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Part One: Brianna and Andrew Norcross Talk About Working Together, Living Together, Balance, and Rebellion

Published 6/8/2015

Brianna and Andrew Norcross are a powerhouse of a couple. They started Reaktiv Studios, a WordPress-focused agency based in Florida. I spoke with Brianna and Andrew about how they have learned to work together as a married couple. Be sure to subscribe if you don't want to miss part two!

If you're wondering what kind of WordPress work these two are involved in, it might help to know that they are an official service partner for WordPress VIP. So, yeah, they're legit.

Check out ReaktivStudios.com to learn more about what Brianna and Andrew do every day!

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Check out ReaktivStudios.com to learn more about what Brianna and Andrew do every day!

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and today I'm interviewing Brianna and Andrew Norcross, the team behind reactive studios. Reactive is a word press focused development agency with headquarters in Tampa, Florida. They bring a team of experienced and skilled builders and managers together to smoothly guide your project to perfection. Of course this is all coming directly from their website which you can find at reactivestudios.com that's r-e-a-k-t-i-v studios.com that will of course be in the show notes. I really enjoy talking to Andrew and Brianna particularly because I also work with my wife. If you didn't catch that they are married, Andrew and Brianna are married and they work together every single day and I do the same thing with my wife. Of course my wife and I don't own a business together so we aren't the perfect mirror relationship to the Norcross couple but we definitely work together every day. So I really enjoy talking to Andrew and Brianna. The interview is in two parts so make sure you subscribe if you don't want to miss the second part of the interview which will come out this week as well. I hope you enjoy the interview with Brianna and Andrew Norcross from reactive studios. Thanks so much for being on the show today Brianna and Andrew. Yeah absolutely. Thanks for having us. I'm really excited to talk to you guys about so many different things because I think we have a lot in common in our daily schedule and kind of the interactions that we have on a day-to-day basis. For the listeners who are not acquainted with your work, can you tell everyone about what reactive does? Sure. Well, we're a web development agency. We were distributed based in Florida, Brianna and I are in Tampa. Our other partner is up in near Indianapolis. We have an employee of in Canada who handles support for our main product and we also have another developer who lives on the East Coast Florida who is on our services side. We focused on WordPress development, the higher end complex style build out. We don't do cookie cutter themes or anything like that and we were one of the 10 feature developer partners for the WordPress VIP platform and a whole bunch of other things of that nature. So you have a total of five people at the company, correct? That is correct, yeah. And you guys are married, right? At this moment. That is really us. At this moment. That's good. That's good. I hope by the time that this episode goes live, that's going to be the case. That's the goal. Yeah, just before the horse. So I have that. So let me reiterate this for anybody who's listening. Brianna and Andrew work together every day and they are also married and believe it or not, that can actually work out, right? Like my wife and I actually work together at Whiteboard. She is the director of operations. I'm the director of technology, super fancy titles, you know, but what that means is we work like directly together every single day and that can be a challenge. And I'd like to know, you know, what you guys think about this because conventional wisdom says, you know, never work with somebody you love, right? Or never work with somebody that you wouldn't leave at the drop of a hat. And I don't think that that's always the best advice. What do you guys think about it? I disagree. That's probably good. Just the sums it up, but first of all, I'm more complicated. People say that you should just be able to walk away and kids things get terrible. But if it's your own company, you don't really want to have that kind of, you know, just flexibility to be able to walk away. R's was kind of a cool, kind of a natural transition. Andrew was freelancing and just needed help with the operations and from there it grew. But it's been beneficial because I can balance his crazy ideas with the logical, practical operations side. And it's been really good, not only for the bottom line, but we both have problems with authority. So it's a good way to be able to like bounce things off somebody, but you're not really having to worry about authority is that you're not going to have somebody learning over your head. Andrew, what do you think? Yeah, like Branna said, I was, you know, I was freelancing before her. I even met and at one