[Video] The 5 Step Autoresponder Blueprint

Please note: Sound quality in this video is still quite poor due to the acoustics of our new office so if you’re someone who needs perfect quality sound to watch and enjoy a video then this might not be for you. We’re currently looking at different ways to improve the acoustics of our new office.

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Part 2:

In this video I share a simple but very effective autoresponder series you can use to convert newsletter subscribers to customers and then customers to repeat customers and raving fans.

If you’re not using autoresponders in your marketing then you’re definitely leaving money on the table, and it’s easier than you think to implement them in your e-commerce business. Watch this video to learn how, regardless of which e-commerce platform you’re using.

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[Video] How Time Management Relates to Company Growth

Please note: This is the first video I’ve recorded in our new office and the acoustics are terrible. There’s some echo because we have wooden floors and the camera decided to randomly blur me a few times as well. I’ll be looking into a clip mic for the next video – if you know of a good one please email me (mitch [AT] bigcommerce). On a positive note though, my entire office wall is now a white board thanks to IdeaPaint – awesome :)

Ahhhh, time management. One of the most boring subjects on the planet for us entrepreneurs who only care about results, right?

Well it depends. Effective time management is one of just a few strategies you can implement to skyrocket the growth of your business. It doesn’t cost anything, it’s measurable (and we’re all about measuring, right?) and it’s something you can teach your team as well. Today I want to teach you how to go from being reactive (i.e. doing “stuff” to fix other people’s problems) to being proactive (i.e. accomplishing tasks that will help fulfill your goals and grow your company).

In this video I discuss time management strategies in the context of growing your company faster. Sure it’s nice to manage your time effectively, but what’s the real outcome you want? You can easily map hourly, daily and weekly time management strategies back to a huge increase in the growth of your company over a quarter or year if you know how.

In this video I’ll teach you how.

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An Inside Look at Support and Extended Support Hours

Some of our amazing support ninjas in a recent "random photo" day (I'm back left)

As a support manager it’s exciting to work for a company that’s experiencing the kind of growth we have with BigCommerce. But with that growth also comes change – increases in support personell, changes to infrastructure to meet demand and changes in the way we want to service our growing base of clients.

In this post I want to cover two parts of our growth strategy for support – our growth in support personell (our support ninjas) and the upcoming change to the hours our support team is available.

New Support Ninjas

One of our newest support ninjas, Kris - no doubt wowing a client

If you called into technical support recently, you’ve likely heard a new voice or a new name. Over the last few months we’ve increased our technical support team by 75%. Our goal is consistency – I want every support ninja as knowledgeable and professional as everyone else on their team – even the newbies.

We work hard to find the right people to become our support ninjas; combing through stacks of resumes to find the right skill set and matching potential candidates with the hours of time required for our interview processes (yep, plural).

The typical BigCommerce support candidate experiences 4 to 5 hours of interview time. They’re asked to build their own BigCommerce store and must be able to express and expound upon their store in technical detail. If they make it through phone and in-person interviews in our Austin office, then they have a final interview with Mitch and Eddie, our founders.

If the interview team is 100% in favor of the candidate then we move forward to the hiring process. Typically around 7 people are involved in the interview process, so even if just one says no, we don’t bring the candidate on board.

The Training Process

Alex I. walking a client through their BigCommerce store setup

Once hired, the training for new support ninjas is extensive. For seven to ten days they’re fully immersed in BigCommerce; learning every detail of the BigCommerce control panel, configuring payment gateways, tax rules, product variations, etc.

They do hours of side-by-sides with their mentor and trainers, daily quizzes on the topics of the day, etc – and all the while building a new BigCommerce store to demo to the existing team in a live webinar fashion. At the end of it all, they must pass a 100 question test and score a perfect 100 on it. If they miss any questions we work with them on their problem area and allow them to retake that portion of the test.

After a celebration at our local burger shop (mmmmm, Mighty Fine) for completing the training, the new support rep is ceremoniously transitioned onto the support phone queues, but still has side-by-sides and will continue to work with their mentor and trainers. They’re never left alone out there on a proverbial island.

Next time you talk to one of our new support ninjas (Matthew, Mark and Kris are all recently graduated ninjas), feel free to congratulate them on passing the grueling test!

