Around this time last year we spoke to Mason James, he visited us in Serbia, and we talked Valet and good food. Today, we are talking to Kimberly Lipari, the other half of Valet. In her interview she tells us about her journey to Valet, how important having a business process is, and the first step to implementing one as a freelancer.
How did you go from being an engineer, to an independent publisher, to support team lead at WPMU Dev, to co-founder of Valet?
Long story short: KIDS! I graduated in Industrial Technology while working for a Survey and Engineering firm. I moved shortly after, got married, and found out I was expecting long before we ever planned! My new job was an ill fit and with the baby on the way we decided I would find new work after she was born. While waiting I was SO BORED so started working with local moms and eventually started building a website for my new ventures. I was using tools from WPMUDEV when I saw an open email call for support reps and thought ‘Hey, I could do that!’. That’s when I met Mason and we’ve worked together, in some capacity or another, ever since. First at WPMU Dev and now as Co-Founders.
You and Mason met at WPMU Dev, how did you come up with the idea to start Valet? Whose initiative was it? Or was it a joint effort that just came naturally?
Valet (WP Valet at that time) was Mason’s baby. Before he started at WPMU Dev he had his own side business and kept getting clients who would come back around asking for refreshed sites and help with website specific projects. He started getting busier and approached me about helping out and seeing what we could grow from it.
What attracted you to the WordPress industry, and how do you give back to the community?
I knew nothing about WordPress or the amazing community it was centered around until my first WordCamp. I had zero idea the scope or appeal the software had and that there was an entire ecosystem out there just focused on this software! My first WordCamp solidified my decision to stick with WordPress as a job. I immediately fell in love with the culture and vibe of the whole thing. The people were all so nice and happy and helpful. It was such a change from the broody, serious, and often abrasive culture of work I had come from.
You mostly focus on processes and organization at Valet. How important do you think having a process is to any business?
Process is vital. We all have processes we follow that make our lives easier and business is no different. If you don’t map what happens next after x, y, or z then everything becomes spaghetti. It’s a big mess of running around and trying to figure out how to make sense of things. Having a clear path for where client issues go, who handles what, and other day to day operations makes things go much more effectively. It also empowers your team by telling them exactly what you expect from them next, so they can perform with confidence.
To all of our freelancers out there, what would you say is the first step to successfully implementing processes to their business?
Be honest about your problems. No one wants to be wrong or admit they are having trouble, but clearly identifying what’s holding you back is the only way you can overcome it. Once you do that you can decipher ways to prevent that trouble or alleviate it by creating a process. Processes are just planned actions that keep you from having to deal with problems later on.
Congrats on becoming a WP Elevation blogger. In your “mini interview” with Troy you mentioned the importance of combining tools and processes to fit each team, so that they can work together better on a personal level. How do you do that?
Thank You! It was a great opportunity that I was so grateful for while they had me! Your tools should suit the job you’re doing anywhere in life. You don’t do carpentry with a blender right? Work should be the same.
As an example we can look at a Marketing manager and a Developer within the same company. While they both work at the same place their response times for incoming issues are going to be very different. The Marketing manager will need to be quick to respond to social inquiries but the Developer needs head down time to focus on work. The process for presenting issues to these two different positions will be much different. Perhaps the developer gets a buffer, where all issues are approved by a Project Manager before being brought to them, while the Marketing manager requests a direct message in chat. One way requires a system of tracking reports while the other may not.
How does ManageWP fit into your tool kit?
We use ManageWP to manage a large portion of our client sites. Hosting capabilities vary widely from platform to platform, and managing so many different clients on so many different hosts is impossible to standardize. Orion gives us the ability to create as much of a simplified process as possible when dealing with so many variables.
You came to the WordPress industry from a different background and now you are a WordPress influencer of sorts, what’s your best tip to getting known in this industry?
I giggled at that last question! I’m not sure I’m the person to ask that question to, honestly. There are many folks who are ‘known’ in WordPress and all for different reasons. We all know the ‘superstars’ and follow our favorite blogs but at the end of the day they are all just being themselves, telling their story. I think that’s the way people get to know you and remember you. Be you, be genuine, and share share share!
A lot of our WordPress website maintenance consultants struggle with establishing a work life balance, what’s your secret?
For me balance is waking up each day and figuring out who needs more of me that day, work or family, and what do I need more of. I burned out after a couple of years with literally hundreds of support tickets in my queue each day. I had to learn to step away and take care of myself. I balance by being aware and flexible. It’s actually the total opposite of what lots of people need for balance, which is structure, but it works for me
When you are not working, where can we find you?
This time of year I’m outside as much as I can be! Either getting dirty in the garden, rec sports with the kids, fishing, swimming, or any other way I can enjoy being out in the fresh air!