DBJ Recognizes Limina as a 2020 Small Business Award Finalist

by Jon Fukuda


Denver Business Journal’s 2020 Small Business Awards are happening during an unprecedented time in our lives — and this year’s finalists depict Colorado’s diverse community of small but mighty businesses facing the Covid-19 crisis.

Small businesses are truly the engine of Colorado’s $362 billion economy: According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 99.5% of Colorado businesses are small businesses, employing more than a million people.

Limina is honored to be part of this select group of businesses.

Because of the coronavirus, the Denver Business Journal (DBJ) took a slightly different approach to the awards, focusing on how the finalists are dealing with the fallout from the pandemic. Below are the questions the editor posed to us and our responses. The Q&A is also published by the DBJ.


Q: Tell us generally about how life has been for Limina since the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home orders went into effect.

A: To maximize the health and wellness of the Limina team, and our customers, vendors, and collaborators during the COVID-19 crisis, we shifted to a 100% remote collaboration model in mid-March. We have a year-round flexible work policy so all of our team members are equipped to work productively from home. However, it was an adjustment to work from home all the time. 

As we transitioned to this new way of working together, our team started off with daily 15-minute standups via video conference. After the first week, the standups became repetitive, but the ritual of getting together and theming the sessions with things like “dress head to toe in your favorite color” or “tell us your favorite movie and why” took us in a new direction..

Now we are using the time for 30-minute brown-bags sessions, sharing everything from “what innovations and opportunities for new processes, products, systems, designs are coming out of these COVID-19 times” to “how we used Sketch and AirTable to systematically implement a scalable atomic design system for one of our clients.” Our entire team is leaning in and celebrating our collective and individual contributions. This type of community building was present before COVID-19, but it was more nuanced. Now there’s a bright light on this platform for crystalizing our culture, celebrating our diversity, and championing each other’s work. It’s been eye-opening and game-changing for us. As a co-founder, I couldn’t be more proud of how this time of adversity has stimulated our creativity and sense of community.

Q: Limina focuses on “human-centered design.” How is that vision changing as the way humans interact shifts rapidly in light of the virus?

A: Human-centered design is even more important now with the COVID-19 virus, as the majority of our interactions and transactions are taking place online. It seems that everywhere you look, social distancing, lockdown, and other COVID-related challenges are generating new normals that we are adopting and adapting to as we move forward.

Out of necessity, people who are not familiar with technology are being required to use digital services — from remote education and telehealth to online grocery shopping and banking. As organizations design new applications and enhance existing ones, it’s critically important to keep in mind the needs of everyday people using those services and the context in which they are using them. This will require user research, product prototyping and extensive user testing to ensure products and services are intuitive and easy to use.

Q: Did you apply for a PPP loan? Were you successful? If you went a different route (tax deferral, for example), tell us about it.

A: We initially applied for a PPP loan with our bank, Chase, but the government funds were depleted before our application was accepted. As a next step, we’ve applied for a PPP at First Bank, as they do not require being a member to have the loan through them. We’re looking to see where else we can apply for a loan. 

UPDATE: We want to thank all members of the Longmont branch of High Plains Bank for processing our PPP with such speed.  As usability specialists, we took special note of how well High Plains facilitates customer interactions online.  We’re so grateful for how well the HPB staff has worked with our team during these difficult times.

Q: Have you applied for any other grants or loans through the state, city or other resources? Were you successful? Either way, what did you apply for and how did it turn out? (Put “NA” if not applicable)

A: We’re in the process of determining where else to apply for funds.

Q: What big moves have you had to delay, rethink or cancel as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?

A: As a services business that operates with a 25% remote workforce model, we have not had to delay or cancel any planned activities. We are thinking through our finances carefully and conservatively as a couple of client projects have been delayed

Q: How prepared were you for this crisis? What did you do to be in that position?

A: Operationally, we were prepared for this crisis in a couple of ways. First, we had made a conscious effort over the past two years to diversify our client base as a way to mitigate the risk of having too many clients in the same sector that could be affected by a similar change in the market. Second, our remote collaboration model gave us a leg up during the early stages of the lockdown. 

Our biggest concern was that our employees stayed healthy and safe. Everything else was secondary. Next in line was making sure that our customers understood that our remote collaboration model would have zero impact on our ongoing project work. We’ve also been offering assistance to businesses by opening up our proprietary remote collaboration tools to help them work more productively and collaboratively. We are now testing our tools with our customers and getting great feedback!

Q: What are the top two or three ways you’ve had to adapt to this crisis? That could be employee-communication, remote work, curbside pickup/online ordering/adjusting delivery-receivable methods or really anything else.

