[Live Training Series] RUN YOUR AGENCY LIKE A PRO

Kevin Menzie of Slice of Lime is Making User Experience a Successful Agency Model

Founder and CEO of Slice of Lime, based in Boulder and Denver, Kevin Menzie sits down with me to discuss his agency’s growth, the startup community, and his social way of finding talent.

Kevin started Slice of Lime in 2001, originally focusing on mobile applications–yes, mobile apps in 2001. However, shortly after, he moved back to traditional web design focusing on user experience. After touring us around their headquarters in the center of Boulder, Colorado, just off of Pearl Street, and their second location in the heart of the Denver-based entrepreneurial hub that is the Galvanize workspace, we sat down to talk about what brought Slice of Lime to where they are today.

You can find more information about Kevin Menzie and Slice of Lime by visiting their blog and following them on Facebook and Twitter.

Video Transcript

Brent: I’m Brent Weaver and you’re watching gurus, the most watched web series to become a more profitable and in demand web professional. Today I’m here at Slice of Lime with Kevin Menzie, their CEO and founder. Welcome to the program.

Kevin: Thanks.

Brent: So, Kevin what’s your background? How did you get into this business?

Well, so I studied animation, they didn’t have, or I guess the web was, kind of, just becoming a thing when I was in college. So, I wanted to go work for Pixar and it’s interesting the parallels there, because you know, what we do now is a lot about storytelling and also mixing technology into that. So, it sort of makes sense in a way, if you look at it the right way that I’m doing this now.

But, that was the beginning and from there just, kind of, got sucked into the web world. I worked at an agency called Moto Media, which was one of the first web agencies; it was just kind of doing web only. And eventually moved to Boulder, skipped around to a couple of different agencies here and then got swept up into the start-up scene. So, that’s where I met my business partner actually. We worked at a company called WorldPrints.com that started in a, it’s kind of the quintessential start-up story where you’re, kind of, in a garage and your computers are up on boxes with water, kind of, coming into a drain in the middle of the room. And in a year it was up to about 80- something people and it sold to Excite. If you remember Excite for $85 million dollars and so we were all like, “We’re rich.” And then Excite tanked and we’re like, “Hey, we don’t need more money.”

So, there’s a couple of more stops along the way before Slice of Lime but basically started Slice of Lime around the time that the bubble burst. It was, kind of, awkward time to start a company but that was the beginning and initially it was focused on mobile applications, and that was 13 years ago.

Brent: And this was in 2000…

Kevin: 2001. Yeah. So.

Brent: What was a mobile application in 2001?

Kevin: So, there’s the WAP phones and pocket PC’s and Palm Pilots and so we had a couple apps and the one that was popular was called you’ve got snow. So, it delivered the ski report, the snow report to your different devices. It was fun but it was way way too early to be doing anything, like, we were talking to all of the carriers. They didn’t have any idea about how to monetize any of that stuff so we, sort of, fell back into web design which was what we knew and that’s how we started really building a business.

Brent: So, you started a little early mobile moved into web design. What does Slice of Lime do now?

Kevin: So, 13 years is a long time in internet years, so a lot has changed in the industry in that time and we’ve evolved to user experience design. So, what that means is the user experience strategy, like really thinking about the end user and engaging with end users, like really observing how they use a product and gleaning insights from those observations to help affect the overall user experience. And then the user interface design that kind of gets built on top of that foundation. And that work can be applied to lots of things, so we do, you know, everything from marketing sites, to web apps, mobile apps and more recently more Internet of Things type work which I think is really interesting.

Brent: So, when I think of website design I think of kind of, this holistic view of this whole project from end to end. It seems like you guys are now focusing on a very specific piece of that project. How does that work differ than just traditional web design?

Kevin: Yeah, so one of the things that we noticed I’d say maybe three or four years ago, the web or websites began to shift from just getting a message out to also include, you know, getting stuff done. Whether that’s for business, or for fun, and therefore the code behind that became much more complex. And so, we were kind of hanging on to the back end programming piece for awhile until it got to this point where we’re like, “You know, we’re not really that passionate about back end programming,” and two, we started to observe that half the time our clients already had that capability. They had a bunch of really talented developers that they needed us to, kind of, interact with. And the other half the time it makes sense for us to just partner with one of the many, you know, really talented web agencies that are in the area.

