It's the start of a new year. And I've been thinking about the new year for the past 2-3 months. I love looking back and seeing what I can improve in the following year. There are some things that went really well last year. And some things that I'm disappointed with. I'm writing them here so I can hold myself accountable and I hope you can get something out of them too.
Learn how to schedule a USPS pickup at your house or business.
When I'm talking about WooCommerce, Shopify, or some other eCommerce platform one of the most challenging aspects is fulfillment. Store owners always want to know how you can efficiently and affordably ship products.
USPS is one of cheaper options, and with both WooCommerce & Shopify you can get live shipping rates during checkout. And you can print out the shipping labels on your home printer. This automates a lot of the boring work.
The last step is scheduling USPS to come by to your house (or business) to pickup the packages. And the best news is that it's easy, free, & you don't even have to get out of your PJs.
I talk about the features about eCommerce platforms all the time. But I don't often talk about related but important concepts. Every store owner has thought about security and how to keep their store safe both for their customers and so they don't get sued. When it comes to security there are two things you need to worry about.
- The security of your site
- The security of payment information
Now that the wrap up post for WooConf is out the door I can finally relax. WooConf was the latest event I worked on this year and by far the most intense. Working on three different events – all at different levels of complexity – taught me a few things about running events.
I'm going to share some lessons but first let me give a little context:
1. Lift Off Summit – I designed this summit to help people develop a marketing strategy for their online store. It's a virtual summit so you can tune in and watch ~20 hours of content for free and you can pay to watch the sessions whenever you want.
Event cost: free to stream / $97 for recordings
2. WordCamp Denver – I've always loved helping my local WordPress scene. I've helped organize several meetups and WordCamps in the past. This is my third year organizing this particular conference and it was one of the best we've done.
Event cost: $40
3. WooConf – I've been heavily involved with WooCommerce for years as a customer, developer, product manager, and now educator. So when they asked me to help them plan the content I couldn't say no.
Event cost: $500 early bird / $700 regular
In 2011 Netflix made an announcement that they’d be splitting into two companies:
- Netflix would focus on streaming &
- Qwikster (the new company) would focus on DVD rentals.
Netflix claimed they wanted to make it easier for customers and doing this gives both companies the best chance for success. The feedback was instantaneous & almost uniformly bad.
- There were nearly 10,000 comments on the announcement post (now taken down)
- Qwikster From Netflix: The Worst Product Launch Since New Coke?
- Netflix's Qwikster Debacle
There were numerous reasons this separation didn’t work (it didn’t add any value for customers, costed more, required more work, was rushed, terrible name, etc. They made a mistake and that mistake cost them nearly 800,000 customers.
The most important part of the story is that two months later they reversed their position. They could have continued down the path of “I know best” but they didn't. They stopped all plans for Qwikster and haven't looked back. They started earning back the trust of their customers and they went on to dominate online streaming.
The other day a friend asked if I could hang out. So I pulled out my phone and started looking through my calendar.
scroll past a week
scroll past another week
scroll past yet another week
Well I can hang out with you next month how does that sound?
Does this sound familiar to you?
I've been spending a lot of time at conferences over the last year and I wanted to do a little digging and see how I could optimize my time so I'm still learning & networking and I can also spend time at home with my friends & family.
I've been using this blog as a place to record my own thoughts. A place to document so that I learn and also so that others learn. And today I want to document a feeling.
I feel guilty.
I feel guilty about my job organizing WordCamp Denver. This past year I was speaker wrangler. That means I set up the procedures so the organizing team and myself can pick speakers and add them to the schedule.
And this is the 3rd year doing this for WordCamp Denver and 4th overall. So I have a good idea what I'm doing. The reasons they didn't go smoothly don't matter too much. But in short we tried a different schedule and that led to a lot more work.
What is so strange about me feeling guilty is that I'm used to projects going sideways and encountering obstacles. I'm okay with “failure” because I know I can improve and do better next time. So why do I feel different this time?