By the way, all BigCommerce sales consultants (our sales samurais) have the same technical training and take the same test and must also pass with 100%. Our goal really is amazingly consistent technical knowledge whether you’re talking to one of our sales samurais or support ninjas.

Expanded Support Coverage

As a company we’re still growing – and at a rapid pace (we recently passed 7,000 clients in just 12 months). To make sure you continue to get excellent support, I’m happy to announce our expanded hours for support, starting Monday September 27th as follows:

  • Old Hours: 8AM-6PM central time, Monday thru Friday and 9AM-1PM central time, Saturdays
  • New Hours: 7AM-9PM central time, Monday thru Friday and 9AM-2PM on Saturdays

This is really the first phrase of our plan to get to 24/7 support setup in the coming few months. In this phase we’ve expanded from 10 hours coverage to 14 hours coverage a day, Monday thru Friday and of course we also have 5 hours each Saturday.

In closing, I want to assure you that in each of our growth phases we’re staffing our team with the same high-caliber people regardless of the time of day that you call us – and we do absolutely zero outsourcing. That takes a little extra work and planning on our part to achieve, but that’s my job and I’m committed to accomplishing that.

I’ll provide more information in next month’s post on the second phase of our expanded support coverage and a timeframe for rolling that out.

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Steven Donnelly Joins Us As HR & Recruitment Manager

Our new HR & recruitment manager Steve with his son

As our march to the top of the e-commerce mountain continues, it’s important that we only bring A-players into the company. In fact, A-players are such an important reason for the growth of our company that being smart and getting things done is one of the values that we live by. What’s an A-player? Good question:

“An A-player is one who qualifies among the top 10 percent of those available for a position. The idea is that there is a bell curve of available talent at any pay point.”

For us, an A-player is closer to the top 1 percent of those available for a position, but that’s because we’re picky ;)

The same way we only hire A-players on the frontline (i.e. our team members who deal directly with clients), we only hire A-players to join our management team as well and our new human resources and recruiting manager Steven Donnelly is no different.

Steve comes to us from Match.com where he was a senior HR manager, promoted several times and responsible for developing and implementing programs and services that gave Match.com a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent. Before Match.com Steve was at Travelocity where he worked on recruiting, M&A, field HR operations, employee recognition programs, employee relations and performance management.

Steve will head up our human resources and recruitment departments, working with Eddie, myself and our management team to not only bring in more top talent but also to make sure we continue to be a fun, challenging place to work, living by our mission statement and values every day.

In fact, we’ll shortly have a nice plaque up in both our Austin and Sydney offices that puts our mission statement and values on display for everyone to see. Make sure you fan us on Facebook because we’ll post some photos of the plaques when they arrive!

Steve will also be contributing to the blog, so keep an eye out for his first post shortly.

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Keeping it Agile at BigCommerce

Agile workflowA quick intro before I get started: Hi everyone. For those of you who don’t yet know me, my name is Chris Iona and I’m the new product development manager for BigCommerce. You can read Mitch’s introduction post here if you like. Today I’m going to talk about Agile – the methodology we’ve been using almost since day one to improve BigCommerce at a rapid rate. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below and I’ll be happy to reply.

This is the first of many posts I’ll be contributing to the blog moving forward, so, let’s get into it!

Here at BigCommerce, we’re constantly challenging our people, product and performance – three important factors in any successful company.

So it should be no surprise that having started my career in Customer Service, I know just how important it is to get it right the first time. The better we can deliver on BigCommerce, the more exceptional the experience is for you, your customers and our staff. It’s a win-win-win scenario, and one of my major drivers as Product Development Manager.

One thing I think we’ve done right from the beginning, is invite you, our community, to help drive the features and enhancements we work on. Of course like most things in life, there’s a delicate balance that needs to be met – in our case, it’s between new features, enhancements, capability and bug fixes.

So how do we balance the development needs of BigCommerce? You guessed it, Agile – which is something that’s received a lot of attention lately, but is not a new concept. Don’t believe me? Just ask a football player or boxer why it’s so important to be light on their feet. The ability to react instantly to any change (pace, position or play) can be the difference between losing at the last second and enjoying a career-defining win. Developing software is really no different.