So, we do a lot of work with Pivotal Apps, for example. Basically companies that really thrive off of creating great code and just love that whole world. So, our strategy has been to focus on the stuff that we’re awesome at and passionate about which is the UX strategy UI design. And then create these nice partnerships or at least a process that’s very fine tuned to work very well with developers. So, we’ve observed a lot in terms of how, you know, the developers like to work and really try to mirror their process.

So in the UI/UX world we’ve really adopted more of an agile methodology in the way that we approach projects. We’ll work in weekly sprints, do daily standups, iteration planning, all these things that are really familiar to most development teams. Like even the deliver bowls that we give developers from the wire frames, for example, that we create. A lot of times we’ll use like Twitter boot strap elements. So, when we pass that off, the developers will be able to understand that language and essentially program in tandem to our work so there is a lot of efficiencies gained. And when developers hear about the way that we work, they usually have a smile on their face because they’re like, “finally, there’s this creative agency that really understands how we work,” and they happily, kind of, let us come in and really be a part of the team.

Brent: So, over the 13 year history, kind of, finding your way, finding what really works for Slice of Lime, now that you’ve kind of, found your, I’m not going to call it necessarily a niche but your ideal project, how has that changed the business? I mean, have you guys found that focusing on that one element has helped you scale up or grow, or any challenges there?

Kevin: It’s been really, really great so a lot of great things come from focus. I think. There’s some years in there where we were just kind of, doing whatever. You know, as long as it was related to websites we would do it. And in more recent years with the focus on UX and UI and basically saying no to everything else, we’ve now known, well who to hire so it’s a lot easier to find the right people for the team.

And we also, I think I described earlier, by focusing on, the way that we staff the projects is we’ll focus two UX designers at a time on one project. So, not only is their focus on the service but there’s also focus that’s created internally in terms of what you’re working on. So, there’s just one project that you’re thinking about at a time which has made everyone here a lot happier because they don’t have to juggle a lot of different things in their head. Basically consumed with that one project, dreaming about that project.

Brent: I’m just thinking about my days at Hot Press where we maybe had 40 projects on the board that was managed by a couple of teams and everybody’s just, like, got the plate spinning and trying to keep them all without falling on the ground.

Kevin: Yeah, and it’s you know, it’s worked really well for us. And we’ve seen it in terms of company growth. You know, 2 years ago we were at 5 or 6 people and now we’re at 20. So, the benefits of focus are pretty clear to us. I’d say the only challenge has been, you know, percentage-wise, that amount of growth in a short amount of time is something that we’re still figuring out because there is a lot of new things that get introduced in terms of just managing the company and figuring that out in a relatively short amount of time compared to the duration of time that the company has been around.

Brent: The thing I want to hone in there is, you know, in web, there’s almost this curse of, “Everyone can be my client and I can do anything.” Like, you can work with anybody really, and you can do all sorts of stuff from full websites, mobile apps, microsites, hosted systems, all these things that you could potentially do. You know, people start out their like, “I just want to do everything.” I want to take any business I can, I want to, it’s almost that mentality like scarcity. You don’t think another product is going to come so you don’t want to focus, you just want to, like, keep the door wide open. But it almost works in reverse of that.

Kevin: I think so. I think that when you’re talking I’m picturing like the universe expanding, which it is. You know, like, when we started, I brought on Jeff, my business partner, one of the first things we did was write down everything that we could do between the two of us and it was a pretty it was a long list and it was kind of a random list. We could do 3D animation, and we could do kiosk work and stuff like that. And we’re like okay, we can’t tell the world that we do all these things we can’t put this on our website because no one is going to believe that we’re great at all of these things. And we probably weren’t.

Brent: And you see websites with the service list of, here’s the services that I can offer, pick from the menu or do them all.

Kevin: Right. So, even back then we had the instinct to just, okay, let’s pick a few of these things and you know, focus. But what happened over time is that that universe expanded. That what is included in website work has really expanded. Even the UX world has expanded immensely so as that expansion happens, we continue to zero in on more the micro level, like, what are the things now that we’re going to focus on because you can’t keep saying that you do it all.

