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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

Don't Be Defensive, But Defend Your Livelihood

Yesterday I got an e-mail from a prospective WooThemes customer enquiring about our products and specifically asking about the "negative reviews that we've been receiving lately".

Whilst I've seen my fair share of negative feedback about Woo in the last 5 years, I wasn't aware of any recent / significant increase to this, so I enquired about which review the customer was referring to. This is what he sent on.

Here's my response to the customer:

So I can transparently say that WooThemes isn't perfect and unfortunately that means that there's individual, isolated situations / experiences where a single customer falls through the cracks. This is mostly due to a bad support experience or an expectation of where the customer thought a product could do something / was easier to use, when it wasn't.

Judging by the ThemeGrade comments though (which has 40 bad responses over the last couple of years) and considering that we have 400 000+ customers, it means that 0.01% of our customers have had a bad experience. Obviously that number is quite a bit higher (not all customers who had a bad experience will report / publicize it), but it's still seriously insignificant.

The comments about us becoming more "business-like" in our decision-making is also 100% accurate and I'd like to reinforce that fact. We're a mature company that is directly responsible for the livelihoods of 27 team members, along with indirectly influencing the livelihoods of 400 000 other people that use our products in various ways to earn their own living. We can't screw around and act in an informal or immature way anymore, since we'd be gambling with people's livelihood. So to make sure that we can continue to grow in a sustainable manner and also that we're around in 5 / 10 years' time, we've taken some mature decisions to make sure that WooThemes is the best WordPress company around.

As CEO, I believe in my team and I believe in our products. We strive for perfection even though we know that a small percentage of customers will always find that our products aren't for them. To that extent, we've got a 30-day Money Back Guarantee, where we don't ask you to even justify your refund request; you just ask and we refund. So your "risk" in trialing WooThemes ends up being very small. :)


I'd like to share two of the primary points that I was attempting to communicate in that e-mail:

1. Be Transparent. The honest truth about all companies (and businesses in general) is that it's impossible to please every single customer. I could've been defensive, tried to respond to the specific critique, but that would not have served any purpose. I don't try to be perfect as an individual and I don't expect Woo to be either. Striving for excellence, doesn't mean striving for perfection.

2. Defend Your Livelihood. This is something which becomes more important as a company / team becomes bigger and more mature. Woo is 27 individuals strong today and if we stopped making any money today, that'd directly affect 27 individual's livelhoods. Similarly, we have a big customer base that have built businesses on top of our products; if we can't support & maintain those products, their livelihoods are at risk. So this is a worthy cause to defend and be defensive about.


I'm never one to shy away from an apology when WooThemes or I've made a mistake. And as a personal rule of thumb, I'm a very transparent person and WooThemes is a very open company.

There are however things that I will never compromise on or apologize for; defending the livelihoods of all the stakeholders (directly or indirectly influenced by Woo) is one of those.

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