Category Archives: Work

The End of Chapter 1: my fond farewell to Crowd Favorite

I don’t think I’ve shared this much about “what I do for work” with many folks. So here we go…

Chapter 1: Alex King and Crowd Favorite1

I met Alex a few times at various tech events in the area (BarCamp Denver in 2006, Startup Weekend in 2007). We both became familiar with each other through these events were able to keep in touch loosely through our respective blogs (he’s always been a big deal in the WordPress industry).

When Alex moved the Crowd Favorite office to downtown Denver I asked to grab lunch since I was also working downtown. Coincidentally, he was about a year into Crowd Favorite and looking to bring in some help as the team and projects grew. I was also looking to find a great way to get into the internet industry.

I started working for Alex in July 2008 as an account manager supporting incoming requests from existing maintenance and support clients. Given my technical background, I also started working on exploring incoming projects, gathering their requirements, preparing estimates, and handing them off to our project manager. At some point along the way it made sense for me to take on and manage some of the projects myself. At that point I realized I lived and breathed the entire consulting client lifecycle: business acquisition, through project launch, and into ongoing support and maintenance.

In 2009 Charlie Hoehn asked me to share my thoughts on ‘the power of having a personal blog’ for his book “Recession-Proof Graduate” and I wrote: “I went from a no-name blogger to a trusted source, which ultimately landed my dream job.”

What I did at Crowd Favorite was a dream job and continued to be, even as the business and my role evolved. After years of practicing “do what you think is best” and then receiving immediate feedback from Alex, I felt like I really understood how he wanted to run his business. I’ve seen some folks get frustrated with receiving constant feedback on their actions (and inactions) but I saw each email from Alex as free knowledge. I tried to absorb everything and ask clarifying questions which allowed me to grow my understanding and responsibilities. My “Alex King bootcamp” was an amazing learning experience.

Having learned Alex’s ways and preferences, the business’ and industry’s technologies and processes, and mixing in my own experiences and knowledge: there became a point in 2012 where he and I felt like I had a good handle on most of the day-to-day happenings. We hired another project manager (bringing the total to three) to help with my clients and allow me to help with more of the business and take some responsibilities off of Alex.

Unfortunately, this was put to the test earlier this year when Alex had to take a sudden medical leave. To the entire team’s credit, everything at Crowd Favorite kept humming along just fine. I’d say my involvement within the organization during this period is one of the things I’m most proud of.

Chapter 2

I was part of the Crowd Favorite team and helped (and watched) it grow, change, and improve over the past five-and-a-half years. I took on a lot of responsibility in the past year or so and cemented a lot of thoughts about providing excellent client service, successful project management, selling products and services, managing a team, and even running a business (everything from negotiating contracts to hiring employees).

But now I’m looking to do some travel, learn new things, and explore different technologies and industries.

Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, put it succinctly: “I realized that the bigger learning and growing challenge for me was letting go, not staying on.”

Kevin Kelly also shared an interesting perspective: “Stewart Brand, who is now 69, has been arranging his life in blocks of 5 years. Five years is what he says any project worth doing will take. From moment of inception to the last good-riddance, a book, a campaign, a new job, a start-up will take 5 years to play through.” Five years is also approximately 10,000 working hours, a milestone Malcolm Gladwell touted as being requisite to becoming “great” at anything.

In the few months after deciding to move along, I had some excellent conversations and ultimately re-discovered a software company in California that I truly believe in. Next week, I will be joining the Enterprise team at GitHub and spending time traveling to and from San Francisco (more on that later).


This is not a sudden development. I’ve actually been documenting and handing-off my involvement and responsibilities (to identify potential gaps) and explicitly sharing tacit knowledge with the Crowd Favorite team since early September.

More recently, I’ve also done my best (in addition to everyone else) to provide as much background and detail about the team, its projects, clients, philosophies and processes to the folks at VeloMedia (who recently acquired Crowd Favorite). I’m excited for the expertise and leadership these guys and gals bring to Crowd Favorite and look forward to what the future holds. They’ve asked me to continue to lend my thoughts to them and the project management team (for continuity) and I said I’d be more than happy to.

“I gotta go now. I’ve got a lotta bouncin’ to do! Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! T-T-F-N: ta-ta for now!”

That all said, I owe a big “thank you” to the patient clients, interesting prospects, friends of the company, and everyone else I’ve worked with these past few years. It’s been a pleasure.

Most importantly, I owe everything to the entire team at Crowd Favorite (new, old and alumni). I’ve learned a lot, enjoyed the experiences, and have you all to thank for who I am and where I am today.

I’m excited because I know there are great things coming for both myself and Crowd Favorite. If you’d like to follow along, you always find more over there at Crowd Favorite’s blog and here on my own.