Even like, the website world, you know, we started to find ourselves doing, like, Facebook apps, and you know, email campaigns, and search engine optimization, and Google Analytics and, like, there’s just, like more and more and more that’s always getting added on to these things that we thought were once defined so, you know, I would predict in another couple of years we’re still going to probably zero in even more because it just keeps getting bigger.

Brent: Who’s an ideal customer for Slice of Lime?

Kevin: Well, we have, I don’t want to put them in these two distinct buckets necessarily, but there’s the funded startup that is really excited for us to work with, so, the company that’s gotten X million dollars in funding and they’re ready to build wither their MBP or they have an app and they want to improve that user experience. We’re fine-tuned to work really well with those teams because they tend to work pretty fast and we’re accustomed to working very fast. They also really respect these days the value of good user experience. So, they really want to hear what we have to say. So, a company that’s collaborative, that’s willing to just pivot, so to speak, like, try new things, that’s really fun for us.

We’ve also really enjoyed connecting with larger enterprise level companies that essentially are trying to behave like what I just described. So, they may be a little slower moving they’ve been around longer, but they’re looking over at the lean start-up and wondering, “Well, how do we do that?” And so, they’ll connect with us to kind of, bring them through that same process. But, the fun part, one of the fun parts about those types of companies is that there’s more to work with. There’s usually a bigger budget and maybe more exciting than that, there’s already this user base that you can really leverage and do some interesting things in terms of user experience with.

So, you know, one client that’s really a good example of that is MapQuest, where you know, we’re able to day one have an audience of millions of people and also tap into you know, other entities that AOL is connected to to kind of, promote what we were doing. So, there was a lot of things there that are unique compared to like a startup that might not have those connections yet.

Brent: So, funded startups, potential large enterprises that want to grab onto those startup traits, startup qualities, so how do you guys get in front of those clients on a regular basis.

Kevin: Well, you know, the same techniques work the duration of the company although we’re trying some unique things now, so word of mouth continues to be the number one way that we’re getting business, which is a funny thing. I kind of have relaxed into that idea that that’s going to keep happening since it’s been 13 years now but it’s sort of an unsettling thing to rely on too because you know, what if people stop talking to each other about Slice of Lime? And so, to continue the word of mouth, you have to keep doing really great work. And so far, you know, we’ve done a great job of that throughout the life of the company.

The other things that we do to kind of, nurture that is we’re very involved in the community, so pretty much maybe since the beginning we’ve been getting involved, in lots of start-up related activities, as well as, like, venture capital activities, which has, kind of, been an interesting strategy, I think. You know, we sponsor for example, we’ve been sponsoring TechStars since day one, Boulder Startup Week, Denver Startup Week, Venture Capital in the Rockies Startup Weekend, like, all these things that really over time and I should add, not only sponsoring but also participating, like, talking on panels and mentoring and stuff like that. Over time that’s just created this awareness in a positive way about Slice of Lime, and I think that just, kind of, leads back to the word of mouth.

In more recent stuff, I think as we’re looking ahead we’re just starting to be more proactive about engaging through different organizations like CTA, Built in Colorado, EO, just to connect with, you know, those enterprise level companies, that aren’t in those circles with the startups, so.

Brent: Did you guys sit down and say, we’re going after start-ups so here’s a list of events that we want to attend or be at or was it again, kind of, more back that word of mouth that organic like, “Hey, I got invited to this event, this feels good. Let’s do more of this.”

Kevin: Yeah, it’s sort of more, it’s sort of more happenstance although we did have this loose idea of, like, hey, you know we’re friends with the Foundry Guys and we’re going to do their website and maybe do it for free, or cheap and hopefully that, kind of, leads to something. And in terms of the organizations that we’re sponsoring it was a little bit more casual, like you know, you hear about it and I think initially we were getting asked if we wanted to sponsor stuff. We weren’t, like, going after stuff.

Brent: When you say sponsor, do you mean, like, do some free work, or like, here’s ten grand?

Kevin: In recent years we’ve been doing both, so we’ll put money into something like Boulder Startup week or Denver Startup week. Earlier on it was more work, like just doing trade. So, Techstars for example, that first year we did their website in exchange for sponsorship. And we’ve continued to do that more or less I think it’s changed, kind of, year to year but and we continue to do both.

