Over 13 years ago, I started BrentOzar.com as a personal blog. Since then, I slowly turned it into a SQL Server focused blog, then an evangelism platform when I worked for Quest Software (now Dell), and finally into a consulting company when Jeremiah, Kendra, and I started the company. Today, it’s a seven-figure company with full time employees, vendors, lawyers, accountants, contracts, intellectual property, and tens of thousands of subscribers.
I don’t have a big head – totally the opposite. The company “Brent Ozar Unlimited” is separate from the guy. Jeremiah, Kendra, and I are equal owners in the company, and it couldn’t have grown into what it is today without their involvement. I don’t look at the company as something I built.
I’m still just a guy who likes to write stuff – posts, scripts, presentations – to solve real world pains. Most of the time, I just give that stuff away, and there’s only a small portion that we make money on. Odds are extremely high that if you’re reading this, you’ve used some of my work, and you haven’t paid anything.
And I’m totally cool with that. This is the sharing economy.
The tough part is complaint emails. “Hey, your webcast audio this week was bad.” “Your script has a bug.” “Why haven’t you built a step-by-step checklist for X?” For the longest time, my knee-jerk reaction was to fire off a snippy retort to the ungrateful cretin. Didn’t they know I was volunteering my time? Didn’t they recognize I was doing all this for the community? Couldn’t they be nice and say thank you every now and then?
In the last couple of years, though, with the growth of the consulting and training business, I realized that today’s reader doesn’t see me as a community volunteer. There are readers who didn’t know me before we started the company. Even though they’re not paying any of us money, they still see themselves as customers who deserve better products and services – because they see us as a company.
Ironically, I get it because I struggle with PASS the same way. I’ve seen people on the PASS Board of Directors cop an attitude and say, “How dare you question what I’m doing – I’m a selfless volunteer, and I’m doing this for the community.” But that just doesn’t match up when “the community” is a business with $7-8mm revenue (PDF) and dozens of full time employees.
The lines are really blurred these days between company and community.