  1. I held plenty of good jobs before I joined Crowd Favorite, but none of them truly feel like chapters in my “career story”; they were more like an Introduction. 

Denver friends, you’re cordially invited to a viewing party at the Crowd Favorite offices this Thursday. The excellent Passion Projects talk series presented by GitHub (to surface and celebrate women in technology) will be live-streamed.

Hurry and register now to watch Leslie Bradshaw’s talk. It should be excellent but we have limited space available.


I’m excited to attend the upcoming Digital PM Summit, produced by the smart guys at Happy Cog (Greg Hoy and Greg Storey) for digital project managers. I’ve seen presentations by and met a number of Happy Cog folks at conferences like SXSW and it’s clear they do great work.

Having taken on a larger project management role at Crowd Favorite, I realize I should try to continue my ‘education’ — this is sometimes more challenging in an industry where there is no shortage of highly technical resources online but not a ton about the nuance of managing clients, setting expectations, and so on. The speaker line-up suggests I will walk away with plenty to think about and am excited to chat with other like-minded folks…

Where do you post your job listings?

I’ve been involved with hiring dozens of fine folks at Crowd Favorite over the past few years and I (think I) know what has and has not worked for us. While our sample size isn’t large enough to draw definitive conclusions, and our industry (web design, development) is unique is some ways I’m curious what others have found to work well.

I see at least three big approaches to finding a good candidate for a job.

Personal Connections

I was hired by Alex after reaching out to him through his blog and after having met at a few local meet-ups (including the inaugural Startup Weekend, where we also met our company counsel). One of our front-end developers was interviewed and hired after meeting Alex at a Refresh Denver meetup. I’ve seen plenty of startups and other companies bring on individuals (and merge with other companies) only after long-time personal and professional relationships are fostered — and I’ve seen those work very well.

People often tout “getting a job is all about who you know” which is fair, but doesn’t tell the whole story. It helps to have an “in” because the more opportunities and availability you have to get to know someone and how they work, the better off you both are at deciding if you’re a good fit for each other.

Alex recently posted a position on his blog in lieu of placing it on the company website — ideally he can find that right fit through a more “personal” channel.

Job Listings

I’d say this is the default mode of operation for most companies in our industry: write a job listing that describes the company, what you do, what the position needs to do, what experience is needed and so on. Applicants read dozens of these descriptions, but they’re much like a resume form the hirer’s perspective: they usually do no more than snag someone’s attention to get them to investigate further (visit your website, check out the team, etc.).

While this approach certainly casts a wider net (for a small fee) beyond your social circle, existing industry, and so on, it also means a bit more work is needed to find the signal in the noise. We’ve had mixed results with all these job listing sites:

  • Craigslist: great for reaching a wide audience
  • 37signals: good to find folks in the industry, but high visibility means you may be skipped past for ‘sexier’ opportunities
  • LinkedIn: able to cater very well to existing skills and folks currently employed (usually matches intent)
  • Authentic Jobs: great for a narrower set of design-minded individuals looking for opportunities
  • Careers 2.0: aimed at fairly technical developers, but low volume (does not usually match intent)
  • Company Website: only good for people who already know about you


This is arguably the most expensive approach (depending on how much your personal and professional time is spent evaluating applicants, going to meet-ups and conferences, getting to know folks personally) but can yield high-quality results with little-to-no effort on your part.

Finding the right fit and getting into a routine with a recruiter is just as hard as bringing on an employee or key service provider (lawyer, accountant). You set expectations, you provide feedback, you go back and forth, you communicate a lot. But once your needs are ‘locked in’ you can have excellent candidates dropped in your lap.

Of course, the typical pricing model incentivizes recruiters to be good at finding you the right candidates: they get a percentage of the employee’s salary that you ultimately hire. So they’d be wasting their time (and profitability) qualifying and presenting candidates that aren’t a good fit.

Hiring Manager

Do you have someone full or part time (Human Resources? Office Manager?) in-house and dedicated to finding good candidates, exploring the above avenues, reaching out proactively?

We’ve not attempted to have position like this ourselves. Mainly because we don’t necessarily have the churn or volume of hires needed to justify the position. But, we’ve pondered this outbound and inbound hiring approach as we realize many larger agencies and companies employ it for good reason. At a point it’s cheaper and easier to get good candidates as a good hiring manager already knows the culture, what a good fit looks like, can talk about the technologies, processes, etc. and dedicate their time exclusively to finding matches.

These are my observations on posting jobs and different approaches to finding job (career?) candidates. What have you found works well?


