Our guest is COO Alliance Member Matt Wool, President of Acceleration Partners.Â
Itâ€™s always a challenge to keep employees satisfied and happy, and itâ€™s even more difficult to do when you have a remote team. The President ofÂ Acceleration Partners, Matt Wool has made it happen. Growing a team of five people into a multinational company and being recognized as one of the best places to work in by Glassdoor, Matt talks about a leadership style that evolves according to the company’s needs. He shares how he deals with his CEO’s “idea diarrhea” to come up with actionable steps and his strategies in making sure that employees are growing and satisfied. Learn about growing globally and the importance of listening before you talk.
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Matt Wool is a veteran manager with experience in both client-facing and operational roles for technology-oriented consulting firms. Heâ€™s now President of Acceleration Partners. Mattâ€™s responsibilities include the oversight of project delivery and maintenance of client satisfaction. Heâ€™s helped drive the companyâ€™s growth from five employees when he joined in 2012 to over 130 employees on four continents. Acceleration Partners is a performance marketing firm focused on driving growth for the worldâ€™s leading brands via affiliate and other partnership-based programs. They have a client roster that includes Target, Adidas, Reebok, Warby Parker and many others. Prior to Acceleration Partners, Matt managed the rollout of innovative software for a leading technology transfer consultancy. He was also a key account manager for healthcare technology services firm handling large hospitals and insurers. Matt started his career in the film industry with production and creative roles at Fox Searchlight, DreamWorks Animation, and Disney.
Matt, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Cameron. Itâ€™s great to be here.
Give us a bit of a background as to what Acceleration Partners is. I call it a performance marketing firm, but for people that donâ€™t know what that is or havenâ€™t heard of Acceleration Partners. Tell us what you are, how youâ€™re different from some of the others that are around or similar to your industry.
What we call ourselves these days is partner marketing and that encompasses what most people know of like affiliate marketing, which is a channel in digital marketing that typically sits next to SEO, paid search, and paid social. It also includes other types of online partnerships that are tracked and paid on some type of performance. There are a lot of business development deals that fall in that category, influencers, other kinds of relationships. In a nutshell, weâ€™re running partnership programs online that helped our clients scale efficiently.
In the early days of the internet back in 1998, I got involved with a company called Commission Junction. They were doing what was called affiliate marketing back then. How are you different from somebody like them?
Weâ€™re different from them in a number of ways. In our industry where it started back then, there were companies like Commission Junction and what they were both technology platforms as well as professional services organizations. They were the equivalent of Google but also running the paid search program for you. At the time, not that many people knew what affiliate marketing or partner marketing was and that seemed like a great solution. It was one-stop shopping.
Over time, as companies have gotten much more sophisticated with attribution and theyâ€™ve started to look at one-stop shops as maybe not being the best solution. Theyâ€™ve moved much more towards agencies to manage their programs. Thatâ€™s us. Weâ€™re able to do things in a more sophisticated way with high-level customer service and generate results that the legacy players who do both sides of the equations weâ€™re not able to do.
Bob is the CEO of Acceleration Partners. You guys met back in business school.
I was in business school and he had put out an ad looking for an intern. It was 2008. The economy wasnâ€™t awesome. He was looking for some help with digital marketing stuff. I applied for that and did that with him for a summer. I then went off and did some consulting work at healthcare companies. A couple of years later when he was ready to scale an agency, he asked me to come back in order to oversee the client engagements as VP of client services. We have three or four employees at that point. We had our first company meeting at his parentsâ€™ kitchen table. Now, weâ€™ve got 150 people on four continents. Itâ€™s been cool.
Why do you join somebody who has a four-person company? Iâ€™ve never understood that. Iâ€™ve always tried to do it. Why did guys like you or women like you join these small companies? What did you see?
Bob and I have discussed this many times. The real answer is that, I wasnâ€™t happy where I was. I was at a point in my life where Iâ€™d made a little bit of money. I had a little bit of cushion and I was looking at the next many years and saying, â€œDo I want to be somewhere where Iâ€™m not very happy?â€ To be perfectly honest, when I joined up with Bob, I did not anticipate anything near where we are now. I donâ€™t think either of us did, but I thought it would be a place where I could do good work with people that I liked and do well enough financially. Honestly, thatâ€™s been the Acceleration Partnersâ€™ mantra that weâ€™ve carried through the whole time. Weâ€™re a great place to work. We are not, in all transparency, the place where youâ€™re going to make the most money especially in digital marketing, but thereâ€™s a lot of other stuff that we bring to the table that keeps us happy.
