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The Builders

The Builders

By Matt Levenhagen
"The Builders" Podcast is designed for those that are 'building' stuff on the web. Whether that's building a business, an agency, building teams, building products, services.. or building websites.. if it's related to building something, it's fair game.
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Delivering Services that Include 'Teaching’, Diversification & Creating Complementary Services
In this episode I touch on a couple of business topics related to clients, products and services.  We start off by discussing the 'added value' service called 'Teaching'.  While some providers are built to just get the job done with minimal communication, there's another side to that coin.  You can help a client solve problems, execute on their website's roadmap, but also communicating what's happening with the site - where the problems lie or what happened.  Operating under the principle that the client needs to have at least a general understand of the framework their business generates revenue on, where pain points lie and helping them develop a roadmap to a better site, has been a huge value. I also talk about diversification.. from making sure your agency has more than one client and/or doesn't rely on one giant revenue source to branching out into other things like products or affiliate marketing.  And then we land on creating products that are complimentary to your other services or products.  Enjoy!
29:17
October 25, 2021
Ryan Lawrence - A Discussion about Work-Life Balance & Dealing with Stress
I’m joined today by Ryan Lawrence.  Ryan has been a freelance web developer, working from home, for more than 15 years.  As I have also worked at home for at least that long.. a bit longer.. we have a lot in common with how we manage working from home and dealing with our day to day. We talk in depth about having good work-life balance, how we personally manage it and the stresses of working and doing what we do.  We talk schedules, taking breaks, regular vacations, mixing work with pleasure.. and meditation.  It’s a GREAT episode.  Enjoy!
42:39
October 18, 2021
Shoumo (Saumya Ganguly) - Strategies for Small Businesses to Win Larger Clients
I'm back with Shoumo Ganguly in a valuable episode for small businesses looking to compete and reel in larger clients.  Shoumo's experience having worked inside larger corporations and organizations and understanding how they operate provides a lot of insights.  His experience as a consultant and mentor to small businesses shines through as well -- it's always good to talk to someone in the trenches and working through these issues with others. There are a range of challenges for small businesses when trying to become providers or sell services to larger businesses.  Learn how to navigate these larger organizations and set yourself apart.  What is the best way to learn more about the stakeholders and decision makers?  How do you prepare?  How do you deal with the complexity?  What can you do that brings value?  All these questions are answered in this densely packed, actionable episode!  I hope you join us!
42:39
October 11, 2021
Danielle Zarcaro – Developing a New Website Service, Generating Ideas, the Night Watch & Game Plan
Danielle is back with me for another episode. Today I wanted to talk to her about her new website service, “Overnight Websites”. I really wanted to dig into the idea.. we start by laying the groundwork and learning about the service itself.. the choices she made (eg, choosing Oxygen as the framework). Then we go deeper into the idea. I was interested in how she generated the idea, what inspired it and how it developed. We also, being the WordPress nerds we are, talked a bunch about WordPress, page builders, site builders, gutenberg blocks and more! We talked about what it's like to be a night owl.. (hint).. and her game plan. How has she thought about her new service and where she sees it down the road. AND.. how she'll get the word out. Enjoy!
49:01
October 5, 2021
Matt’s First Solo Episode on YouTube, Productivity, Choosing Clients, Automation.. and more!
In this solo episode I talk about a variety of topics.. My addition of YouTube as a place to post episodes, my experience with Riverside.fm so far. I talk about doing podcasting while try to run a very busy web design agency and business. The challenges there.. and how I'm careful not to add too much to my plate. I chose a couple other business related topics to dig into including ‘choosing your clients', how to let a client go, using tools to improve productivity.. and I end with some news. The closing of Hexater.com's WordPress theme marketplace.. and what the future brings. I hope you join me!
32:46
September 27, 2021
Mohammad Nafisi - His Journey, Business, Startups, Community & More!