Like, so were in the process of doing a site for Boulder Startup Week, kind of, redoing all of that, putting the UX and UI of, like, the events which is, kind of, one of the tougher parts of the site today. There’s so much going on that week that you know, to kind of, try to visualize how you’re week’s going to go is a challenge. So, we’re just lending our time to that in exchange for sponsorship. So, it’s a combo I guess.

Brent: So, when work starts picking up, obviously going from 5 people to 20 people, you’ve got to figure out how to hire people which usually starts with finding great talent. How do you approach that?

Kevin: Identifying new hires? That’s one of my favorite topics. It’s hard because we’re selective. We’ve learned through the years that being, moving too quick on a hire that you kind of, have it in your gut you’re not quite sure yet, is a bad idea. So, really we spend time making sure that there’s a culture fit; there’s talent and that the person is just a cool person. Identifying those people is challenging, especially now, the UX/UI world is really hot so most people are employed somewhere.

Ways that we, kind of, get on people’s radar are through other events that we hosted are more tailored towards them so we host, like, a UX webinar series that, kind of, brings people into Slice of Lime and we get to meet them that way. We pay a lot of attention to who’s engaging with us on Twitter and other social media, because that’s, kind of, a good indicator of who’s paying attention. So when there’s people that follow us, we always check them out and if they seem like an interesting candidate we’ll just, kind of, ask what their deal is and if they might be interested in talking.

Brent: And that’s, kind of, versus the, kind of, “Lets put a job posting out there and get a bunch of resumes.”

Kevin: Yeah, I mean, we do the job posts but the problem there is there’s a lot of, we actually this year we’ve probably gotten, like, 500 applicants through the job posting that we have for various positions. So, there’s more work there because it’s not as curated, it s just, kind of, everybody coming in. And there’s also a problem with the definition of UX, so we get a really wide range of great people. And I’m so happy that they’re applying because it’s flattering that people are interested but UX means different things to different people. So sometimes you’re just, right off, not a fit because they’re definition is different than what we’re talking about.

Brent: It’s such a new topic, an area of expertise, that it seems like it’s still being defined.

Kevin: Yeah, it is. It’s kind of, we have to do that, like, in basically our sales process is kind of, further define it as we’re describing it because it really does, it’s a pretty loose term right now. And I’ve noticed all agencies doing that. It’s like this is what we mean by UX design. So, those are just some ways.

We actually not that we wouldn’t do this in the future but we stopped using placement agencies a long time ago. We actually got a couple great people in the beginning, that they’re still here through placement agencies, but that year, I think, we were either maybe not profitable or like break even and we were just looking at the expense of the placement agent. And they’ll take you know, 15, 20 percent of the salary so that really a huge, it’s a pretty huge investment.

So, at our size, I think, we’re still small enough to, you know, warrant, you know, me and maybe now some other people, spending our own time identifying those people versus paying somebody. And I’d say the last way we get people is now, as we grow, it’s, sort of, a snowball effect. So, every new person has their own network of, you know, good people that they know and that’s the best. Because, they’re basically, you’ve already vetted this person that’s working at Slice of Lime and you trust their judgment sand they’re basically telling you these people are good, you should hire them.

Brent: Going from 5 people to 20 in a couple of years, how are you guys managing growth? Like, what are the top challenges that you face in that trajectory and how are you overcoming them?

Kevin: Yeah, so, and to add to that we’ve added a second office, so that’s another, kind of, wrench in there which I think overall is a positive thing. But, you know, there’s been some things that we’ve been introducing, and there’s different way to answer that question. So on a like a person to person level we’ve started to put things in place around reviews just to kind of stay in sync with employees in terms of how they’re feeling, where they want to grow, how we can support them in terms of getting there and having that be not, like, a yearly conversation but a more regular conversation.

Brent: So, when you say regular are you talking about, like, weekly, monthly, quarterly reviews?

Kevin: So, we have right it’s set up as official reviews is every 6 months but then there’s regular, you know, check-ins that are more casual so it’s not necessarily weekly, but it’s maybe monthly. Or just talking about how they’re doing and you know, for example, there’s conferences that people bring up to us and say, “You know, I think this will help me get towards that goal that we talked about, what do you guys think of supporting me there?” And we’ll talk that through and.

Brent: Is that something that you facilitate the more informal reviews or is that something that peer review is, how is that structured?

