054: Torre Capistran on Growing a Business with a Positive Culture


About Torre Capistran:

Torre Capistran is the Owner and Creative Lead at Hooked On Code, a WordPress agency specialized in creating flexible and easy-to-maintain websites using the Divi Theme for corporations. They are highly deadline-oriented, and have created a structured website development process that turns their clients into raving fans and real world besties.

Torre has two young children, is obsessed with her Peloton Bike, and loves languages and panda bears.

Find Torre Capistran: Hooked On Code | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn


Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
054: Torre Capistran on Growing a Business with a Positive Culture
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Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Women in WP, a bimonthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop and more in the WordPress community.

Angela Bowman:

Hi, welcome to Women in WP. I’m Angela Bowman.

Tracy Apps:

I’m Tracy Apps.

Angela Bowman:

Our guest today is Torre Capistran. Torre is the owner of Hooked On Code WordPress agency. She builds, redesigns and maintains WordPress sites for companies who want a reliable partner, don’t we all? And the level of control of their sites using dev. Welcome Torre.

Torre Capistran:

Well, hello.

Angela Bowman:

For those of you who have listened to our show, you know we’d like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got into WordPress. How did you get started?

Torre Capistran:

I went to school here in Dallas at SMU for business, and I have a business degree and a couple of language minors. And when I graduated with my shiny marketing degree, everybody wanted to hire me for sales, which I’m not made for. So I moved to Mexico. Yeah, I sold most of my stuff and I put my two cats in bags, not plastic bags, but carriers, and I got on a plane and I moved to Mexico and I lived at a resort on a beach with my now husband. Luckily that worked out, otherwise that would be a really embarrassing story. I was really bored. I had this amazing opportunity to live on a resort in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Torre Capistran:

It was so cool and it was so beautiful and I felt useless and unfulfilled and bored because I’m just such a high achiever. So I made up something to give me purpose and that thing that I made up was I had just read the paleo solution and I was like, “This is going to save the world.” Probably would still. I still think that. I decided that I was going to figure out how to make some money with, please don’t judge me, affiliate marketing. I just googled how to make money.

Torre Capistran:

So I spent all this time learning about affiliate marketing, which I never ended up doing because it felt not right to me, so I just didn’t do it. But in that process, I decided that I would create a website. I called it Primal Healthy Fit. I think it still exists. Don’t judge it. But it became this passion project for me. And I spent 30 days, 30 solid days, like probably eight hours a day. I created this learning experience. I had pretended it was still school and I learned HTML and CSS and I took lynda.com, God rest her soul. I took lynda.com classes and went especially into the horror of HTML email newsletter, HTML, and understanding that.

Torre Capistran:

I wanted to understand all of it because I wanted to launch this thing. I had a giveaway package. It was a big deal for me. So I built this really unattractive website, but with great content and with great intentions, even a marketing plan and all that. It was really fun and it literally took me 30 days to create it because I wanted to learn all those other things along with it. And then about six months after I moved to Mexico, my now husband and I decided that we wanted to go back to the States. He lived in Austin most of his life and I was from Dallas and I said, “Hey, I think I’m ready to get a job-job.”

Torre Capistran:

So we moved back and right before we moved back, like the night before we were moving, he said, he’s a chef. He said, “I’d like to start an underground fine dining business, on the side of whatever job I get.” And I was like, cool, I will build you … It’s called Chef Carlos Underground. It doesn’t really operate anymore, because he’s got a senior executive chef job and has no time. But I built a website with WordPress that was really good-looking and responsive, back in 2011. It was really user-friendly and it took me four hours. So, I realized that that learning curve, which felt really steep, I’d already gone through it. I’d spent so much time on it. I got all the way through it and I understood so much of the things that have to do with websites that aren’t the actual website itself, the strategy and the content. I took the time to learn all that.

Torre Capistran:

So when I came back and I got a real job, I did much as everybody’s story. People just were like, “You built this, and I would like you to build one.” And I would charge a couple hundred bucks here and there and eventually figured out how to actually price things and was doing work like that on the side. About a year into having a corporate job, I knew without a doubt that I didn’t want that to be my path. I won’t go into the reasons, but when you’re an entrepreneur type, you figure that out at some point. So I figured it out and it took me a year and a half to build up a client base to the point that I could quit and start my company. But I did. And it’s no looking back since then. Immediately replaced all of my full-time income and then doubled it the next year and hence continued. It’s been a blessing of a journey and kind of a fun story.