In this episode we're joined by Mohammad Nafisi.  Him and I met a number of years ago while he was going to a school in my hometown of Beaver Dam at Wayland Academy.  He was a student from Iran and met my nephews who also attended this school.  For the breaks he would stay with them, my family, and that's where I first met him - I came home for the holidays and there he was! We instantly had a connection.. he was so inquisitive and was really interested in what I was doing in tech.  After a few years out of touch, we reconnected this past year on LinkedIn.  Today he's just about ready to start his life after college -- looking to create a business startup.  We talk about his life, journey, his knowledge around startups and so much more.  Enjoy!
51:07
September 15, 2021
Wilson Mattos - Biz Lessons, Climbing the Corporate Ladder to Becoming an Entrepreneur
In this episode we have Wilson Mattos joining us.  He co-founded Rapid Crush and serves as it's current CEO.  Wilson and I first met many years ago at a seminar I spoke at (in 2009).  We remained friends and have had a number of great business adventures together..  In this conversation we start by digging into his roots, where he's from (Brazil), how he came to America and his journey climbing the corporate ladder to become a business leader and entrepreneur! We dig deeper into a couple of great topics and he shares some incredible nuggets.  We talked about partnerships, how him and Jason Fladlien first met and maintained their partnership for over 10 years.  We also talk about his team, culture and relationships.  Good stuff!  I hope you take a listen.. enjoy!
59:59
September 8, 2021
Vova Feldman - His Personal Story, How He Built Freemius & a Discussion About Business!
Today Vova Feldman, owner of the popular WordPress Platform, Freemius, joins me to talk about his journey and business.  We start out having him dig into his past and he talks about his family's migration from the Ukraine to Israel when he was 4 years old.  We learn how those experiences shaped him, how he discovered his love for building things, programming and business. From there we talk about how his company leverages and creates content for his user base and fans.  We discuss how he started his company, built relationships and found his first customers.  Learn how he prefers selling, his focus on the long game and his approach to marketing.  Great guy, great conversion!  Enjoy!
53:24
September 1, 2021
The Truth About Quitting.. When It's OK!
Quitting gets a bad rap.  Some people will tell you quitting is never a good thing.  But is that true?  The truth is there are different types of 'quitting'.  There's a spectrum.  And if you quit something it doesn't mean your overarching plans, goals or strategy has to change. In fact, sometimes quitting can be the strategy.  When we are testing something, we need to define when we are quitting.  In this episode I tell the story of products I tried to sell years ago and they didn't work.  I quit each attempt, but I didn't quit the idea and eventually succeeded!  I'm doing the same thing with this podcast and discuss that. Don't miss this episode!  Learn why micro-quitting.. is a good and healthy thing to do!
23:14
August 25, 2021
Meet Stephen Wilson Downey: His Journey & Developing an AI-based WordPress Plugin
Join me for a discussion with Stephen Wilson Downey; our first guest from Ireland! Stephen and I first met on LinkedIn.  We got on a call and talked about his product (an AI-based WordPress plugin) and what he was doing in the WordPress space. Of course, that lead to him being on this podcast episode. Stephen's got an interesting backstory.. we dig into his roots, his journey as a chef and how he discovered his love for business and entrepreneurship. We of course also dive into what he's been building these last couple of years. We get into AI systems, machine learning.. well, if that doesn't pique your interest already, I don't know what will! Enjoy the episode!
39:00
August 16, 2021
Creating Systems & Processes to Achieve Better Results
In this solo episode, I'm back at it telling stories from my past. This is the story of how I first learned the power of systems and processes as a literal insurance salesman and how that carried over to my stint as an PPC advertiser, affiliate marketer, creating my own system and processes called “Campaign Blasting“.. to today running a web design agency and teams. This is without a doubt one of my favorite topics BECAUSE I think it has a significant impact on any business or endeavor. Systems and processes working in concert can help your business or agency become more efficient, consistent and streamlined. A system is a living thing.. everything under it can be iterated on and improved over time. It's a framework to help you continuously improve. Enjoy the episode!
