We talked to Ty Fujimura of Cantilever about the result oriented website, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ty Fujimura: We and our extended families have been healthy and safe, which is all we can ask for. Cantilever is a remote-first company, and so it has been a smooth transition to work 100% at home again. It is tricky to manage virtual schooling for our kids alongside work, but my wife and I are making the sacrifices we need to keep everything moving, and we’re making it!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Cantilever.
Ty Fujimura: I was a freelance web designer & developer, and I took on more work than I could handle myself. I hired some great people to help, and all of a sudden, I had an agency. We were a 3-5 person studio for most of our history where I was doing a lot of the design and development work myself. In the past few years, I took the leap to embrace growth in order to serve more and larger clients, and we have scaled now to 14 people across the US, Canada, and Denmark. It has been an unbelievable journey with people I deeply appreciate.
How does Cantilever innovate?
Ty Fujimura: We developed a framework called “Digital Hospitality” that is at the core of our work. This is the idea that websites are more like spaces than billboards. They are places that people inhabit and experience. Our job as artisans is to create comfortable and welcoming spaces and give people a reason to come back. This is an innovative, user-centric approach that has delivered amazing results for our clients.
In a broader sense, our mission is to create a new model for creative businesses. We see ourselves as the guinea pig of this new approach. We use tools like remote work, radical transparency, and asynchronous communication to operate in a way that surpasses client expectations while delivering a superior quality of life for our people.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ty Fujimura: We had two months with no new sales and had several promising projects cancel between March and April. We started to recover over the summer and quickly got busy again. Now at the end of the year, we have surpassed our revenue projections for the last few quarters. Since digital has obviously been top of mind for many businesses, it is a growth moment for companies in our space. We feel incredibly lucky and somewhat guilty because of how much harder the pandemic has been for most small businesses. We have stood with our clients throughout the pandemic to offer project and payment flexibility. We believe in our clients and their ability to weather this storm and come out stronger in the end.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ty Fujimura: We were continually within sight of requiring layoffs during the worst of the pandemic. As the leader, I kept the team informed with full transparency about our cash situation, opportunities to get financing, and so on. Ultimately we got enough business in during May and June that we stabilized and never had to lay anyone off.
The most difficult decisions we made were around our plans. We had to suspend a lot of what we wanted to do in Q2, such as opening an LA office and expanding our team. We had to make sacrifices to ensure the long-term safety of the company.
One thing I’ve learned in this and other situations is that people appreciate transparency. It’s easy to make up a narrative that represents your deepest fears. If leadership does not provide clarity on the status and direction, it is hard for people to combat those narratives in their own minds. I also have a lot of narratives around potential dangers and what might happen. I have to be mindful to be circumspect and consider all sides of a situation, so I don’t end up being too pessimistic myself.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Cantilever in the future?
Ty Fujimura: My main weapon is time management. I am very deliberate with what I devote time to (I also waste a bunch of time, don’t get me wrong, but at the least, I know what was wasted and think about how I can improve). I practice a life philosophy called Getting Things Done (GTD for short) and recommend that any knowledge worker at least get to know how it works. It seriously changed my life. Here is a talk I gave recently describing it and how it helps you stay sane amidst chaos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8ex4cB433s
Time management only matters if you do good things with the time you have. I always have to remind myself to do enough self-care. During quarantine, I have found that if I exercise for 30 minutes a day, it entirely changes the day. It doesn’t matter what the exercise is. And I have to get outside. It is often the time that feels empty that fills you the most.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ty Fujimura: The web design field is very broad, and we have competitors from large web-specific agencies to upstart shops and even startups who are creating neat no-code web design solutions. I mentioned that our mission is to develop a new way of doing creative work, more so than just making great websites. That mission means that we don’t think too much about specific competition because there is not much competition for what exactly we are trying to do. The companies that have similar ambitions, like Gitlab and Basecamp, are very open and willing to share their findings, as we are with anyone else. As no-code becomes a thing, we are transitioning to meet that need. We are starting to move into the mobile application space as well. We will continue to find wherever there is unmet demand for top-notch creative work done at a reasonable pace for a fair rate.
Your final thoughts?
Ty Fujimura: This website attracts a lot of people who are at the beginning stages of a journey. I commend people who start ambitious businesses and stick to it through thick and thin. The entrepreneur’s path is never the easiest option, but it has unique rewards. Stay strong!
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