point I'd taken a job with a marketing company for about a year and then another software company for about six months between, you know, things like health insurance and we're getting ready to buy a house. So I haven't like a WT job really made that a lot easier and all those things. But you know, when, when I decided to go back to do my own thing, you know, I really like writing code. I don't like doing all the other things that are required to get paid to write code like invoicing clients or emailing, you know, clients following up on leads. You know, I had more than one instance where I would forget to invoice people or I would launch a site and forget to tell them that it had gone live. I mean, this is, you know, quite a while ago and one of the first times, you know, Branna ever came to my house. She saw the stack of mail. She saw like a $700 electric bill because I'd simply forgotten to pay it. Like I had the money. Money wasn't the problem. It was I just, she's like, when did you pay this? I was like, oh, like last month she opened up. She like, do you mean three months ago? And, you know, it's just one of those things where I'm, I mean, I say like I write code to take a break from writing code. And while, you know, I'm good with certain clients in terms of conversation and working through problems and things like that, it's just, it's very difficult for me to do that and then write code and then stop and answer an email. And, you know, it just becomes very distracting. And frankly, you know, that's a whole different mindset of the operations end, which I a lot respect for because I'm not good at it. You know, when, when Branna took over that aspect of the business, you know, the revenue has went up. What was it? Something like 200 plus percent. And your lights stay on now. Yeah. Yeah. It's pretty stellar. It sounds very similar to the way that mine and Lauren's relationship works. She handles a lot of the things that I would hate to have to handle quite honestly, but she actually really enjoys handling those things most days. And, you know, there are some days where I actually would prefer maybe not to write code. I do love writing code, but some days I don't feel, you know, always completely up to writing code. It's just one of those really dynamic situations. And I'm really interested, you know, because we also, on top of the work that we do at Whiteboard, she helps me immensely with, with the Developer Tea. And she's the one who designed the logo. She's a great designer in general. And she, you know, she runs an Etsy shop and she does all these things on the side as well. We have to always think about balance when it comes to these additional things that we're doing beyond our daily work and we're always working together. When do we make time to not work? We'll be right back after a quick break for a sponsor. Thanks so much to today's sponsor, CodeShip. CodeShip is a hosted continuous delivery service focusing on speed, security, and customizability. You can set up continuous integration in a matter of seconds and automatically deploy when your tests have passed. CodeShip supports your GitHub and Bitbucket projects and you can get started with their free plan today at codeShip.com. Should you decide to go with a premium plan, you can save 20% off of any plan for the next three months by using the code Developer Tea. Now that code will be in the show notes. So go to codeShip.com and use the code Developer Tea for 20% off today. For fast, secure, and customizable continuous integration, go to codeShip.com. I know that Brianna, you run another company in addition to reactive, correct? I do accounting for, I don't know, six or seven companies in the same space as ours. So it's really fun and interesting, but it is challenging. Sure. Well, in accounting, I feel like, well, I have no business to talk about accounting. I have no idea about anything in the accounting world. Did you go to school for accounting or anything like that? No, actually, I did not. I just kind of taught myself I was doing books at a company that at least trucks out to semi-truck drivers. And it was a very small family affair. And I just kind of had to learn quick books. And so I learned it. And I guess I just made that my job. Wow. That is probably an anomaly of a story, especially for accounting. It seems like one of those things that you get put into the pipeline of what is accountants through the school system, but that wasn't the case. No, no, I came from a totally different school background. I was a nursing school for a while, but that was really hard to keep up with at the time. I was a single parent too. This is all the school and having a job, which I was doing accounting as my job there. I just had to quit and do what can I do from home and be able to have a flexible schedule for my kids. And I just go full speed with this accounting thing. Well, it sounds like you guys have a huge focus on balance and on, you know, finding the flexibility that you want in life and working from home, deciding, you know, hey, we're going to use this entrepreneurial attitude to gain