Welcome to LMScast! This episode features Robby McCullough of Beaver Builder. You will learn about how to make an online community flourish and how to make valuable partnerships in business. Robby gives expert tips about how he turned a web development hobby into a scalable business. He shares his story of how he found his business partners and how they built their business with Beaver Builder.
Robby is a co-founder of Beaver Builder, which is a WordPress plugin designed to make page building as simple as possible. The plugin enables people with absolutely no web development experience to be able to create websites with drag and drop features. It started out as a side project for the creators, but since then it has evolved into a very popular page builder.
Having partners in business can help you get through difficult times and keep the workload manageable. Chris and Robby highlight how using strength in numbers helps to reduce stress in the workplace.
The online community the Beaver Builder team has built is one of the critical components to its success. Power users are people who are passionate about a product and are often willing to spend a lot of time and resources in the community. It is very important to empower these users, because they are major factors in driving a thriving community online. The Facebook community for Beaver Builder was not started by the company. It was a engaged user that kicked it off. Having a forum for Beaver Builder users has helped the community grow. If you nurture your online community, it will have a snowball effect which can lead to tremendous growth.
Robby and Chris discuss how creating valuable partnerships with others can grow your business immensely. The partnership Beaver Builder has with GoDaddy has helped their business reach more people and increase sales. Robby tells the story behind that relationship and provides some of his experience in making it effective. The partnerships you establish in the workplace can serve as your biggest distribution channels. You might be surprised about who will help you if you reach out to them.
You can find out more about Robby McCullough and website building with Beaver Builder at WPBeaverBuilder.com.
Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.
Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined today with Robby McCullough from Beaver Builder. And Beaver Builder is a page building software for WordPress. We actually use it at LifterLMS. If you go to Demo.LifterLMS.com you can see how we’ve used Beaver Builder to spice up our demo site that has a bunch of sample courses and that sort of thing on there. We are going to talk a little bit about the Beaver Builder page building software today, but one of the great things about Robby and what he’s been up to at Beaver Builder, he’s just as experienced as an online entrepreneur as somebody who’s been at the digital game for a while, building products, serving a community, growing, and evolving over time. We can get into some just general issues that are relevant to you as an entrepreneur, as a teacher, as an online course creator, and really, Robby and I can really rap on some just experiences in figuring this whole thing out in a digital world.
Robby, thanks for coming on the show.
Robby M.: Hey, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Chris Badgett: Well, to get into a little bit about Beaver Builder, it’s a page building plugin for WordPress, and if anybody wants to find out about the history of Beaver Builder, and the story, and what it does, I’d encourage you to just Google some other podcasts where Robby and Justin and Billy, they talk about their journey. In this episode, we’re going to kind of go into a little different angle, just more about online business in general. I do want to touch on the fact that it’s not just you. There’s three people. There’s more than three behind the business, but you guys are kind of the main force behind Beaver Builder. How did that come to be in terms of being a three person company, as opposed to a one person company?
Robby M.: Yeah. My two partners are Justin and Billy, and I found them through a Craigslist ad years back, which is funny. It’s not the first time I’ve heard people say something similar with Craigslist. It’s such a good way to bring people together. Before I was doing web work, I was working at a YMCA, and it was a fun job, but it was kind of dead end, and it wasn’t, like, a career. I was getting a little older, and decided I needed to get a real job, quote-unquote. I started looking on Craigslist. I had always had a passion for web and design and coding, and I was reluctant to get into that as a career, because the kind of idea of sitting at a computer all day, like I would have rather been, you know, outside or doing something like being a rock star, or a professional video gamer, you know? But I reached that age where I was like, “Okay, I really need to like … I have this skillset, and I should leverage it.”
Long story short, I found them on Craigslist and we started working together. They hired me on as part of our web agency, which we no longer have. We started working on Beaver Builder as a side project, and the guys and I, we all got along really, really well. I’m really fortunate that they offered … They wanted to bring me on as more than an employee. Originally, when we started Beaver Builder, we started it just as a side … It was going to be a side company, and we all three were going to be equal partners in that, as opposed to where I was an employee with the agency business. It eventually just kind of engulfed, Beaver Builder engulfed the agency, and from the logistics standpoint, too, it made a little bit more sense just to kind of take that partner structure and run with it. I lucked out. I found them on Craigslist, and we became fast friends, too, and we hang out a lot outside of the work zone. That’s kind of how that started out.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I’ve got a background as a solopreneur, but over time I’ve ended up in partnerships, and at LifterLMS it’s not just me. I have a partner, and we have a team of about 10 people right now, but the partnership has been critical to the success. Just not trying to do it all alone. Sometimes the solopreneur thing can be kind of sexy, or you maybe want to try to maintain control over equity and things like that, but in my experience, having some quality partners is well worth sharing the ownership and that sort of thing. Really just not having to do it all, because especially in the online world, it can be somewhat overwhelming to do the marketing, the engineering, and the managing the team, and managing the business. There’s so many things that for one person to do all of it over time, especially as you grow bigger, it’s really hard and stressful to maintain all the responsibilities of that leadership.
How do you guys divide up who does what? I’ll just preface that by saying, we give ourselves at LifterLMS, CEO, CTO, kind of these titles, but it doesn’t really matter. There’s individual tasks or areas of responsibilities that we chop up, which may or may not fit into those labels. How do you guys do it? How do you divide it up, who does what?
