Doubling Revenue in a 7 Figure Business – Biggest Lessons from 2016

February 14, 2017 , 42 Comments

While this site has only recently been revived, I want to continue the tradition of looking back at the past year and extracting the most valuable lessons and learning points from it.

2016 was another big year in my business and despite already being past the "small business" and "startup" stages, we managed to double our revenue again, over the course of the year.​

This would indicate that we're doing some things right.

2016 was also arguably one of the most challenging and stressful years for me yet. And if you're familiar with The Grind, you know that this too is a good thing in many ways.​

Watch the video to get a closer look at the big lessons and mistakes from this hugely successful year.​


2016 Retrospective Video


Which of the 3 stages is your business in right now? Which lesson from this video can you apply, right now?

Let me know by leaving a comment below!​

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About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Shane, Sorry mate, but I couldn’t finish watching this video. This was the fluff packed within the fluff, I don’t have attention span strong enough for this kind of videos any more. If you do one more, of these videos, with all due respect, I even going to unsubscribe from this ( my last internet marketing person )anotherwards, I will lose my respect.

    Good luck!

    • SandyParker says:

      Its all about the level & may be personal preferences. as you said you could not finish the video ! well if you could have you wont write that up ! i know how important that video is when you are building a company specially while hiring team ! i always thought i have to hire the superstars who are best at what they do but always found them very expensive and could never afford those superstars as i am at the beginning of building team and short on budget. This video was real help now i know we could actually hire people with good work ethic and teach them how to do stuff and make them best of what they do. This video was really helpful ! i would suggest you to finish this video and you would defiantly get some value out of part its free & valuable better then 10k courses sold by some big names out there!


    • Mate, no one’s forcing you to watch my content. What I talked about in this video are literally the key points that contributed to our growth in 2016. Sure, it’s not the latest SEO “hack” or a step-by-step instruction to get more Instagram followers or whatever the current marketing trend is. But that kind of stuff will only take you so far. If you build a growing business that’s about more than just putting a bit of money in your pocket, things like hiring practices, skill development and company culture become extremely important.

      But the most important point is this: on this site, I have always given myself the freedom to create content about what really matters, even if that content isn’t optimized for a promising keyword and isn’t the kind of thing that gets a lot of shares.

      I know that this content isn’t sexy. A lot of the content here isn’t. But there are already hundreds of sites that focus on publishing the sexy stuff that gets as many clicks as possible. What you can find here and, I believe, nowhere else, is a record of how a company was grown from zero to 7 figures and 50+ people, year by year.

      • Excellent post, Shane. Thanks!

      • Unfortunately, most people think they deserve a blueprint handed to them on a silver platter.

        That’s NOT how entrepreneurship works.

        If you can’t make it through a 20-minute video (which was amazing by the way), I can’t fathom how you’ll ever be successful online (or in life for that matter).



      • I just had to laugh when I read the comment above.

  • … I meant, you will lose my respect…

  • Shane, I had to respond, especially after the comment above. I really appreciate this kind of openness and honesty that you show repeatedly in all that you do and say.

    I delete most emails I get after a quick glance at the title and who it is from. When I see your name or your team on an email, I open every one of them. All I can say to you is keep doing what your are doing and ignore the low hits.

    You already know this, but this video addresses some of the core principles that are very important to life and business success.

    Thank you once again, Neal

    • Thank you very much, Neal!

      I know this type of content isn’t for everyone. And it’s certainly not the most pertinent thing for people who are in the “starting” phase of their business. But I also know that for some people, like you, this can be very useful and valuable and that’s why I’ll keep making this kind of post. :)

  • Nathaniel Robinson says:

    Shane, thanks! Great advice and so are your products. I like your candidness, insight, honesty, and forward looking. Even though I am happily retired and travelling, you and your themes/products helped me become a wordpress theme expert.

    • That’s great to hear, Nathaniel! Thank you for your comment!

  • Hi Shane,
    It’s been great to follow your journey over the last few years as you and the team evolve Thrive Themes into a world leading company.
    And as a customer it was a privilege a couple of years ago to be able to talk to you when you surveyed and listened to many customers ideas.