Tracy Apps:

I love that, when you said that, “I knew from the corporate that I didn’t want to do that.” I didn’t realize exactly how different that mindset was until I started working and doing some corporate stuff and then I was like, what do you mean? This thing needs to be done. Well, I don’t know how to do it, or it’s not my job. And I’m like, but did you just learn it? You just do it. That’s just what you do. I mean, that I feel like is something it’s always like such a big struggle. And I think that’s a big reason why a lot of us, a lot of the women in WordPress that we have been talking to, they’re like, “Well, I didn’t have this thing, so I just did it.”

Torre Capistran:

Yeah, the plugins that people create, I needed it. I don’t know, I just made it.

Tracy Apps:

I just made it. I mean, I just did this thing. I wonder, how much of that is personality and how much of that is just the fact that like we as women have been much more resourceful or have to be, because we’re kind of put to that higher standard?

Torre Capistran:

I wonder that too. We are all women at the moment. I have really high expectations of certain traits that are more prominent in women. I mean, I’m not trying to be gender biased, but I have interviewed lots of people. And so through that, I expect a really high level of proactive communication. Like if you’re going to work on our team, you can’t spin your wheels and not reach out. There can be no pride. There can be no chip on your shoulder. It can’t be there, or you will take us down. And I can’t do that to my team and I can’t do it to my clients. I wonder that as well.

Torre Capistran:

And what’s interesting is that we use this tool called Culture Index. There’s this big manual that goes along with it. We use a tool called Culture Index for pre-interview trait surveys. It’s not a strength survey, like a lot of people use, which is helpful for like, “Oh, hey, your strength is that. I’ll make sure that you get to use that in your job.” This is more like measuring if you are attentive to detail and if you have follow-through and whether you use inductive or deductive reasoning, and if you’re a troubleshooter and how clever are you. Like literally, how clever are you and how long do you have to go between when you start a difficult task and having to take a mental break, all those things, I’m now gathering actual objective data on. And that’s fascinating to me. I have not gone and done a gender comparison of certain traits, but I’m going to.

Angela Bowman:

Well, we will put a link to that book in the show notes for anyone who’s interested. Tell us again the name of it. It’s called?

Torre Capistran:

It’s called Culture Index. This is actually a workbook. This is a workbook you get buy by actually using the program. It’s actually something to subscribe to as a business. It’s an annual subscription business tool type thing. I’m a big fan though.

Angela Bowman:

That is fabulous. And what it makes me think about is that often when you see those postings for tech jobs and they ask for a certain number of years of experience, and one thing they’re not assessing is all of those things that you’re speaking about. Like, how resourceful are you? How quickly can you figure something out? That is amazing. I feel like that’s more of a criteria that women might end up getting excluded because they don’t have a very specific background, but they could be the one who’s able to more quickly troubleshoot a problem or use that deductive reasoning.

Tracy Apps:

Exactly. And then learning that. And so like, I have been having the hardest time with applying for jobs. I’m like, I just do the things. I just do that. And there’s no space in your resume for that, or like how to present yourself. There’s no kind of way of like, because you are intentionally looking at those things, that is going to find those quality people. But how do I put that onto a resume? I don’t know.

Torre Capistran:

I’m not sure, although I will send you the link for our company’s survey so that you can take it. I’ll tell you what your pattern says to me. And then you can use those words, because those words would attract specifically people who are using this tool, be like, “I don’t care about anything else, I just saw the dead ringer traits that I’m looking for right there.”

Angela Bowman:

Like in the cover letter, instead of just please, please, please, please, please hire me. I really, really, really, really want to work for you.

Tracy Apps:

I love it. Yes. Totally.

Angela Bowman:

Oh, that’s awesome.

Tracy Apps:

I’m super excited about that, because yeah, absolutely.

Angela Bowman:

So this definitely brings us to a big question as you’re talking about building a site for yourself, building a site for your husband’s business. Other people saying, “Oh, you did that, will you do it for me?” But there’s a huge transition that you made from being this kind of solopreneur, charging $200 for a website to being an agency with employees. How many employees do you have now and how long did it take you to make that transition? And what challenges did you face? What advice would you have for people in doing that?

Torre Capistran:

Yep. So we have a core team of four, and then we have a couple of really key contractors. They know how we work and they know how we do it and our protocols in and out. So I consider them core team members, but I’ve tried to hire them, and they’re like, “No, I want to be my own boss.” So, they’re wonderful. But core team of four/six. I would say last year, which was 2020 was the year that we … I told myself I wouldn’t swear, but it’s like my normal thing. So I’m having to find other words for things.