Robby M.: Yeah, we had a similar story when we incorporated. We all kind of had to come up with the labels for the lawyers, right? Like the CTO, and the CEO and all that. We don’t pay attention to those at all. We consider ourselves all kind of like equal partners, and there’s three captains on the ship. It’s not really any one of us that’s leading more than the other. When we were working as a web agency, we used to say that we were kind of like three freelancers that just worked under the same umbrella of a company. As opposed to having our own areas of expertise within the agency work, we were all kind of doing the client onboarding, and then building websites, then doing the ongoing maintenance. We all kind of had our areas that we excelled at, at that time, but we still … Billy, Justin, and I were all working on websites and building websites. We all had that kind of shared skillset.
Then when we transferred to Beaver Builder, we had the opportunity to kind of specialize a little bit more. Justin is our lead developer. He’s the code wrangler, does the lion’s share of the building. Billy is our kind of like business and operations guy. He also manages our support and our affiliate programs. Handles, like, our accounting and our finance. He has a background at HR, so he also does a lot of our kind of hiring and managing of employees. I was kind of the odd man out, right? Because we needed someone to do, like, marketing, and none of us really had any business … Not business, but any experience in marketing, or even like a whole lot of desire. I used to think marketing was like sales and advertising, like you think of the greasy salesman, like car salesman guy, and you’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to be that guy.”
We recognized we needed someone to jump into that role, and so that was kind of the role I jumped into, and it’s been a really fun journey for me. It was kind of organic how we all fell into those niches. Justin just started building this thing in his side time, and yeah, we all started jumping in to support him in that process, and kind of finding where we could help, and then those roles just kind of materialized over time through that process.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, if you’re listening to this, there’s strength in numbers, and if maybe you’re hitting a roadblock because there’s a skillset that you don’t have or you’re just not set up for, perhaps consider partnerships for your project, because you can definitely stay alone too long and burn out, and end up in some bad places, or just not reach your potential because you lack the right partnership.
Robby M.: Totally. I don’t know if you can relate to this, but I’ve always had kind of hobbies and passions that I get really obsessive over. I’ll get into something and I’ll learn it really, really deeply, and I’ll get to, like, pretty far along, whether that’s playing guitar, was one of the things I was hoping to do when I was younger, and got pretty far along in that, but then, yeah, the burnout. My whole life has been … It’s just, you get to that point where you lose interest in those things, and having partners, for me especially, is a motivator to keep going and kind of get over those humps, or those speed blocks that you run into when you’re trying to progress through whatever it is, be it professional or a hobby. Your partners are there to kind of pick you up when you’re down and vice versa, and yeah, if you can luck out and find someone that you’re compatible with that also is complementary to your skillset, you’re just golden.
Then again, I mentioned that I feel so fortunate I met those guys, because we really have that … We get along really, really well, and then we also have these very complementary skillsets where there’s not a whole lot of overlap in what we’re doing anymore.
Chris Badgett: That’s just super powerful. Just to give you guys an example, I don’t know if my partner Thomas has ever listened to one of these podcast episodes, and there’s over 100. I’ve never actually read a line of his code. I mean, I’ve seen it maybe here or there, but we’re focusing on very different parts of the business, and that’s just kind of an extreme example.
Robby M.: That’s funny.
Chris Badgett: Let’s talk a little bit more about marketing, because a lot of people listening to this show, they’re teachers, they’re experts, they’re entrepreneurs, but maybe they don’t have a more advanced marketing skillset. I’m a lot like you, I think, in that I used to think that sales was evil, or I wasn’t really that interested in it, but over time, it really grew on me. Now I’m on the opposite side, where it’s a great thing, and I really enjoy it, and it’s about service and education, and all that sort of thing. When I’m looking at my marketing strategy, or looking at somebody else’s business and examining their marketing, I divide it into three areas: Inbound, outbound, and relationships. Inbound meaning content marketing, stuff you create that attracts people, like this podcast episode. Outbound would be like prospecting or cold emailing, cold calling. Reaching out to somebody or a company that’s never heard of you. Relationships is really what it sounds like. Relating to people. Maybe they’re further along on the journey. Maybe they’re influencers in your industry. Maybe they’re at a similar place than you. Maybe you’re helping somebody out who’s trying to get to where you are. It can go in all kinds of directions. There’s all kinds of relationship building.
How do you approach those three areas of inbound, outbound, and relationships?
Robby M.: I like that system of breaking it down. For inbound, I think this might seem like a cliché answer, but one of our strongest inbound tools is our product itself. Again, we didn’t have a background or experience in marketing, so a lot of … Even still to this day, word of mouth marketing has been huge for us, and we have a really passionate community of users that really love our product. That’s been, like, our main inbound has just been generating a quality product. I mean, that can apply to anything, if you’re doing courses or businesses. If it’s something you’re passionate about and you’re building something that you have, the quality will speak for itself, I guess. It’s really, really difficult to … If you’re not selling something of quality that you believe in, then you get into that kind of skeevy side of marketing where you’re kind of just pushing this … You know, when you’re trying to sell something, or when you’re trying to make something out to be really, really great when it’s not. That’s when it feels kind of yucky. If you have something quality, of value, then it just becomes communicating that. Helping people in a way, right? Like, “If you’re looking for this, and you need to do it well, we have this.” How do you make that happen?
As far as the outbound, I think for us, outbound and relationships kind of go together in a way, too. When we first got started … That’s the thing right there. The inbound, it’s like the chicken and the egg problem. It’s like, you can have this great content, but if nobody knows you’re there, you’ve kind of got to reach out and get people. We did everything that you like … We put together the list, and the spreadsheet of the 50 or 75 WordPress blogs and sent contact forms to all of them, and searched for all the best, like top 10 page builder articles, and left comments on all of them. Back when we were getting started, we were hustling a lot harder, I guess, to kind of get our name out there. I like to use that snowball analogy, you know? We started with a really small snowball and had to put a lot of work into building it, and then as you kind of keep rolling it and keep building it, it grows and grows, and eventually it kind of gains some momentum and starts taking off, and you can step back a little bit.
