In March 2020, the emergence of COVID-19 in the U.S. made businesses of all shapes and sizes face tough questions about how they would survive. Some needed only slight adjustments, some reinvented their processes, and still others were forced to pivot their businesses completely. There’s no doubt that it has been a tough year for most industries. What lessons can we learn from those who embraced the challenges and taught us to persevere?

Technology, in particular, is well-suited to quick pivots, failing fast and finding success despite the odds. Why do they succeed? Because they have to. To get an inside look at how innovators are thriving amidst a global pandemic, we connected with leaders at four leading Indiana tech companies to provide insights, inspiration, and hope for 2021.

A Necessary Shift in Focus

If 2020 taught us anything, it was a lesson in agility. Businesses had no choice but to adapt to this “new norm” as quickly and seamlessly as possible, and the tech space was no different. However, the defining element that set certain companies apart from the rest was their level of care.

“We were planning on hiring many new team members and expanding our reach in the market,” said Jeremiah Chambers, VP of sales at myCOI. “When COVID hit, we reprioritized our focus to hone in on how we support our clients who are being heavily impacted by COVID, and how we can support our employees by going remote, rethinking goals and policies, and shifting to provide the best possible employee experience.”

Based on recent statistics, 37% of employees consider recognition as most important in boosting their productivity level—and we think there’s some major truth behind this. Take it from Christopher Day, co-founder and CEO of DemandJump. Like myCOI’s approach, rather than pushing plans forward, it became a priority that team members and their families were taken care of physically and emotionally. By giving employees the support they desperately needed, DemandJump set itself up to refocus its efforts and implement new goals.

“As you may guess, by focusing on what our team needed, it allowed for the team to attack new projects, a refined ideal customer profile (ICP), new product launches and more with a mind less burdened by the uncertainty of the world around them,” Christopher said. “This is how we went from 3,000 monthly visitors to over 30,000 monthly visitors, tripled sales leads, and nearly tripled our customer base all during the year of COVID.”

Helping Others Combat the Effects of the Pandemic

While some tech companies scrapped their plans for 2020 entirely, others were able to repurpose what they had to help combat the pandemic. Chairman and CEO Brad Bostic of hc1 shed some light on how his team pivoted to help address the spread of the coronavirus.

“In early 2020, as the pandemic began to wreak havoc on our businesses, schools and communities, we realized our hc1 platform contained a wealth of COVID-19 testing data from more than 20,000+ laboratories across the country,” said Brad. “We knew this data would be extremely beneficial in tracking the location and predicting the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We quickly pivoted our development resources to create the CV19 Lab Testing Dashboard™ in April and Workforce Advisor™ in May.”

Not only did this provide critical insights on COVID-19, but it also helped give many community leaders and decision makers the timely ability to mitigate the spread of the virus. The hc1 team took the extra steps to create the first-ever COVID-19 return-to-work solution, integrating lab test results and real-time local risk.

“Businesses use the integrated data to decide where to apply acute mitigation strategies and help prevent future infection spikes within their own ‘micro-communities,’” Brad explains. “Large multi-state, multi-site enterprise businesses, universities, or single-site employers then have the tools to operate safely through the pandemic.”

Overcoming Unprecedented Obstacles

Despite most companies having well-thought-out business continuity plans, no one could have accounted for the fast-paced and unknown variables that would come with a global virus outbreak like COVID-19. While not everyone had to deal with large-scale focus shifts in the wake of the pandemic, some tech companies faced unprecedented obstacles.

Luke Jacobs, Encamp co-founder and CEO, explains, “Our focus for 2020 remained largely the same as it was before the pandemic unfolded. We have the somewhat unique position of building software in a regulated space. Our customers still needed to stay in compliance with applicable environmental, health, and safety regulations while also adapting to the coronavirus world of 2020.

“We have closed our largest deals ever this year and completed them completely over Zoom,” Luke continues. “While this initially presented a large challenge—how to close an enterprise deal without ever meeting in person—we leaned into reworking our demo and onboarding experience to take advantage of being able to customize experiences for our customers and get that in front of them faster and more frequently.”

The world has gone digital in nearly every way, and there are no signs of the progression slowing down. What was once a crisis response to combat the spread of the coronavirus has now evolved into buyers’ and sellers’ preferred way to do business. In fact, recent McKinsey research shows that COVID-19 has changed B2B sales forever. Nearly ⅔ of B2B buyers state that digital interactions now take precedence over traditional interactions.

“This is a massive shift in customer behavior,” Christopher Day explains. “B2B businesses must adapt to this customer behavior by aligning every action to how your target customers think. Organically appearing along your target market’s research, evaluation, and decision journey is what separates successful companies.”

Thriving in 2021 & Beyond

If 2020 was the year of adapting and surviving, we hope you make 2021 your year to thrive.

“Thriving in 2021 will be done in two ways,” Jeremiah Chambers explains. “Number one: evolving your organization into one that embraces change and moves quickly to adapt, and number two: staying in tune with the voice of your customers and employees.”

No matter your job title or industry, we can all learn from the lessons presented to us during this past year. While the COVID-19 pandemic was certainly a shock, it unveiled why companies need to stay alert for potential operational threats and quickly use the resources they have in new, inventive ways.

“Businesses are typically resistant to change because there is a fear of how much that change will cost,” Brad Bostic states, “but with a strong culture, creative thinking, and an agile mindset, it is possible to pivot, deliver enhanced value, and achieve greater success than ever realized.”

If there’s one takeaway from what we heard from these tech leaders, it’s to not resist change. Staying adaptable will better set you up for success, and corporations should continue supporting their teams with compassion and understanding. “As a leader, you need to have your ear to the ground on what your customers’ and teammates’ experiences are,” Luke explains. “Happy teams deliver great service, which leads to happy customers; being willing and able to listen to feedback from your team and adapt quickly to keep morale high is a must to continue thriving in a future with less certainties.”

“Words matter,” Christopher Day concludes. “Understanding what questions your customers are asking, what searches they are conducting, what websites they are visiting, what influencers they listen to, and aligning every word you write, and action you take to how they are thinking, has never been more critical.”