    Very few people are prepared to open up to the challenges that face the process of growth and I commend you on that.

    It should be a resource many young (and older) entrepreneurs can use to help them through the good and average times of business building.

    Unlike the comment above, we will always have the greatest respect for your achievements and words of wisdom. At various times in our journey we all need different aspects of what you talk about, it can’t all be about the next wizz bang product.

    Looking forward to hearing more from Thrive in the scaling phase as you grapple with maintaining the entrepreneurial culture with a larger workforce.
    Amazon is one company that stands out above many others by delivering world best technology with simple, fast, accurate product delivery – a mantra that Thrive can certainly emulate.

    All the best and look forward to many more years of Thrive innovation and excellence in delivery.


    • Thank you very much, Graeme! I appreciate your support and we’ll be doing our very best to keep our high standards and even elevate those standards as we scale. It’s an exciting time and I’m confident that the team will deliver!

  • Hello Shane,

    I thought your video was very inspiring and helpful in my development to online success.
    I have been struggling for years and I am still at it.
    To grow a company from like you said from zero up to 7 figures is a very great accomplishment.
    The people who say they will unsubscribe because they can not get through your content,
    then in my opinion they should go ahead.
    With everything you and your team have done with thrive themes has been for your customers
    in order to help them succeed in their own business.
    To give us the best tools in the market place so we can be competitive in our own niches.
    So I say kept up the great work.

    Thanks Shane

    • Thank you very much, Peter! It means a lot to me to know that you have gotten value out of our products and content.

  • Christian says:

    Shane – Congratulations for sharing your journey. It really echoes as it is sincere and relevant. I am taken that Thrive is now 50+ people! That is a big moment and your approach to bringing people on seems very sound indeed and bodes well for 2017 and beyond.

    • Thank you, Christian! I’m very pleased with how our team has developed and I feel lucky to work with so many cool people. I’m very optimistic about 2017 as well. :)

  • Shane

    I’ll tell you what you’re doing right…everything!

    You and you your team build outstanding products (on which my business is built), you have excellent training, and customer service is top notch!

    I’m the general manager for a large company, I use your products with my young son, to teach him about marketing. Our goal is to produce multiple streams of income, which can only be accomplished with a strong foundation. Your products (plugins & themes) give us that foundation.

    I hope you’re enjoying your success, you’ve earned it.

    If I knew personally, I’d buy you many “adult beverages.”

    Shane – many, many thanks.

    Portland, Oregon

    Dubito ergo cogito
    Cogito ergo sum

    • Thank you very much, Mike! It’s great to know that our products are forming a strong foundation for what you and your son are doing.

  • Love the lessons Shane! It’s been great following your journey for the last few years going from writing SEO tool reviews to building info products to building saas to building WP plugins and now the giant Thrive Themes empire :P

    • Thank you, Tung! I’ve been impressed with how you’ve built the CloudLiving website and audience over the past years as well. :)

      • Tung Tran says:

        Thanks Shane :D

  • I found this video very interesting since it reflects my own challenges in my business. The character issue and your openness and your personal involvement in your videos is what made me stick with your company for years. It makes me trust you and it helps me to understand that I am not just dealing with some kid working from his parents basement, but a real company that will be around for years to come and with a team to back it up.

    • Thank you, George! Indeed, we have every intention of being around for years. We’re not even the undisputed leader in our space yet, so we’ve got some work still to do. :D

  • Shane, especially after “that” comment above, I had to respond and tell you how grateful I am to be in your tribe! I’ve been following you for a while now and am also a Thrive Themes member, and every single time you send an email, be sure I am there to watch your videos and read your words of advice and wisdom. I have been a marketer for many many years, but I am still learning a ton from you. A BIG thank you from a fellow Swiss! (…merci vil mal au no uf Schwizerdütsch :)
    Uster, Switzerland

  • Hi Shane,
    I’ve never made money online, it’s a goal I’d like to achieve, not at any price. That is why I continue with great affection to your journey.

