There are a lot of misconceptions about lean startups. <a href="https:\/\/www.entrepreneur.com\/article\/286701#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">This<\/a> is a great introduction to the nuances of the topic, with concepts we subscribe to. However in the context of this post, I'll equate "lean" practices to bootstrapping - or the efficient use of resources.\r\n\r\nHow did Pagely evolve from a <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/blog\/managed-wordpress-hosting\/">Managed WordPress Hosting<\/a> company with an idea in 2009, into a market innovator and leader that's profitable and serving <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/plans-pricing\/enterprise-wordpress-hosting\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">enterprise<\/a> customers in 2019? And, more importantly, how did we do all of that while remaining a bootstrapped company?\r\n\r\nTo put it simply, Pagely is a set of systems.\r\n<ul>\r\n \t<li>Adding variables to a system makes it more complex.<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Complex systems take more resources to manage.<\/li>\r\n \t<li>So, we reduce complexity by automating everything.<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\nNow you say to yourself: <em>Well, yeah. I know that systems rule!<\/em>\r\n\r\nI didn't. I came from a design background where everything was a one-off custom job. We had a loose process that would sometimes hold together, as each client site had a unique set of variables. However, when we started Pagely we had a few parameters in place we adhered to, and while they may seem draconian, they forced us to be efficient and build systems. Thankfully <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/blog\/my-role-sally-strebel\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sally<\/a> is the Queen of systems and she beat me into shape.\r\n<h2><em>Our startup dogma:<\/em><\/h2>\r\n<h3>We had to earn revenue on user #1.<\/h3>\r\nWe bootstrapped this company from personal savings and supplemented it in the early days with income from our design agency that we were winding down. Without revenue on every customer, the burn rate would have been unsustainable.\r\n\r\nToday, 'Freemium' and 'Free Trials' are dirty words. We value our product and expect our users to as well.\r\n<h3>Raising capital is an inefficient use of time.<\/h3>\r\nWe could have spent 3 months chasing money, or 3 months earning it. We chose the latter and have a much better product because of it. As an added bonus, if we ever did take money, we now have powerful leverage: profit.\r\n<h3>Zero dollar marketing is key.<\/h3>\r\nAlso known as <em>Word of Mouth, <\/em>this involves creating a brand people may actually care about. Tools like <a href="https:\/\/twitter.com\/Pagely" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Twitter<\/a> and <a href="https:\/\/www.facebook.com\/Pagely\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook<\/a> can help. So can <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/blog\/how-to-create-a-successful-wordpress-content-marketing-strategy\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">content marketing.<\/a>\r\n<h3>Act as if we will never hire anyone, ever.<\/h3>\r\nThis is a powerful motivator in creating efficient and autonomous systems. How can we build a business that requires minimal human intervention? With only so many hours in a day and only 2 people at the beginning, we had to get creative.\r\n\r\nThe site setup, teardown, upgrades, billing, common administrative tasks and much more had to be automated. There was no other way to grow beyond a few dozen customers without making efficient use of our time. Early on, we were getting lots of support requests for whitescreens (user error can cause WordPress to display empty pages) and the volume was such that it would demand hours each day to solve support requests. So I built a self-service tool for customers to remedy it themselves.\r\n\r\nWe made the investment in time instead of capital. We grew slower but grew with profit, not trying to outrun burn.\r\n<h3>Spend the money on quality...<\/h3>\r\nWe didn't want to manage servers, we wanted to manage a business. So at the start, we partnered with a managed hosting company to handle all that for us. It costs much, much more than standard hosting, but is a very efficient use of capital for us as we did not need to hire two $80k\/year sysadmins to set up and babysit our hardware 24\/7. On top of that, we got all the extra benefits they offer to pass through to our own customers.\r\n<h3>Not on the latest must-haves.<\/h3>\r\nPagely was coded and designed <em>entirely<\/em> on an aging 15" 2.16ghz MacBook Pro with 3gb of ram and an old analog 19" 4:3 Dell monitor for some added screen real estate. Sally and I rocked our gen 1 iPhones for years, refusing to upgrade just to have the latest and greatest. The phones were older than pagely.com!\r\n<h3>Be the best, and price accordingly.<\/h3>\r\nThere is no profit margin on mediocre. While every company, including ours, has its hiccups as it grows, we set the bar on Day One to offer a premium service and priced it as such. We are unapologetic about it.\r\n<h3>Expect customers to learn.<\/h3>\r\nI am a <a href="https:\/\/en.wikipedia.org\/wiki\/Kinesthetic_learning" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">kinesthetic learner.<\/a> If I don't know something, I look it up and try it. I love to learn how to do new things. I expect the same from our customers to a <em>small<\/em> degree. Many a support request is answered with links to learning resources and a clarifying explanation of the reason <em>why<\/em> the issue is happening and how they can fix it. Knowledgeable customers are more self-sufficient. Self-sufficient customers require fewer support resources, making them <em>happier<\/em> customers.\r\n\r\nSaid another way, I expect our customers to take some responsibility for educating themselves on how to use the product our service provides.\r\n\r\nThat being said, we, of course, have made it our priority to <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/support\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">help our customers<\/a> with anything that comes up in a fast and courteous manner.\r\n<h3>Prioritize focus and discipline.<\/h3>\r\nWe've got ideas coming out of our ears. So do you. We realized in the early days we might not have time to pursue them (we've got more time for that these days) as they are a distraction from the current business. We had to get used to saying "no." We had to have the discipline to work on the <em>right<\/em> things: Acquiring customers and systems automation. New features are rare, measurable improvements to the system, and growth is common.\r\n\r\nFor us, it really came down to making the most efficient use of our human and capital resources. Call it lean, call it bootstrapped. The bottom line is that we had to get creative and build a company that would run itself. We had to think and deploy smarter.\r\n\r\nFor now, our trusted client list speaks for itself.\r\n\r\n<img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-12562" src="https:\/\/pagely.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/12\/Screen-Shot-2017-12-12-at-5.24.01-PM.png" alt="" width="1354" height="566" \/>\r\n\r\nOur new challenge is how to transition successfully into a high growth company and keep the lean mentality that got us here. I hear it is easy to lose your way when money and talent are foolishly applied.