Today, I am happy to share the interview with the CEO at TemplateMonster David Braun, who has agreed to talk about all the things related to running such a giant company as Templatemonster.com, as well as the hidden truth about being an entrepreneur.
First of all, thanks a lot for accepting my interview proposal. I and my readers are very glad to have you. Please tell us about yourself and your educational background?
David: It’s my pleasure to talk to you and share the experience of TemplateMonster (as well as my own) with your readers. Everyone knows me as the CEO at templatemonster.com. To be honest, that’s the one and only project that I have been obsessed with for more than 15 years already. I think I won’t surprise you saying that TemplateMonster hasn’t always been as huge and powerful as you know it today. It started as a small web design studio that I launched with a couple of friends on mine in 2002.
The moment when we launched our startup, we had no idea about website templates and the way those can be used by web projects worldwide. As the time passed by, we started using new techniques and approaches in our work, experiment with new forms and shapes and came up with the idea to build a company that would sell ready-made websites templates for various purposes.
How do you battle with tough competition in the WordPress industry as the theme market is overcrowded?
David: The competition is very tough in the WordPress community, that’s true. In fact, the thing that helps us gain one of the leading positions in the industry is the constant search for new innovative approaches and applying those to our own design. This deals not only with WordPress but all the rest of the products available in our inventory.
Talking about our WordPress themes, in particular, we try to make them as easy to use yet no less powerful as possible. Our themes can be tweaked by the webmasters of all skill levels perfectly well. We have also started to release a number of GPL-licensed WordPress products that are very competitive in the contemporary WordPress community.
You are the CEO of the multimillion dollar company. How do you feel about it? How do you handle that big name with so much pressure to give the best to your customers?
David: I am proud to be the CEO at TemplateMonster . This is a really huge and powerful web design and development company with 100+ specialists working in over a dozen of departments. Just like any other CEO, I face so many challenges every day. This includes everything from managing the workflow and keeping the staff happy to handling the product quality tasks, looking for new opportunities of the business growth, and profit boost. How do I manage to achieve all this? I always have a loyal team with me. This is a team of true professionals who can always advise me with new creative ideas that I didn’t come up before and simply do their job on the most professional level ever.
David: Since its launch, TemplateMonster was mainly known as a company selling Flash-based themes. Back in 2010, when Steve Jobs announced that Flash is dead, Flash-based templates brought us tremendous 70% of the revenue. That was a very tough period for us. We had to make the decision whether to look for a new team of skilled HTML professionals or train our own staff. We decided to teach own team, although it cost us 2 years of the total revenue loss. However, the wait was worth it.
As you have a lot of WordPress themes how do you handle copyrights issues of images? Did you face any lawsuits?
David: Unfortunately, yes. Still, that was a great lesson for me personally and for the entire team. There was a big issue with one of the companies selling stock photos that sued us for the image copyright infringement. Just so you to understand, TemplateMonster almost lost its domain name at that time. Luckily, we found a good lawyer who helped us settle the issue, although it took a while to prove that we didn’t have any intentions to use someone else’s images illegally.
Now, each time before we sign an agreement with a new partner, our loyal checks the terms and conditions carefully in order for us not to repeat the same mistakes over again. We also include bundles of licensed stock images in our themes so that the clients can use those at the launch of their web projects.
David: It’s always risky to be an entrepreneur. However, this is a justified risk that will bring you fruitful results in a short run, when done right. I never miss an opportunity to share my experience with colleagues. You can always meet me at the IT conferences and ask me any question that you have on your mind. I am always happy to help.
How are you building relationships with your readers? How do you make them stick on TM?
David: We try to be always useful for our readers. Whether you open MonsterPost blog, our newsletter or look through social media feeds, you will find lots of inspirational and educational posts, useful guides, tutorials, and recommendations on the recent releases that are worth of your special attention. We do not force our readers to make a purchase in every post. On the contrary, we help them come up with the right decision-making.
With increased volatility in the search engine landscape, how do you see SEO future shape up in the time to come? Does it still remain competitive to Paid Search Marketing?
David: SEO trends come and go, so one should always keep a close eye on the current tendencies. As of now, Google and Facebook still dominate as the most essential paid search channels. On the contemporary web paid search is evolving so rapidly that a user hardly notices whether he clicks on a paid ad anymore. Paid search evolves, a number of advertisers are making real use of linking paid strategies together, running A/B tests every once in a while to see the tricks that really work.
How difficult is handling WordPress theme business? Which things do you fear the most?
David: It’s not difficult to run a business if you know what to do and how to do it right. No matter what niche you belong to, you need to keep track of the new tendencies, the public preferences, as well as the tricks that your competitors incorporate. I guess the thing that scares me the most is the loss of control over the situation. However, this will never happen if you have a professional team supporting you.
How do you handle such a big company with 100+ employees? How do you keep motivating them?
David: We have so much fun working together. Being part of TemplateMonster team doesn’t mean that employees have to handle a steady flow of tasks night and day. We have lots of corporate traditions and holidays that we celebrate together. We also have seasonal awards for the best workers from different departments. Won’t it motivate you to work better in order to be proudly announced the best of the best team players? I believe yes.
What do you do whenever you feel low? Do you listen to podcasts or failure stories of successful people?
David: Listening to failure stories of other people – that’s not what encourages me to keep moving further. Instead, I take some time to relax and focus on 1 thing that is of the greatest importance to me at the particular moment. I turn off the phone, shut down my laptop, and focus on 1 matter. This is how I commonly recharge, concentrate, and focus on the things that matter. I also read and listen to the success stories of other entrepreneurs (from both the web design and other industries) to get a gulp of inspiration for new achievements.
WordPress, PrestaShop and Moto CMS are the most popular platforms on TemplateMonster, with WordPress adding up to 1800+ themes, how do you handle so many things at your end?
David: We have different teams specializing in different types of products. They keep a hand on the pulse of the latest innovations in each segment and integrate the latest tendencies in the products that you can find at Templatemonster.com. Additionally, we have officially become a marketplace. We welcome creative web developers from all over the world to become vendors and start selling digital products to the community of 6 million potential clients. So, as you may guess, the number of quality themes in the inventory will only grow over the time.
David: I guess I won’t surprise you saying that I work with no fixed working hours. In the beginning of my career, I could spend several days in a row in the office, working on own projects. Today, I am happy to have a big family, so, I need to draw the line between the work and home. Of course, I am always on the phone and can manage certain tasks when I am out of the office.