Torre Capistran:

But 2020 was the year that we figured out a lot of hard lessons. I’d say that we grew a pair last year, like in a lot of ways, a lot of ways. We grew a pair when it came to deciding that a new hire was not going to work, and we figured it out like within a week and we hung on for another week. And then we cut the cord. Like two weeks we’re in and out, and we’re not going to spin our wheels. We’re not going to waste the time, if it’s not the right match. We shifted away from nonprofit work. And we off boarded that sector to an agency that is structured to work very well with nonprofits, which we are not.

Torre Capistran:

So we were learning these really hard lessons and then accepting the lessons last year, because that’s the other hard part. I would say last year was when we figured out, these are the positions we need to fill. We had a core team of two at the beginning of last year. That was that way for years before that. How long did it take? I don’t know. We’re six and a half, almost seven years old. I would say the first two years were basically me operating under a company name, trying to develop policies and pricing, and it was just me and figuring all that out.

Torre Capistran:

And then in 2016, I hired a mix between an executive and a personal assistant because I was just a mess and I had a 10 month old and momming is not my primary strength. So I did not want to be a stay at home mom. I needed help with like everything. On top of having a nanny, I was like, “I need help with life.” So I had this executive/personal assistant and that was the most logical first hire ever because it doubled my time that I could be spending on work. I think that was a crucial first step.

Torre Capistran:

That person is still with me and is now my integrator, which is kind of an operations person. There’s this great book called Rocket Fuel that we use as a team. I’m the visionary, she’s the integrator. She will be with us as long as she wants to be. She’s my work spouse. So it did take, I want to say three, four years before I really figured out that I wanted this to grow so that it could be the best place to work ever. Before that I was like, “I’ve got to figure out this thing and life and being a new mom and having an employee.” It’s just a different game now.

Torre Capistran:

We’re just different game. Playing to win it. Want to make as many jobs as I can make. Want to give as many people as possible an opportunity to be Tracys. Like say, I just figure it out. And I am a techie and I want to be myself. So one of our core values here is authenticity. So if you identify as a mermaid, you get to be a mermaid. That’s awesome. It’s unusual. I love that I can actually be 100% myself in my job. And so I’m trying to create that for others.

Angela Bowman:

You almost could have another business coaching other businesses process. We’d love to have you do a word camp. Have you ever spoken at word camps or anything like that?

Torre Capistran:

I have. Yeah. It was a while ago, but I have, and it was a wonderful experience.

Tracy Apps:

I love it. I just love that mentality that you have with your agency and the business. You grew last year. You learned a lot of lessons, but just like business wise, what kind of things were like struggles with, not person wise, but just like sales? Now that the kind of the landscape of the world has changed to much more digital focus, how has that affected you and your business?

Torre Capistran:

Great question, Tracy.

Tracy Apps:

You’re welcome.

Torre Capistran:

What we learned, which was hard for us to learn was that our recurring care plans, which we were very reluctant to start in 2019, saved our tuchus in 2020. Like we would’ve probably had to lay off people, if those had not been established eight months prior. What we did is we changed our policy to allowing some clients to opt out of care plans, where we were maintaining their websites on our server. We changed our policies. We realized the security impacts of having sites on our server that were not technically up to date. We talked about it internally about how we don’t really like changing policies that affect how much money clients have to give us. But this felt like a really important one so that we could stay operational, keep our websites on our server, like our whole server secure, and then make sure that we were staying in touch with our clients.

Torre Capistran:

So we shifted from having an optional care plan structure to a required care plan structure. And we talked about it for about a six-month period. We trickled it amongst our clients. And then by November, we were saying, let me help you shift your site off of our server. We were charging for it. Give us this much money and we will handle this migration for you, or you can stay on our server if you just opt into a care plan. That was a learning moment for us. It’s going to be a very important part of our business strategy moving forward is we don’t require a new care plan client to go through a redesign or rebuild. Some agencies that are a little bigger than ours require that. We’re not at that point yet.

Torre Capistran:

If you had a developer custom code your whole site overseas, and it’s giving you trouble and you need a good agency to support it, we will go ahead and take that and be your trusted partner. At some point you will redesign it, obviously. You’re going to hit a wall and you’re not going to be able to do what you need to do, but also moving forward, any project that we take, we are explaining in the proposal process, this is a required ongoing expense, and here’s why, and here’s what you get for it. It was a learning experience. I kind of fight things like that. that I see that other people that have been in the industry longer than me, I see that they’ve made that realization and they’ve made those policy changes. I hear people talk about them on webinars, and I still fight them.

Torre Capistran:

And I think part of it is because I want to make sure that any decision we make is actually appropriate for our business, our bottom line, our clients. I get so much advice from all these wonderful mentors and advisors that I have, which I’m so grateful for. And not one piece of advice have I been able to take and actually just plug in and that’s frustrating because I’ve got all this great advice. As much as I try, I’ll get a great example of a pitch deck from someone. And I’ll be thinking, I bet it’s time. I bet it’s time for me to put some of our work examples and our culture and some awards. I bet it’s time for me to put that in a deck so that I can send it to people.

