Podcast Episode #71

Garth Koyle

Garth Koyle
Event Espresso
1 MIN READ
Podcast Episode #71
garth-koyle-pc-1
garth-koyle-pc-1

This week’s feature guest is Garth Koyle of Event Espresso. He says he wants to grow his business into a $100 million dollar revenue company — the largest goal ever announced on WP Elevation.

Co-founder of Event Espresso, Garth has found a Saas version of the Event Espresso plugin called Event Smart, which he intends on growing into a $100 million dollar revenue company.

WIth over a decade’s experience in business management and internet marketing, Garth speaks at WordCamps across the US on WordPress Entrepreneurship and Plugin Development. This is a fascinating interview.

Watch the Video


Win Prizes

Today’s prize is a copy of the WordPress plugin Event Espresso 4 Everything License. This plugin is valued at over $600 and includes:

- Events Calendar
- Printable Tickets
- Ticket Scanning
- Stripe Payment Gateway
- MailChimp Integration
- Infusionsoft Integration
- Social Sharing
- Events List Table and Grid view templates

Just leave a comment below and tell us the number one frustration that you or your customers have had when it comes to event registration and ticketing. If you’re an Event Espresso user, comment with some suggestions for improvement.

Congratulations Jim Krenz! Garth has chosen you as the lucky winner of the competition! Thanks for your contribution and keep elevating! (March 2014).

Show Notes

LET’S ELEVATE

This week’s feature guest is Garth Koyle of Event Espresso. He says he wants to grow his business into a $100 million dollar revenue company — the largest goal ever announced on WP Elevation. 

Garth earned a Masters of Business Administration and a Masters of Healthcare Administration from the University of Utah.

Co-founder pf Event Espresso, Garth joined the company in 2012. He has led the company to grow to 12 employees already, and to found a Saas version of the Event Espresso plugin called Event Smart, which he intends on growing to a $100 million dollar revenue company.

Garth has over a decade experience in business management and internet marketing. He competed in the 2011 Utah Entrepreneur Challenge for Event Espresso, taking home a $40,000 Grand Prize for the business plan. 

Since that time, in addition to running Event Espresso, Garth speaks at WordCamps across the US, on WordPress Entrepreneurship and Plugin Development.

THE GARTH KOYLE STORY

As a teen, he was asked by a church youth leader to write down his life goals on a piece of paper and challenged to keep it until age 23. He listed farmer, rancher and other similar type of jobs, having never considered he would spend his time in internet marketing.

Having first discovered HTML 15 years ago, Garth was working in tech for a SaaS company but had no idea he would make it his career. At the time, he was working on his Bachelor’s Degree at Brigham Young University. On the job, he learned much of the knowledge he needed for his new business, but still had no idea that’s what he would be doing.

His partner, Seth, had been working in internet technology for some time, and wanted Garth to be involved. But, at the time, he was working full time, working on two Master’s degrees, and starting a family.

Eventually, he joined the company after as many as eight employees had already been hired in the company he helped launch, pretty much as a silent partner. After completing his two Master’s degrees, he joined Event Espresso in 2011. Since that time, the company has continued to grow.

Speaking with Troy about the entrepreneurial possibilities, Garth says “if you have the stomach for it, it’s a rewarding way to go, but, it’s also a lot of work.” He explains, “your customers have good and bad experiences, you see revenue go up and down, staff come and go… those worries never leave.” Troy agrees, saying, “I would rather put my financial future in my hands than someone else’s… why would you trust someone else to get it right?”

Garth credits others with his success, saying,”without God and the people who did not believe in me,” he wouldn’t be where he is today.

LIFE WORK BALANCE AT EVENT ESPRESSO

After talking about the pressures of entrepreneurship and the time requirements, Troy asks Garth how he balances being on call all the time and having a young family.

“I’ve found a hobby that is good for me, and I can let that hobby take me away for a few hours a week and it recharges my battery… without worrying about my work,” says Garth. “It helps me understand that I have other passions in life that I can enjoy without worrying about work.” Additionally, his wife supports his efforts to calm down, he says. Garth credits road cycling to help him get away, exercise, and to increase his endorphins to help his energy levels.

THE WORDPRESS STORY

Garth says his first experience with WordPress was at home, starting a project to help advertising designers for feedback on ad productions. “I was perusing a lot of different technology to find something that would work for me. Back in 2008, before WordPress had custom post types” made it unfeasible for his project at the time, he says.