22:17
August 9, 2021
Doland White on Team Building: Elasticity, Growth & Scaling
Doland White is back with another great conversation around building teams. If you're run a business or agency for any length of time, you may find yourself in a position where you need to consider how you might grow or scale your team. But what does that mean? What is the difference betweening scaling and growing your agency or business? What is elasticity ad how does that play a role? He starts by defining the 3 dimensions of a team.. From there we both share stories, he extracts lessons from them.. and we benefit from his decades of experience building teams. 100% worth a listen if building teams is a thing for you and your business!
44:56
August 2, 2021
Discovering Your Competitive Advantage & Defining What You Do
In this solo episode I dig into two topics that, when combined, form a powerful foundation for your marketing and getting more business.  The first topic is 'discovering your competitive advantage'.  Knowing what sets you apart can play a big role in how you attract business.  And sometimes, it's not something you know up front; sometimes it develops organically as you work with customers or clients. Then I discuss 'defining what you do'.  You could decide that you are a jack of all trades and do everything and anything.  But I'm willing to bet that if you define what you do and limit yourself, you'll do so much better!  That doesn't mean you just say 'no' or don't help that customer or client.  That's what strategic partnerships and referral business is for!
19:57
July 26, 2021
What is Matt & Unified Web Design Up To?
If you're building an agency or business, this episode is for you. Besides revealing my 5-10 year vision for my agency, I delve into how my web design business has developed. Any time we release a service or product it can end up being something we didn't anticipate.. my agency has been the same way. But as I talk about in this episode, that doesn't mean we let go of our initial vision. You adapt, take advantage and then circle back! I also talk about my current products and my suite of products I'm releasing later this year or early next year. At the heart of this new product is the goal to help agencies and freelancers; to provide them a toolkit.. so, if you are one of those two things, exciting things coming! Enjoy!
18:49
July 19, 2021
Meet Widmaer (Wid) Telisma: An Inspiring Story that Leads to Building a Successful Agency
I'm joined by Widmaer Telisma in this episode.  Wid, as we call him, currently runs a successful web marketing agency in Montreal (Canada).  Him and I have a very similar story these past 15 or so years; in fact, he had joined one of my memberships back in 2007.  That is where I first met him hanging out in my community and forum.  We both started our days online doing a wide variety of things to make money.  In the early days we did a lot of affiliate marketing, PPC (AdWords), some Adsense and so much more. But today we have another parallel.. he followed the path of starting his own marketing agency which he's been doing successfully for the past 5 years; as you know, I run a web design agency.  We talk about his journey, common experiences and touch a variety of topics related to building and managing an agency.  I hope you join us.. Enjoy!
01:04:08
July 12, 2021
Building Your Business via Good Storytelling
In this solo episode I dig into telling stories to sell your personal brand, services and more.  Learn how I incorporate stories into my business..  how to connect stories from your past into a conversation that helps 'soft' sell.  Learn the types of stories you can tell and how to deliver them. Stories are things we tell verbally.. but we are also telling a story with the content we spread across the web.  Your websites, social media and other avenues all work together to tell the story of your brand.  Being your authentic self, telling the good and the bad stuff and curating your stories over time is powerful and will help you attract more business.  Enjoy the episode!
25:03
July 5, 2021
Building Websites with Advanced Custom Fields!
I get to be a nerd today and get excited about a WordPress plugin!  I've grown to love Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) over the past few years running my web design agency.  In the past I didn't want 'another plugin' and I created a lot of custom code that leveraged WordPress' core features (eg, metaboxes and the customizer). Today though, I reach for ACF more often than not.  In this podcast I tell the story around the transition, the influence Hexater themes had on my approach to themes, how I broke from that, how I now use it when I'm building custom themes for clients.. and dig into the plugin itself a bit and why I find it such an important solution in my toolkit.