Then, yeah, relationships too. Before we started recording we were talking about conferences. Chris and I, just for a little background, we met in Cabo, at CaboPress, which is an event hosted by Chris Lema. I think we both kind of had the experience, I remember talking to you about it, where it was a really hard trip to justify, because the travel, and the ticket, it was a little bit of an investment. Not having done anything like it before, we were kind of curious if it was just going to be like a really expensive beach vacation and that we can write off our taxes, but it definitely … That event in particular, and then all of the follow up events where I was kind of meeting all those people in that network that we built there, really ingrained this idea that meeting people in person and building those relationships in person, there’s just nothing like it. You can get to know people virtually, and we were Tweeting at people, and talking with people on Slack, but nothing beats that face to face interaction and getting to know someone kind of on a more personal level. That’s something that we’ve just recently identified as being really valuable, and I think we’re going to try and do a lot more of, or at least keep that train a’rolling, because it’s fun, too, right?
Chris Badgett: Yeah. It is fun, and it’s always good to get out of the building and go rub shoulders with people. That’s what it’s all about.
Robby M.: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Well just building on that relationships thing, there’s some quote … I can’t remember the exact, who said it or whatever, but a lot of times with goals, some people say it’s common for people to aim too low. One of the areas there that has really impressed me with what you guys have done with Beaver Builder is that you’ve worked out a distribution deal with a hosting company, with GoDaddy.
Robby M.: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: What that is, like if you’re an online course creator and you’re looking at your platform, perhaps you might be able to get your course out there in a much bigger way with a much bigger company or brand that already has a distribution network. For example, this podcast is on YouTube. It’s on iTunes. I’m using those services to help distribute the content. LifterLMS, for example, has a free version of the plugin. You get started for free. That’s, we’re using the WordPress repository to distribute the plugin. That can be done with courses and content in all kinds of interesting ways, but can you tell us a little bit about any lessons learned, or how it even came on your radar to seek that distribution channel? Which my understanding is, your Beaver Builder is automatically installed on some GoDaddy hosting accounts. How did all that play out, and what would you recommend to somebody who’s thinking about a bigger distribution?
Robby M.: Yeah, that’s a good segue. Again, we lucked out, right? It was really fortunate how all of these kind of pieces came together. Circling back to the idea of relationships, when we were first starting Beaver Builder, within the first maybe six months or so, we were all … We used to all share an office. We’re all distributed now, but our office was in Campbell, California, which is just down the road from Sunnyvale, where GoDaddy, one of their satellite offices is. They were looking into page builders. I mean, this was a couple of years back now. About two or so years back, and you can kind of see where they’ve gone with this. We’ve been able to see this idea progress, but they were looking at page builders, and they were basically just looking at ways to onboard people and make it easier for people to build websites on their hosting.
They did a search of all the page builders out there. They liked us, and we happened to be local, so they reached out to us and we did an in person meeting. We got to know them face to face, which was invaluable. I think it definitely gave us a leg up just that we happened to be in the same vicinity, and we got to meet them and get to know them on a personal level.
Fast forward a couple months or years, even later, we never really ended up getting something going from those initial conversations. Like we had just gotten our feet wet. I think this is, like, with hindsight it was a good thing, too, because the kind of scale that GoDaddy has would have just like blown us out of the water if we’d tried to take that on at that point. We did it a little backwards, as far as the whole freemium, premium thing. We started with our premium product, and eventually released something for free on the WordPress repo, and kind of saw that as a distribution channel. I think that, for us, it’s hard to give advice on how anyone could recreate this, because I do, I think we got kind of lucky and it was something we kind of accidentally fell into.
What we did and what worked was we had that free version. We kind of had the sampler available, and when we were originally talking to GoDaddy, we were trying to figure out, “What would a bulk license deal look like if we were going to try and sell our product to GoDaddy so they could distribute it to all their customers?” That was really daunting and scary idea, because they would probably have wanted, like, pennies on the dollar for what we were trying to sell it to ourselves. You’re talking about, like, getting into negotiations with M and A guys who have been negotiating their entire lives. Like, we were just these little, like … We’re like, “I don’t know. We’re scared. We don’t want to do this.”
What ended up working for us and what ended up making the partnership happen was that we had the free version, and then a year or so later, they kind of came back around once they’d ironed out a little bit more of what they were doing and had some more concrete plans, and they were able to use our free version. That’s what’s being bundled in with their WordPress hosting. We have, like, a special modified version of that free version that gives them a couple of our premium features, so GoDaddy customers do get like an enhanced version of the free version, but we still get to have a little button in there that says, “Hey, if you want more, click here and upgrade.” It was really a win-win in that sense.
It’s like you go to Costco and they have the free samples out there. It would be like if, I don’t know, if your … Yeah, that’s a great analogy right there. If you’re just a little baking company, and you’re making cookies out of your house, and Costco wants to work with you, you can give them a couple of free samples to throw out there, and if people eat them and like them, you’re golden. For us, the having the free version was what made that partnership happen, possible, along with the relationship building.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Part of that, one of the big things I’m hearing in there was just the courage to, “Oh my gosh. Big company.” Or all these M and A guys. A lot of it just comes down to courage. Just to share a story from my side, one of my first online course projects was in organic gardening and permaculture. We went to the bestselling author in the world in permaculture, and he was going to be speaking at an event a couple states away from where I lived at the time. We said, “Hey, can we film you and turn it into an online course? We’ll do this kind of royalty share forever. Work out a deal. Sign right here. Just say yes.” He said yes. That’s how it all started.