Torre Capistran:

And I’ll sit down with an example of a great pitch deck and I’ll go, I can’t just plug my stuff into this. It’s not what I need. That’s frustrating. I think, as a human, I also get frustrated about life lessons like that. I’m like, somebody, has figured this out. Why can’t I just access the divine consciousness of that lesson being figured out by like probably 5 billion people at this point. Why do I have to figure it out myself? But alas, we do.

Angela Bowman:

That is how it works. I mean, you have to work through your own process with it. You also are bringing your own unique wisdom and ability to work with people and your own way of navigating those relationships. And so the way that you may be feel comfortable in navigating the relationships with these clients is that it wouldn’t be you to say, hey, we need to push you through this process. And I feel the same way. I mean, I listened to all the Nathan Ingram and different people do these great talks and it’s like, there’s a lot of things I can adopt.

Angela Bowman:

Like one thing that I’ve adopted is that I host everyone on my account with a really good managed web hosts because of the different hosting configurations were a variability that caused so much headache and pain points for me during the year. And I just decided, that was my 2021 decision is everyone’s got to get off of their other million hosts and be under one house. And part of that is I need some measure, like you said, of control of the site, because it doesn’t make sense for you to host a site that could be having challenges though with this hosting and count everyone as very siloed.

Angela Bowman:

One site won’t infect other sites, but they may run up a bunch of resources, which I might have to pay for memory, a CPU and that kind of thing. Anyway, you mentioned in your letter to us that you were part of this entrepreneur’s organization accelerator program and you read two to three business books a month. Like girl, teach us, preach us, tell us. What is this doing for you?

Torre Capistran:

Yeah. So in EO there are learning days every quarter and they are on four topics and they repeat every year, learning day for cash, strategy, execution and people. And those are the four pillars in Verne Harnish’s book, Scaling Up.

Angela Bowman:

I was the person who put the book together for this program.

Torre Capistran:

Oh, amazing.

Angela Bowman:

Years ago. Yeah. So I worked with Verne Harnish and Patrick Teen. I worked for them for years, and I put together-

Torre Capistran:

You worked for the dude who wrote the book on building and growing a business?

Angela Bowman:

I never met him in person, because I’m a freelancer. So what I did is I put together EOs whole book, like the booklet that they use to train people.

Torre Capistran:

Shut your mouth.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. And it was like this major, like I’d have to go to Kinko’s and get this huge thing printed out, then get it shipped to wherever they were hosting the workshops. I’m sure now it’s very virtual. And when I was at web summit in Lisbon two years ago, I ran into the guys, there may have been one woman with EO there. When I saw that, I’m like, that looks so familiar to me. When did you start with EO? It was this year?

Torre Capistran:

I joined the EO accelerator program at the end of 2019. It is absolutely one of the best things that I have done as someone when I finally made that decision. The primary purpose of me running a business, rather than just being a high rated freelancer that is trusted, is to create jobs. And I actually also would really like to change the industry. It’s a little crazy, but there’s too much bullshit and there’s too much smoke and mirrors and it does not need to be that way. That is one of my missions.

Torre Capistran:

But when I joined EOA, which was a recommendation from a dear friend of mine who was a past client who has an interior design firm, I, all of a sudden felt like I had been given the playbook to success, if I just worked hard enough. Listen, you tell me what to do and you show me that it works, you will not have to remind me to do a thing. You don’t have to encourage me. I’m just going to hit the ground running. I’m going to stay up all night, doing whatever it is that you told me. I was the best student ever because you assigned homework, and it was like, read the whole book before the next class. I read the whole book before the next class. It was like, “Why would I not do that?” The point of me being in school is to learn, right? Why would I not do that?

Torre Capistran:

Call me crazy, but I felt this huge sense of relief because I knew that that was a goal of mine. I wanted to get through the dip of a million, still working on it, but it’ll happen. It’ll probably happen in the next 24 months. And I feel like I have the tools to do it. I have the community that supports me and says, “No, you’re focusing on the wrong thing right now. Based on your financial statements, are these things that you don’t understand yet. I can tell that your problem and where you need to focus is X, Y, and Z.”

Torre Capistran:

That’s where I get the majority of my mentors. I also have a beloved mentor unofficial. I’ve never actually asked him to be my mentor in Jeffrey Zeldman, who’s been in the web industry since the beginning of time and I adore him. And now he works for Automatic, which is so cool. I absolutely adore that program and what it brings me and the guidance that it brings me.

