Enlighten Designs continues to respond to the changing environment


The story then

Earlier this year, Hamilton-based website design and software development company Enlighten Designs was shortlisted in the Best Emerging Business category for the prestigious New Zealand International Business Awards.

Enlighten Designs has been recognised for bringing New Zealand innovation to the global stage.

At the time, founder and CEO of Enlighten, Damon Kelly, said he was immensely proud that the business had been recognised as a finalist after an intensive judging process, and that the accolade comes at a time of real growth.

The story now

Enlighten Designs are yet to find out if they have won any awards as the Covid lockdowns forced the postponement NZIBA awards, and the NZ Resellers Award in which Enlighten are also finalists.

The Waikato Business News caught up with Damon to see how the year has progressed for the Enlighten team.

Damon Kelly, Founder and CEO of Enlighten Designs

Enlighten Designs has been working on some interesting projects recently – can you tell us a bit more about them?

One interesting project that we’ve got on the go is working with Google engineers to improve our client’s Core Web Vitals –
these are the metrics used by Google to score a user’s experience loading a webpage. Through this workstream, we had the challenge to firstly understand and then develop a strategy around these metrics, with the goal of lifting our client’s performance in very new area of search engine optimisation. This has been an exciting project for us because it’s a great reflection of what Enlighten Designs is all about – innovation, cutting-edge technology and an eagerness to learn.

We were also shoulder-tapped by Microsoft to promote our world-class consulting services around using Power BI for data storytelling.  Enlighten was one of around 100 partners to feature in  the inaugural # BuildFor2030 campaign – an initiative with Microsoft and its partners to encourage action on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It’s a great project because it resonates with our goal of using technology to make a difference.

What has been the biggest business challenge for Enlighten Designs as a result of the COVID pandemic over the last 18 months?

Like many other businesses, the pandemic was initially a shock for our team, as we sustained an immediate drop in demand locally. The real challenge was trying to determine the best way to respond to the changing environment, with the hope that the approach we took would be beneficial long-term.

Rather than opting for the risk-averse route, we saw the pandemic as an opportunity for growth. At a time when many businesses were letting go of staff, we doubled down and redeployed our team to focus on international expansion.

The pandemic transformed the way people do business, so location and in-person meetings were no longer important when onboarding new clients. Combined with our already seamless remote-working abilities, this has proven to be a huge advantage for Enlighten. Evidence of this can be seen through the strong international and domestic presence we’ve secured over the last 18 months.

How have these challenges impacted you personally and do you have any techniques or strategies to share with other entrepreneurs in regards to dealing with unforeseen crises?

Over the years, I’ve learnt that when it comes to dealing with any unforeseen challenge – it’s all about mindset!  As CEO though, I went back to our company values, and these really guided my response in this, as with other challenges.

One strategy I would recommend is to view any challenge as an opportunity, rather than a crisis. As tempting as it was to pull-back and avoid any risks, Enlighten battled the pandemic head on by pushing into the international market.

As an entrepreneur and business leader, maintaining a positive mindset is a crucial strategy which allows you to stay motivated and confident when dealing with difficult situations. The continued success of Enlighten over the last 18 months has validated our gut feeling that persevering during uncertainty and making big moves, was the right thing to do.

The pandemic has noticeably changed the way people use technology in the business world. What are your thoughts on how remote working might affect staff mental health and wellbeing in the long term?

The pandemic has redefined the way people do businesses, with remote working now an intrinsic part of our everyday lives. This has been great for Enlighten because there’s been hot demand for digital transformations across many different sectors and business types. But although working from home may have its perks, only being able to connect with colleagues through webcam or email, definitely starts to take its toll.

What I’m beginning to notice is that many Kiwis are struggling to overcome their Covid-fatigue and are increasingly becoming overwhelmed with exhaustion and lack of motivation. New Zealand’s constant string of lockdowns can also leave people feeling isolated and disconnected, which as we know, can cause a strain on mental health.

I’m aware of how crucial it is to uphold the wellbeing of my team. Even though we have somewhat mastered the art of working from home, I always encourage the team to stay connected and get some fresh air during their downtime. 

In your opinion, what’s the most important skill for entrepreneurs to develop?

Being great at recruitment! As an entrepreneur, it’s crucial to remember that you can’t do it alone. I’ve learned that a business is only as good as its team. When you’re hiring new employees, you shouldn’t just consider how skilled they are in their profession, you should also ask yourself if they will embody the core values of your business. At Enlighten, we’ve always hired people that reflect our values of learning, creativity and integrity.

Above all else, fostering new and existing relationships with your colleagues is essential. You don’t just need to recruit great people – you need to connect with them. Having an awesome workplace culture with a connected team is crucial for driving productivity and success


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