Robby M.: Nice.
Chris Badgett: Then he would promote his course, or our course from his platform, and now that was more distribution, all through relationships with a little bit of courage to, like, even go out there with the big players or whatever.
Robby M.: I could totally relate to that. Reaching out, that was something we still do and did a lot in the beginning. It was reaching out to people for help, and particularly I think in the WordPress community, we’re really lucky that a lot of people are really generous with their time. I don’t know if you and yours may or may not be interested, with easy digital downloads and Pippin, right? Pippin Williamson. He’s a really big name, and has a really successful and great product in the WordPress space. He was one of those guys we used to put up on a pedestal, and we’d kind of emulate what he was doing with his business in ours. He wrote an article that we used, and I ended up reaching out to him and writing him an e-mail about something, asking him a question. I was really nervous to do that at the time, and we got this really thorough response back, and he was really genuine and generous with his time and knowledge.
But yeah, reaching out for help, you’ll be surprised at how many people that might be intimidating to you, but will take the time to help if you just ask.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, also on the relationship front, you know, a relationship for marketing and sales, and just being a good player in your industry is cool, but you guys have also done such a great job of fostering and developing relationships inside your own community of users and customers. I’ve seen you have a very active Facebook group, and I think there’s multiple Facebook groups. You have an active Slack channel for a certain segment of power users. What’s your approach to community building internally, like around your business? How did that get going and how did that get going so well?
Robby M.: Thanks for all the kind words. I really appreciate you fluffing us up here. Our Facebook group and then the Slack channel are kind of the two hubs, I’d say, and I wish I could take a lot more credit for them, but they actually were started, both of them, by members of our community. By our users and customers. We were a little bit surprised to see them flourish the way they have, and when that started, again, the snowball thing, but when that snowball started rolling, they were like, “Wow, this is cool.” Then we jumped onto it. We saw that … Well, one of the nice things, right, is a lot of people jump into those communities with questions. Beaver Builder is a page builder. A lot of people using it are building websites, and a lot of the questions they have aren’t necessarily technical questions, as far as like, it’s not the type of thing you’d put in a support ticket for a bug fix or conflict or something, but it’s like a general, like, “Hey, there’s this website that’s doing this really cool technique, you know, like when you scroll down, all the things are fading in, or it’s got this really cool design that I’ve never seen before. How can I do that? How can I recreate that?”
The community lends itself really well to those kind of hive mind questions where you can tap into people’s experiences, and we also I think, a lot of our user base is freelancers and agencies, and people that are not just kind of building websites for themselves and for their business, but are actually building websites as a business. That’s also helped our community a lot in that, again, because when we first got started, and this is one of the things we’ve kind of learned and got better at over time, is like identifying who our customers are. At first, we kind of thought it was going to be do-it-yourselfers, people that were like, Joe’s Candy Shop needs a website, or the real estate agent, and someone recommended WordPress, and they don’t know code, so they found a way to do it by hand, page building. Then as we’ve grown and kind of gotten more in tune with everyone, it’s turned out that where we started, too, when we were building Beaver Builder, was we needed a tool for our agency so that we could build websites faster, and that resonated I think with a lot of other freelancers and agencies.
It’s been really organic, but as far as like circling back to the question about our community and how we manage it, and how we grow it, it’s been very organic, but once it started, once that kind of kindling caught on fire, we just started throwing wood on top of it. We added a link to our community in our onboarding emails. If you purchase Beaver Builder, it says, “Hey, jump in our community.” It’s actually in the product now when you install it. It says, “Hey, we’ve got this great community. Come by. We’d love to see you. Share a project. Say hello.” Again, feeling very fortunate, but I think the whole WordPress community is a very kind of opening and generous … Like our community is a microcosm of the WordPress community, which also kind of shares a lot of those nice traits of people being really generous with their knowledge and their time.
I’m sure you’ve been part of communities online that just go to … That are not very friendly places to spend time at, right? It seems like almost most communities that start … You know, think of the YouTube, or Reddit, or Digg.
Chris Badgett: Right.
Robby M.: If you go on any of those sites, if you were there in the beginning, they were these kind of cool and fledgling places to spend time. They eventually kind of progressed, and get worse, and worse, and worse. Hopefully that doesn’t happen for us, knock on wood, but yeah. I think the WordPress community as a whole is not heading in that direction, so that helps us a lot, too.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. The community’s starting point, I mean, doesn’t necessarily have to come from the platform owner. That’s really cool, and to see it evolve that way.
Robby M.: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, with hindsight, if we could do everything over again, we would have set the Facebook group up on day one, but again this is going back to our, like, when we started Beaver Builder, and the marketing, selling, we didn’t really know what we were doing as far as marketing and building communities. It worked out great that someone was like, “Hey, you guys might want to do this, and if you want, I’ll do it for you.” “Yeah, go for it.”
Chris Badgett: I think with any platform, when you have a strong user community, certain power users emerge. We have people who were just doing support for free in our Facebook group, or other people like building their own products that go on top of LifterLMS. When you see a power user, my approach is just to do whatever that you can to help them be successful, and if that includes, if it’s possible, giving them a job or a part time job, or helping promote what they’re up to through other channels, try to reward those power users. What’s been your experience with power users? Where do they come from, and then what do you do with them?
