Advanced Topics In Businessing at WordCamp Miami 2018

I’m giving a talk at WordCamp Miami 2018 this weekend called “Advanced Topics In Businessing.”

It’s a cheeky name because it originally started out as a joke.

Last year, at the inaugural WordCamp DC (which, by the way, was an excellent event and you should try to make this year if you are in the area), I attended Andrew Nacin’s talk Advanced Topics In WordPress. I sat with technology educator Zac Gordon and after Andrew’s talk, Zac asked me what I thought of him doing an “Advanced Topics In JavaScript” talk. I liked it.

Then he says, “what if you did Advanced Topics In Businessing”? I laughed and told him that was silly.

But then, he told me that he was going to buy so that I couldn’t have it. I’m a competitive person and I love a silly challenge, so $6 later, I owned

I first met Zac at WordCamp Miami 2017, so to continue the joke, I submitted “Advanced Topics In Businessing” as a talk abstract. Lo and behold, the organizers loved it, they spun an entire Micro MBA track, and now here we are.

The lesson: never take yourself too seriously.

I’m actually really excited to give this talk. In both Andrew’s and Zac’s versions of this talk, they talked on advanced topics that they thought people should know, in no particular order, about their areas of expertise. Over the last 3 years, I’ve certainly developed an opinion on which parts of my formal business education have come in the most useful (I graduated from Florida State University’s MBA program in 2015 which, by the way, is spinning up the country’s largest public entrepreneurship school this year).

I’m told fairly frequently that it’s pretty uncommon to meet entrepreneurs with business backgrounds in my industry. Most technology entrepreneurs are people with great eyes for design or minds for development who put cool things together, and figure out how to sell it later.

This is at the core of mine and Josh’s partnership at Caldera Labs. We have complimentary skills. When Zac was joking around about “businessing,” it wasn’t all jokes. As a professional educator, he is an expert in pedagogy, but not in strategic management.

It’s funny, because when I look at my talk slides for this weekend, and the list below, I think these concepts are pretty elementary. The other lesson in that: always realize that what is easy to your area of concentration, is advanced to someone else with a different area of concentration. We all have expertise to share – so share it!

The Topics

If you find yourself here after (or during) the talk, welcome! I hope you find this content useful. Below is the list of my 5 key things I think a WordPress professional should know about from a traditional business education curriculum in moving forward with starting, running and growing a business in this space.

If you find yourself here before the talk, catch the talk on Sunday morning at 9AM in Miami or on the livestream.

To get a copy of my slides, find them here.

#1 – Long term competitive advantage


A competitive advantage is an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value, either by means of lower prices or by providing greater benefits and service that justifies higher prices. Understanding the concept of long term competitive advantage is essential to answering the essential business question: why should anyone buy your product? See this link for more information.

#2 – Porter’s Value Chain

Porter's value chain diagram
Porter’s Value Chain from

After understanding competitive advantage, get a grip of Porter’s Value Chain. This diagram outlines all of the moving parts of a business, and separates them into two: the activities you do to make money, and the activities you do the make your business run. Figuring out where in your value chain your competitive advantage exists is essential to the next part of running a business: figuring out which parts you should do, and which parts you should outsource ASAP.

It’s also valuable to get an understanding of who Michael E. Porter is. This guy literally wrote every leading book about strategic management, and even as business changes his quickly, his concepts seem to continue standing the test of time.

Business is changing quickly, though. Certainly for those of us selling online, Porter’s Value Chain can start to feel especially clunky when procurement, inbounding logistics, operations, and outbound logistics all seem to be the same thing. For this reason, I recommend you also familiarize yourself with the Business Model Canvas. This other business diagramming tool is more apt for mapping out non-material businesses, and can still serve as a chart by which to understand what you’re doing, and what you should outsource.


#3 – Order winners vs. order qualifiers

Once you define out what you think makes you special and how it fits into the big picture of your business, let’s figure out whether you’re right. This is the concept of where order winners vs. order qualifiers comes in. An order qualifier is an aspect of your business that must be acceptable or better for a consumer to consider buying from you. An order winner is an aspect of your business that is why a person chooses you over another acceptable alternative. Observe the big brands in your life: what is the order winner? What is the order qualifier(s)? Now think about yourself. If you’re selling on Etsy, people aren’t buying from you because you have cute, handmade originals. That’s an order qualifier. They’re buying from you because you have an order winner – something that differentiates you from the crowd.

#4 The Marketing Mix

This hideous image is from

Most of us in WordPress will eventually default to a differentiation strategy, where our order winner is our marketing and personnel. For this reason, you should really understand how marketing works. At the core is understanding the concept of the “marketing mix” – this is the idea that marketing comprises of product (how’s the thing you sell packaged? Does it incite excitement?), placement (where do you sell it?), promotion (where and how do you advertise?) and price.

I’ve seen a lot of WordPress professional overlook this concept and use the word marketing when they’re actually talking about digital advertising. A marketing strategy is not an overview of what you’re going to post to your social profiles and blogs. Marketing strategy is about how you present the product to your customers, where you take payments, and more. Understand the marketing mix and answer all of the questions that arise from it, and you will have fleshed out a solid strategy for promoting your product.

#5 Price elasticity of demand


When I did a business panel in Montreal last summer, it seemed everyone wanted to know one thing: what should I price my products at?

The answer: I don’t know, it depends on your product. Sorry.

But what about your product? Well, I believe your pricing research should start with an understanding the idea of price elasticity and doing an assessment of how elastic or inelastic your product is. This will allow you to make a hypothesis as to whether you should price high or low. From there, run experiments. Familiarize yourself with this framework of decision-making here.

#6 BONUS: Covey’s Time Management Matrix


Not exactly a business chart, but the first thing I discovered when I started running my own business was “oh my god, this is really hard, and I have too much to do.”

One of my professors taught me about this matrix, and as simple as it seems, it began to restructure how I thought about my workload.

The key takeaway: do the things that further your goals before you do the things that call your attention. Oftentimes, things resolve themselves when they don’t matter. Learn about Covey’s Time Management Matrix here.

Finishing Slide: The Conjoined Triangles of Success

I couldn’t help but notice that my presentation bore a striking resemblance to this clever scene from HBO’s Silicon Valley. I couldn’t not include it. Never take ourselves too seriously, right?

Check out the full talk at WordCamp Miami 2018, Sunday at 9AM.

That’s All, Folks

I once said that I’ve only found about 30% of my MBA useful in the context of entrepreneurship. However, a businessperson I admire, Andrew Norcross (Founder of Reaktiv Studios), had a good retort to that: so far. There’s my so far summary above. If you have other concepts you think will end up coming in useful, drop them in the comments.

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