Founder Stories: Kevin Koskella On Building Work Hero

In today’s Founder Story, we feature Kevin Koskella, Founder of Work Hero!

Read on for lessons he has learned from launching and marketing his business.

1. Please introduce your business and share your role. 

Hi! I’m Kevin, founder of Work Hero, from Austin, TX United States. Work Hero is a WordPress support and development subscription service for busy agencies. We service agencies by building their clients’ websites and doing all of their support tasks- including building pages, optimizing site speed, fixing issues, adding features, and anything else WordPress-related. 

The agencies we work with typically need our service because either 1) they are doing development work themselves and don’t have time to run their business, or 2) they are paying too much for development and need to increase their profit margins.

We have a unique approach to WordPress development for agencies, as we have a diverse team of developers that can handle a variety of website build projects as well as the ability to diagnose issues. Also, our customers enjoy having a consistent partner with our subscription service, so the whole team is on their side- and if one developer is out, the whole project doesn’t go down in flames.

2. What’s your backstory, what kind of challenges did you face, and how did you come up with your business idea?

I managed many information product businesses for years and always struggled with finding help with development and design. Out of this, I decided to help others with my biggest pain points.

We started as a WordPress + Design + Marketing Funnels monthly subscription agency in 2017. We struggled a lot with this business model, managed to break even for a while, but ultimately had to pivot. 

At the end of 2019, we shifted to just WordPress support as a subscription. Eventually, we landed a marketing agency as a customer- and it turned out to be a great fit for us and them. This success had us focusing on mostly working with other agencies, particularly marketing and SEO.

We faced many challenges along the way. Having enough developers to cover the work, but not too many so we’re paying people to wait around is generally the biggest challenge in our business.

One that stands out is, back in January of 2023, we had explosive growth- by far our best month ever. However, we were not prepared and did not have a solid enough system, nor enough developers. In February, a site build went completely wrong, and the customer got angry and canceled. We took the next two months to fix our systems and get the right help we needed. It was a tough lesson learned, but we have grown a lot since then and managed to increase revenue by 33% since March of last year.

3. What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?

We look up to any productized service business, but particularly the design-as-a-service businesses like Kimp and Design Pickle. Design, although less technical, is actually more complex than development, as there are far more variables- like customer setup, expectations, preferences, etc.

Both Kimp and Design Pickle have been able to provide a wonderful service, with many similar customers to Work Hero. We look at the onboarding, quality of work, ease of use of the platform, friendliness of the workers, and profitability, to learn how we can do better and take things that already are working for these companies.

For example, we signed up for Kimp and I was impressed with the sales presentation, which included a pdf slide show. We implemented something similar into our sales presentation, and it has made the calls much better. 

4. What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?
  1. this has made our cold outreach campaigns much easier and streamlined. We can easily track everything and even respond on the platform.
  2. Folk app. We started using this as our CRM, and it’s been very easy to use, and has kept us organized. Some of the advantages of Folk are being able to easily update and move contacts around, and organize in terms of customers and prospects. It allows you to add cards like Trello, with basic information on the quality of the lead. With customers, we have set up a system to contact each of them on a regular basis, starting out more frequently and slowly sending fewer messages throughout their lifecycle.
  3. ConvertKit. We tried a few email management systems, but to me this has been the best by far. It’s not complex, but you can do everything you need to do in terms of autoresponders, templates, adding intelligence, and many more features that are not difficult to set up.
5. Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?

WordPress is always changing and I look forward to seeing what’s next- how they will grow with the ever-changing landscape of business websites. I’m also excited to expand our ability to provide SEO services, as well as graphic design- as those are the two biggest requests we get from our customers.

I’m also excited about all the changes AI is bringing- how that can help both business processes and improve our lives.

6. Who or what inspires and motivates you?

Working with businesses that have a mission, and are themselves organized enough to be able to take on a tech partner- and give us their trust. Also, continuing to upgrade both our support services, and the experience of our team. 

I enjoy seeing those around me growing and taking advantage of opportunities, as well as contributing to the business in ways that allow them to feel satisfied with their work.

7. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched? 

I’ve learned a huge lesson in patience! We spent 2 years on our first version of the company and it failed. Version 2.0 took about 8 months to be profitable, and growth is never in a straight line!

Keep in mind, you will read about overnight success companies online and it’s easy to think that’s the way it should be- that growing quickly out of the gate is the norm. But this is almost always NOT the norm but the exception. Slow and steady- while not sexy or newsworthy- will often be your best path, if you have a good idea of where you’re going, and why you want to get there.

Also, if you run a productized service business, you will have to fire people. To this day, I still hate doing it. But the longer you wait on making needed changes to your staff, the more you are likely hurting your company, and the team members on staff. In my opinion, firing people will never get easy, but you can learn to handle it in a healthy way.

For example, be open and transparent with your team on why the firing needed to happen, and give them the reasons. If you hide things, team members might start getting worried that they are next, and there’s nothing worse than secrets that create anxiety around the company.

8. What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?

First, you have to have dedication and a purpose. This will allow you to ride out the dips (and there will always be dips).

Next, you need to cultivate empathy. Some think that you can run things like a dictator and just focus on profits. In my experience, this has not led to satisfaction or a happy/tranquil company. And in the end, without empathy, your profits will likely suffer as well.

Empathy is crucial when dealing with both customers and coworkers/team members. Trying to see things from their perspective will allow you to come up with the best solution that works for most people. You will no doubt face angry customers and unhappy team members at some point, and being the “rock” that isn’t thrown off by these curveballs is essential. I recommend reading Rosenberg’s book “Non-Violent Communication” to enhance your empathy skills.

Lastly, it’s crucial not to chase money. Sometimes there will be temptations (bright shiny objects) that while appear to be profitable, turn out to be harmful to your business. For example, a customer who’s willing to pay but you know they are trouble- usually best to stay away. Again, patience is key, and sticking to your plan while making the necessary adjustments will typically be the winning formula.

9. Let us know where we can go to learn more!