1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?
I’m Vic Dorfman—founder of MemberFix.
For over 5 years we’ve been working with WordPress membership site owners (and aspiring membership site owners) to plan, set up, and maintain their subscription businesses. This includes strategy sessions to pick the best tech stack for each project, full project management services, and high-level implementation by an experienced and passionate team.
We operate on an agency / productized services model in which we sell both ‘flex’ developer hours and monthly support plans. We work with prospective customers to determine and clarify their requirements, develop acceptance criteria, scope out their projects along with estimates, and once we have expectations on the same page—get it all done!
We’re very passionate about this industry. We’re always proactively learning new software, refining best practices, and nurturing relationships with many of the key tech providers in the membership site space, which allows us to help our customers pick future-proof software solutions that work best for their unique needs.
I’m a Ukrainian-American who was laid off from his cushy job and impulsively bought a one-way ticket to Thailand about 7 years ago with $2k in my checking account and $22k in credit card debt. Mission: start an online business or die trying. Since then, MemberFix has grown into a fully distributed organization with over a dozen amazing team members (mostly from Eastern Europe). In calendar year 2019 we brought in roughly $160k in revenue with approximately 20% profit margins. We’re on track to top $200k in 2020 with improved margins. We work tirelessly on our processes which results in efficiency gains each and every quarter. Our most substantial expenses come in the form of team salaries but this is one area where we don’t skimp.
We never built an MVP as such. Rather, we took the “unlimited ‘insert your service here’ for only $XXX per month”, productized services model popularized by Dan Norris (WPCurve) and kept iterating on it. We also introduced hourly work because we realized that our insistence on recurring-only business was a huge hindrance to our growth as a company and as individual professionals. This hourly offering has been a big part of our recent growth and has forced us to evolve at a rapid pace.
Our mission is to be the premier WordPress membership site agency in the world, and the number one authority on WordPress membership site software.
2. How do you attract and retain your customers?
We get a lot of our customers through our prodigious content marketing efforts, including our YouTube channel. We also get a fair bit of business from referrals. This is our main marketing technique.
In terms of retaining customers, I think that’s an evolving process. First, we aim to do a great job on our customers’ projects, under-promise, and over-deliver. We’re not always successful and we’ve invested heavily in business consulting around critical areas like customer service and project management to ensure that we absolutely delight everybody with whom we work.
Services, whether productized or otherwise, require you to always put the customer first, own up to mistakes, and have a kaizen approach to continually improving your workflow so that errors and mismanaged expectations become less and less of an issue as time goes on.
We also offer all of our customers complementary strategy sessions with me monthly. This is a big value add to many of our customers as another experienced entrepreneur can often provide a second opinion. These sessions have have resulted in our customers making changes that have directly resulted in significant revenue growth. It’s a win / win.
3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?
It would be impossible to list the never-ending onslaught of challenges and obstacles that come with growing a business.
One salient challenge was scaling from “just me” to a full team. I initially attempted to hire help in India, Philippines, etc. but soon found that the work culture in those countries ran counter to my professional values. I made two unsuccessful attempts to scale with team members from South Asia before I decided to start hiring in Eastern Europe exclusively. This was a critical decision because we were able to start filling our team with individuals who are not only talented and ambitious but share a certain value set that’s conducive to doing business in a professional manner.
This was also the catalyst that propelled me from the “do it” guy to the “work on the business” guy, which itself presented a whole universe of new challenges that I’d not faced before. I would say our rockstar team is synonymous with our success. And while hiring methodologies like the A Method and TopGrading are probably appropriate for a certain size organization and discourage intuitive (“voodoo”) hiring methods, my ability to hire great colleagues has been directly proportional to my ability to listen to my gut.
4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?
Bringing on our operations manager, Viktor was a huge shift for us. He helped us implement Airtable and Python to automate many time-consuming, mundane, but important parts of our business like Payroll, time tracking, accounting, etc. Viktor is also responsible for creating SOPs, trainings, hiring, and other efficiency-gaining activities.
Airtable, by the way, is critical to our business. Promoting from within has also been a stimulus to growth. In particular, promoting one of our talented developers, Sorin, to the technical project manager role allowed us to properly invest in project management consulting, adopting ClickUp for PM activities. It also energized Sorin in an amazing way to be in a more challenging and interesting role, which taught me that you have to have the right people on the bus and have them in the right seats!
5. What is your advice for those that are starting productized services?
My main advice would be to focus on selecting the right type of business.
Our own business is exciting and dynamic but it’s also undeniably difficult to scale because every customer comes to us with unique requirements that can’t be handily documented, repeated, or automated. This has essentially required us to grow into a proper agency in order to learn the business technologies that work in a dynamic, high touch, services context.
Certain other businesses like SEO, for instance, can lean much more heavily on automation because the tasks involved are often repetitive and technology-centric. This is the kind of business that lends itself to smooth scaling.
The other suggestion I can make is to get very clear on terms and track your numbers ruthlessly. You’ll find that you’re operating unprofitably for some percentage of customers, and you need to build in enough cushion such that you can make a profit on even the most demanding edge-case customers. Not to mention, meticulous books could be the difference between a smooth acquisition one day and a pass.
6. What are your plans for the future?
While we have well-defined relativistic goals (OKRs) for things like traffic, revenue, margins, and so on, the main focus for now is to continually invest in getting our core business processes to a world-class level.
Our aim is for every customer whom we help to experience delight and a totally smooth delivery of their projects and tasks. This to me is the foundation of any real success because truly great customer service is its own marketing. Doubling revenue while churn and refunds also double because you bit off more than you can chew doesn’t help anyone, does it?
This is why we reinvest heavily in education and high-level consultants. We want to be the absolute best at what we do.
Apropos to this point, we were in talks with a company eyeing us for a strategic acquisition late last year. and it made me realize that I would like to exit MemberFix in the next 24 months or so. But I wouldn’t dream of selling an investor an asset that wasn’t first running like a Swiss watch, largely self-managing, and ideally self-multiplying. And on the same token, any acquisition would have to involve a distinct upside for our team in the form of access to better opportunities, career path, money, access to high level mentorship, etc.
I don’t anticipate any specific roadblocks but I anticipate that there will be roadblocks and plenty of them. On any given day I’m vacillating between “I hate this shit…” and “I love this shit!” because there are constant challenges with being an entrepreneur. Ups and downs. But I know that because of the difficulties that I’ve been through with my wonderful team, and specifically in a services based business like ours, I’ll be able to handle just about anything.
7. Where can we learn more about you?
You can find us at https://memberfix.rocks