CV #2 Acceleration Partners: Changing The Work/Life Paradigm With a 100% Remote Team
COMPANY AT A GLANCE
Founded: In 2007 by Bob Glazer
Employees: 100 | 2017 Revenue: $9.6 million
Vision: Drive the digital marketing industry to be performance-driven and change the work-life paradigm.
Mission: To lead the performance marketing industry through innovation, respect for the brand, and exceptional client service and superior results.
Values: Own It, Embrace Relationship, and Excel & Improve
Community: 16 hours paid time off to volunteer per quarter. Acceleration Partners also matches employee donations to eligible nonprofits up to $500.
LET THE TOUR BEGIN
Having the opportunity to visit Acceleration Partners (AP) was sheer luck. They’re a 100% remote team with various hubs across the U.S. and now, world. Boston is one of them, and when I reached out to Founder & CEO, Bob Glazer, it just so happened that the Boston team was gathering together to volunteer for Build in Boston – a program that uses entrepreneurship to ignite the potential of youth from under-resourced communities and propel them to high school, college, and career success.
Acceleration Partners was gracious enough to invite me to the 2018 BUILDFest Pitch Challenge so together, we cheered on the three finalists as they gave their pitches. Acceleration Partners is a sponsor of the team below: Cultural Cookbooks (check out their video b/c they were awesome!)
This experience was a very organic way to interact with the AP team. I had the chance to speak with five of the team members, all with varying positions and years of experience. They shared lots of tactical examples of how AP is shifting the work/life paradigm, which led me down a rabbit hole of reading many of AP’s culture blogs and understanding more about what shifting the work/life paradigm means. I structured this blog so that you could first understand their beliefs as an organization and then included some tactical tips for building a virtual team. I hope you enjoy! But first…
CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO TO SEE THE BEGINNING OF THE CULTURAL COOKBOOKS PITCH (THE TEAM THAT ACCELERATION PARTNERS WORKS WITH) – AGAIN, THEYR’RE 9TH GRADERS!
1. Work/Life Integration versus Work/Life Balance
Acceleration Partner’s vision is to “Drive the digital marketing industry to be performance-driven and change the work-life paradigm. ”
But what does that mean? Well, Acceleration Partners believes in work/life integration, not work/life balance. Now, if you’re like me, when I hear work/life integration, I assume it’s an excuse for employers to email you at 9pm or a weekend (because it’s all integrated!), but that’s not what this is at all. Let me explain…
To understand the difference between the two, I think it’s easier if we start with work/life balance. As stated in Bob Glazer’s Friday Forward, “The notion of work life-balance implies that we have this perfect scale always in sync between our personal and professional responsibilities.” This is often an unrealistic expectation and leads to disappointment and frustration. An example of this may be taking care of a sick parent and feeling the pressure to be working while at the hospital.
Whereas work/life integration “is the ability to be truly present in our work and in our lives outside work.” He believes that, “we are seeking meaningful, uninterrupted, “all in” experiences at each end of the work/life spectrum.”
What does that look like in practice? Back to the sick parent example —work/life integration may look like blocking off time in your work calendar to be fully present with your parent at the hospital. Whether it’s days or a specific time frame, the expectation is that you communicate to your team that you need time off and take care of your parent. Then, once you’re able to return to work, you do your best to be “all in” and present.
2. Personal and Professional Success Are One
Another part of work/life integration is the belief that personal and professional success are one. At the 2018 AP Summit (an annual event when all of the AP team flies into Boston for a few days of intense collaboration, team-building, and reflecting & looking ahead), Bob emphasized to employees that, “for Acceleration Partners to have (their) best year, each AP team member must have their best year yet.” (You can read all about their AP Summit here!)
To set up employees for this success, two weeks before the AP Summit, Bob asked the team to share with him the answers to the question, “What are the five most important things that you want to achieve/accomplish in your lifetime? Or said another way, if you are looking back on your life at 80, what will you have wanted to accomplish where you could say 100%, ‘I lived a great/successful life?’” (This was inspired by the book, The Big Five for Life by John P. Strelecky).
Employees shared a wide range of goals and in honor of AP’s 10 year anniversary, Bob selected 10 reoccurring themes from the life goals and helped them come true. I’ll let you read the full article for the details here, but some of these examples include: hiring a trainer for the folks who listed fitness goals as one of their top five, bringing in Book-in-a-Box to teach folks how to write a book, helping one employee achieve their dream of driving a race car, sending another employee to flight school in Santa Barbra…
To keep this momentum going, as part of their 2020 Vivid Vision, they are going to designate one of their team members as the “Dream Manager’ who’s job will be understanding and making AP employees’ dreams come true.
This isn’t just a one-off thing —They also integrate personal development in their on-boarding and on-going trainings. For example, they’re very big on building a culture of feedback, so they provide trainings for employees on listening and communication styles. They also want employees to understand their greater “why”, so they hold trainings on uncovering their purpose. It’s also not uncommon for employees to receive books that AP has selected and sent out to them to further their development.
3. Quick Tips on Building Culture in a Virtual Environment
As you can hopefully see, Acceleration Partner’s culture is rooted deep in their values and beliefs; however, I’d like to share some tactical tips, in case you’re also building a virtual culture.
1. PERFORMANCE-DRIVEN — Acceleration Partners is open during normal business hours to service clients; however, they are flexible when employees get their work done. As written in their culture deck, “We are measured by our outcomes, (our performance), not our inputs or time.”
2. A CULTURE OF FLEXIBILITY - They pride themselves on having a culture of flexibility, so it’s not uncommon for folks to go to yoga during the day or to spend a couple of hours with their kids at school and finish their work later in the day if need be. All that’s asked of employees is to block the time off on their calendar, so that teams don’t schedule meetings during that time. As one employee shared “it’s up to you to own your schedule.”
3. USE VIDEO - Acceleration Partners always uses video to communicate. They’ve found that it’s significantly better than audio when it comes to building relationships and communicating effectively. They use the platform zoom, which I can speak from personal experience, is phenomenal.
4. GSD (GET SHIT DONE) – While AP also uses slack to communicate, they are very cognizant that it can be distracting. Therefore, employees are encouraged to snooze their notifications and to set their status as (GSD) Getting Shit Done, so teammates know not to interrupt them. Since they’re a culture of performance, they also have a channel called “Commit to 3” where employees can share 3 things they want to get done that day, no matter what. While no one is necessarily following up with them about it, it’s more about the psychology that by putting your goals out there, you’re more likely to commit.
5. MEET IN PERSON - As I shared earlier, AP meets annually for the AP Summit and they try to encourage as much in-person interaction as possible. For example, CEO & Founder, Bob Glazer will open his home one Tuesday a month for anyone to come in and work from home with him. Which leads me to the last tip…
6. HIRE IN HUBS – While it isn’t always possible, hiring in hubs is a great way to bring folks together for activities like the 2018 BUILDFest Pitch Challenge and to do other social and team-building activities outside of work.