When I first moved to Chico, I was still reeling from the anti-social passive aggressive brainwashing, also known as *living in Seattle for six years*. So in true I don’t like humans, so I’ll hide behind my computer fashion I hit up Twitter and found – well – not much.

Twitter to Email to Meeting

Not much, except for this one equally anti-social Joomla nerd at this Chico-based dev shop called TriniTronic.

TriniTronic Small Biz Triage Twitter Convo

So in true anti-Seattle-ite form, I insisted on a meeting place that was not Starbucks, and found this cool little donut shop – Donut Rising (now a client) – and requested a meeting with Michae. And waited.  And waited. Two months later we finally connected and set our first Donut Meeting as they came to be called.

Donut Rising lobby in Chico, CAAnd then we had another meeting.

And another meeting.

And another.

 And … well you get it.

Fast forward to six meetings later and we decided that he didn’t like client work (which I love). I hated product work (which he loved). So I called up the Dundons, the cranky Irish brothers I hate to love, and Seth and I figured out the details. It started as a “little plugin project”. Dundons would build it, Michael would launch it from his well established plugin/extension sales platform, and Seth and I would market the living hell out of it. If it worked out, we would do another one. So I built this gnarly plugin spec for a social proof sidebar for WordPress, worked out a split commission arrangement with the team, and everyone dove in.

False Starts vs. Starting Small

Another month goes by, work is done by all concerned, and we still hadn’t gained any real traction.

Reason: the technology just isn’t there yet. Social media API’s (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and especially Google+) are notoriously tough to work with and change often, rarely in concert with their competitors. And formatting those little media counters in a non-generic AND truly cross-browser / cross-platform fashion was preposterously complicated.

Back to the square one.

Last year John Dundon had created a little plugin for Small Biz Triage as part of an old campaign landing page. He wasn’t grooving on MailChimp’s hella clunky form embed system, but knew that the spec required that integration. So he built a lean, but effective integration plugin to connect MailChimp’s API and the WordPress Contact Form 7 plugin. After some careful deliberation (5 minute conversation to be exact), we decided to make that bad-boy marketplace-ready. Effectively moving from the turkey dinner to the day-after-super-duper-turkey-sandwich.

Easier to make, easier to sell, easier to market.

a brother needs to get paid

While I worked up the marketing piece, and John added some killer features, Michael tackled a better way to pay the team their per person % splits leveraging Paypal’s rarely used feature in their API for split-payments. In plain english, this would change the process from a administrative-heavy affiliate pay-out system with 60-90 days delays in payouts, to a real-time scenario:

  1. Customer buys the plugin online
  2. Paypal takes that payment, and issues payments based on the pre-established percentages, i.e. Dundons 50%, Trinitronic 40%, Small Biz Triage 10% – in realtime!

As you can imagine, this helps remove hesitation people have when working on sweat equity projects.

The Partnership

During the past two months, we’ve enjoyed working with Michael so much, that we discussed other ways of helping each other out. Fast forward through another slurry of emails, phone calls and chats in the smokers pit at the office, and we decided that our oddly symbiotic relationship would  benefit BOTH of us if treated as a proper partnership.

Now Small Biz Triage is the “Marketing Department” for TriniTronic – the more ass we kick, the more money we all make. We are only about 4-weeks into this new arrangement, but we are already seeing the benefits, such as:

  1. Uncovering new opportunities, such as guest blogging for each other, joint email campaigns, savvy cross-promotion, etc…
  2. A shared focus of providing services *and* products that our customers (small biz / website owners) actually want, removing a lot of the guesswork.
  3. and most importantly, social pressure. Since we are now lashed onto to the same life-raft, it becomes more important to paddle and kick harder to get Small Biz Triage and TriniTronic to their shared goal that much faster. It’s really hard to be “that guy” faking effort, when you are literally spitting distance from each other.

What now?

Contact Chimp and the split payment system are rolling out in June. Our combined traffic is up in all departments, and we’ve recently launched a video series focused on the how-to’s of small biz ownership in the internet age.

Oh, and join 500+ other small biz (and website) owners and sign-up for our newsletter. We send out crudely brilliant monthly updates on this and our other donut-fueled business shenanigans.