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Aaron Philips: cPanel Has The Ability To Drive New Business

Posted by hosttycoon On September - 5 - 2012

I met Aaron Philips at HostingCon 2009. Since then I have seen him in action as Vice President of Operations of cPanel Inc. On my humble opinion he is a strong business leader, who is very focused on achieving goals and to succeeding in business. I have seen him helping to startups which have good products to integrate with cPanel/WHM and to get recognized in the web hosting industry. Aaron is definitely one, who any business person would like to deal with. Another thing that he has a charisma and is a very interesting personality.
You have significant experience in the web hosting industry. You were in management of FastServers, a quite successful managed hosting provider . Did this experience helped you to do good business when you take on at cPanel?

All experiences have led me to where I am today, but FastServers carries a special place in my heart. The people I worked with at FastServers made me who I am today. Travis, Ian & Terrance each taught unique elements that I carry with me. It’s funny you ask this as I was just reflecting on this personally and pondered what did each person really teach me.

Travis Shaffner taught me how to get emotionally vested in a product, service and company. He was highly passionate and often displayed a wide range of emotions. Some might call it unprofessional, but in looking back he taught me that this passion can be harnessed to bring out the best in companies and individuals.

Ian Andrusyk taught me the art of taking risks and never accepting second place. When the amount of time and energy of planning a product launch or new widget in your business is equal to the cost of “just doing it”, it’s better to just do it than spend mass quantities of time and energy going through the planning process. Don’t get me wrong, we planned out many things, but often times we just executed idea as the execution time/efforts/finances would be far less than a full out strategy. Ian also taught me a lesson that I carry with me today about having “events” at conferences. Anyone can open a bar and have a party, but it’s far better to create an experience for your valued customers. (B10WH: See how cPanel creates experience for its customers and attendees to cPanel conference:  http://vimeo.com/31957689 & https://vimeo.com/15819196)

Terrance Bush taught me a lot about leadership and gaining respect. We both learned from Travis that being passionate and emotionally charged drove the business. We would often times get in loud vocal arguments or debates about business, products, or the direction of some project. We would yell and scream at each other and when it was over we would go eat lunch or grab a beer and be joyous of our battle. I guess the emotion was really based on principle over personality.

Through my years at FastServers, I was able to get emotionally vested in the web hosting community and all three provided values that I honor today. All three helped me understand the greater purpose in what I do and the importance of empathy.

Do you keep in touch with these guys and what do Travis, Ian & Terrance do today?

Ian owns a bar called the Norse, Travis owns a coffee shop called The WormHole. I talk to them once in a while and we keep in touch. Terrance ended up being a close friend, I see him 3-4 times a year and talk on a regular basis.

I’m curious have you ever been involved to HTML, coding and building websites and applications as web developer? Did you have any experience in web development which helped to understand better the technical side of the cPanel’s hosting automation business?

If you can call it that. My coding, HTML, and building or products is done as a motivational tool. Once a developer, web developer, or someone with real skills sees my work, their knee jerk reaction is to jump in and fix the horrible design/code I have given birth to. Luckily I have worked with some top talent that won’t allow my bad coding/design to see the light of day and they almost always volunteer to take over whatever I am working on.

Most people I know in the web hosting industry, especially those who do software automation say good things about you. Why is this Did you really helped many to improve their product and to integrate with cPanel?

The best answer I can give is I want to see people succeed. I attempt to be a positive force in the web hosting industry and when possible extend a helping hand. I attempt to be brutally honest, to the point, and at the same time provide as much direction or resources as humanly possible.

Have you found yourself into a situation when you are on vacation, but within the 3rd or 4th days you say “OK that’s enough. I can not stay idle. Need to do some business”?

I work every day, even on vacation, but have a few rules I try to follow.

1.) No outbound emails for new ideas or projects that haven’t been started.
2.) Check email only at appropriate times.
3.) Reply to issues or emails that need immediate response.
4.) Remember that I need time to unwind and even though I love what I do, I also very much enjoy spending time with my family.

Is being workaholic a part of success? Is it a common thing for you to work late at nights and have you managed to balance between personal life, hobbies and work? Or there is not much of a balance as work always dominates? 

I like what I do a lot. I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic, rather supremely passionate about what I do. I love challenges and I like to make things happen. Working a lot is not required for success, but on nights and weekends I get to chase projects that I have excitement behind. Here’s the deal. I work because I love it. I don’t feel compelled to do some work on weekends or wake up at the butt crack of dawn because I am stressed, I do it because it’s part of me. I would rather have a conversation about hosting versus most other topics, but work as passionate as I am, I need to set time aside for my family as they are most important thing in my life. I need to be reminded to partake in life, but it’s extremely hard because my hobby is my work and work is my hobby.

What do you like to do most when it comes to work? Is it more to work on the technical side of the projects or it is related to marketing, or B2B development?