    I am glad that those who toil for their dreams are rewarded. Despite the toughness of the challenges.

    For you and your company, my sincere congratulations.

    As a member of Thrivethemes, I would like to one day have you as my master in this online walk.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ana! I hope we can help you achieve your goal with the content we create.

  • How about updating the products section of this page….specifically for Viral Quiz Builder so customer gets directed to Thrive Quiz Builder instead of a sorry, no longer available page?

    Would love to have a similar type of update for wp sharely, which I missed out on. How about it?

    Your new offerings NEVER disappoint!

    • Thanks, Lisa! We’ve redirected the Viral Quiz Builder page, in the meantime.

  • HI, Shane. Great post and video. I was feeling a bit low on Monday when I which the video and by watching it, it allowed me to put things in perspective connected to why things are difficult for all of us who are trying to build something special.

    I wonder if you like to come back on the WP-Tonic podcast for another interview on March either on 22 or 29th see your one of my favorite guests on the show!

    • Hi Jonathan,

      Do you still have my calendly link? That’s generally the best way to schedule a call with me.

      • Jonathan Denwod says:

        HI Shane what about the 29th of March? Here my calendar link maybe we have a quick chat on Zoom connected to the what the interview would be about and a couple of other ideas that I like to quickly discuss with you before the 29th.

  • Your character is why I’m still with you! Great products and a mission to make them better rather than hang out on the beach.

  • Thanks for sharing this type of information Shane, hearing the ‘real situation’ is exactly why I’m subscribed to your list, and have unsubscribed from most others’!

    It was a pleasure to be able to interact with you and the team the short amount that I did, and such a pity I couldn’t join you all for your offer (I was quite disappointed!) – I absolutely would have loved to work and learn in the challenging and pushing yet friendly environment you have managed to create there. I got a good insight from talking with Steph etc, so glad she has also joined the team :)

    I am definitely grinding through the startup phase still in my own business, it’s videos like these that remind me to keep my head down, and that in fact the unpleasantness is growing your character when you find yourself questioning ‘what is all the point of this?!’ :)

    I hope we still cross paths in the future still, and I enjoy watching these style videos. Yay for haters haha!

    • Thank you, Gun!

      Too bad it didn’t work out. I appreciate the time you took to walk us through your podcast marketing experience, though. We’re still working on that podcast and I hope we’ll be able to launch the fist episode soon.

  • Grame Austin says:

    Hello Shane, Man, it’s hard to gain respect online isn’t it! But I can categorically say you have a monumental amount of it [Respect, that is]… for me, it’s about believe ability – I’m from Australia and we tend to say it as it is and the phrase I would use is ‘You walk your talk’- you do what you say your going to do and to me that is what keeps me with you!!So I’m with you for the long haul man.

    Outside of that I do hope you introduce a Facebook app/software/plugin at some point that will allow us to integrate our marketing better with your current thrive software.

    I joined you very early days and all I can say is that it’s the best investment that I’ve made online

    Regards, Graeme

    • Thank you for your comment, Graeme!

      Can you tell me more about what you’d want to do on Facebook?

  • Shane:

    At 17:01 into the video you talked about having a system to develop talent.

    To me this is the critical insight. If you can share how you developed your own mindset to self scaffold an impact skill set for successful SAAS/online publishing/product in Part 1 and how transform this thought processes, benchmarks, and task execution to identifying, motivating and channeling team member’s skill sets you have a best seller in your back pack.

    This goes way beyond Agile Development.

    In my experience the Japanese do this much better than the Americans in ‘real world’ manufacturing.

    As more mid career employees are displaced by robots and start home businesses there will be a growing market for exactly this type of information and coaching.

    Finally, I guess out of your 50 employees x number are marketers and y number are ncoders back end types.

    Perhaps there are different metrics for developing talent for each type? This deserves at least one chapter.



    • Thank you for your comment, Harold!

      Our system for developing talent is far from mature, but perhaps we can talk about it on the podcast, sometime.

      The replacement of human labor with bots is also a very interesting topic, that we’ve barely broken ground on so far. Things will remain interesting for sure. :)

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