Torre Capistran:

The books that are on my reading list, which is insane, are 95% from recommendations in the learning days. So at the end of people learning day, there will be a big slide that’s got nine to 12 books related to people. I would buy like two at a time and would just say, I’m going to read this quarter because this is kind of my people focus quarter. At the end of last year, I just decided to go on thrift books. And I bought a used copy of every, every book that had been recommended in the EO program, because I’ve now been through all the learning days. And I was like, I’m done, f-ing around, man. I have to make more jobs. I have to make this work. I have to grow this company. Like, it’s do or die. It’s this year. It’s 2021. There are no excuses and there’s knowledge inside these books that I don’t have that will help me succeed.

Torre Capistran:

Yeah, I’m reading Worth Doing Wrong right now by Arnie Malham. And I get to have virtual coffee with him next week, which I love when authors and CEOs do that. I’m obsessed. I went through Rocket Fuel this year already. I have done The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I’m looking at my shelf, Who, which is like people related. Good to Great. Start With Why. There’s a couple others that I’ve actually been through. The Dip by Seth Godin. Ooh, that’s so good. It’s so good. I need the information. I need it in my head. So I have to get it in there somehow. So I do one of those as an audio book every month. And then the other two are reading. I decked out or reading bench in my house, like fluffy pillows and little bookshelf. It’s so nice.

Torre Capistran:

Reading is really important to me this year and it really did start in 2021. I stopped drinking coffee because I felt like it was doing the opposite to my body, that it did to everybody else’s. So I was like, “This isn’t helping.” I got rid of it. I’ve had more energy this year than I have ever had. I don’t know if that’s a direct correlation, but it feels like it. And yeah, I’m just being really intentional about how I spend my evenings, because it’s really easy to let that get away from you, but I need it. I need those books.

Angela Bowman:

That is amazing.

Tracy Apps:

You heard it here first, folks. Give up coffee and read lots of books.

Torre Capistran:

Yeah, there you go. We’re starting a video segment, as soon as we can get the intro and outro designed in a way that I accept. And it’s called, there will be one swear word here, but it is the title of my segment. It is, Bitching Books for Business, and there’s going to be a little three, four minute video segments of literally whatever I’m reading right now. I dog ear the pages I want to talk about. And I just kind of share the parts of books that were hard for me to read, because it showed me something that we need to work on or that we really suck at, or that I suck at as a human. There’s a lot of that. Like things that we’re going to start that I’m hoping to find a community around people that are doing them.

Torre Capistran:

So we use Profit First, that’s another book that I had mentioned. We use Profit First in our agency in terms of our banking and accounting. I’m obsessed with that, I could spend an hour talking about it, but I won’t. But that’s something that when we were starting it, I was able to put out a message and just say, this is new to us. And we’re going to make it work for us, but I would love anyone’s input that has ever tried this and implemented it in their business.

Torre Capistran:

This is going to be a really cool way for, I think, some people to understand what our culture’s like, because me showing up on camera talking about all the books that I’m reading, it shows a lot about our culture because we are very big on continuing education. And if you want to read a book, you’re going to get paid to read that book, like on my dime to read that book. And if you want to learn Arabic, you’re going to get paid on my dime to learn Arabic, because it is going to make you a better employee. It will. It will make you a better human and it will make you a better employee.

Tracy Apps:

Do you need any UX people?

Torre Capistran:

We need good people all the time. We’re right now, kind of in this, I’m having a hard time balancing out the kind of traits that we’re looking for, because we use that survey culture index, as we’re screening people and decide if we interview them or not. And I may have this profile in my head about, okay, someone who is self-motivated, but not so much that they’re not going to want to work for another person. And I need somebody slightly introverted because we are a remote company. And even if they are client facing, they’re not on the phone all day. For them to be happy, they have to be okay with that. And I need someone who moves pretty fast. All of this, we can read in that survey. And then I need someone who’s really, really attentive to detail and has great follow-through.

Torre Capistran:

So that may be this profile that I have created, but as we’re interviewing people with a certain profile, I’m hearing things that I haven’t quite figured out how to screen for yet, like humility. We had a great interview with someone whose skillset was perfect. Perfect! Hit the ground running perfect. And we even looked at our core values and we were like, I think we can check off all these, but it wasn’t a good fit. And so I had to go talk to my integrator and say, our core values aren’t right, because I can’t offer this person a job because there’s no humility. There’s no understanding that there’s more to learn that you’re never going to know it all. That you aren’t perfect. I mean, literally we heard all those things in this interview of, not only am I great at what I do, but I didn’t really have any weaknesses. Every boss would give me a 10 out of 10. I’ve gotten promotions.