freedom. Yeah. I mean, I try not to laugh when people say we're trying to find balance because I don't feel like we have balance at all. But then, you know, when I back away and we do, we do have a lot of freedom. Like I spent 12 hours waiting for my dog to get out of surgery today. I was able to work from my father-in-law's cigar shop and I was able to work from Starbucks and nobody cared. And that was great. And then, you know, and we can go to kids school functions and nobody cares. And we're not getting fired. And that's great. But through like falling asleep in bed and then I sit up and I'm like, oh my god, we forgot to do this one thing. So there's a lot of freedom. There's probably not a lot of balance. I think that's probably true for us as well. And I guess, you know, it's interesting because I still find happiness or fulfillment there. And maybe that's another space where, you know, conventional wisdom fails us is when we're really truly interested in something together, if it still feels like we are spending quality time together. Yeah. And we've definitely made an attempt to, okay, we're going to go on a date and not talk about this big thing that's going to work. And then we just feel like we're like bottling it up. We want to talk about it because we love our company and love our jobs. So we just decided to stop fighting it. Like we're really invested in our company and which I think is something that I don't want to diss other people and say that they're not invested. But when you're both, you know, if this coming doesn't make it, this is our household income. You know, this is everything. I think you're slightly more invested. Sure. Yeah. I mean, it's one of those things where there's still times where like, for example, if I'm getting together with friends who are also developers and sometimes we kind of dive, we end up talking about nerd stuff because that's what we talk about. I can see, you know, Brianna kind of mentally float away as they should because it's boring for anybody who does do it. But you know, this is what we do. And if you think about, you know, most couples, they talk about their jobs with each other. The only difference is they're different jobs. Right. And they're talking about, you know, the so and so they work with this person to this and this person to that. And then you're only getting the perspective of your significant other anyway. And then, you know, couple that with, you know, you peer people talk about, you know, my work wife or my work husband. Well, I have one of those that happens to be my actual wife as well. Yeah. You don't have to have an affair in order to make that work out. Yeah. I mean, there's little things that we do. You know, like, for example, we each have our own office in the house. We want to have a marriage saver. Oh my gosh. We used to share one. I know it was just a nightmare. Because like our, our just work styles are different. You know, I need blocks of time, you know, pretty much uninterrupted that I can work. You know, she works in bursts. You know, she takes calls. She, you know, does this? Does that? You know, she handles more of the kids during the day when they get out from school. And a lot of what she does is more, and I'm not saying it's worthy, but like it's more interruptible to a point. Yeah. It's definitely is I do a lot of context switching. And so me getting up in and out of the office just driving him crazy. Yeah. Right. It was, it was going insane. Well, that we each have our own office. And then also, you know, we can close, you know, like, we're both working. We're both in the house. We use Slack to talk to each other. Or we text each other while we're working. Mm hmm. Yeah. We actually follow a very similar structure. We work in the office at Whiteboard, but we have the same kind of rules. Anybody who's on communications teams or content teams or even designers, we put them in different locations from the developers because we go, you know, two hours without anybody in the development room saying a word. You know, it's, and so there's this kind of hyper focus that is necessary. I think, especially when you're doing something that takes a lot of cognitive, like working memory to hold in your mind. And it's difficult to hold that memory in your mind when there's a conversation going on, even if it's not with you, right? Even if it's just near you. And so, you know, instead of always having your headphones in and basically being like the hermit of the office and everybody around you being lively, we decided it makes sense to put all the people who work the same in the same way. Yeah, it makes sense. I mean, if we, like I'm one of those people, I don't work well like in coffee shops or in co-working spaces doing anything of a real, you know, where, like I can do emails, I can do, you know, some kind of periphery or code review things, but, you know, when I'm actually, you know, needing to develop, you know, I need, don't, I can't really have the audio distractions. Like, I can't have the visual distractions. You know, people walking, coming and going, that's enough