Robby M.: I’m trying to think of a concise answer, here. Trying to think of one, but I don’t have one, so let me, like, ramble about a long story again. No, just really quickly, one of my first, the first websites I ever built was a forum, and I was a part of a forum. This was kind of in the Web 2.0 days. Maybe around like 2003 to five, six, somewhere in that window. I was part of a forum for a video game that I really liked, and there was this community on this forum, and the guy that ran it, I saw that, and I was like, “I want to learn how to do that. I think that would be a really cool thing to have and do.” I started a forum about surfing. I started a couple of them, but one of the ones I started was on surfing.
I think that’s a natural thing, when you’re developing a community. The hardest thing at first is getting people in there, right? If you’re ever doing a forum, or I’m sure courses and classes are very similar, too. Of course in the education space, having a community really helps, because everyone can learn and encourage each other to keep going.
Chris Badgett: You really do have to fight for your first, like, 100 users or whatever, and really be creative.
Robby M.: Oh yeah, absolutely. With the forum thing, and I know I remember reading a story … I mentioned Reddit, but those guys all had, like, 20 fake accounts. I did this too on my forum. You go in there, just have conversations with yourself, you know? I mean, like serious conversations. I think in the forum space, you have moderators, and you can give people some control over the ability to, like, help you monitor spam and keep things in line. I think it’s a natural … When I was doing forums, and now on the Beaver Builder community, we weren’t out there recruiting power users. People just kind of naturally take on those roles. If you can identify those people and then, like you were saying, assist them and give them tools, whether that be the ability to help you moderate the community or even just reaching out and giving them encouragement, saying, “Thanks,” and identifying, “Hey, you’ve been putting a lot of time in here. I love what you’re doing. We really appreciate it.” Identifying those power users and just kind of nurturing them and saying, “Hey, if there’s anything I can do to help you, let me know, because what you’re doing here is great. That’s been helpful for us.”
I think the best way is just, yeah, trying to identify those people and nurture them, as opposed to trying to generate them or find them and bring them in. It’s something that kind of happens naturally.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, and one thing I’d add to that is sometimes my first reaction, depending upon what they’re doing, it may not be positive. Like, “Wait, what is this person doing with the brand?” Or, “What is this new product that they didn’t consult with me about?” Or whatever. Then I say, “Hold on.” I take a step back. I’m like, “This is beautiful. Somebody, they’re so excited about the product that they’re going off in this direction with it. That’s great.” I don’t know. That’s just been my experience. Most of the time I’m positive and super happy about it, but at first, these people start popping up out of, quote, “nowhere.” It’s like, “What’s going on?”
Robby M.: Yeah. No, I can relate to that. I was telling the story of our group, our Facebook group and the Slack channel were happening organically. It was something we didn’t have control over, and there was a part of us that were like, “Oh, I don’t know if we want to have someone else in control of this group that’s using our name, or that’s kind of leveraging our community.” It’s a balancing act, you know? In most cases, it’s been a good thing. I mean, like occasionally you get people in there that are spamming, right? They’re like, “Oh, buy this thing.” But yeah, you’ll see those posts that are like, “Oh, man. Hey, I just got this service and I started using it. It’s been amazing. If I like it this much, you guys will probably like it this much.” Maybe depending on what kind of community you’re in, I would say like nine out of 10 of those might be spam, but one of those might be genuine, or vice versa. Maybe it’s like nine of them are genuine and one of them is a spam post, but yeah, you do kind of have to like … Again, finding that balance point, but then encouraging the good and trying to politely and politically filter out the bad.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, and if you have a learning platform and then a community that goes with it, whether that’s a Facebook group or some kind of Slack channel or BuddyPress thing, or whatever it is, one of the most beautiful things that can emerge is when the community starts moderating. I would never recommend just relinquishing leadership or control over moderation. You should always be involved in keeping quality high, but it’s always a really cool thing to see when the community starts protecting itself, or helping identify, or helping guide people. Like, “Oh, that’s not really appropriate here.” Whatever it is. That’s really cool.
Robby M.: Yeah. I think no one likes to be told what to do, for the most part, and yeah, if you go in there with the kind of, like, dictator attitude, like, “This shall not stand,” if you go in there with that kind of all powerful attitude, I think people respond a lot better when you say, “Hey, this came up. What do you guys think? How should we handle this? As the leadership, what do you guys want?” Just applying that rule, even to our product, right? A lot of our features and things we implement come from our community and reaching out to …
In building a community, right, you’re not doing it for you. You’re doing it for the people that are a part of it, and involving them as much as you can in every way you can, I think is really beneficial.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. Negative things happen. I actually, like the first time I saw a LifterLMS premium product on some kind of torrent download site, I was celebrating, because I’m like, “Awesome. We’re big enough, we’re desirable enough that somebody wants to pirate the software. That’s great.”
Robby M.: “We made it, yeah.” Right?
Chris Badgett: I actually heard somebody else say that in a podcast, so I kind of had preconditioned myself for that moment to happen, but when it did happen, I was like, “All right. Check.”
Robby M.: That’s awesome yeah. You’re an optimist, I can tell, right? Because I’ve had the similar thought, but then I’ve also seen it go, like, the opposite direction. People getting really upset about that, or occasionally we’ll … It’s really nice, right? But we’ll get, like, a user that will email us and be like, “Hey, have you guys seen there’s this, like, nulled version of Beaver Builder out there. These guys are being jerks. You’ve got to go get them and shut them down.” It’s like, “Ah, well, could be a lot worse, you know? No one might not be interested in us.”
Chris Badgett: Yeah, I think …
Robby M.: I’d much rather have people interested enough to pirate our software than otherwise.
Chris Badgett: This is a timeless issue. I mean, for course creators, harken back to book publishing. I remember, I think, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, I saw this audiobook version narrated by him freely available on YouTube, and Paulo Coehlo left a really nice comment below the video.
Robby M.: That’s funny.