Torre Capistran:

And I don’t doubt it. And I don’t doubt that that person would be an excellent employee at another company, but it wouldn’t work at ours. And I think it wouldn’t work in the industry very long anyway, because this industry, it does not allow for that level of confidence or Aristotle complex or whatever you want to deem it. It doesn’t allow for it. Things change too often. And there’s a new plugin that does a better job than the one that you’ve been using for five years. And if you aren’t willing to switch, like what’s that going to do for your profits? And what’s it going to do for your clients?

Tracy Apps:

One of my biggest pet peeves is someone that’s like, I am an expert at this. And I was like, as soon as you, that’s the quickest way-

Torre Capistran:

For now.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, exactly. That’s the quickest way to be wrong is to be certain that you are right. Especially in user experience, like we talk about, oh, it needs to be research-driven. It is user-driven. We do all of these things. But then they’re like, I’m an expert. How? How are you an expert? You may have expertise in these things, but you always have to approach something as, I am not only willing to, but almost expecting and wanting to be wrong and proven wrong from that research because otherwise you’re like-

Torre Capistran:

I love that thought. That’s the book that I’m reading now.

Tracy Apps:

I love it.

Angela Bowman:

Torre is showing us the Worth Doing Wrong book, which we will link to in the show notes. That is so fabulous. I had an opportunity to work with someone on a project who is in the UK. I hadn’t had to share a dev job with this amount of intimacy and trust because of how the project was going to go. It’s like, we were crossing each other a lot in what each of our tasks were. And we needed to kind of pitch in with each other. At first, the owner of the company was a bit reluctant to have me speak with him because she wanted to manage us separately. And I’m like, he and I really need to talk. And it made me nervous, and I tried to pull out of the job. It’s like, “If I can’t talk to this person, I can’t really guarantee that I can do my job because they’re going to be doing things that are going to affect my job.”

Angela Bowman:

And when we did finally get a chance to really work together, it was such a pleasure to realize that, oh, he was just so sweet. He was always like, “Yeah, sure. I can do that.” To have that humility, but then also to have the graciousness of not fighting, not saying my way’s the right way or anything. And we were just able to toss things back and forth to each other. “Hey, could you look at that?” Oh, and we’re in different time zones. “Hey, I’ll take care of that.” “While you were sleeping, I did this.”

Torre Capistran:

That’s a lovely, lovely dynamic.

Angela Bowman:

And now I just wish that now I could just start my own … Well, I have my own company, but I just want to hire him. When you find that person that you just implicitly trust and who’s also going to be honest. Who’s also not so attached to it. Who’s willing to let it go and let you run with something. And then you run with something and then you find what your mutual strengths are.

Torre Capistran:

What do you think that is? Like for you, what’s that word? If you were going to go say, I am starting-

Angela Bowman:

I want that person.

Torre Capistran:

Yeah. And this is a person with blank, like this value, or this trait, or this quality. What is that for you? Is it honesty? Is it clarity? Is it transparency? Is it nothing? So like-

Tracy Apps:

Malleable.

Torre Capistran:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

He was so interesting. Part of it was willingness. That would be one thing. Like some developers get really stuck. When you’re stuck in rightness, you’re not able to go into willingness. He was never fighting anything. I might tend to be the one to push back, but he would just-

Torre Capistran:

That feels like a true team player. That’s sort of a little bit of a lame vanilla way to put it, but that’s something that we’re always trying to figure out how to screen for that positively and then against things like too cocky, not open to suggestions.

Tracy Apps:

Rockstar.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. So team player, but yeah, what are the qualities of a team player? And the team player is willingness to try things. Willingness like if the boss says we really want it to work XYZ and they’re like, Oh, well let me try that. Let me try to make that work. So yeah, he had very much willingness, but he also, he has a high aptitude in like let’s say Java script, which I don’t have any aptitude. And so when it was that kind of thing, then I would push it to him. And when it was more of a PHP logic kind of thing that had to do with how to integrate with a plugin, then that would get pushed to me, but he was also capable of jumping in on that too and reading my code. There’s trust. I think there has to be a lot of trust. And yeah, not having that cockiness. Is like the magical.

Tracy Apps:

It’s like that almost like childlike wonder of like still having that … When I was working in corporate and then I also was teaching at the University in Milwaukee, so I interviewed the manager for the UX and I said, “What do you look for in a junior UX person that they need to be successful?”. And then I used that as my lesson for the day, whatever. He just says, he’s like, that wonder of trying things out, that playfulness with your profession. You don’t take yourself so seriously, but you do take yourself seriously. That’s your way of taking yourself seriously is by not doing it. It’s like-

Torre Capistran:

It’s too bad we all take ourselves too seriously.