for me to break my chain of concentration. So, like, people that can do this stuff, you know, in coffee shops, not like hats off, you know, I'm not one of them. And probably never will be. But the, you know, the ability to, you know, to do our thing and then, you know, kind of come back to what you're talking about, you know, us discussing work. It's, you know, there are certainly times where we don't. I mean, we have three kids. So, we certainly have other things to talk about, you know, we, you know, we have, you know, our respective families, you know, my folks live here in Florida and the other, they're getting older. So, there's certain stuff with that. You know, we have two dogs. We've had other pets along the way. You know, we have other friends, siblings, I mean, like, again, like, we, we have full life. So, we do, you know, fortunately, we do have other things to talk about. But, you know, at times, you know, what we may be working through or doing work is the most exciting thing going on in our lives. Yeah. Which is awesome. It's like the dream job, right? Like, when you're so excited about the work that you're doing, that it's not a burden as much as it is, like, something that you're ready to do when you wake up in the morning, that's, I feel like that's a really good place to be in life. Yeah. Some people disagree with that, though. And, and I don't think it's necessarily wrong either way, but I, personally, I really enjoy liking my work, you know, I really enjoy that moment where you wake up, you know, in the middle of the night and you're like, oh, I forgot to push that code, right? Or whatever it is that you forget to do, and it's not always forgetting. Maybe sometimes it's waking up with a brilliant idea. So there's, there's sometimes when it's not a mistake. And it has a waterproof notepad in the shower for like code ideas. Like, yes, I got it. I'm ready to down how far I forget it. Yeah, you better, like, that's really cool. No apps on my phone or, or I've written stuff physically on my hand or like, I'll think of something and I'll just walk away. I won't even say anything. I'm like, I need to put this down on something or it'll disappear. I'm interested to know what kind of insights or like epiphanies you have had. Like, are you thinking through a problem that you are trying to solve at a given point in time and like, the solution comes to you? Or is it more like, I have this idea for a feature in, you know, a plug-in that you're developing or something like that? I would say both. Being on the witness end of all your, you know, random spurts of information, I think it's probably equal problem solving or new ideas. Yeah, I mean, there are sometimes where, you know, I'll have an idea kind of stewing and I won't even say anything about it. I'll just kind of let it sit. I'll look around and kind of see what people are doing, see what's been done. You know, sometimes things haven't been done for a good reason. Sometimes not. Sometimes it's a burst of, of just, I don't know where or a lot of times and, you know, at least my own experience doing client work that, you know, I just started to see patterns in the development work I'm doing for clients. Yeah, I build it once for a client, you know, it's a unique one off. I build it twice. It's an edge case three or four times now, starting to see a pattern. And not only that, it usually, depending on what it is, I've got an MVP or close to it, simply from the client work that I've done. You know, I've taken, you know, bits out of how the client work, you know, refactored it a bit, cleaned it up, made it a little more general and released it. Yeah, yeah, that's, and that's one of the benefits and we will talk about this in the next episode. And the benefits of, of using WordPress, which is, you know, always a hot topic amongst developers, whether or not you should use WordPress or even just, you know, what framework should I learn, what framework should I start out with. But this has been really enlightening, really interesting to see the similarities between my life and you guys. And I'm sure that there are other developers or even couples listening to this episode that are seeing similarities as well. So thank you for sharing all of that with Developer Tea and with me. Got a problem. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea. I hope you enjoyed this first part of the interview with Brianna and Andrew. Make sure you tune in for the second part of the interview. If you have not yet had a chance to do this, I would really appreciate if you would vote for Developer Tea and the 16th annual net awards. You can either go to netawards.com and see everybody who is in the net awards or you can go directly to vote for Developer Teaby going to Bitly. That's b-i-t dot l-y slash vote T, v-o-t-e T-e-a. All of that is lowercase and of course it will be in the show notes on DeveloperTea.com. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you have any questions or comments, you can always reach me at developertea@gmail.com. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, enjoy your tea.