Kevin: So, the formal reviews, that’s something that we’re, right now it’s us controlling that but it’s a conversation so there, we’re not quite doing the 360 reviews yet but there’s a self assessment that you do and then we also, kind of, collect feedback on how we’re doing as well. So, when we actually do the review, it’s more like, you know, them, self assessing, us comparing that to our assessment, and then also the conversation about just, you know, how are we doing to support them? So, in some ways it’s 360ish but we haven’t quite opened it up to like, full peer reviews of each other yet. But just introducing that, that’s huge because it’s being a little bit more organized about making sure everyone is thriving here.

You know, we were able to do that casually when we were at five people because we were all, kind of, in each others business, but, you know, we were sensing as we grow, that it’s going to, you know, if we don’t organize it, we’re going to lose sight of people, which we really don’t want to do. So, that’s one thing.

On the management level of the office we finally just hired an office manager. There’s an unending amount of stuff that especially with two offices, that ‘s going on from the paint that we just finished in the office, we’re trying to get a permit for a sign outside, which has been like a six month long process so far and it’s not over yet. And there’s like piled papers this big.

Brent: Are you guys doing, like, a neon blinking sign out there?

Kevin: No, it’s just a process. There’s a certain mount of time that the city needs and it costs money.

Brent: This is Boulder, by the way, so.

Kevin: Yeah, yeah, and unfortunately there’s a lot of, you know, their heads are somewhere else because of the flood so there’s, you know, we’re kind of, and that’s fine, we’re lower down on the priority list there. Let’s see, yeah, so there’s kind of, those admin day to day tasks that have really built up. Personally, I’ve found that as we’ve grown, I need to actually schedule time to work on the business. And just have that time for myself and just shut off everything else and think about really the things that I consider to be my job which is to set the vision of the company, set business goals, and really drive things forward. If I don’t carve out that time, you know, the day just kind of consumes you. So, I get that work done and then I kind of turn myself over to the rest of the day, which is interacting with people here and also interacting with clients.

Brent: So, that’s a daily practice, of business vision, business goals, working on the business.

Kevin: And it’s just like an hour or two. But you know, five hours at least a week at least doing that is great. And it, for awhile it, kind of, just disappeared because we were just, kind of, like, oh my gosh, there’s all these things to do all the time. It’s easy to just get caught up in email. And my wife would get frustrated because I would come home and say, “I didn’t do anything today.” Because it didn’t feel like I did. I did a lot but I didn’t do the stuff I felt like I should’ve been doing. So, literally like putting something on the calendar that people can’t schedule over is the way that I’ve done that.

Brent: Kind of, planning for the time so instead of just dong it when you have the extra time, carving that time out ahead of time.

Kevin: Right and being as diligent as I can about that, so even if a client is trying to set a meeting, I’ll try to schedule it around the time that I blocked off. If I can’t do that, I’ll just move my time block somewhere else in the day. But, yeah, so, it’s a few things.

Brent: So, how have you seen your role change over that period of time, like CEO of 5 people, CEO of 20 people. I mean, I think, you mentioned some of the things that you do now in terms of, like, business planning but you know, how has your perspective changed?

Kevin: Yeah, so that journey has been interesting. In the beginning it was just me. So I was doing the design, and doing the strategy, doing the coding, teaching myself code and then, you know, brought on a business partner, brought on more and more people. There was this turning point where I was, kind of, thrashing about because I was basically letting go of creative work at Slice of Lime. Meaning, like, the actual client, like, design work and strategy work and really turning it over to the team. And that was really tough because at my core I’m a creative person and the idea of spending my day in SalesForce and Excel and Word was difficult.

What’s made that better for me, so that’s the kind of work I do now, but the thing that actually makes it exciting and fun is setting goals. So, we’ve, you know, as of, it sounds like the simplest thing but as of two years ago we really started to set goals for the company and say, let’s stop looking at the burn rate, you know, how much money we’re spending because we were always looking at that number and then we’d end the year and say, “Why are we kind of breaking even.” Because that’s the only number we were thinking about.

Brent: Make enough to cover bills.