A: Working remotely 100% of the time is the number one way we’ve had to adjust our business. Before COVID-19, we offered flexible work schedules allowing all Limina employees to work from home Mondays and Fridays.

Valuing and fostering creativity and collaboration has been a part of our culture. We don’t let things like distance or time zones affect how or if we collaborate. Because of this, our team members are familiar with remote collaboration tools such as Slack, GoToMeeting, and Google that allow us to do great work even when we’re not in the same location.

Q: What’s the most painful move you’ve had to make in the face of the crisis?

A: The most painful part of managing through this crisis as a small business is financially planning for the unknown.

UPDATE: Like most businesses struggling with cost-cutting measures through this period, we had Q1 projections that showed the opportunity for 2020 to be a major growth year for Limina.  While we have not canceled these plans, they have definitely been pushed out until market corrections take shape.  Making those adjustments we less painful than they were just a bitter pill to swallow.

Q: You had seven employees at the time of nomination. What’s your employee count now?

A:Ten

Q. How permanent do you think the changes you’ve made will be?

A: We hope to resume working together in the office as soon as it’s safe to do so. We’re a social and fun group and we miss our daily office interactions. One big permanent change we plan to continue is celebrating our successes and giving space to share the diversity and wealth of our collective knowledge. We’ve been using our standups to show-and-tell, and brown-bag topics to have general discussions about ideas, innovations and creative opportunities to help us adapt as remote collaborators.

 

Q.  Tell us something positive! What’s a story of resiliency or a glimmer of hope you’ve witnessed?

A: Observing teachers and students as they navigate new online curriculum and lesson models, the ingenuity of at-home DIY mask makers, and the agility of manufacturers who have pivoted their production lines to make PPE and ventilators. We’re all getting creative! 

This is a rare time in human history where our usual stratification of attention, passions, and points of view have become focused on a narrow set of common issues. The possibilities that lie ahead are inspiring, with the massive diversity of experience and expertise focused on establishing adaptive behavioral changes, innovative processes, tools, and patterns that allow for the collective benefit of people locally and across the globe.  

I’ve always said jokingly that if the amount of brainpower, money, energy, and resources that are typically spent in support of our love for football were put towards solving healthcare, homelessness, income inequality, pollution, corruption, you name it… it would be done, just like that.  

The time is now for Humanity’s Super Bowl. All eyes, hearts, minds, and creative energy are focused on a narrow set of issues. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to imagine and design for a new normal beyond COVID-19. We have the opportunity to change what we work on today, to usher in a future that we can all benefit from in the future.

 

Q.  What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through this crisis? How have you implemented it into your company’s day-to-day?

A:

Leading with empathy is essential. As a UX design and development consultancy, we often talk about designing complex technology applications with empathy for the people who will be using them. In these uncertain times, we’re showing empathy to ensure that our team members and customers are able to maintain their well-being, health and safety.

We’re opening team and customer meetings by asking how everyone is feeling, and acknowledging that this is an unprecedented and highly stressful and challenging time for all of us. Being human and authentic by openly sharing personal challenges or experiences, let’s everyone know that we’re in this together. 

Listening to how we can help each other is important too. For example, we listened to our employees need for the best remote collaboration set up. We were excited when one of our employees posted this on Instagram:

 

We’ve also learned how agile we can be as a team, quickly adapting and operationalizing our policies. Small is mighty! Our team remains productive and passionate contributors through these challenging times, and our business continues to be more than just a place to work, it provides us with a sense of purpose.

Q. What advice would you offer other executives in tech who are looking at a long recovery?

A: Businesses are on the hook to create new customer experiences that fit with the digital lifestyle we’re all becoming accustomed to since the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to change our “normal” way of life.

Now is the time to focus on the user experience of your digital products and services. 

In today’s rapidly evolving digital world, C-level executives are casting their view beyond the horizon to get a sense of what’s next post-pandemic. The digital tide is rolling onto the beach in the form of unexpected competition and rising customer expectations.

A new level of competition is being driven by retail and technology innovators like Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix, and Uber. Consumers now expect the same level of ease of use, personalization, and guidance they encounter from these innovative businesses. They are already using mobile apps to get a ride from Uber, have lunch delivered from GrubHub, and send payments to friends with Venmo. They’ll expect the same from your business. Let user experience and design be your new strategic weapon of choice.

Q. To what have you turned for relief, personally or as an office, through this tough time? A certain musician, artist, comedian, television series or movie? A story? A meme? An inspiring figure? Anything goes!

A: To get through this time Limina team members have been taking advantage of working from home and enjoying a wide variety of activities — ranging from walks in the Spring weather, exercising and cooking to spending time with the kids, house projects, and watching movies.