At the time, Garth says he was hooked on the system, noting it’s simplicity, “I was able to take it and understand what it could be used for, to conform to what the uses would be.”
WordPress made it to the top of his list for similar projects.

GARTH’S POSITION AT EVENT ESPRESSO

Garth says he works on systems that provides value to his customers and shareholders. Using a quote to help him understand his role, “Management works within a system, leadership works on a system.” He says he is constantly evaluating the system, looking for causes for certain outcomes. “We’re always making changes to our system that produces value, that is bigger and better than one person, so we’re not dependent on one person.”

Koyle says “we try to provide our customers more control and autonomy than they would have otherwise. That’s a core value they can get by using both WordPress and our Plugin and support.”

Troy recognized that the elevator pitch for Event Espresso is more about the benefits, on a larger scale, than what his software offers his customers. He asks Garth if he learned to do this while earning his Masters of Business Administration. Garth credits his training for exposing him to thinking and managing at a higher level than focusing on putting out fires. He says he’s learned to think about what the customer really want.

“When they install WordPress, they don’t to publish a post. They want to communicate,” he explains. “They want to build a brand, to attract customers; they generally could care less about what the actual technology is.”

KEEPING GARTH UP ALL NIGHT

Besides the young family, Garth says the care given to customers tends to keep him up late. Other things that concern him would be if the company is working on the proper projects and if they’re generating enough revenue to sustain and generate new business.

When asked if there was one thing in his business he could change right now, Koyle says his company hasn’t had the time they need to tell their story for their products. “We’ve gone through a major system refactor with our product,” he says.

Acknowledging the hard work of his technical team to tackle some of the major issues of WordPress plugins, Koyle says he’d like the WordPress development community to instantly comprehend the value and technical benefits in the new product. “We’ve been some of the first to tackle some of the hard technical issues of building a plugin for the scope of customers that we serve and the application that we use it for.”

DIGGING INTO EVENT ESSPRESSO

Event Espresso is a WordPress plugin that handles event registration and management. Troy asks Garth why would someone want to run events through his plugin as opposed to a system similar to EventBrite.
“When you want to have more control, profitability, more security,” you want to use Event Espresso, says Garth. He explains that when you use the WordPress plugin, it integrates into the system, and “you own the date that you’re processing on your own website, so no one else has access to it.” Additionally, he says, there is no disconnect, branding wise, by using a third-party service.

BUILDING A TEAM FOR A PREMIUM PLUGIN

Garth says his strategy for building his team has required an awareness of the pain being experienced in the company. “You’ll figure out what you need when it becomes painful enough,” he explains.

Describing ways he has learned to recognize the pains experienced by either his company or his customers, he says he’s been able to place employees in the proper positions to figure out if he can afford to relieve that pain, and how do they do it.

Explaining that he has only posted job postings twice in the lifetime of the company. “The staff that we work with has either found us or we’ve found them by doing business together.” One of the first developers they hired was a customer who had worked at extending the capabilities of the plugin apart from what the company was working on.

“Some of the support staf were customers of ours,” as well, he explains.

The company uses a distributed workforce, which raises some communication issues. Garth says he uses managed conversation blogs, as well as HipChat to stay in touch. He also keeps in touch using a ticket system, but, “we don’t’ really use email anymore.”

The company employs workers from the Ukraine to the West Coast of the United States.

CHOOSING FUTURE PLUGIN DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS

His company decides future development based on three factors:

1) Feedback from customers

2) Strategic Goals

3) Speed of Development

To determine the validity of a new feature, Garth says his team will discuss various factors, including:

– List the features

– Give them scores (1-5)

– Rank the Importance

– Rank the Ease of Development

– Rank the Speed of Development

The team will then choose the top candidates for development and then “we just table the others ones,” he says. Later on, the team then repeats the process to find new feature development.

WP Elevation host Troy Dean asks if there is any way of measuring the effectiveness of a new feature. Garth explains that it is difficult to determine the success of features in a distributed product. “If you put a plugin in the WordPress repository, you’re not allowed to communicate with the users… we have very few assistance in order to collect data.”
To combat the problem, Event Espresso uses limited surveys, watches sales, support loads, and attribute those support calls for certain features.

When asked about a service developed to help software developers determine needs of users, PressTrends, Garth says he isn’t sure the developer is able to collect necessary information for developers. “We’ve never subscribed to that because we have a feedback system built into our plugin that people can opt-in or opt-out of,” explains Koyle.