Chris Badgett: I don’t know. I mean, piracy is just part of the digital world, and some people call that the Newsweek model. Like if you go to a doctor’s office, you can pick up a magazine you didn’t pay for it. You can get the content or whatever, so maybe it’s not the end of the world if your stuff ends up kind of in some interesting places. It is definitely your intellectual property, and in some cases you have to fight to protect it, and regain control of it. Think about it, if it’s worth … You’ve got to pick and choose your battles, I guess is what I’m saying.
Robby M.: Totally. Totally.
Chris Badgett: In that light, one of the things I’ve noticed with you and Beaver Builder is, and you’ve built a brand, a strong brand, both kind of the brand of Beaver Builder and then just I think a strong personal brand in the community and in the industry. One of the things I notice is, if somebody writes a post about Beaver Builder or about an event you’re at, or whatever, you’re there in the comments or in the Facebook group or whatever. How do you keep up? As you grow and get bigger and you lose control of your every piece of content, and other people start doing stuff on their own, like how do you keep track of your brand around the web?
Robby M.: Yeah. It’s gotten a lot more difficult as we’ve grown. Still, I know I’m fallen off on it a lot these days. I need to get back on that horse, but one of the things I used to do religiously, and this was actually a … I used to, I’m a pretty big gamer. I always have been, and I don’t know if any of you or your listeners did World of Warcraft, but I definitely put in some hours on World of Warcraft, right? One of the things in World of Warcraft is you have daily quests. Something that you just do every day. Each day, you can do this quest and get some gold or get a prize or whatever, but you can only do it once per day. I really got into that, like, routine when I was a gamer of starting, doing my dailies, right? I’ve tried to translate that over to the business, and so I have these kind of like daily chores. Again, I’ve fallen off. I’m not very good at keeping routines, but for a while there, I was really religious, and I had a folder of bookmarks on my browser that I called “Dailies.” I just opened them every morning.
One of them was, like, I use TweetDeck, but one of them was TweetDeck, and I have a search for our name, like “Beaver Builder” with a space. “BeaverBuilder” with no space. It’s just this one big combined search that will put up every single mention of Beaver Builder on Twitter. Then I also have a Google search for Beaver Builder. Then with Google, it’s really cool, because if you go into their tools menu, there’s an option to search for mentions, or whatever the term is, but for things that were published within a certain time frame, like in the last 24 hours, or the last week, or the last year. One of my dailies was just popping open that browser tab with the search for Beaver Builder over the last 24 hours. Any time something was published on Beaver Builder, I had it right there, and I’d jump in and make a point to just say, “Hey, thanks. Thanks for the mention. We really appreciate it.”
I’m trying to think what else was on there. I had a couple of, like, the news sites. I try and keep track of the kind of WordPress news. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else applicable on there that I have in my dailies. I don’t want to look it up right now, but yeah, that was my trick, was doing the Google search and the TweetDeck search, and then just making a part, like with my morning coffee, popping it open, seeing what was out there, and responding to it.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I do that as well, where every day … I don’t call it my dailies or whatever, but I have this thing where I go check certain places and see what’s going on. I’m definitely taking notes on using the Google tools and the TweetDeck to kind of find things a little easier.
Robby M.: Yeah, I love that ability to search Google in a certain timeframe. I use it all the time, outside of business related stuff too. Using Google is a skill. We were talking a little bit off air, before we started recording, about education, and I mentioned that I was a horrible student but I loved learning. Being skillful with Google, I think, is just one of the most powerful ways to learn. Google’s such a powerful tool, too, if you dig into the ways you can connect searches with … Like you can search for certain terms, like an exact match, or you can do like with the comma, so you’re looking for this or that, or the plus sign, so it’s this and that, and you can negate certain terms, and being able to kind of manipulate Google and manipulate the results that it returns is so, so powerful, and a lot of just the education I’ve gotten online on my own terms has been from …
It’s like, you know, a good analogy might be your code editor. If you’re a coder, they say you should really take some time to get to know your editor and kind of learn the shortcuts, and learn the inner workings. I feel that way about Google, too. As an aside, sorry. That was getting a little off track here.
Chris Badgett: No, that’s really good. If I could teach a skill, everybody thinks they understand Google, just like everybody’s above average driver, or whatever. When we actually hire a developer, one of the things we’re looking for when we ask them, like, “What do you do when you get stuck?” Well, we basically want to find people who are problem solvers, not necessarily super credentialed. In order to be a big problem solver, you have to know how to use Google really well. Most people think, but there’s truly an art to it, like these kind of things you’re talking about with the date range search, or how to search forums, how to tell quality results.
Robby M.: Totally.
Chris Badgett: Put them together, and all those things. I mean, Google, I would just say … I don’t know. Maybe 90% of people are way under-optimizing what’s possible with it.
Robby M.: Okay, you just gave me an idea, and part of me doesn’t want to say it because this is going to be my golden goose kind of thing, but I’ll put it out there for your audience because I probably won’t have the time to do it. Ever since I met you and learned about Lifter, I’ve been wanting to do a course. If you guys get to it first, go for it, but someday I’m going to do a course on, like, power Google use. I think that would be a cool one.
Chris Badgett: That is a cool course. I just want to say that I’ve seen this over and over again. Companies that make something, like Google, or Beaver Builder, or Lifter, whatever, the best courses are actually always made by another company. There’s this guy. I forget his name. Michael something. He has a course about the Scrivener software. The guy who has the best course about Evernote does not work at Evernote. I know people make courses about Beaver Builder that aren’t at Beaver Builder. It’s kind of hard to do both, but what I’m saying is, even Google, Google has all the resources in the world, but why doesn’t that course exist? Why haven’t we found it? Maybe the world needs Robby or one of the listeners out there to curate that wisdom down into a course.
