This is a follow up story for Cantilever Web Design & Development. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Ty Fujimura, founder, and CEO of Cantilever. We’re a web design and development consultancy seeking to make the world more equitable, healthy, sustainable, and delightful.
We love working with clients who share our values, and we embody them in our design and code. For example, we have a strong focus on website accessibility, which makes the web a little more healthy and equitable.
We are a sixteen-person team headquartered in NYC and Copenhagen with staff around the world, and we are generating around $1.75mm in revenue annually.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
I can hardly believe it, but we have doubled our revenue since I wrote my Starter Story article in 2020. The primary driver of our growth is always successful client engagements. Most of our clients are referred to us by other clients. Over the past few years, we have successfully changed a lot of our methodologies so that we are capable of handling more volume and complexity of work without letting things slip through the cracks.
Growth is often messy, and we’ve certainly had our share of stressful down periods within this growth trajectory. Lately, it has felt like we are stable, ready to grow and continue growing rapidly.
We have taken on a few amazing new employees. We have also started working with an agency consultant, Jason Gorelick, who has provided invaluable guidance and made great connections for us. I went through the 10,000 Small Businesses program before writing my Starter Story, and I loved it. A friend from 10KSB invited me to join his Vistage executive coaching group, which has been a life-changing resource for the past two years in my personal and professional development. We are always looking for more like-minded members so if you are in the NYC area and ready to take your leadership to the next level, please reach out.
I wish I had better advice to give new entrepreneurs other than “do a good job, and your customers will do your marketing for you.” That has allowed us to grow so far, but it has limited our client base to the people who happen to find us and reach out. Going forward, we are more active in targeting clients who match our values, and we will now be more deliberate about seeking and pursuing specific clients for specific services. This will allow us to specialize and become bona fide experts in those parts of the industry.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
We grew too fast before our processes were ready, so we had to do a lot of manual work to keep up. Our approach has always been to add staff and then figure out the plan for how to organize ourselves. But growing this way has sometimes led to confusion and frustration. We have learned to first prepare for growth by defining what we want the company and our processes to look like in the future and then initiate the hiring we want to do to fill that structure out.
If you know your product has flaws, fix them before you build more. Building on a shaky foundation leads to shaky results.
I have been pursuing a personal growth journey centered around using my heart and emotions more to drive my decision-making, and being less “in my head.” I seek to be more vulnerable, connective, and personal in running my business. My coach John Furth from Vistage has been instrumental in guiding me on this journey, and I have seen my leadership become much more effective this way.
Since I wrote my original Starter Story, my marriage of fourteen years ended amicably. This has been an opportunity for me to start fresh personally and professionally, to evaluate and establish who I truly am as an entrepreneur, parent, friend, and partner.
I believe that allowing myself to get out of my head and into my heart has been a huge boon in navigating toward a better place for myself and my loved ones. I believe that being open and in full integrity with myself is the only way for me to reach my potential and serve my business and the world the way I seek to.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
In 2022 we have focused on establishing solid, consistent systems and practices such as running all our work in two-week sprints, standardizing around an effective new client relationship model, and creating a new freelancer directory (open for applications now!). In 2023 we plan to use that infrastructure to grow rapidly and take on a few new anchor clients aligned with our mission. If you believe in making the world more equitable, healthy, sustainable, and delightful, please reach out!
Our goal is to create true impact and to look back, knowing that not only did we build great websites, but that those websites contributed to making the world a better place. In five years, we hope that the accumulated accomplishments between now and then are significant and tangible and that we will be certain that our mission is being met.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Who: The Method for Hiring immensely improved how we recruit and hire. The Win Without Pitching Manifesto was life-changing because it gave us a blueprint for how true expert organizations go to market with confidence and deliver huge value to customers. Our gifted no-code engineer Pravin Kumar gifted me The Almanack of Naval Ravikant which was a goldmine of great insight on life and business.
I also started to use Blinkist this year. With that I was able to quickly “download” a few books I had always meant to read but had not gotten to, such as Traction and Never Split the Difference. I loved this method of learning because I could access the key insights from these books in under 20 minutes, let them ruminate, and if I want to go deeper on any individual aspect, I can just pick up the book itself.
As an entrepreneur, it is critical to read outside of your niche to understand yourself and the world better, and particularly, to read fiction. I love reading stories from cultures past and present that are different from my own. Doing so reveals the deeper underlying connections that make us all human.
The goal of my business is to serve humanity, so part of my job is to understand what humanity is, and what it needs. Some highlights from recent reading are Pachinko, Their Eyes Were Watching God, 100 Years of Solitude, and All the Light We Cannot See. These are stories separated by continents, cultures, languages and centuries, but with astounding amounts of connective tissue.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Do the best job you can every time. If you know your product has flaws, fix them before you build more of that product. In what you deliver, deliver it to the best of your ability. Then you can grow confidently, knowing that when you talk with a prospect, it’s not a “pitch” to trick them into buying something of lesser value. It’s an offer to be in partnership, for mutual gain.
People like to work for companies that are winning and delivering the best work. It’s magnetic. If you develop a reputation for quality, the best people will flock to you.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We have always collaborated well with freelancers. Recently, we decided to build out more infrastructure for our freelance friends to quickly onboard to Cantilever projects and ramp up their workload with us. If you are a talented freelancer in our space, we’d love to add you to our private freelancer database. Our approved freelancers are an extension of our team, and we try to make them feel like a part of our Cantilever community.
If you are interested, please apply on our website!
Where can we go to learn more?
- Cantilever Website
- Cantilever Twitter
- Cantilever LinkedIn
- Ty Fujimura’s Twitter
- Ty Fujimura’s LinkedIn
I have been contacted by so many cool folks who read my first Starter Story, and I’ve been moved that they reached out. I am always excited to talk to fellow entrepreneurs. Email me anytime!
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