It’s the time of year when many of us look back and reflect on what we’ve accomplished and start preparing for the year ahead. As we close the door on 2020, a year like no other, we asked LogicGate CEO Matt Kunkel and Chief Marketing Officer Gina Hortatsos to revisit their April 2020 discussion about, How a risk management company handled the COVID-19 Pandemic. At that time, we were only one month into the disruption caused by COVID-19, and few could have imagined how deep and long-lasting the impact would be. Now, nine months since LogicGate went fully remote, Matt and Gina share the importance of charity and grace, the value of over-communication, and what they expect in 2021.
How have priorities changed since we covered this topic on the podcast in April?
Matt: Priorities have changed yet stayed the same. First and foremost is the health and safety of our employees and their families. Having been apart nine months now, the big priority has shifted and different issues have come up as they relate to the health and safety of our employees, largely in mental health.
We help employees through the mental challenge that working from home and homeschooling children presents by leaning in on the concept of charity and grace. We give people room to operate in a non-traditional 9 to 5 role, understanding that some things will have to get done during off-hours. We have also put emphasis on trying to be there for our employee base and encouraging them to take mental health days for themselves, even though they are staying at home.
Gina: We didn’t know when we sent people home what would happen to productivity. We are a very Chicago office-centric culture, people liked coming to the office and there was a great sense of community. When we sent people home, we didn’t know if productivity would be impacted. We’ve been able to reach our goals and business objectives throughout this time, but we recognize that exhaustion levels are high, and our capacity for dealing with one more thing is tapped out. We work to ensure team members have the support they need to soldier on. It’s not easy for anyone.
We also didn’t know what would happen with the protests over the summer. We actively upped our discussion and prioritization of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. We hired a firm to support us in diversity training, understanding systemic racism, and how we can be better allies to underrepresented communities. There was a community element―everyone showed up, they were passionate, and discussed hard to face uncomfortable truths about how things are run. I believe this work strengthened our community and it’s something we’re continuing to prioritize.
Initially, customers were unclear of the impact that the pandemic would have and budgets were frozen. After about three to five weeks we saw buyers interacting with content a lot more before they would pick up the phone and engage with us. The content they were choosing was different than it was pre-COVID. Our macro goal was always to provide content to buyers that would meet their needs and engage with them at the right time—so that didn’t change, but we ended up changing content and campaign work to reflect the new way that people were consuming content from us.
How has communication changed now that the whole office is operating remotely?
Matt: You can never communicate enough, which is something I try to work on every single day. There’s always room for improvement in that area. I often feel as if I am over-communicating, but after discussing things with the executive team members and then with the management team, I realized that the majority of employees weren’t getting the same information. This became the catalyst for the weekly 3M (Matt’s Midweek Message) videos.
These videos give me a mechanism to talk with the company as a whole every single week on whatever is top of mind and what we are going through at the moment. Before, I would stop by people’s desks and chat and I wasn't able to do that remotely. I can now connect with them in a way that I was no longer able to do and gain some of that back.
The videos also allow us to not just recite core values but highlight how specific individuals are living those core values. We double down on showing and articulating what employees do on a daily basis that makes us a great organization.
Gina: On Zoom, you sit in a spot and can’t make direct eye contact, as you’re staring at yourself, the camera, or the screen. A lot can be lost and it's distracting. So, I’ve made it a practice to be intentional about being playful.
On our calls, we spend the first five to seven minutes just checking in and seeing how people are doing. At this morning’s virtual team meeting, we broke out the new Zoom filters and spent time putting unicorns on our heads. Playfulness cannot be understated. We are humans first. It’s OK to have a good time at work. It’s a stressful time of year, having fun and playing a bit will make the rest of the work enjoyable, too.
How has outward-facing communication changed over the last nine months?
Gina: We made good progress but still have a ways to go. I think our conversations with our customers are better than they’ve ever been. Customers are actively suggesting new Applications we can help them build, and we are bringing them to market quickly. As for new buyers, well, buying behavior has changed because buying jobs have changed, in some ways, permanently. When looking at these folks—the people championing our platform and the individuals who will use our platform—what they need from us to help justify the purchase is different than it was nine months ago. So we are adapting as these buyers are adapting.
Market segments matter. Every company views its market differently. In each of those market segments, the buying job is different even if they have the same roles. We are working on providing content that is more nuanced in those segments and bringing more personalized insights to these people.
How have feelings changed or stayed the same as it relates to the “new normal”?
Gina: Back in April, I was pumped not to have to wear makeup and loved Zoom happy hours.
I’m still pumped about no makeup as I never liked it, it’s the tomboy in me. Zoom happy hours are now fatiguing. People recognize connecting is important and we have to figure out a way to do that somehow. For example, during a recent team happy hour, we invited some musicians to play and sing holiday music. So we still got to be together, to enjoy an experience together, but people could share it with their kids and their partners, and mute their mics and just relax and listen.
I’m always reflective this time of year, even though this year is unlike any other. I think of silver linings. I’m proud that we navigated this year together. Our business is still healthy, our people are still showing up and doing their thing because they are passionate about the success of our customers.
People got us through this year―their grit and resilience are amazing. I don’t know what will happen in 2021 but I think we have weathered the worst of it. And I believe our people will continue to show up.
As the year closes out, what is LogicGate focusing on? What will be our focus going forward?
Matt: Right now, we have two primary areas of focus―closing out this year strong and planning what we are going to do in 2021 in terms of strategic plan and vision. Gina is running this process through a corporate level planning framework called V2MOM―vision, values, methods, obstacles, and measures. At the corporate level, what do we want to accomplish in 2021? We remain customer-centric, thinking about what we can do as an organization to help serve our customers, continuing to build trust with our customers so they can build trust with their own customers.
This is one way we’re setting ourselves up for success—plan the work so that we can work the plan over the course of the year. We think about what will make customers happy and successful so, as a byproduct, our business can also be happy and successful from a financial perspective which we can then reinvest in the business. This leads to opportunities for our employees to grow. It’s a virtuous cycle of doing business if we do it right.
We have laid a great foundation and if we can weather this in the way that we did from a business perspective, customer perspective, and employee perspective, I am very bullish on our ability to do and get through almost anything. If we did what we did in 2020, imagine what we are going to do in 2021. We didn't just survive this past year, we thrived. I'm really excited about what 2021 holds.
Finally, I’m not looking forward to any more Zoom happy hours, but in-person happy hours of which there will be many when we can do that again.