To data point on that, you guys were ranked as the number twelve company in the United States to work for based on Glassdoor. Youâ€™re a little bit past the whole, â€œYouâ€™re a good place to work.â€ You guys are at a world-class level.
To be perfectly honest, it is Bobâ€™s passion and itâ€™s what drives him every day. I do everything I can to support that. We try to be as good of a place to work as we can.
Talk to us about your career then with Acceleration Partners. When you start with a company with four people and now at 130 and youâ€™re also a distributed workforce. You donâ€™t have any physical office spaces. All 130 employees are still based wherever they happen to be that day. How have you grown as a leader? What have you done to grow? How have you stayed relevant? Thatâ€™s massive growth.
The first thing Iâ€™ve done is I have evolved with the company and as we look at the company, we have gone through a number of different stages. We went through a number of them with you as a coach and helping us with this evolution. When we started at 0 to 20 people, I knew everybody. I knew everything that was going on. It was a very hands-on management style. The type of leadership that we needed was jumping in wherever we needed a hand, because we were small and we didnâ€™t have people to do everything.
What I find is that in each stage of our development, 0 to 20, 20 to 50, 50 to 100, now 100-plus and multinational. Each stage requires a completely different skillset. What I tried to do and our whole leadership team has tried to do is recognize that, understand the skills that we need. Try to upskill ourselves as best as we can in order to stay relevant in that period. It is possible that we will get to a period where Iâ€™m no longer able to upskill myself, for whatâ€™s required in that period. Weâ€™ve had members of our leadership team along the way that weâ€™re not able to do that at different periods of the company. Itâ€™s the way it is. Itâ€™s not that bad, itâ€™s how it goes. The number one thing that Iâ€™ve done is, with Bobâ€™s help, recognize whatâ€™s required in each of those stages and then weâ€™ve both work to make the adjustments as leaders to be relevant in those stages.
Give us a couple of specifics. What have you had to upskill yourself over the years?
The biggest one was that once we got to 50 people, we no longer knew everything that was going on or even every one that was there. It got to the point where it was no longer about even delegation. If you think about stages and you go from, youâ€™re doing everything and then youâ€™re starting to delegate stuff, itâ€™s going to get bigger. Itâ€™s not about delegating. Itâ€™s about growing people and coaching people. Thatâ€™s the stage where we started to move from delegating to coaching and needing to trust but verify. Thereâ€™s no way that we could keep our thumb on everything. We had to make sure that everyone in the organization was the right person, they had the right coaching, the right skills, the right training, and then they could go and do what they needed to do.
I love that whole phrase, â€œTrust but verify.â€ We used to call it to inspect what you expect. Give us an example of trust but verify and where youâ€™ve done that.
The best example I could think of is we have a chief client officer. She oversees probably 80% of the headcount of the company. At this point, 90% of what happens in her organization, I donâ€™t see. Probably, 60% of what happens in her organization, she doesnâ€™t even see. Probably, 20% of what happens in her organization, the person below her doesnâ€™t see. Itâ€™s that kind of example. Iâ€™ve worked with her over the past several years as sheâ€™s moved from digital marketing manager up to leading one of our teams, up to be our VP of client service, up to being our chief client officer. At this point itâ€™s, â€œI trust her implicitly,â€ but we still have check-ins. I still ask her whatâ€™s going on. I still push on stuff where we need to make sure that Iâ€™m verifying and she does the same all the way down. As long as you have that alignment and you have the right people in those seats, itâ€™ll work.
You and Bob are running the company as the CEO/COO. How do you and he split roles? What reports into him and what reports to you?
The way that we split it at a high level is that Iâ€™m running todayâ€™s business and heâ€™s building tomorrowâ€™s business. What that means in practice is that I have functional accountability for all the day-to-day operations of the business with the exception of marketing. Sales, HR, client services, finance, and then also our regional teams, ultimately, all report to me. They all have extremely competent leaders to oversee them. Iâ€™m trusting but verifying on all of them.
My job is to make sure that they have everything they need, they are doing what they need to be doing, the accountabilities, they are hitting their numbers, weâ€™re not getting sued, weâ€™re making payroll, all that exciting stuff. Bobâ€™s job is to be thinking about next year and the year after that. Where are we innovating? What does our culture need to look like? What are the big ideas we need? Spearheading thought leadership, speaking, and all that kind of stuff, looking towards the future to build the business. He also does a lot of business development, bigger partnerships, that kind of stuff. Marketing does report to him. Heâ€™s an excellent marketing mind. Frankly, Iâ€™m not. Itâ€™s a good way to split it. Thatâ€™s how we split things up. We certainly overlap in the middle in some places. Sometimes, thatâ€™s good. Sometimes, itâ€™s less good. In general, when we stay in those lanes, things work well.
