Enliven, the story thus far...

Enliven, the story thus far...

Cuong Dang

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ian and I have been working as a team since 2006. Our skills have always been complementary, and together we’ve accomplished a great deal. We both have had entrepreneurial spirits since we were young. However, we know we still have more to learn from those around us.

Over the years of working in the technology industry, we dreamt up a few things to do together whether it was a website for a client or a community project that brings people together. We knew that we had to learn not only through building projects ourselves but also through sharing our knowledge and connecting with communities. I remember our very first public speaking engagement at Tulsa Tech Fest. It was such an interesting experience. We not only had to deliver useful content for everyone in the audience, but we also had to master the art of public speaking. We gained confidence quickly through learning and having opportunities to speak at many conferences over the subsequent years.

Through participation in the DNN community – an exciting .NET web content management system – we learned a lot about connecting with tech communities and speaking at conferences at home and abroad. We had a lot of fun presenting and meeting new people around the world. Also, we made some great friends along the way!

Throughout our careers, we learned there are many factors that help make successful projects. These shared guiding beliefs have led to our success thus far. Simplicity, beautiful design, great user experience, and maintainable technologies are what make people delight in the things we build. We love modern technology and geek out about new programming languages and tools that are on the horizon. Our approach to successful projects is simple in that we don’t use modern technology just for the sake of it but rather use it strategically in order to more effectively solve business challenges.

After a number of years working for others, we decided to make some changes in our lives. We both wanted to create a lifestyle that prioritizes a work-life balance. We wanted to create a company with a great culture to call our own. We wanted to hire like-minded people and build products we love.

So, in the summer of 2012, we launched Enliven. We’ve built a technology company that focuses on beautiful design and great user experience. Initially, it was just the two of us working full-time. We knew we wanted to build an awesome business, not just do freelance work, and never intended to stay a two-person team.

At its core, Enliven has two focuses:

  • Partnering with clients who want to make their technology story as strong as the rest of their business.
  • Building digital products through collaborative partnerships with our clients and partners.

In 2012, our consulting business was largely defined by launching projects for Novus International and building a social pay start-up from the ground up. Though we have since moved on from that project, we frequently reflect on the lessons it taught us.

As two of the four primary team members responsible for building this start-up, Ian and I gained a ton of experience and learned many lessons. Ian led the product development team, while I led the identity, branding and creative design efforts. This start-up was no small undertaking. We gained valuable experience building a people-focused product, baking in deep security best practices, understanding banking laws, and more. However, when we look back, the biggest lessons we learned were more people-oriented.

The two most important lessons are:

  • Know your team: in a start-up setting, you need to thoroughly vet the people with whom you’re going to spend all of your time and energy.
  • Conflict resolution: when a conflict arises, act timely and don’t let it go. The goal is to operate in a trusted environment. Not everyone enjoys dealing with conflict, but if you don’t operate in a trusted environment, you’re following a recipe for disaster.

These are tough topics to talk about, but integral to building a successful company. People-oriented issues, such as those above, ended up undoing the startup’s leadership team. Three of the four members of the leadership team ended up moving on from the project — even though we were extremely invested in its success and the outlook for the product itself was very positive.

In the summer of 2013, we dug back into the consulting business with renewed energy and brought onboard our first employee, Chris Hilton as a designer and developer. In the next few months, many of the startup’s team members joined Enliven officially: Andrew Clark (dev),Jesse Dunlap (dev), Chris Clark (dev & pm), Mike Castle (operations and finance) and Gavin Boileau (pm & ops) to support our growing client-focused operations.

enliven team activities

In August of 2013, we moved to a new office space in the heart of downtown St. Louis on Washington Avenue. We settled in and started working on the business. Ian and I both believe in hiring for culture rather than just for skills and experiences. We have been busy focusing on building our culture which centers on working smart, continually improving and training. We are cultivating an environment of mindfulness, intentionality and growth in everything we do.

For Novus International, a global animal nutrition solutions company, we’ve launched novusint.com, a marketing website that supports operations for teams across 70 countries. Beneath the beautiful presentation of this website is an interesting and intuitive experience for marketing team members across the world to manage and deploy their own version in local languages with products specific to their regions/countries.

novus international world areas

It’s been so fun and exciting to collaborate with the Novus Global Marketing and Communication team through various interview and brainstorming sessions. Today, we continue to support this team while together we build out the rest of the site in different languages, regions and countries.

CHAN HEALTHCARE, a provider of internal audit services to the healthcare industry, is another valued client-partner. In 2013, we launched Research Library and Risk Assessment, the two major features that not only enable a 325-person team with auditors spanning the country to work collaboratively, but also to increase operational efficiency. We are now responsible for the monthly application releases where we get to flex our agile product development skills.

chan healthcare audivate application

We’ve been working closely with these two partners and have been integral to each other’s businesses. We look forward to continued successes with them in the future.

So why would businesses want to work with us? Over the years, we’ve learned to help clients accomplish results in their businesses via technological solutions. We love numbers and we measure everything we do to gather intelligence and validate our decisions and beliefs. Whether the goal is to build brand awareness through creative and fun technologies or to provide a mobile-app-supporting sales team to improve revenue, we love to challenge ourselves to deliver measurable business results.

Now that our silence is broken and we’ve come up for air, we hope to see you at the conference scene, around town, or, even better, at your office. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at any time if you want to connect. We’re also interested in connecting with talented people and growing our business, so if you’re passionate and interested in learning more about working with us, send us an email at careers@enlivenhq.com.

Enliven has even grown on the family front with the birth of our newest, and littlest, member in 2012, Isaac Robinson.

Isaac Robinson

Thank you for the part you have already played in our success, and we look forward to connecting with you all in the future. We’d love to hear from everyone!

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