Focus on Customers Helps 78 Corridor Companies Adapt to Changing Times

When California issued the mandatory stay-at-home order earlier this year, forcing millions to work remotely, leaders at two 78 Corridor companies knew they’d adapt by staying focused on their customers. 

Exagen Inc., a leading healthcare company in Vista that focuses on patients suffering from chronic autoimmune diseases, and Bitmo, a Carlsbad company that offers a 21st century approach to gift cards, both found themselves having to swiftly move their employees to in-home offices in March. 

“Most of our office staff is working remotely, and we’ve provided the tools and training to work effectively in the office or at home, and we’re communicating regularly to ensure our team stays connected as we work to support our customers,” Mark Hazeltine, Senior Vice President of Finance and Corporate Development at Exagen, said. “Some of the diseases we test are potentially deadly and have no cure, so our ability to stay open and service these patients is critical.” 

Exagen employee performs a lab test.
Exagen employee performs a lab test. Courtesy photo

Hazeltine, who said Exagen still has employees at the lab as an essential service, said the company is staying up to date with recommended guidelines from public health officials to prepare for what the future may bring. 

“We have recognized that the industry is going through significant change, including the advancement of telemedicine to connect with healthcare providers and patients,” Hazeltine said. “We’re working on several initiatives to continue our outreach and ensuring that working with us is as frictionless as possible. I believe our employees and our customers appreciate our mission to be patient focused, and everything we do comes back to this.”

Like Exagen, Bitmo is focusing on the needs of their customers to overcome the effects of the pandemic. Michael Smallwood, CEO and founder of Bitmo, said he has seen a shift in user engagement and an increase in gifts sent. The company has also seen a shift in how people generally spend money and which brands they interact with.  

“Our purpose is to make everyone feel happy, special and appreciated and allowing everyone to ‘Give More’ with Bitmo,” Smallwood said. 

That purpose is what’s driving Bitmo through the pandemic despite the changes that the company has had to implement in recent weeks.

“Our business continues to listen to both our extensive user base and merchant partners,” Smallwood said. “We’ve made strategic and product changes that more directly reflect the needs of our customers. Our work culture has also changed, forcing us to do collaborative brainstorming and strategy discussion entirely online. I think overall this has forced us to become more productive as a team and focus on what’s most important.”

Bitmo employees hold a virtual meeting via Zoom. Courtesy photo
Bitmo employees hold a virtual meeting via Zoom. Courtesy photo

Despite the challenges that have risen for both companies in recent weeks, Exagen and Bitmo have benefited from the perks of being located along the 78 Corridor. 

Smallwood said Bitmo has advanced its mission thanks to the central location of Carlsbad coupled with the talent found in the area. Employees are also easily able to commute to Los Angeles and Orange counties if needed, Smallwood said.

Hazeltine, who also noted the talent pool, said Exagen has received support from local leaders. 

“We appreciate the local businesses that we interact with on a daily basis and working with terrific leaders at the City of Vista, led by Mayor Judy Ritter,” Hazeltine said. “The heatmap of our employees indicates that Vista is an ideal location for coming to work, and we’re excited to continue to grow and create more jobs for Exagen. The 78 Corridor is special due to its focus and commitment on economic development and bringing high-paying professional jobs into the area.”

In fact, Exagen has been so pleased with its Vista location that it recently renewed its lease and acquired additional facilities — growing to 47,000 square feet of space. As of today, the company employs more than 150 full-time employees. 

Although it may be weeks before employees return to the office, both company leaders are hopeful for the future. 

“We’re also optimistic about how the changing office environment may spur additional productivity and efficiency innovations, as so many other businesses are navigating what the new normal will look like following the pandemic,” Ron Rocca, President and CEO of Exagen said. “Leading by example is a way for Exagen to differentiate itself from other companies, and we’re confident that the fruits of our efforts will attract the best talent that this area has to offer.”

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