This year would have been our 11th proud year as an Umbraco Gold Partner. Regular visitors may notice that on the site there is no mention of our Gold Partner status. That is because in January 2020 when the renewal came around we took stock of our situation over the last few years and have chosen to not renew our membership for 2020. I thought I'd explain why and what this might mean for Offroadcode.
We could have let this just quietly slip under the radar and let everyone assume we were still a Gold Partner and pull a fast one but that is not really our style and if anything we think 10 years of support is worth celebrating rather than going unmentioned. Ten years is a long time in any business and a lot can change. When we first signed on we were one of only a handful of UK Gold Partners and were very happy to support the project (and the developers who work on it) to help it grow and thrive. In return we would be giving a bit back to the software that helped us deliver award winning sites and let us pay our mortgages.
We like to think we've been more than just a Gold Partner, more like a "Platinum Partner" in our heads (we can dream right). We've always done more to promote the product and the community through our packages, blogs, speaking at conferences, supporting Skrift the Umbraco Community magazine with our staff time each month, improving the training via feedback, attended round table discussions, promoting/discussing privately at meet ups galore, hosting Offroadcode Garden and submitting 100's of bug reports and feature request over the years. We've certainly not been a silent partner simply paying for a logo. Fear not those extra-curricular activities will continue no doubt.
We never really became a Gold Partner for any perks or trade offs, it was just nice to support people who had become friends with other like minded Goldies (yes we really call ourselves that...) and as a bonus it did have some positive side effects:
- It opened doors to government jobs with the NHS and the education sector that insisted that any Umbraco work had to be by a Gold Partner thus helping us stand apart from the crowd. Sadly in recent years in the UK at least cut backs due to austerity and Brexit mean that this constraint has being dropped in an effort to save money by opening the field or moving the work in house.
- Clients liked the comfort that hearing we had direct access to HQ for support but in 10 years I think we only called on it a handful of times and often resolved it ourselves one way or another. We are after all experts in Umbraco not just subscribers to a support service on our clients behalf. Besides in the early years HQ often had their hands busy so their turn around times weren't always a good fit for on the spot trouble shooting of custom implementations of Umbraco, that is after all more the kind of thing we are good at...so we did it instead.
- Overtime the perks on offer from HQ to Gold Partners increased with various discounts on training and the new products that they released. However for a company of our size (we are all trained up already) and focus (a handful of medium-large sized complex sites per year with their own hosting) we couldn't really make the most of them to warrant to continue to pay for them. This starts to add up against the commercial realities of being a member when you see other better positioned Gold Partners do much better from the shared perks on offer. We either need to change our business model to suit the opportunities or stick with what we are good at and enjoy.
The number of active Gold Partners has grown 300%+ (there is 30+ of them now in the UK and more being added) excluding the churn rate of those that jump on board and soon leave. This means more competition for work. What was once something that made us stand out is now almost a given in the market place. We will instead have to lean on our 10 years as a "former Gold Partner" and more importantly our experience building great sites in a friendly forward thinking way with this wonderful tool and the reputation that we've built up doing so.
Since we began this journey Umbraco's staff numbers have increased by 600%+. The portfolio of products on offer with Umbraco has grown with it too (4 new major versions, Headless CMS, Umbraco Cloud hosting, Deploy, etc) all of which bring in additional revenue intended to make Umbraco the company self supporting. I think that means mission accomplished from our side of the deal. The average length of time for a Goldie to stay a member is 2.5 years apparently (figure taken from the last Gold Partner summit in London last year) so you can't say we haven't done a good stint.
It's our hope that by being involved as early as we were and for the length of time we have been we have in our own small way helped make it look like a club you want to be in, one to be proud of, that was fun, supportive and kept going the original ethos of what it means to be a Gold Partner (or any partner) alive while the project has grown. Luckily there are still many good partners (old and new) who up hold and continue these values and traditions who are staying in. And that is how we shall leave it, 10 years of support for a wonderful product that we hold very dear. Time for others now to take a turn at the front and keep the product moving forward while we sit up and take a bit of a rest and focus on our client work for a bit until this Brexit mess is over with...