Kevin: Yeah, and then we’d honestly be like, “Why does that keep happening every year?” And so, we’ve set goals for a certain profit margin and then that’s led to strategy around, well what can we do to make that happen, who do we need to hire, all kinds of things. And for me, like, creatively reaching those goals is really, really motivating and exciting. So, even though my tools now are SalesForce, KeyNote, you know these things that are business tools basically.

Brent: So, you went from PhotoShop to Sales Force, which is like.

Kevin: Yeah Keynote is the most creative I get these days, you should see my transitions, they’re really great. But, yeah, that’s the kind of work I do but I love it. Because there’s a purpose to it. There’s a focus to the company. Everyone in the company is aligned with what we’re doing and I’m out there, you know, trying to make it happen as it’s happening. You’re like, okay, this is really fun because your goal is being realized, so that’s kind of, the long answer but that’s the arc that I’ve taken from creative guy to more business guy.

Brent: Now, in terms of daily practices, you mentioned one which is making more time to work on the business, which I find that’s very interesting that that is a daily practice because I think a lot of people do it in their spare time, do it on a Saturday. Do it from 10:00 pm to midnight. But are there any other practices that you would say got you to where you are today?

Kevin: I guess, to touch on that creativity part, you know, I’ve needed to stay true to that part of myself so there is creativity in business but I can’t deny that, you know, there still needs to be that outlet. So, one of the things that, I don’t know if you call it a practice, because it just kind of happens, but finding creative outlets in other ways. And for me, most of that is my two daughters and just getting on the floor and playing with lately dollhouses. But, train set, painting, arts and craft stuff that is like a constant source of creativity, coming up with stories. I’ve written a children’s book for them and so, it’s more the practice of reminding yourself, hey, this is something that gives you lot of just joy and energy.

That is a big part of you; make sure you’re still doing that. And so that’s something I’ve paid a lot of attention to. And it’s taken different forms through the years but as I kind of let go of that at the company I’ve tried to find other ways to keep the creative juices flowing.

Brent: What would you say over your 13, 14, year tenure in web that you’ve learned that other web professionals should learn?

Kevin: So I’d say for me, the first thing that comes to mind is people skills. So, there, you know, I’ve seen a variety of companies approach to you know, especially clients in different ways, I attribute our success in large part to just personality. So, you know, just being happy, being giving to the community, giving to clients, even if they’re not going to be a fit, we meet with just about everybody if they wanted to grab coffee, sure. We’re giving you feedback on your idea. So, just, kind of, being an open friendly person.

I know that sounds like really light in terms of advice, but it’s especially here it’s like a super small community, so you can thrive just by being, you know, friendly and showing up at stuff. And you can really sink if you have a bad attitude and you’re not fun to be around. So, it’s kind of a simple thing and we’ve, you know, in terms of the people we hire, we’re looking for that first. So, in our first interviews with people, I mean, we kind of, we look at their work, and we’re like okay, their work is good but let’s just get them in front of us for, and it’s really that interview is the first ten minutes. Like, how does this person feel to talk to? You know, do we want to hang out with this person? Does our client want to interact with this person? Because it’s all about the interpersonal stuff.

So, for me in the beginning that was really hard. So, if you’re, like, starting a company, you may be hearing what I’m saying and be like well I’m not Mr. Outgoing, Type A person. And for me it was super hard because I wasn’t either. I’m not sure I am now, but I’d show up to these schmooze events and I’d literally just sit in the car and crank the music and be like, “Yeah, come one. Let’s do this.” Because it was just me and I was pretty insecure and, but I knew in order for this to happen I needed to actually interact with people. And so, those first get-togethers I’d be with a, you know, you’d show up at this thing and you wouldn’t know anyone and there would be groups of people talking to each other and kind of, just, kind of, get next to a group and when they laughed, you were like, “Ha ha ha, anyways, hey.” And try to like, try to…

Brent: Just jump right into that awkwardness.

Kevin: Totally awkward, it was so, and I was exhausted at the end of those because it was so, like, so hard. But then, and I think even more so now than back then, you quickly get assimilated into a very embracing community and so just working it and being friendly and being willing to, you know, kind of, just getting over that fear, I think is, that will do you wonders. And people will give you a shot, and then you have to be good. But people will kind of, let you in.

Brent: Don’t like open with like a pitch.

Kevin: No. Yeah, I mean, that’s another thing. It’s you know, in terms of interacting we just try to get people talking about themselves and then if they want to know about Slice of Lime, then they’ll ask. But, that’s usually how we approach people.