It's the end of summer. A whirlwind of family trips, conferences, and barbequeues are coming to an end. And that reminds me of something.
I've been working for myself a whole year – where did the time go??
I've been doing this a year and I'd like to take in my surroundings. Poke my head up from my computer screen and see where I arrived after a year of work.
This is a story about how I'm terrible with introductions and how I'm going to fix that.
I was at a conference recently. And before the conference a group of attendees got together to form a sort of mastermind group. We were there to talk about business problems and I was really excited to be invited to this group.
Since most of us didn't know everyone we started with introductions. And the host asked us to share our name, where we live, and what we do. Pretty standard stuff right?
Well as I was listening to other people introduce themselves I started going through my introduction in my head. Do I share this detail? Is this job title too boring? Should I be funny? How funny?
My palms started sweating and I was only one person away. I pan the room as all of the eyes turn to me. It's my turn. And here's the pile of garbage that came out of my mouth.
I'm Patrick Rauland from Denver Colorado.
Off to a good start! I said my name & where I love correctly! This introduction is going to be amazing!
I'm not the smartest guy I just make a lot of mistakes.
The host mentioned that we were all smart people which was why we were invited and I tried being humble and making a joke about it. It probably would have been funny if I pulled it off. But if you don't well you feel like not the smartest guy.
I used to do a lot of stuff with WooCommerce. So yeah that's what I'm doing now.
And when I finally said the most important part of the introduction I totally flubbed. I still don't have a solid definition for what I do. It's a bit of a challenge because I don't do one thing. But what came out of my mouth was terrible.
There's a recent article on Business Insider on how retail stores are closing and they predict it could affect 6 to 7 million workers.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
In 1979 the first spreadsheet software was created. It was called VisiCalc and it worked on the Apple II.
Now spreadsheets existed; they were just created manually (read: by hand). So when the owner of the company asks you a question like: “What happens to our profit if we increase production by 5%?” you would have to take the spreadsheet back into your office. Erase all of the existing data. And rewrite all of the affected cells. This could take the whole day. Or if the spreadsheet was especially big it could take multiple days.
After VisiCalc came out it took seconds. You would think this meant the end of accountants right? But it didn't.
Since 1980 (a year after the software came out) 400,000 bookkeeping and accounting clerk jobs disappeared. But 600,000 accounting jobs (different than accounting clerks) appeared (source).
So even though the costs of accounting dropped dramatically the jobs didn't disappear as they should have. That's because as the price fell people wanted more of that product. They wanted to ask more questions:
- What if we decrease production by 5%?
- What if we give everyone a 5% raise? What about 6%?
- What if we could increase the efficiency of our production staff by 10%?
- What if the whole company took off the week of Christmas?
Now it took just seconds. So businesses were able to ask more questions and make better decisions.
Old jobs were eliminated. And new jobs (where people had to use computers) were created.
Back to the Present
So new technology doesn't mean jobs die. It means some jobs die and new ones get created.
As Americans continue to buy more online it will mean the end of some retail jobs. But as we lose those jobs new jobs are created.
Lowe's has this robot they're testing in stores. And while it will eliminate a few retail jobs it could mean more jobs in manufacturing (robots) and in software (for robots).
And there are new jobs in logistics to handle all of the online purchases.
Higher Skilled Jobs
As we eliminate retail jobs which are low skill jobs and replace them with robot manufacturer & software developers which are high skill jobs. It becomes pretty clear that we need to keep growing and educating ourselves.
For the average retail worker (read: minimum wage) this can be expensive. And I worry about the growing inequality between classes. Those who can afford to learn new skills will succeed and those without will likely desperately look for those last retail jobs.
These are societal issues that we'll have to figure out. But for right now as retail jobs are lost start looking to learn new skills. Learn skills that let you create. Things like:
- Software development
- Product development
These are skills we'll need for a long time. They might be automated (or partially automated) someday. But in the meantime they let you create things and earn a solid income. The key is see the changing landscape, educate yourself, and move into a higher skill profession.