Interview: Nigel Jennings from WP Hero

A maintenance company that focuses on WordPress sites powered by WooCommerce plugin

WP Hero started a couple of years ago and like a lot of support and management services, it morphed out of a web design/services company. They are a bit different though; there are two co-founders from different parts of the world – Nigel from Ireland and David from the US.

The guys met in India where both of them had been working at the time. They formed an IT services company, after which Nigel returned to Ireland where the company has its HQ and David continues to work in India and head up the development center. They don’t employ any subcontractors or “remote workers.” All the staff is permanently employed. At WP Hero, they feel this is a more secure way to handle client data and it just works for them. WP Hero generally has about 6 full-time staff working in the company.

Nigel has been involved in a number of different industries over the years, though software engineering was where he began. He has worked in a number of IT roles usually on the project management side, including work for Amazon and in Telecoms during the dot-com bubble as well as running his own e-commerce store a few years ago. But Nigel has also worked in education and non-profit as well as Tourism + Hospitality. He likes to get around!

But now he’s back at the IT with WP Hero. And yes this is his full-time role, although WP Hero is not the only brand that they run, it is where Nigel spends most of his time. He will be found hovering around the ticket queue most weeks and many customers will get emails from Nigel or his co-founder, David.

Nigel Jennings

Nigel Jennings

  • Company: WP Hero
  • Website: wphero.io
  • Contactsupport@wphero.io
  • Price: From $99 per month
  • Services: Small fixes, updates, backups, social media integration, etc.

Why should WordPress users choose your company over competitors? Name something your company does better or in a unique way.

Great question. At WP Hero we specialise in WordPress sites running WooCommerce and this means most of our customers are running medium to large stores. As such we cater to the needs of this sector, which means working at a time that suits the customer – not us. It also means resolving issues quickly and helping to automate their regular tasks where possible. We also do a lot of custom coding to solve specific problems or add functions to our clients’ sites.

Is there a tutorial or a video you would recommend to beginners who want to start doing WordPress maintenance on their own?

There’s tons of info out there for beginners – Google is your friend. If I was to give advice to a beginner I would say learn the basics well, then you will know the impact of fixing/changing that piece of code or setting. There are great blogs out there for this like WPBeginner.

What was the hardest WordPress issue you had to solve?

Strangely enough, and this may be related to the type of customers we serve, but I would say getting the right balance on “Website Speed”. Customers running big stores with a lot of plugins can have really bad problems with slowness. Getting a fast site is usually a balancing act of accepting the trade-offs to user experience or functionality. It can sometimes be difficult to solve the root issue without losing the functionality of a plugin or requiring a theme change.

Some plugins and themes are just very slow and badly coded. Plus I hate to say it – but WordPress is not always the fastest ship in the race at the best of times! And of course, I have not even mentioned hosting, which also has a big part to play.

What was the highest number of installed plugins a client had?

Not sure, I haven’t been counting – maybe 60. But again that’s a guess.

If you could recommend just one plugin to your clients, what plugin would that be?

Of course – get the WooCommerce plugin! Besides that, there are so many amazing plugins out there which are essential; it just depends on what your primary goal is. Whether it’s to boost SEO, improve your conversion rate, build your email list, or keep your site secure, there’s a plugin for that. Aside from that always have a good caching plugin on your site and get rid of as much render blocking JS as possible.

Do you use ManageWP, InfiniteWP, MainWP or any similar tool on all your clients’ sites?

We do use ManageWP. It is not perfect, but certainly good. We don’t usually auto update sites unless we feel it is very safe to do so. We will generally update plugins manually and in many sites, we will do this in a staging environment first to make sure there are no issues. Some of the WooCommerce stores we work with are generating $4,000 – 5,000 per day. We treat ANY change to the site carefully, as any disruption of the site can have huge financial implications.

For payments we use Stripe. Previously we used Braintree, but we hated the interface and customer service – Stripe we feel is much more user-friendly.

Is there a hosting company that you don’t work with, ie if a client has a site with them you won’t work with that client? Is there maybe a hosting company you recommend on a regular basis?

We have not come across any web hosts that we refuse to work with – though there are a number of hosting companies that we don’t like working with! I will not name names, but your readers can probably guess who they are! ;).

As for recommendations, we are big fans of Siteground. Their customer service is great and servers are fast. So we generally recommend them.

How did you learn WordPress and become a maintenance expert?

I have been using WordPress for years, so I guess initially I learned by experience, although, having been trained as a Software developer helps. The maintenance side was an outworking of developing WordPress sites for businesses. We decided that we would offer the service beyond our immediate development clients.

How/where do you promote your services and find new clients?

We promote our services using a number of different avenues. We do a little content marketing – which we hope to increase in the coming months. We also use ads via Adwords or Facebook. We also have an affiliate program. The best promotion is referral though. I am a big believer in Ben Chestnut’s upside down sales funnel. I blogged a little about this last year.

I have recently read the great book “Visibility Marketing” by David Avrin. On the back of this, we will be tweaking our marketing efforts over the coming months.

Do you think the industry and your business will still be operational in about 2 years?

I think that WordPress has a number growing threats, such as Shopify and I think they are beginning to wake up to that. The fact is WordPress needs to up their game. That is a two-sided coin for the support industry. That fact that there are so many WP Support companies around should be a sign to Automattic that they need to improve the user-friendliness of WP. But in doing so may mean less need for WP Support companies.

There are so many moving pieces on the chessboard it is hard to tell where the industry is going. You have big players like GoDaddy buying WP Curve and then bundling that support with hosting. I think that is a smart move from GoDaddy. They are basically trying to solve the WP problem, which is user-friendliness for the site owner.

The WP support industry can and will help in this goal as well – we basically exist because WP is not that easy to use. But I think the industry needs to innovate and deliver clear value to the customer and I don’t believe that always happens. Will the industry exist in two years? Yes. But maybe there will be fewer WP support companies, ones that deliver excellent value to the customer.

As for us, we are planning to grow. We are firmly tied to the eCommerce side of WP and as long as Woo keeps growing and we keep innovating in terms of bringing added value then we will keep growing.

This interview is a part of the WordPress maintenance companies interview series featuring interviews with 20+ experts from leading WordPress maintenance companies.

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Published on November 21, 2017 by Ivan. Filed under: , .

Ivan still remembers creating his first website during a summer while he was in elementary school. Since then, web development became his passion, and now he loves to work and write about WordPress. He also enjoys sports and really loves chocolate.

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