21:40
June 28, 2021
Meet Matthew Biggar | Social Media & Leveraging Video in Your Business
I'm joined by Matthew Biggar in this episode.  Listen in as we discuss video, social media, building brand, audiences and more!  Are you interested in how you can leverage video in your business?  Then this IS the episode for you.  That's his speciality! Matthew's been using video and teaching others how to use video for years!  He's had his own production company and in recent years pivoted and started his own YouTube channel.  We discuss playing the long game, building audiences, we touch on analytics, how to tie all your web properties together and so much more.  Check it out!
53:41
June 21, 2021
Building a Podcast | What I've Learned & the Benefits I've Uncovered So Far!
An episode about building a podcast on The Builders Podcast...  need I say more?  As with all the content we talk about on this podcast, I'm talking from the trenches; talking to what I'm doing and have experience with.  The past 20 episodes has been a journey.  I've learned a number of lessons, have a pretty good feel for what we're doing now, the benefits.. and I'm ready to share my experience so far and some lessons. Buckle up as I dig into the 'why'.  Why I still am doing solo episodes (like this one) while still doing guests, why I keep things simple (hint: avoiding stress points).  I talk to the value I'm getting from having guests.. more importantly the value my listeners get!  Also I dispense some lessons.. starting a podcast and keeping it simple.  Enjoy!
27:14
June 14, 2021
Get to Know Jennifer Denney | Virtual Teams & Building a Business
Join me for a discussion with Jenney Denney.  She's been doing digital marketing for over 15 years, runs an agency and has a lot experience and knowledge to share!  We get to know more about her, the journey and how she landed where she is today.  What influenced her, what guides her... We also talk about her experience with virtual teams.  She's lead large teams in virtual environments; her first team in 2006!  Before many companies even thought about it.  So I asked her about her experience with that and what tips or insights she might be able to offer.  We also talked about starting and building a business in general.  I found her REALLY inspiring.. I hope you get a chance to listen in! :)
42:55
June 7, 2021
Get to Know Shoumo (Saumya Ganguly), Business Consultant | Business Models
Join me for a discussion with Shoumo Ganguly.  Shoumo is a business consultant and expert on the topic of business models.  With a long and storied career with many large corporations (from IBM, projects with Toyota and a long stint at PricewaterhouseCoopers) he's got a lot of experience and insights to bring to the table. As I do with all my guests in our first episode, we get to know him.. he tells his story from his roots in India, to the story of his career and his arrival in America in 1999.  He walks us through what's influenced him and what led him to starting his own consulting business. Then to cap it off we dive into his ideas around Business Models.. how he's take things he learned in the corporate world and molded it, boiled it down for small businesses.  If you're starting a new business or building one, there are some great nuggets in this episode. Don't miss it!
01:03:31
June 1, 2021
How to Choose and Move to a Better Web Server
This episode is for freelancers or agencies that would like to hear a perspective from someone that sets up and manages hosting for clients.  OR it's for businesses that would like to extract some thoughts around the importance of choosing a good web host and what the process is around moving to a new server and web host. Whether you're just launching a website or have an existing, growing business, your server is an essential piece to insure your customers can purchase, visitors can access your content or you can generate leads.  You don't ever want to be in the position where you're talking to your developer or hosting company and "this is costing me money" comes out of your mouth. 
25:44
May 24, 2021
How to Expand & Contract Depending on Your Volume of Business
In this episode I talk about how to infuse flexibility in your business in that you can handle spikes in your volume without hiring a huge team off the bat.  And why you may not want internal hiring to be your only solution to getting stuff done. What avenues are out there for your business to operate like a cloud computer or server platform where you can scale it up or down depending on the time of the year, amount of business coming in and so on.  A powerful solution that can help you take on more.. but better be prepared for the valleys.
11:58
May 17, 2021
A Conversation with 2 Web Developers: Ryan & Danielle
In this episode I'm having a conversation with 2 other web developers.  We start by diving into their backgrounds and journey.  Ryan's been a web developer for over 15 years.  Danielle's been at it for around 9 years.  Both, like myself, focus a lot on WordPress, but we talk about 'what else' we do or will be doing.  We all worked together as a team in a previous company; that's how we met. Some of the topics we cover are related to being a freelancer vs agency, how we define our business, niches, our history with WordPress, what challenges we all face.. which includes that dreaded "Imposter Syndrome" and how we each think about and deal with it.  And cats.. some references to cats. :-)
53:52
May 10, 2021
Generating Product or Service Ideas .. And Letting them Simmer.