I like the people I work with! Hands down, they teach me and are far smarter than I am. I often claim I am maintain the lowest IQ at cPanel and getting to work with very smart people is enjoyable.

I love a good negotiation. I love working on a project that results in other peoples success. I love a great argument/debate that get’s passionate and heated. I love learning new things.

What is your favorite piece of work? What do you enjoy doing most, while working for cPanel Inc.?

My favorite piece has yet to be released, but I am very fond of cPanel Applications Catalog and the upcoming cPanel Partner Directory (based on http://partnernoc.cpanel.net). I believe we (cPanel) has the ability to drive new business and this new Partner NOC directory will be a step in the right direction. I am also very fond of our annual conference. As a company we put a lot of effort into this and the end results have been extremely satisfying.

Why cPanel does not use even a single phrase that contains the word “Cloud” in its business? You can always go and brand cPanel as “Control Panel for the Cloud”. You don’t do this. Why? I have seen big software producers to say they do “Cloud”, without even having such product or being into the Cloud computing.

We are still trying what they are talking about when they say “Cloud”. Ask me again in 2 years.

I remember chatting with you during HostingCon 2009 about Cloud computing, cPanel and some of the industry’s trendy topics at the time. You told me then that there would be any term, people use to describe something new. It could be a “Cloud” or “Distributed Computing” or anything else. Do you think that cPanel would ever use the word “Cloud” for any product or in its marketing campaigns?

Maybe, we are open to new ideas. Ask me again in 2 years.

I went to check the agenda of cPanel 2012 conference and my impression was that like the previous events, attendees should expect a lot of in-depth knowledge, a lot of fun and good parties during the evenings. Most sessions looks to be focused in educating and training cPanel users. What would one could not see in the agenda, that you expect to happen during the conference?

Here’s the thing. This was always a training conference from the very start. I have been to every conference since they started and in the beginning just a few exhibitors. A few more exhibitors expressed interest and then executives starting showing up. We then put together a conference that is highly technical but has a bunch of hosting executives wondering around. It was not our goal to make this a business networking event, but it organically grew into one.

We remained focused on the training part of it. This year you will see an extended exhibit hall, more application providers and more business network. Employees power the show with their content and getting out to meet our customers. It’s equally important for us to get to know our customers and we wish to have the conference in Houston, TX every other year.

Each year holds some new surprises and you will see me give my first ever keynote speech. In fact, I should be working on it right now, but answering these questions is a whole lot more interesting.

I am pretty sure I didn’t answer your question, but self promoted the conference in a round about way.

I saw that cPanel Inc. bought WHMCS. Does it mean you are looking to change cPanel from server management software to one stop hosting automation and management solution? Could we expect cPanel to launch or acquire any a billing and merchant gateway solution in the near future?

We did not actually buy them but entered into a special agreement with a partial acquisition. The overall goal is to provide a better integration between billing and hosting automation software. We have no intentions of acquiring other billing platforms at this time and haven’t even considered merchant gateways as an option.

Our overall intent is to engage with the WHMCS team during the first months and then in 2013 begin looking at how to improve the overall experience with our product.

Does cPanel plans its own developers go over the code of WHMCS and to revamp it or you are going to leave it to their current dev team?

The current development team will remain the primary developers. Matt Pugh, CEO of WHMCS has been developing this product. Our immediate goals are to free up Matt so he can focus on the future developer of WHMCS.

What a “Vice President of Operations of cPanel Inc.” has to deal with? Are you focused more on the marketing side of the business and on growing the client base of the company or you;re also involved in the management of various technical operations?

I handle everyone that is not related to product development. Marketing, Sales, Support, Customer Service, Human Resources, Business Development, Account Management, Training and probably a few more items that I am forgetting.

You have been in management of a dedicated hosting provider before. How this business changed through the years? Do you see the hosting industry coming to a state when the cPanel Inc. would more than 90% of the cPanel/WHM licenses would run on a virtual machines, not for physical servers?

When you hear to word “web hosting” we wish for it to be synonymous with cPanel. You know like Kleenex or Band-Aid, but in the hosting industry. When you search for something these days, you Google it. Hopefully when you need to host a website site, you cPanel it!

If you are about to launch a new web hosting provider in 2012 or 2013 what would have done? How would you start? Would you go buy a company that has good position on the market or you’d start from scratch and create a new brand? In which niche in the web hosting market would you position the company?

No comment, I have to much insight to answer this question.

What would you say to anyone who wants to enter into the hosting industry as provider, except that one should definitely go for cPanel based services?

Do your homework and understand two key analytics.

1.) What is the value of a customer? (Be specific and tie a real number to it)
2.) How much does it cost to get a new customer?


B10WH: You can read Aarons news and product releases at http://cpanel.net/author/aaron/.

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