut the bottom line, trying to be more profitable, [00:38:00] trying to do things in my personal opinion, the wrong way.

[00:38:02] scott: we’ve. You know, we set out, you know, I, it’s kind of funny. We, we had some, some words up on our, you know, a recent blog post and it was like a screenshot from our first, from our first website ever, and he was, you know, a little cartoon photo of, of me. And I was saying something along the lines of, you know, service first, always, no matter what.

[00:38:20] scott: And, you know, we just kind of been preaching the same thing ever since. as I had said, unfortunately, we got a little lucky with, finding the right people at the right time, but we were also able to build, you know, this, this amazing platform and, and really dial in infrastructure and network and, and service the level we have.

[00:38:35] scott: But, ultimately I think people are looking for service. They’re looking for value. And there’s, there’s a lot, there’s, there’s lots of ways to find that and, and, and, and, and give it to folks, it’s just a matter of, you know, maybe, maybe some extra effort and, and, and looking under a few rocks you might not have looked at before.

[00:38:54] matt: BigScoots. com. Scott, thanks for hanging out today. Anywhere else folks can go to say thanks for doing the interview today?[00:39:00]

[00:39:01] scott: Yeah, I mean, just our socials. I mean, we love interacting with everybody out there too. also, any upcoming WordCamp. I believe we’re going to be at WordCamp,you, I think we’re going to WordCamp USA. WordCamp Phoenix was our last one, but, if you want to keep up to date on our socials and meet us in person, we’re always eager to, to catch up and see what everybody’s up to.

[00:39:19] matt: Scott, you’re telling me, Scott, you’re a CEO without a newsletter telling people how to run their business? Come on.

[00:39:25] scott: That’s true. You know, it’s, it’s, it is one of those things that we’ve kind of lacked on, which, I’m kind of happy to have. it’s, it’s nice to, it’s nice to kind of just be behind the scenes and, and just kind of keep the machine running, from a marketing perspective. But,yeah, no, I, I, I’m afraid not.

[00:39:39] scott: I’m afraid not. If you do sign up with BigScoots, if you do make the decision, you’re not going to get a whole lot of mail from us. So

[00:39:44] matt: Yeah. Awesome stuff. BigScoots. com. Scott, thanks for hanging out today.

[00:39:49] scott: yeah. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.​

[00:39:50] [00:40:00]

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