Robby M.: That’s a good point. I used to think this about Photoshop, and then we kind of fell into a similar space, but the guys at Adobe who created Photoshop, I wonder if they look over some of the artwork and some of just the amazing talented people that have been able to use their tool to produce whatever it is … The guys that are building Photoshop probably aren’t those 1% of the 1% kind of talented and skilled artists that are creating the beautiful portraits or whatnot. If you’re creating canvases, it must be so cool to see the artwork that people put onto it. We have a little taste of that in Beaver Builder, in that we created this tool that allows people to create web pages, and I get that feeling a lot when I’m looking at … Like, we have our showcase where people Tweet us and say, “Hey, check out this site I made.”
It’s just so above and beyond anything that I would be able to do. When you see that kind of culmination of talent and experience coming together in a medium that you helped put out there, it’s such a cool feeling. You’re right, there’s folks … Like, we’re doing an okay job at creating Beaver Builder, but there’s folks out there that are so much better than us now at using it, which is bittersweet, right? I wish I had more time to explore and write code and do design, but yeah, anyways …
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Yeah, it’s a fascinating facet. Well, let’s talk a little bit about democratization, which is in some ways in the WordPress community, people joke about it sometimes. That everybody’s trying to democratize something. In some ways, WordPress is known to democratize publishing, like it’s not just the big media brands that can create content, or news, or websites. Even a lot of people go to something like Twitter to get news before they go to The New York Times or whatever.
At Lifter, we like to say that we’re democratizing education, both for the teacher and for the learner, and for you guys, it’s almost like you’re democratizing the ability to build websites, where whether you’re a small business owner, a business owner, or a builder of products for that market, you’re bringing the accessibility to someone, which puts downward pressure on the price and the skills required to create this thing. Let’s talk about democratization a little bit. First, with Beaver Builder. It’s really fascinating how there’s always a layer in technology where when websites used to be super expensive and you had to have a webmaster write every line of HTML, and then CMSes came like WordPress, and now you’re a page builder on top of WordPress. It’s just another layer of abstraction above the ones and zeroes that make up electronic communication. I guess, where is the democratization heading for you guys? For Beaver Builder? What’s next? What is the next evolution of what you’re doing, bringing that accessibility and ability for people to build great looking sites without being a developer or designer? Where’s it going from here?
Robby M.: That’s a good question, or a tough and good question. The thought that instantly came to my mind is, to go back to the partnership we’re doing with GoDaddy, I don’t know if you get this in your community. I get this all the time. One of my mom’s friends is an artist and my mom, she told me she was out for coffee, and she mentioned that her son Robby was doing something with GoDaddy, and her friend was like, “Oh, GoDaddy? Oh, no. They’re horrible. They’re a terrible company. One of these … Oh no.” They’ve got like this really horrible stigma, right? But on the topic of democratization, GoDaddy is one of the most affordable web hosts out there, and if you’re trying to get a website or a business online, they’re one of the best. Really, the bang for your buck there is so, so, so high. You get so much value out of that.
We’re thrilled to be a part of that, because their whole push when they included our product, it’s part of this onboarding tool which basically, when you sign up for a WordPress website for GoDaddy, they walk you through this process of like, “Hey, okay. Your site needs a name.” They’re targeting this towards people who aren’t necessarily developers or designers. I mean, they’re trying to get small businesses and people, course creators are a great example of someone that might be out there that has a talent or a skill, or builds something, and they want to share that and maybe build a revenue stream around that.
I think that partnership with GoDaddy that we have right now is really powerful on that note, that their effort to make it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs, creative people, to get online and get their skill, talent, course, product, whatever in front of people. Sorry, I’m like trying to … How do I …? And the software. I think that’s been a really cool thing for us, in that vein. As far as what we have planned, I’m hoping we can do that with every major web … Like, “Hey, if you’re a major web host and you’re listening, come find us. We want to make it easier for your customers to build websites.”
I think we live in a really cool time right now, and it’s never been easier. I mean, like the music industry is a good one, right? 25, 30, 40 years ago, if you wanted to get music in front of someone, you needed to have a tens of hundreds of thousand dollar recording studio, and you needed to have a CD press or a printing press. You could record something onto a tape deck at one point, but technology has made it exponentially easier for people to create and to share their artwork, and it’s such an amazing time in that there’s top club hits that are being made by some kid on a laptop now, and that technology that … You know, they say the computer that sent a man to the moon, like my iPhone 7 is 20 times more powerful than that now. It’s just wild how much opportunity we have to put stuff out there, and build, and create, and share.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. I think that’s kind of at the root of democratization, is that things just get easier. Like you were mentioning with GoDaddy, they’re kind of getting in front of the problem of, “Okay, I’ve got a non-technical customer. How do I get them set up and just remove layers of complexity or decision fatigue, and just give them the best tools for what they’re trying to do so that by the time they’re done with the setup process, they’re like ready to roll?” Without having to, like, “Okay, I have hosting. Now what?” It’s just a fascinating thing. I think that’s what democratization is all about, if you’re wanting to teach. That’s like one of our goals, is to make it so that technology is more accessible in terms of piecing together the components that make up an online course.