Additionally, the team will build in queries into the plugin to attempt to build data that will determine the usefulness of particular features in the plugin.

FREEMIUM OR HIGH-END PRODUCT FOR CUSTOMER ACQUISITION?

Event Espresso offers a free version, called Decaf which plays very little in the marketing mix for the company. “We spend most of our time marketing our better, more fully-featured product,” says Garth. He admits that he’s gotten more customers from other channels than through the free plugin.

“We just feel like its a better experience and people running events will want that (the better featured product) anyway,” says Garth, explaining the company’s marketing philosophy.

However, Garth says, his company is having to look beyond the WordPress market. “We don’t exhibit at trade shows yet… because very few of your customers are going to be able to use your platform because they’re not on WordPress.” But, he says, he is getting responses from clients who say they are switching to WordPress in order to use their system for event management.

“When customers really get serious about their business and events, they find us,” he says.

THE NEXT LEVEL: EVENT SMART

Saying the company refactored the plugin for the express purpose of offering the system as a hosted Saas version of Event Espresso, Koyle says the redesign was built to “leverage it in this way.” Explaining the new system, he says, “Event Smart is essentially WordPress MultiSite and then Event Espresso 4 and a lot of control to try to make it a good user experience.” Now, he says, the company has to figure out how to market to an 80% larger potential market than they had with Event Espresso.

Additionally, users of EventSmart will be able to grow and eventually scale the operation and then switch to a managed hosted system on their own website in order to control the entire system for larger event managers.

“The advantage of what we’ve done with EventSmart is you can run paid events on our platform for free. So you could sell a million tickets, host a million events and do it for free,” says Koyle.

The limitation says Koyle is that some features that would provide some added convenience for the client or their audience may be blocked, but are available for as little as $3 per month.

ELEVATION ROUND

Q: What’s the number one thing any freelancer or consultant needs to know?
A: Do as much for yourself as possible then when you can’t do it on yourself, take the time to find the right people to help you.

Q: What’s the number one thing any freelancer or consultant needs to know?
A: Content Marketing. In the early days, we were growing at like 15% per month because of the content we offered on our website and through WordPress.org, and then nurturing those customers over time.

Q:  How do you stop competing on price?
A: Everybody has to compete on price eventually, But, in order to compete less often on price, you have to understand your value proposition: what you deliver to the customer and how you deliver it. Understand what your product does, where it fits in the market, then, leverage those differentiating factors, and communicate them well. Then the customers will understand how they need you more than they need your competitors, then the price will be less of an influence.

Q: Any tips on writing better proposals?
A: The more you talk to your customers, the more you understand what’s important to them. Talk to your customers and get better at it, you need more practice.

Q: Favorite tool for CRM?
A: We use P2, which is WordPress. Outside of that, I like to take a lot of screenshots, so I like SnagIt to communicate what I see.

Q: What’s the best way to keep a project and a client on track?
A: Plan ahead. I know that planning is expensive, but it can also help you be more profitable and meet expectations down the road. Then you need to follow the project outline as closely as possible. The due diligence up front is really invaluable.

Q: Any ideas on how to ask for referrals?
A: We’ve found that trying to make customers happy, then, at the time they’re having a good experience, asking them for referrals. We use tools that people can gauge their satisfaction, and then we send them a message asking them to share. (HelpScout, surveys, watching support conversations)

Q: What is the number one thing you can do differentiate yourself?
A: Differentiating yourself is an ongoing task. We want to be the lead provider for ticketing and registration, and that can only come as we focus on a complete product for our niche. We focus on what we do and not necessarily what people want us to do all the time.

FUTURE OF EVENT SMART AND EVENT ESPRESSO

In the next 12 months, while still putting out new code and features for the WordPress market, Garth says, “it’s time for us to change our focus, to share out story and bring people in who are excited about the product we are building.”
Additionally, Garth says he has some exciting goals for EventSmart. “We’ve got ambitious goals… to reach $100 million in revenue before I’m done with it. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he says.

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Garth on his email at [email protected] or via his twitter on @garthkoyle.

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Suggested Guest

Garth suggested I interview Neil Patel. Neil, keep your eyes on your inbox.

Competition Hint

Hint: to enter the competition, leave a comment below and tell us the number one frustration that you, or your customers have had when it comes to event registration and ticketing. If you’re an Event Espresso user, comment with some suggestions for improvement. In a few weeks, Garth will come back and reward the prize to the best comment.

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