Natalie Yeadon, Co-founder & CEO at Impetus Digital
Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Natalie Yeadon: Impetus Digital was founded in 2008. Prior to that, my business partner, Janice Smith, and I both spent 18+ years in the pharmaceutical industry. Separately, we used to run numerous in-person customer advisory boards where we would fly people to a meeting destination and run a 7–8-hour meeting with our key opinion leaders (KOLs). Although the conversations were excellent, we always found that we had little success in continuing those conversations over time. Because other work priorities got in the way and we did not have the tools to allow sustained discussions to occur throughout the year, it felt impossible to turn those one-off engagements into authentic, holistic, and ongoing touchpoints.
We knew we needed to do something different; it was at that moment that we realized that we needed to revolutionize how Pharma engages and partners with their most important stakeholders. This required leading-edge technology and a team of digital, strategic, and medical experts; we needed to invent something that did not currently exist. After this realization, we co-founded Impetus Digital and made it our mission to disrupt the way life science companies interact and seek advice by using cutting-edge, convenient asynchronous and synchronous online tools to create long-lasting and authentic relationships.
Great Companies: What are the various services provided by Impetus Digital
Natalie Yeadon: We provide Big Pharma and leading life science clients with virtual and hybrid meeting and event solutions. These include asynchronous (over-time, anytime) and synchronous (real-time) meetings, large-scale virtual events, and online community boards, all hosted on our best-in-class all-in-one virtual collaboration platform.
In addition to the proprietary platform and virtual tools themselves, all of our asynchronous and synchronous offerings come with full “White-Glove™” professional services, including dedicated strategic, digital, and medical writing expert support. Clients use our platform for dozens of different use cases, with some of the most popular ones including virtual advisory boards and insight-gathering, co-author working groups, virtual learning programs, congress engagement, peer-influence programs, and our award-winning KOL Ambassador program.
Great Companies: What makes Impetus Digital different from hundreds of other similar service providers?
Natalie Yeadon: We are set apart from our competitors in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:
1. We offer the largest number and variety of cutting-edge life science-specific asynchronous (over-time, anytime) tools, including:
-InSite Exchange™ discussion forum
-InSite Surveyor™ survey-style questions
-InSite Annotator™ annotation tool
-InSite Selector™ selection and ranking tool
-InSite Mapping™ customizable drag-and-drop tool
-InSite Rater™ visual rating tool
-InSite Team Race™ customizable gamification tool
2. We also offer a large portfolio of best-in-class synchronous (hybrid/web meeting, webinar, virtual event) tools, all hosted on the same secure and compliant platform. Having everything in one place allows our clients to engage their KOLs longitudinally, for example by adding pre- and post-meeting asynchronous touchpoints. In addition, this allows event organizers, sponsors, and exhibitors to engage participants before and after events as well.
3. Our signature White-Glove™ services and 360° behind-the-scenes support are what really set us apart from our competitors. We provide a soup-to-nuts solution, including the virtual meeting platform, recruitment and stakeholder management services, strategy, technical support, and medical writing and content creation services. Our tools and services are consistently rated as “excellent” by our clients and their advisors, and we take all of their feedback into account to make sure that we are constantly evolving and improving.
To ensure that our services remain top-notch, we invest a lot of time and effort in maintaining our award-winning company culture. This includes providing wellness and learning grants, “summer Fridays” 4-day weeks during the summer months and two weeks off during the December holidays (in addition to regular paid time off), paid wellness time, unlimited sick days, comprehensive benefit packages, computer and internet reimbursement, stock options and annual bonuses, monthly (virtual) happy hours, and quarterly hybrid get-togethers, just to mention a few initiatives. We understand that our employees are what makes this company so special and successful!
We also recently established a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) committee to ensure that we remain a diverse company where our differences are celebrated and where we use our unique experiences and perspectives to strengthen our services. We always tell our customers that our virtual tools can help improve the diversity of their projects and that this will ultimately lead to stronger insights collected; it’s important to us to practice what we preach!
4. Finally, we put sustainability at the forefront of everything we do and are actively working towards carbon-neutrality by 2030 (aiming for 2025). Since forming our Internal Environmental Committee in September 2020, Impetus has established important partnerships with the Green Business Bureau and Tree Canada; we launched our official Tree Planting program on September 1, 2021. At the time of writing, Impetus Digital has already planted 1386 trees across Canada on behalf of our clients and employees and recently won an industry award for our sustainability efforts. We also celebrate Earth Week annually and work to educate our clients and followers on topics related to sustainability through our social media posts and articles.