Brent: I love the concept of just, kind of, giving a lot. That kind of idea of I call it, kind of, the abundance mindset versus the scarcity mindset where you feel comfortable sharing ideas and sharing thoughts and feelings about whatever and not sitting here thinking to yourself, “This is my proprietary secret, I don’t want to tell you my idea.” I mean, you see that a lot in the startup culture where, you know, a lot of the VC’s will say talk about your idea, put it out there, shine some light on it and stuff like that. But when we first started sharing our information people came to me and said, “Why are you telling people how to sell websites? Or “Why are you telling people how to manage products?” And I was just, kind of, like, well, I don’t know, because it’s going to make me better or it’s going to make them better or somehow we’ll come out more valuable in the end.

Kevin: And I, kind of, have a slight variation on the way I think about that. Which is, I’m not all about, like, on our blog, if you look at that or the workshop I was describing, I’m not so much about getting information out there for the sake of our competitors. And it is, I mean, competition wise the agencies all know each other and are all pretty friendly with one another and actually I think they, I don’t know if they’re still doing this, maybe I got uninvited but there’s a group that gets together for lunch and just all the agency people and we just, kind of, share stories so it’s very friendly but back to what I was saying. Our content and our involvement in the community is more about companies that we may work with someday.

So the level that we’re writing a blog post on for example is approachable by both a potential new employee, but really like a client so they can kind of understand our world. Oh, this is what, this is interesting, now I kind of understand a little bit more about what UX strategy means, this confusing term I’ve been hearing. Versus us really trying to share some secret sauce with you know, one of our direct competitors, which maybe that happens a little but it’s, I don’t think about that as much I guess.

Brent: Sure, so what trends are you and Slice of Lime following right now, what do you guys think web as it pertains to you is headed? What are the big trends you’re following?

Kevin: Yeah, so the one that we’re really focused on right now is Internet of Things and our feeling is that as more and more of the objects around us are connected to the internet; that our definition of user experience design will move from us just thinking about, you know, the desktop, you know, browser or the mobile phone, or iPad or whatever to really, the full human experience to everything around us. So, that really broadens the scope of work that I think we can be doing in the coming years. I think we’ll still live in this digital realm.

But you know, the fact that, you know, Internet of Things is basically here and is projected to grow immensely, I think, I’d like to be a part of that because I think it’s super cool and I think that our process really applies to that kind of work too. And we’re already doing that now, so we’ve gotten to work with cool clients like GeoPals, Sphero, as well as like a large home-automation company that’s local. So, that’s where I’m predicting that we’ll be spending more time.

I’d also say we’re seeing a lot of, like, work with big data, so more and more of our work these days is B to B visualization of data, so like dashboards and other sorts of tools to really handle all this information that’s coming at us. And that is kind of connected to Internet of Things in the sense that more and more objects are gong to be collecting data and that needs to be sorted through somehow. So, there’s sort of a crossover there, but I’d say those are the two things.

Brent: It’s definitely, I mean, big potential markets, applications, is Slice of Lime going to be a hundred employees in two years, or what’s your kind of, idea , of where the company is going to be headed?

Kevin: Yeah, so we’ve for a long time, we’ve just had a vision of about 30 to 40. We really probably like a lot of companies you talk to, there’s not this official business plan, so we’re kind of, feeling our way through. You know, that feels like a good goal right now though in the next couple of years anyways. But stuff is always changing and really I’d say our strategy right now is to just lean into it, like, really go for the stuff that we’re interested in. And in the last couple of years that’s meant, you know, aggressively going after projects and hiring to support that and, you know, I think we’ll see more of that in the next couple of years.

But in terms of the specific amount of people, I don’t know. I think a 100 person company is a lot different than, you know, a 30, 40 person company. I could totally envision that 40 person agency though in a couple of years, which would be pretty fun.

Brent: Very cool. Well, best of luck to you guys on your journey. We’ll make sure to link out to Slice of Lime’s website as well as your Twitter accounts and make sure that people know where to follow you and find out more information and hopefully we’ll be able to check in with you guys some time soon.

Kevin: Cool, thanks

Brent: All right. Well stay tuned for more great content from uGurus.com

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