Slice of Lime

Interactive agency/consultancy

What can others learn from the successes and failures of how your team was assembled and how it operates?: 

We've been in business for 13 years. In that span of time we've learned a few core things about what makes a great team member. In order of importance to us, these are:

  1. Culture fit. Our team is very collaborative with our clients, but also with each other. Being able to communicate well with the team and to share the same passion for the work we do (as well as always wanting to get better) is critical.
  2. Communication Skills. All of our team has a front-row seat with our clients. Everyone needs to be able to articulate and defend their ideas and also receive constructive feedback.
  3. Skill. Everyone at the company needs to be highly skilled at the work that they perform. When bringing on new people, we are looking to have those skills either already in place - or - the strong sense that those skills could be quickly learned once on our team.

Adhering to those 3 criteria has lead to team success. We've failed when we've let one of those 3 drop because we felt rushed to hire someone new. Waiting it out for the right hire has proven to always be the right move.

In addition to having the right team, Slice of Lime as a company needs to make sure that the team members are in an environment in which they can thrive. This environment is cultivated in the following ways:

1) Collaborative and Learning Environment

Our Boulder and Denver offices were selected based on layouts that will be conducive to collaboration. In fact, we spent $20,000 of our own money on modifying our Boulder office to create one, large work area.

Our desk layouts are also done in such a way as to allow people to work side by side. The idea is to allow people to bump into each other and discover what everyone is working on. This encourages feedback and also makes it easy to shout questions out to others as you're working.

Walls are covered with whiteboard paint so it's easy for people to sketch out ideas together.

We call ourselves a "teaching agency" (http://www.sliceoflime.com/teaching-agency/). This means that we make sure people are always learning from each other, but also through conferences, books, etc. We make sure everyone has materials to be successful, including whatever computing equipment they might need. Investments in this sort of thing always have an immediate return on investment, in our opinion.

2) Community Involvement

We've found great motivation and inspiration in connecting with the community around us. This has taken the form of sponsoring things like TEDxMileHigh, Boulder Startup Week, Denver Startup Week, Startup Weekend, Venture Capital in the Rockies, and a bunch of other organizations and events. We also speak on panels, host workshops, and have a live webinar series that we host at Galvanize in Denver. Giving back to the community creates a stronger sense of purpose on what Slice of Lime stands for for our team.

3) A rallying cry: Create Amazing Experiences

For a long time, we did not have a mantra at the company. I'd say this was a mistake. Starting out 13 years ago, we were just happy to take on any type of work. This led to short-term growth, but not a sustainable sense of what we stood for at Slice of Lime.

In more recent years, we've focused our service on just one thing: UX Design for Web Apps and Mobile Apps.

We dropped everything else.

We've championed the phrase "Create Amazing Experiences." This means three things for us:

  • Create amazing work. Our websites and web apps should be exceptional experiences for the end-user, be it a B2B or B2C website or app.
  • Create amazing client experiences. We want our clients to feel that their experience with us, our process, and our people, was amazing.
  • Create amazing experiences for ourselves. Coming to work every day should be awesome. Beyond the work environment, we've do lots of other things from small get togethers to big, over the top events like hanging out in the green room with Conan O'Brien, climbing a 14er together, and staying in a multi-million dollar log cabin for our holiday party. Here's a few examples:

http://www.sliceoflime.com/creating-our-own-amazing-experiences/

http://www.sliceoflime.com/amazing-team-experiences/

Creating amazing experiences for ourselves also includes flexibility in work hours and above average health care plans, for example.

What evidence supports your belief that your team is exceptionally effective?: 

Client feedback and our client's user's feedback are the two main benchmarks for us.

We conduct "retrospectives" with our clients about every week while working on a project to consistently check in on how they are feeling. We also do the same after a project is complete to get their overall impressions.

Additionally, we do user validation throughout a project and check-in with our client's on user feedback after the launch of a project.

These two data points are the best way to measure our success. The key is to not just check-in at the end of a project, but to do these check-ins throughout the course of a project as well.

What aspects of how your team is organized and/or how it operates have most influenced its success?: 

We have a relatively "flat" organization.

This means everyone has a voice and is expected to interact directly with the client.

It also means that everyone can help influence aspects of how the company operates. This could be a new idea on how to create a better experience for a client, how to better interact with the community, or how to influence our UX/UI process.

Creating that team-oriented operational environment has led to our success.

How does your team adapt to respond to changing requirements, projects, and clients?: 

We actually encourage that.

We're an agile team, so we set the expectation with our clients at the beginning of a project that, with the nature of how we work, things are bound to change.

Change typically comes about based on new ideas, new client priorities, what competitors are doing, what we're learning from customer interviews, and what we're seeing with our user validation work.

If nothing changed along the way, we'd find that more concerning than not.

How do you ensure your team remains successful even as members leave the team and new ones join?: 

We have a very low turn-over rate because of the culture we've described above.

However, when someone leaves, we always wish them the best on the next chapter of their careers and encourage them to stay in touch. Sometimes people come back to Slice of Lime after awhile.

In terms of how that effects projects, we staff our UX/UI projects with UX Designer "pairs." That means there are always two full-time people on a project. If someone leaves, there's always someone else that has a full understanding of the project and can get that new person up to speed.

As new people join the team, we have an on-boarding process. Those people visit both our offices and meet with each team member individually to learn more about the company. We typically will give them extra support on their first project to help them learn the Slice of Lime process.

How does your team manage its interactions with stakeholders and, where applicable, with other teams involved in the design and execution of products or services?: 

We're very collaborative, so we always embrace and encourage other people that want to be involved in the project to be present. Here's what we've found to be successful:

  1. One main point of contact ("Product Owner") for the project on the client side. Being clear on who "owns" the product and can make final decisions is very important.
  2. If other designers are involved on the client side, bring them in as soon as possible and discuss how we can best support them and include them in our process.
  3. Include the back-end development resource (whether this is the client's team or an external agency) as soon as possible and work in tandem with this team throughout the project. We love developers. We feel they are creative and have a lot to offer in meetings. We've also structured our process to work seamlessly with developers and to move in tandem with their development stories. This creates a lot of efficiency in the success of the project.