A lot of our competitors will use buzzwords like “sustainable” and “environmentally friendly” in their marketing, but other than offering the actual virtual meeting tools to reduce the need to travel, I have not yet seen any of our competitors do anything to reduce their own carbon footprint.
Great Companies: What were the struggles and challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Natalie Yeadon: One of the biggest challenges Impetus has faced was in early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. While many other small businesses were forced to close down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had the opposite problem: the demand for our services more than tripled almost overnight! At the time, our team comprised only 11 people, and the work they put in at that time was nothing short of heroic; they came together and grew revenue by 166% compared to 2019. Of course, we value work-life balance and don’t want people working more than 8 hours a day for weeks or months on end; realizing the need for additional manpower to meet the increased demand, our team has more than tripled since then. Janice and I also made sure to show everyone how appreciated their hard work was. This included paying for meal deliveries for team members and their families and insisting that each team member would stick to our “summer schedule” and take every second Friday off, despite the continuously high workload.
Another challenge was that the COVID-19 pandemic forced our clients to quickly pivot from mostly in-person meetings and events to 100% virtual encounters. Before the pandemic, we focused mainly on virtualizing smaller meetings (< 50 participants) such as pharmaceutical advisory boards, working groups, steering committees, and medical education meetings. In March and April 2020, we helped transfer our customers’ in-person meetings to virtual meetings in as little as a few days, ensuring minimal disruption to the agenda, workshops, speakers, and participants. In the second half of 2020, it became increasingly clear that our customers also needed a way to virtualize their larger events such as company-wide internal meetings and conferences. As a result, our small team developed and launched a brand-new virtual event solution–InSite Events™–in record time.
The main reason we were able to adapt and persevere through this quick increase in demand and initial staffing shortage is because of our team and company culture. From day 1, Impetus has been a remote company and we believe in empowering the team to think outside-the-box and dream big, believing that every action and idea contribute to the company’s success. To foster authenticity and connection virtually, we promote ongoing and open communication and put the team members’ wellbeing at the forefront of everything we do.
Together with Janice, I have worked hard to build and sustain a 100% virtual team, where employee wellness and an “all hands on deck” culture are prioritized. During the “Great Resignation,” when many companies lost key talent and others struggled to hire the right people among stiff competition, we expanded our team of A-players to make Impetus into what it is today. As a result, Impetus is now winning global contracts and clients despite competing against companies 10 times our size.
Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for Impetus Digital?
Natalie Yeadon: In the next 5 years, the Impetus team will continue to grow as we increase our business share across all regions. We are aiming for 10x growth and our vision is to be recognized internationally as the catalyst for healthcare transformation, one conversation at a time.
We are always working on new ways to use our large portfolio of virtual tools and improve our existing tools and services. Recent examples include innovative and award-winning initiatives such as Virtual Ambassador Programs, a new medical education offering wherein 3–4 KOLs participate as faculty to attend a national/international congress and summarize key abstracts of interest to HCPs from their country/specialty. Leveraging Impetus’ existing virtual tools and working with our strategic, digital, and medical writing experts, we then create multiple outputs from these summaries, including video vignettes, podcast episodes, slide deck summaries, infographic-style digital handouts, and more.
Other examples of innovative programs we have recently launched include Digital Content Councils, which are online HCP working groups meeting regularly to review promotional or educational materials asynchronously, and Online Community Boards, where healthcare professionals can share best practices, discuss complicated patient cases, or conduct daily “e-huddles” during virtual/hybrid conferences.
Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Natalie Yeadon: I have two pieces of advice. First, surround yourself with passionate people who believe in your company’s mission and vision as much as you do. Then, empower them to dream big and give them the freedom to think outside the box and try new things without having to worry about being reprimanded. I am a strong believer that every action and idea contribute to the company’s success.
Second, don’t forget about the human aspect of your services or tools. The main reason why our clients keep coming back to us year after year is not just our best-in-class virtual platform, but because of the exceptional service our Account Directors, Digital Solutions Specialists, and Medical Writers provide. The people behind the scenes are what make Impetus Digital so successful.