Angela Bowman:

Especially here on this podcast.

Tracy Apps:

Especially here. Yup. I sure hope people go and check out the video.

Angela Bowman:

Hint, hint, watch the video. When you talk about that wonder, I feel like with this person, there is just kind of an innocence. There could be developers who kind of get that jaded hardened kind of attitude. So it’s a lack of attitude. So I’d say what you want is willingness and no attitude. And what’s the word for no attitude?

Torre Capistran:

Ego. Yeah, ego. It’s interesting because that kind of dynamic that you described with this person and their willingness is something that we kind of inherently take it a step further into our process with the client that serves us really well. And I’ve found, like cuts out a lot of the unnecessary back and forth time. Client has lots of ideas. And they love to share them. We don’t fight that, because it doesn’t help to fight it. We need to just show them, is it a good idea? Bad ideas are going to serve you or not serve you? So with our projects, we kind of do them in sprints. We’ll build a couple pages, make sure that the design of the whole website and the aesthetics and the look and feel and all that is settled before we go build the rest of it, so we don’t have to work backwards.

Torre Capistran:

But each of these kind of chunks of the project that are basically built out completely, we will go to the client and screen-share, we used to do it in person, but we’ll screen-share and talk them through the decisions that we made and why we made them. We don’t just say, what do you think? We actually have to step them through it and go, hey, the reason that we took your copy and we rephrased it in this way is because we’re trying to agitate the problem, which is a proven method of getting people to feel the pain and then want to engage with you. And the reason that there’s the same button seven times is because of the average of it taking six times for someone to see the exact same message before they take action. There’s data and there’s an explanation from our experience behind all that. And Tracy, you can’t see her if you’re just listening, but she’s like vehemently nodding.

Tracy Apps:

It took me years of running my own company before I realized that like, where I’d be like … Because all of these things, they’re like, “Oh, do you want this or do you want that?” Like all these designers, like that’s kind of thing. Here’s two options.

Torre Capistran:

Stop asking them.

Tracy Apps:

Exactly. That’s where you say it. That’s where your expertise comes in and you bring them along in that journey. You sell them with it. I had a colorblind person, he says, “Well, I don’t like that color.” And I was like … That’s not the point. The point is that this is supposed to provide this purpose. And he’s like, “I like this color.” Like, okay, if you don’t frame it in a way of, this is the reason why, then it’s easier to just say, well, I don’t really like that color and then make it just superficial, like whatever.

Torre Capistran:

And that gets buy-in. When you’re explaining it to them, then they can ask questions. You answer the questions and they could say, “Hey, I don’t think that’s going to work for our business because.” And you go, “Oh, that’s a great point. It might not. Let’s adjust it a little bit.” And now they feel like they’ve been involved. They have buy-in. They feel like they’re part of the project. And when they go, “I’m not loving blank. I’m not loving that color.” And you go and explain this is why it is that choice.

Torre Capistran:

You can talk and say, “Why don’t we look at right now?” Not later, right now, why don’t we look at some other color choices that would achieve the same goal and the same contrast and the whatever we’re trying to do, get the same level of attention. And let’s see if you like any of these other ones better. Not like, “What color you want?” Let me still lead you. Let me still be your guide. Let me show you that these are the other choices we considered. We didn’t pick them because of these reasons. But if you like one of them better, that’s a compromise we can make that we still feel achieves the goal.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, they still fulfill the purpose. Reframing and redirecting when clients, that kind of education of the client of like, “Oh, well I want to do this. I want to do that.” Or, “I think this should be it.” Well, okay, you’re coming up with a solution, but I’m going to ask the questions now to figure out why you came up with that solution and what are you trying to address? And then we go from there. And so we’re not saying, “No, that’s a bad idea.” We’re saying, “What’s behind that?” And now we’re going to start putting our brains together and they can-

Torre Capistran:

I do this to my husband in normal conversations, and he hates it.

Tracy Apps:

I love it.

Torre Capistran:

He will make a statement and I’ll go, “Why do you think that?” He’s like, “Why are you trying to prove me wrong?” And I’m like, “I’m not. I just want to understand why you think that.” He just thinks things, like outcomes, and when I try to probe like, what thought went on behind that? And he’s like, huh? But it drives him nuts.

Tracy Apps:

I had an ex that just made them mad because I would be like … But they’re like, “Stop asking me.” But I want to understand why, so I can now recommend a restaurant that you would want to, because I know the reasons why you don’t want to go to that one. Is it because of the lighting or is it because it’s too spicy?