The team at Crowd Favorite has been working on a solution to a problem a lot of designers and developers (and folks that work with designers and developers) didn’t quite realize they had: when working on a project you typically take notes on the side… but you usually throw that away and lose the snippets of code, outlines of todos, open questions and decisions, etc.

Capsule replaces that scratch document you have open when you’re coding. It creates an archive of your development artifacts.

Instead of keeping a text file open when working on a project, using Capsule means you can have a simple archive of all those notes and easily reference them in the future.

Initial reactions and reception have been very positive from the development and WordPress community so we’re all very pleased.

Be sure to check out Alex’s post on Capsule to read more about the thinking and decisions behind this (free) product.

Is a consultancy also a startup?

In honor of Denver Startup Week, I’d like to try to answer a question we’ve thought about at Crowd Favorite: are we a startup?

In the most traditional sense: no. Startups, as they’ve come to be known, can typically be seen as small technology-centric companies founded by a handful of individuals to build a produce or service, sometimes for businesses, other times for consumers. Most startups grow quickly, add employees, take on investments, and have some sort of exit planned.

On the other hand, design and development firms (or consultancies) like Crowd Favorite share a lot of traits with startups:


We hire from the same pool of smart individuals: designers, developers, and even managers. These people typically sit at a computer, work on the web and solve interesting problems.

When hiring a designer, we’re all looking for someone who can create user experiences, solve business problems, and communicate visually. Developers are folks who see technology as a series of moving parts that need to work together to achieve the designed solutions. Managers can take various requirements and goals, turn them into milestones and deliverables, and see the process through.


We work on the web or, at the least, in the technology space. Designers use the same applications and share the same skills: Photoshop, Illustrator, HTML and CSS, etc. Developers speak many programming languages and often have worked with a handful and can move into others: PHP, Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, Objective C.


We work hard and like what we do: solving interesting problems with technology. We value freedom to get the job done, we understand the value of research, we appreciate resourcefulness. But we also feel that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and our work reflects that. What we put out into the world is a big reflection of who we are. We provide valuable services and we get paid for it.


We come to the office to maximize the time we spend with our colleagues or we work remotely in a way that suits everyone, but we don’t clock in. We wear shorts, jeans, slacks, ties, polos, hoodies, t-shirts, sandals, sneakers, slippers. We have ice cream in the freezer and beer in the fridge. A team lunch together to talk about technology is a regular occurrence. We work until we’ve put in a good day’s work and never consider working an 80 hour week.

While startups and design and development consultancies are often working on the same kinds of problems in the same space with the same kinds of people, we’re different in at least a couple of ways:

We don’t typically work all day, every day, including weekends. We have families and outside interests and those are more important than “hustling” to get to launch or investor day. While we love helping a client launch a product, or website, or campaign: we manage reasonable expectations, timelines, and budgets and stick to them without sacrificing our lives.

We also don’t aim for a huge exit, we tend to grow at a steady pace, learn more as technologies and companies evolve, and plan to continue doing the work that looks most interesting to us at any given time.

Was Apple ever a startup? I don’t think so. Is a large agency like Crispin Porter + Bogusky? I wouldn’t say so. Is Crowd Favorite? No. But we’re all working together in an ecosystem that’s no longer an isolated community of designers and developers. This is the new “industry” and the lines between “being” a startup and working “amongst” startups are becoming blurry. The community in Denver know this which is why you see a lot of participants you might not expect: MapQuest, EffectiveUI, SpireMedia, just to name a few.

I look forward to visiting some of our neighbors at the startup crawl later this week.


I’m very proud of the team at Crowd Favorite and the great work they did alongside the Simpson College PR team. Everything from the design, to the way the content is managed is exactly the kind of elegant work we’re excited to work on every day. Check out the new site at


I just finished reading Mike Monteiro’s book: Design Is a Job. As a principal at Mule Design for over ten years, Mike has a lot of great experience and much of what he said elicited severe head nodding and a me-too’ing. This book is a great roadmap of the things I’ve learned working with Alex and the team at Crowd Favorite for the past 3 years. I’d say anyone in the web design and development industry should take look at this book. It’s a quick read (finished it in a couple hours) and extremely insightful into the “business side” of web design at a small firm.


Here’s Ethan Kaplan, a smart developer slash executive, and his take on “culture”:

Too often, the things that constitute “culture” are seen as additive or “perks.” I hate defining things as “perks” because it relegates them to things that should be seen as optional if and when times get tough. Similarly, in recruitment, “perks” mean “these are not core, but are additive in order to be attractive.” I’ve found perks are always the first things to go as cultural efforts in a company’s decline. And more damaging still, perks aren’t an element of culture. They are frosting on a thin cake.

The argument to build culture like a product makes good sense in a product or development-centric environment. This was a good read…