A sprint is a short, defined time frame where we complete a list of tasks (called scope). These intense, short bursts of work, allow us to clearly focus on a small amount of tasks at a time – which is why they work so well in keeping us Agile (I’d suggest reading about Millers Law of 7 ± 2).

The problem we faced with having only one sprint per fortnight, is that it doesn’t account for any urgent or high impact bug fixes reported by our clients, community or staff. Agile is a framework, and each company needs to make it work for them. So what we’ve done is run two sprints at once – a core sprint, and a maintenance sprint. I should also note that the key premise of a sprint is to have a working build at the end of the cycle, and not necessarily something that we release. We may go two or three sprints before we release a core update to production.

BigCommerce – Agile Core and Maintenance Sprints

Our core sprints operate for two weeks, and consists of new features, enhancements, bug fixes and capability (I’ll explain capability later on). Our maintenance sprints operate for several days, which means we can get urgent or high impacting patches out to your store rapidly.

I firmly believe that capability is contextual. That is, something that’s of high importance to our sales staff, might have lesser importance to the development team – which is exactly why we’ve built “capability” into our core sprints.

Every core sprint, we dedicate 20% to “capability tasks” for features or improvements requested by our sales, support and engineering teams. They’re just as important to them, as the requested community enhancements are to you. What this gives us is a text book continuous improvement process, resulting in quicker resolution of support trends, improved tools for sales, and much better code stability. Providing everyone with a sense of ownership and empowerment, means better software and a stronger community.

Now for the daily scrum, which are also known as “Stand Ups”. Every day, the engineering team meets to discuss what we’ve achieved, what we plan to achieve, as well as to address any constrains, issues or blockers. Without this strong communication, the success of a sprint is in jepardy – so much so that there will be times where we’ll hold stand ups twice a day.

Introducing process and structure is a good thing, but it’s important to remember not to cramp the style of your engineering team – something that I’ve learnt during my career. It’s impossible and impracticable to shoe horn everyone into a set mould, which is why we’ve introduced “Other Time”. Other time makes up 20% of our developers day, where they can catch up on outstanding work, hold meetings, complete code reviews, prototype a new idea, or go grab a(nother) coffee – we drink A LOT of coffee here!

So in conclusion, we’re using Agile to respond to new feature requests, ideas and changes quickly, concisely and in a structured manner, with the ultimate goal being to make BigCommerce better for you, your customers, and also ourselves.

You might ask why I’m being so open and honest about how we are doing things around here? Not only is it the way that I like to manage, it’s a part of our Mission and Values – which we live by.

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Introducing Our New Mission Statement and 6 Core Values

One thing we’ve been working hard on as a company over the last few months is defining our mission statement and core values. I believe that as a company we have a fantastic culture, and it really sets us apart from everyone else. One thing Eddie and I wanted to do was take our culture and “bottle it” so to speak. We wanted a way to summarize how we think and act as a company into a few short sentences which everyone can use and live by.

About 2 months back we spent quite a bit of time coming up with our mission statement and core values. At least 20 hours over a 3 week period to be precise. We then shared our draft ideas with the team (both Sydney and Austin) at our quarterly company update in early August to get their feedback and to make sure we’d captured not only the way we think but also the way everyone in the company thinks.

Turns out we were spot on.

Our new mission statement and core values have also been posted on our Mission + Values page, along with semi-random photos from our offices, outings, trade shows, etc. I think the one thing too many people forget is that a company is only as strong as its weakest team member, therefore the best companies go above and beyond to make sure they win and improve as a team – not just as individuals, and I believe our managers do an exceptional job at that.

The one thing great companies have in common is that they live and breathe their mission statement and core values. Great managers also hire and fire by them, and it’s early days yet but we’re well into the process of integrating our mission statement and core values into everything we do. They will also be proudly displayed on the wall in both our Sydney and Austin offices shortly.

If you’re looking to take your career to the next level and want to work with a company that has a fantastic culture then make sure you check out our careers page. We’ve got numerous roles open in our Austin, TX office for sales samurais, support ninjas and marketing mavens.

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