In this episode I talk about generating ideas and brainstorming.  This something I take very seriously in my own business.  It's a never ending process...  and often ideas simmer for long periods so I can develop them.  When they are ready, they may see the light. I touch on a recent idea that is just now seeing the light of day.  It's something that started to gel around a year ago.  I thought of a name for a product, bought the domain, have thought about the sales page, how I'll market it and who my audience is; I didn't start start developing the product until this past week.
16:23
May 3, 2021
WooCommerce to the Rescue
This episode digs into the awesomeness of WooCommerce - a WordPress eCommerce plugin.  I have been using and developing with WooCommerce for years.  It's my go to solution if one of my clients needs to sell products on their website (digital or physical). We have an eCommerce WordPress theme at Hexater called, Furniture Shop.  Hexater.com itself is driven by a cart-less install of WooCommerce (we use Freemius for the cart).  I've built and manage WooCommerce for clients. WooCommerce is great to use out of the box, but you can also customize it to be whatever you want it to be.
19:51
April 26, 2021
Getting Started with a New Developer
If you're an agency that needs to or is trying to hire good web developers or have some other reason you need to find good people to do work for you, this episode is for you. After building multiple teams over the years I've learned some lessons that helps me find good people relatively consistently (knock on wood). I've hired people to help me build niche sites, create content, design and develop. I've worked with creatives and tech'y people to build stuff on the web. There's a process and some key things you need to consider if you are going to have success; considerations depending on who you are seeking and from where. Enjoy!
24:13
April 19, 2021
Just Launch It
This episode will take us on a journey into my past.  I reference a thread I participated in on the Warrior Forum back in 2003-04.  When I was active there. We're talking about just getting something launched and not getting caught up in making everything perfect before you take action.  Just launch it!  Too many spend weeks, months or even years because they don't feel confident that they are ready and everything is perfect. When the real answer is to just get something minimal viable together and get it out there.  By the time some people launch 1 product or service they could have tested 10 and found that winner.
19:05
April 12, 2021
A Conversation with Doland White
This is a conversation with the one and only Doland White. Doland and I met while working at the same company a few years ago.. he was the CEO and I was just one of the web development grunts. ;)  ...but no, we built their WordPress business together and he taught me a lot as I helped build the themes and a team of designers and developers. He's been involved with technology in some shape or form for over 3 decades.  He worked at IBM, 11 years at Novell, Symantec.. and other great companies.  He started as a programmer, made his way into management and beyond.  There is SO MUCH to learn from him! In this episode we dig into the business of building a business.  How to keep things simple in the beginning, how to put things in place so you don't get overwhelmed, growth vs scaling and so much more!
51:57
April 5, 2021
Web Page Walk Thru: Team Pages!
This is a new type of segment for the Builders Crew! I’ve chosen a specific type of page on a website (the Team Page) and we’re going to go through a project from start to finish. This will be great for anyone that has or is planning a team page .. whether that’s your business OR something you are building for someone else. I’m providing some background on the project as a whole and the relationship between us, the agency and client. We’ll look at what decisions and changes were made along the way and what impact they had. As well as how that process looked.
15:47
March 29, 2021
Should I learn “Insert Language or Framework”?
It's a question you've heard or seen a million times if you've spent time in web development communities online.   Should I learn this or what should I learn next? No question is a dumb question of course.. let's start there.  But often I think there doesn't need to be a next.  It's ok to just focus on the basics at certain times or getting better at what's in front of you.   Or just chilling until something comes along that tells you what to learn; that inspires you to take action. The better thing to do often is to simply look inside yourself.  What gets you excited.  What past experience might tell you what is a good direction for you.  In my opinion how much money you can make isn't the right question either; I've a big proponent of following your passion.. doing things that inspire you first.