Robby M.: Yeah. I mean, hearing you say that, too, I wish … Why I love what you guys are doing at Lifter, and I love just the idea of online education, is, like, man, I wish I had learned some of those skills in school. You know? I wish when I was in high school there was a class on building a business, or … Yeah, I was always really passionate and creative, but it was looked at as a bad thing. I was ditching class to go play guitar, because I wanted to be a rock star, and everyone was like, “What are you doing? This is a horrible choice. You need to conform. You need to go to school, then you need to go to college, then you’ll get the job and the pension.” Even just since I’m in my 30s now, things have changed a lot since then, but that kind of process that maybe the generation before us was able to leverage a lot better isn’t necessarily going to be an option for a lot of people, here in the States. This might be exclusive to us here.
The whole American dream, that used to be it. Like, you follow the line to the end. You get the job, you get the pension. That’s how it all worked, but now I think that in the future, more people are going to be needing to start their own businesses and kind of make their own way in the world. I’d even go as far as to say that might be a better quality of life, you know? Being your own boss, and getting to do your own thing and explore your passions and your creativity. Being able to produce that club hit on your laptop, that guy was having a lot more fun than if he was flipping burgers at McDonald’s, I imagine.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. If you want to see a great example of what Robby is talking about, in terms of producing that club hit, there’s a website that delivers online courses from some of the best in the world. It’s called MasterClass.com. It’s not powered by LifterLMS, but what’s his name? Deadmau5? Do you know who …?
Robby M.: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, sure.
Chris Badgett: He’s probably one of the best in the world at electronic music.
Robby M.: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Go check out just the intro video to his online course, and that was his point. He’s saying that, like, what people are making on a laptop, you don’t need all this fancy recording studio. The democratization of creating this art form has never been more accessible. If I wanted to do that, if I wanted to create electronic music, I now have access to one of the best in the world at it, and he can teach me how to do it from home, and so on. It’s not to say that there’s no time and place for traditional education systems or in-person training, but there’s never been a better time to both teach or learn in these really tight, interesting niches, which I would agree with you. I had a similar experience where the mainstream just wasn’t quite doing it for me. I just wasn’t getting the pieces, or at least the spin or the flavor on it that was of interest to me, or whatever it was was kind of outdated or not relevant, or whatever.
Robby M.: Yeah. I was also young and dumb back then, too. Now, I look back on those days like … I’ve been watching this documentary, The Untold History of the United States. It’s on Netflix. It’s by Oliver Stone. I moved out to an area, I live close to a reservoir that used to be … There used to be a couple of logging towns, and they flooded them, so they’re ghost towns. We’ve had a drought here in California, and the reservoir has gotten historically low, and a bunch of the kind of remnants from these towns started appearing. I never liked history when I was in high school, but being immersed in it and watching this documentary, like, history is fascinating. I was like, “Man, I wish I had …” I didn’t have the appreciation for it back then, but I agree. I’m, like, talking down on traditional education. That was just my experience, but no, I wish I could do it all over again with the kind of wisdom and maturity I have now, because there’s a lot of fascinating stuff out there that, yeah, you’ve just got to kind of find. Find how you relate to it.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome.
Robby M.: It makes it a lot more interesting and a lot easier, I think, to learn. When you’re interested and passionate about something, or when you find it on your … Maybe that’s what it is. For me, it was finding things on my own. I had a hard time kind of following … Well, I could talk all about that. All about my struggles with education as a youth, but maybe we should …
Chris Badgett: No, that’s part of the … We share that story, and I think that concept of finding stuff on your own, like now with this proliferation of online education and all these niche trainings that are available online or in person, or at these events on the most obscure topics, you can now find that stuff, or some webinar about something really specific that you had been into but it just wasn’t around when you were 16 or 20 or 25 or whatever. That’s the beauty of this day and age. There’s just never been more opportunity. The technology is here for people to create that kind of stuff and also to find it. You can become a self-styled person.
I often think about the professional world. If let’s say a company like Apple wants to hire a programmer or whatever, they could put together like, “Okay, you’re going to need to learn this online course, this online course.” To get the jobs of the future, it’s almost going to be up to the employers of the company to create the perfect package of experiences, where they’re not necessarily looking at degree programs from the best universities, but they want to see somebody who has done all these different things that aren’t necessarily part of the traditional education system. Especially since the world, especially in technology is changing so fast.
Chris Badgett: Swift?
Robby M.: Is it Swift? Whatever, they have their stack, and they have the … Why wouldn’t you want someone that learned on that stack? Well, I guess there’s benefits to learning other languages, too, but I think that’s a really interesting point, that yeah, if you can groom your own … It would be a lot more efficient to kind of groom your own people with your tools and your environment, and as things have gotten infinitely more complex, and the others, instead of just being the one, couple, five classical programming languages, now there’s thousands, and frameworks, and those abstraction layers we talked about, you know, they’re only going to keep getting more and more prolific and complicated.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. When I hire a developer, I almost don’t even care about their academic background. It’s more like, “What can you do?” Or, “Let me see some examples.” Or, “What struggles …” Like, “Let’s talk about how you work through problems.
Robby M.: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Then, “What kind of person are you?” Where you went to school is like, I guess I don’t even ask that. They’re not going to apply or show interest if at least they don’t have a shot.
Robby M.: Yeah, it’s a different world out there.
Chris Badgett: Well, Robby McCullough, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming on the show. If people want to find out more about you, or Beaver Builder, where should people go check you out besides joining the Facebook group and the Slack channel?
Robby M.: Yeah, thanks. Our website is WPBeaverBuilder.com. We’re pretty active on Twitter under the BeaverBuilder account. Then I have a personal account, @RobbyMcCullough, which I don’t Tweet a lot, but it’s a great way if you want to like reach out and ping me about something, I’m there, and listening. Yeah. This has been a really great chat. Thanks so much for having me. We got to dig into some cool topics. This was a really fun one.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thank you Robby, and have an awesome day.
Robby M.: My pleasure. See ya.