Torre Capistran:

That brings up this great example I have of this project that went awry. When it was all said and done, it was a great, I have horrible anxiety, and it was a great reminder to me of an example, an actual case study of, yeah, this looks pretty bad, but it might not be so. Chill out. You don’t have to go dig through your medicine cabinet. Let’s take a breath and let’s have a conversation. When the emails are starting to frustrate, get out of email. Get out. When you get a voicemail or an email from a client that says, I just looped in some stakeholder you didn’t know existed, even though tomorrow’s launch day. And he doesn’t like these seven things and we can’t launch, do you know what that does to my cortisol? Not good. I probably lost two days of my life because of that.

Tracy Apps:

Just hearing this makes me.

Torre Capistran:

Scientifically, I died two days earlier because I got that email. I finally pushed back and back and back and I go, we need to all get on a Zoom. We have to all get on a phone call together and we need to have a screen-share and everyone who has had buy-in, also should be there, because they’re going to take some of the weight off me and say, well, we actually looked at this already, and here’s why we made that decision. But also when it came down to it, there was this blanket, it’s not right. It’s not what we want feedback, which by the way, we don’t get that feedback because we listen really well. And we ask all those questions, Tracy, you’re you’re talking about. We get to understand the actual problem. We’re not going to make something that isn’t what you wanted, because we listened.

Torre Capistran:

We got that very odd feedback, very odd. It has happened one other time in probably 200 projects. And it was one of my first freelance things. What I realized, we got on a Zoom and we talked through things. It ended up that this stakeholder, but he couldn’t verbalize it until we got on a Zoom together. He didn’t like how tall the hero was. So we didn’t have it as a hundred view height. It wasn’t full screen, but it was close. So it was very impactful. I loved how it looked. Everyone else loved how it looked. It had a very on the spot message. You could tell what this company did in like five seconds. And that’s the point. And it had a way to give them money. Like, they should know what you do and they should know how to give you money in like five seconds.

Torre Capistran:

It achieved that. And this stakeholder didn’t like how tall it was, because he felt like the message right below it was equally important, and he wanted to be able to see both of them. And because both of those sections have the same call to action, he felt like it was overkill. That makes total sense. And so I was able to adjust it, we got it to the point. He goes, “Oh, this is much better.” And he had nothing else to say. That was it. That was it. So sometimes Tracy, like you’re saying, it’s because it’s too spicy. Did I design it too spicy for you? Is it the wrong color? What is it?

Torre Capistran:

I found it’s technical people who don’t have to exercise these specific mental muscles. And they don’t have to explain a lot of what they do because they are the experts and they’re trusted. But a lot of times they can’t verbalize it. And what better way than for us to get on a face, like I can see your eyeballs, I can see the whites of your eyes and you’re looking at the same thing I’m looking at, and we will figure it out. I mentioned this before we started recording, but our agency has a hundred percent happiness guarantee. So you hire us for a project and you’re not happy with it at the end, you have to promise to work with us. You have to promise to communicate. But if we get to the end of this project and you’re not happy, we will gladly give you all of your money back and you can return the website. It doesn’t happen though.

Torre Capistran:

That’s how much I’m willing to bet on our willingness to show up through the tough stuff or through things that aren’t going maybe the way that they thought it should, or maybe the way we thought it should. I think that policy, it kind of bristles me every time that I even talk about it because it’s risky, like it’s gutsy. I think it holds us to a really good standard that I’m happy about, even though it’s uncomfortable.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. And I think this all, just to kind of wrap it up since we are getting probably close to our time, is that it’s really speaking to empathy. And perhaps the thing that we all need from our team members and our relationship with our clients is a lot of trust and a lot of empathy. When you have trust and empathy and willingness, you can get … You had empathy enough to get on a Zoom call with them. They had trust in you enough to talk to you about their process and what was going on. And then you have the willingness to make the change. Maybe those three things kind of overlay all of your other little culture-

Torre Capistran:

I think you’re right. What a great way to guarantee success. Those aren’t businessy terms, but if you use them, you’re going to be really successful.

Tracy Apps:

True.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. Well, so thank you so much for sharing so honestly and deeply about all of your processes.

Torre Capistran:

Delightful.

Tracy Apps:

Before we go, where can we find you on the internet?

Torre Capistran:

Our website is delightful.as, you can find us there. I’m not very active on social right now, because the world is burning and I have anxiety, but I am on LinkedIn. So if you want to connect or get a virtual coffee, that’s where you can find me and I will respond.

Tracy Apps:

I love all of it.

Speaker 1:

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