Every month Prairie Business asks several regional business leaders a question, and they answer with their perspective and insight of their particular business or industry.

The question we asked for December is: "Reviewing the past year, what is something you're most pleased with that your company or team accomplished in 2020?"

Below are how four of the region's exemplary business leaders responded:

Steven Eberle, vice president and COO, Ackerman-Estvold, Minot, N.D.

As many in our country have found, 2020 has been a year of unprecedented change. Amid a nationwide pandemic, a substantial economic downturn, and a rapidly changing business environment, our firm has continued to find stability.

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Although we have endured the same hurdles as many, we have remained fluid with adjustments to our practice. This has allowed our people the same stability with continued benefits, secure employment, the ability to provide for their families and themselves, and yet have the opportunity to work professionally at a high level.

Many in the firm have had success in expanded roles within the organization during this time adding new skill sets to their knowledge bank.

We are proud of our people for their steadfast commitment to our clients throughout 2020 which has been anything but typical. Our people have changed the way they approach projects, interact with clients, and manage budgets. Our people’s tenacity has truly become the real success of 2020. Without the commitment and buy-in of everyone in the organization, we would not have the ability to be fluid and adaptive to the changes we have experienced in 2020.

Rich Jacobson, executive vice president, Kraus-Anderson Construction, Minneapolis

We’ve been so pleased and awed by how nimbly and thoroughly our teams have adapted to the rapidly changing conditions this year has presented. The investments we’ve been making in technology have really allowed our work-from-home transitions for office employees to be virtually seamless. At the same time, our field has truly led change, creating and enforcing a host of new Covid safety protocols on job sites and thinking creatively to address client needs.

Kraus-Anderson gets involved in the very early stages of project planning for schools, government, healthcare and other clients, and we’ve continued to provide value as we help them evaluate existing conditions, consider options and prioritize needs. Plans for a few larger commercial projects for now are paused, but our backlog of work aggressively continues to move forward. In addition, our teams are being tasked with retrofitting workplace and other built environments to better accommodate distancing, hands-free surfaces and other safety protocols.

While no one would have asked for these challenges, we truly believe we will emerge stronger coming out of the pandemic.

Kevin Harmon, vice president of Student Affairs, Minot State University, Minot, N.D.

Our greatest accomplishment was how our Minot State University community pulled together quickly to transform our University to meet the needs of students.

Our transformation was two-fold. First, we had a week in March to become an online university. Our faculty and student support staff created ways to connect with and teach students in a difficult situation. The second phase allowed us more time to plan and examine how to deliver education and services in a format that would meet students’ array of expectations. Students could choose to learn from a distance, face-to-face, or in a HyFlex combination model. Throw in dealing with hundreds of students, faculty, and staff testing positive for or being a close contact of a COVID-19 case, and every day was unique and challenging.

I’m proud to be a part of our team; members of our University community were selfless in volunteering and working seven days a week for months to make sure our campus was a safe place to learn and live. 2020 has pushed us to the edge of service and innovation; it made us stronger!

Paul Eidenschink, co-president and chief operating officer, Steffes, Dickinson, N.D.

2020 has been a year filled with challenges for everyone. Many of our basic assumptions for how we interact with each other and even how we conduct business were forced to change. During difficult times like these, culture and an entrepreneurial spirit can flourish and become strengths in new growth.

The thing I’m most of proud of at Steffes in 2020, is the way our teams have come together in this unprecedented time doing whatever it takes to change, forge ahead and create a brighter future.

With sleeves rolled up, the Steffes staff tackled a comprehensive company-wide ERP software launch, explored new markets for diversification, developed energy conserving products, and answered the call from those customers with strong demand.

Being open to significant change and pivoting to support new markets increased our chances for success. Many Steffes team members took on new role responsibilities, volunteered to search for new business, or worked on improvements. We are so proud of our dedicated and creative employees.

Some of the new markets look promising. Some of the old markets show signs of resurgence. The future looks brighter here at Team Steffes. We are in this together.