2020 has been one of the most challenging years of my career. As a CEO, I always strive to keep everything planned – at least as much as I can – in both the short and long term. But this year wasn’t “normal” and it required all of us to go the extra mile to keep our business running and meet the goals we set before the pandemic.

In my personal experience, despite the unusual circumstances, it was a good year and this wasn’t a coincidence, but a consequence of years building a team and fostering the capacity of resilience in them. This year, more than ever, being adaptive was crucial for both people and businesses.

Fortunately Making Sense is a part of an industry that didn’t suffer a huge impact during the crisis. In contrast, this situation represented opportunities for all in the tech world. With the pandemic challenging traditional business models, digital transformation stands as a key factor to keep business running – and technology companies play an important role there.

As we’re coming to the end of this year, I would like to take the time to share the lessons I’ve learned during the last months, especially in the field of team management, company culture, business adaptability and digital transformation.

Not just a matter of business

Before jumping into what this year meant for me and Making Sense, I’d like to talk about why it was a huge learning experience on the personal side. As a husband and father of two teenagers, I’ve been forced to adapt myself and my family to this new normal. This wasn’t easy, as we faced many challenges during this time. In the same way, I realized that Making Sense has solid bases and a clear “family vision,” which enabled us to overcome those challenges. When everything you do is supported by shared principles, anything can be sorted out

Staying adaptive across these challenges allowed me to keep the physical and mental balance everyone needs to thrive. Of course, this is something I encourage in my team at Making Sense.

Business adaptability

If this year has taught us anything, it was that the way of doing things today won’t be useful tomorrow. Business is about constant change, and our capability to remain adaptive is key.

When I say change, I don’t just mean change in terms of your product or service. You must be focused on adapting your processes, both internally and externally.

As users’ needs change, your business will too. To meet these ever-changing needs, you must foster a mindset of innovation inside your company. Training people for that is the best investment any company can make to meet long term goals. At Making Sense, we try to focus on flexibility, because we understand that this characteristic makes a company more efficient. With a rigid mindset, we won’t be able to sort out any crisis or conflict.

What I’ve learned: Change is always necessary to continue delivering value.

A strong culture

As we say at Making Sense, it’s all about having the right people. Year over year, I reinforce the idea that having a great team and building a strong culture is what makes our company unique. In turn, this enables us to solve any challenge we face. As the well-known bus analogy goes from “Good to Great” – a book I really like a lot -, every leader must start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.

On the other hand, the competitive environment where we live forces us to stay innovative at every moment, bring disruptive solutions to the table, and keep people motivated. To achieve this, it is necessary to get people on board with your company culture and mission.

I think our culture at Making Sense really helped us get through this year, since the first day when we closed our offices and everyone went to work from home (a big thanks goes out to you guys).

My takeaway: Your business strategy might be perfect, but without the right culture and people, you’re dead. In Peter Drucker’s words… culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Looking forward… embrace digital transformation or die

Technology isn’t just empowering our lives, it’s making huge changes in business models. We all saw how technology has radically changed many industries, which is what I call digital transformation. It’s how technology can help us revolutionize business.

There are few examples of huge and solid companies crumbling under smaller, but technology-based companies. Maybe one of the best-known cases is Blockbuster, which went bankrupt after 6 years of achieving $6B in revenue because Netflix – a small competitor at the time – created a completely new business thanks to technology.

I’m glad that over the past years, digital transformation has picked up momentum. But many companies have embraced the change while others haven’t because they saw it as a low-priority. Today nobody can deny that digital transformation is here to stay for a long time. In my humble opinion, digital transformation is mandatory for any traditional business out there. In the future we envision, there is no place for those companies that don’t adopt a transformation process.

There are good signals showing that many companies are taking the leap toward digitalization and making investments. According to research led by IDC, digital transformation is expected to approach $6.8 trillion by 2023, as companies build on existing strategies and investments, becoming digital-at-scale future enterprises.

Wrapping up, this year reinforced my thoughts on this topic. Digital transformation is today (and tomorrow) the best ally for traditional businesses.

It sounds like a cliche, but any crisis represents an opportunity. In my case, this turbulent year gave me the possibility to learn new things and reinforce ideas that I already had in my mind. I’m very bullish about the next few years, as there will be many opportunities for those who are prepared to seize them.

I would like to thank you once again to my team at Making Sense for the great job they’ve done and for keeping Making Sense at the top.

I wish you all a new year full of great things to come.