14:58
March 22, 2021
The Role of ‘Testing’ while Building Your Business
Introducing a new segment! The “Builders News Minute”. A minute I share what’s new since the last podcast.  But more importantly, we get into the business of testing in business. Where testing is applied and how it influences and touches almost everything. Testing is something to be embraced and understood. You usually have to start with an educated guess and ‘choices’, but over time you can measure results and data to guide you through improvements.
14:19
March 15, 2021
Leverage WordPress to Do More for Your Clients!
If you are starting an agency or are established, heads up!  This is a great episode. ESPECIALLY if you don't currently sell web design services but have clients asking.. "can you provide web design services or do you know WordPress?" Here's what's exciting...  You don't have to do it!  You don't have to be the expert.  Partner up with an agency, find expertise, provide your clients more value and create new opportunities!
16:13
March 5, 2021
Let Your Users or Clients Guide You
I find the evolution of products and services fascinating.  In so many cases the ideas we start with evolve into something else or we focus in on something we couldn't predicted.  Even as an agency we are doing things today that we would never have thought of on our own 2 years ago. In this episode I explore this and use some examples where this has happened in the real world for both products and services.
13:28
February 26, 2021
We're BACK! Web Design Biz Update!
Last summer I needed to pause the podcast to focus on the business.  This episode ushers in a new go at it.. I talk about what we've been up to, how the business is doing and the future of this podcast (new'ish format.. mostly related to length). Enjoy!
13:37
February 19, 2021
Pricing - Starting Low to Get to the High
While a lot of people or gurus today preach charging high from day 1, that's not exactly the path I took.  While a lot of gurus or internet experts preach value pricing over hourly, I'm not a purest in that regard either. This is my story (putting it all out there!).. from a fledgling developer back in 2012 charging $15/hour to where I am today averaging over a $100 per hour... landing web development and design projects for $5000+.  I dig into the why I started super low (hint, experience, knowledge, relationships) to how that developed and I raised my value and pricing over time. I don't know if this is a blueprint for you to follow, but my hope is sharing my story helps someone uncertain about pricing have an ah-ha moment that improves their situation.
27:04
July 17, 2020
Developing a Profit Impacting Specialization
Building a business is tough.  There are a lot of moving parts.  But something that I have always gravitated to from day 1 is defining what my speciality will be.  A specialty in your chosen field, business or career allows you to build an identity and brand that is more valuable and makes your services easier to sell.  It helps you attract better projects, projects you are perfect for.. and allows you to ask for more money. It makes the job of marketing and selling your services or products easier.   In this episode I dive into the process in choosing a great specialization for yourself.  Then how to leverage that specialization in your marketing and to get more business.  And I define what role it plays; in that it shouldn't be looked at as something that limits what you can do.  It can open more doors and attract greater opportunity.  
21:42
July 3, 2020
Creating Your Own Secret Sauce with Bootstrap
Bootstrap has been a major part of my web development toolkit since 2014.  Back then I had created a custom WordPress theme framework with Bootstrap baked in; over the years I've continued to use it for Hexater themes, have refined how I use it and have it baked into a custom theme framework I use for clients (I specialize in building custom WordPress themes).   Beyond that I've built a LOT of landing pages, sales pages and funnels using it.  I get client work all the time where I find Bootstrap under the hood. So, bottom line, I have a lot of experience with it.   In this episode I dive into how I use it and create my own Bootstrap themes or templates that I can use for client work or future themes; over and over again.  Bootstrap isn't as sexy as let's say React or Angular.  But it's a huge part of my business and I love using it; as do my clients.  Why is that?  Listen and find out!
19:11
June 26, 2020
Start Your Business with a Rock Solid Identity
In this episode I touch on 3 things that form a great starting point for any business.  By doing these 3 simple things it can help you form an identity you can leverage in a number of ways.  We'll touch on the psychology behind it and how it can help you start building authority day 1.
14:48
June 10, 2020