I want to dive into something that I had insights too, during our coaching or even during the years that you were a COO Alliance member. Bob had this crazy random idea and it was to start sending out emails to nobody, like twelve people, and then sending it to 40 people and then 60 people. Every week, he was sending out this email called Friday Forward. Did I see that he has 100,000 subscribers to that?
Yeah. Itâ€™s crazy. I know where weâ€™re going with this. When he told me he wanted to do this, I said, â€œWhy? This is ridiculous.â€ He was like, â€œNo. Trust me. This is going to be great.â€ He was right and I was wrong. What we always joke about is out of ten ideas that he throws out, usually thereâ€™s one that Iâ€™m lukewarm on and one that Iâ€™m excited about, and eight that Iâ€™m saying, â€œNo.â€ Typically, the one that Iâ€™m excited about is the one that we agree on and we go with. This is one of the rare cases where I was like, â€œI donâ€™t get it,â€ but he felt it and he did it. Now, itâ€™s blowing up. What makes it great is that itâ€™s authentic, itâ€™s him, itâ€™s not sales.
Iâ€™ve heard this so often from COO Alliance members is that entrepreneurs have these crazy big shiny object ideas, â€œThe coolest thing we ever have to do.â€ We as the ops guy or person sit back and weâ€™re like, â€œI donâ€™t get it,â€ or we can outbuy them and say, â€œNo.â€ How do you filter those to give him the space to be the entrepreneur that he needs to be? How do you chime in on it? How do you help him make decisions? Some of it isnâ€™t easy to do. That one is simple and doesnâ€™t require a lot of bandwidth of your team, I would guess. Other of these crazy ideas can require a lot of bandwidth of your team.
Where it starts typically is he and I ruminate on an idea. I wish I had a more scientific explanation for this, but after working with him for several years, it comes down to a gut feeling at this point. If he sees something, number one, I know in my gut if heâ€™s just throwing it out there because heâ€™s an entrepreneur and he has idea diarrhea or if heâ€™s saying it because itâ€™s something he believes in. Frankly, thatâ€™s my first filter.
A lot of times, entrepreneurs will throw out ideas because theyâ€™ve got a million ideas, but thereâ€™s a difference between the ones they believe in and the ones that theyâ€™re throwing out there. Thatâ€™s a gut call and thatâ€™s because weâ€™re working together for a long time. When itâ€™s something he believes in, those are typically the ones that I latch on to. A lot of times, what happens is he has to get the idea out of his head and explain it to me because itâ€™s not clear initially.
How does he do that?
A lot of me asking more questions and pulling that with him. One of the things about him is that heâ€™s very cognizant of the way he is. He understands that. A lot of times, heâ€™ll say something and itâ€™s clear in his mind, but itâ€™s not clearly articulated to others. Itâ€™s not like heâ€™s upset about that. Iâ€™ll be like, â€œI donâ€™t get it. Why?â€ Iâ€™ll say that over and over again until finally he gets it out in the way that he means and then it makes sense.
This is important because this is a very specific skill that a COO needs to be good at is asking enough of the questions to understand the idea that the entrepreneur wants us to execute. The skill is asking the questions. The art is doing it in a way that we donâ€™t piss them off. How do you ask all of those questions? The who, what, when, where, why, and how of these ideas to understand it more without getting Bob upset that youâ€™re debating him or you donâ€™t like it? How do you do it?
First of all, Iâ€™m very lucky because Bob is very even-tempered. I can count on one hand the number of times heâ€™s been legitimately pissed off. I know a lot of other entrepreneurs who are much more hot-tempered than he is. Ultimately, what it is, is that we have a relationship thatâ€™s built on a lot of trusts. He knows that if Iâ€™m asking questions and pushing on him, that itâ€™s not because I think heâ€™s a jerk or I think his ideas are dumb, or any of that. He understands that this is part of the process. Thatâ€™s what it is. Itâ€™s that you have to have that level of trust that when I ask him a lot of questions or when I say, â€œI donâ€™t get it,â€ heâ€™s not taking that personally. He sees that Iâ€™m trying to get it from him and understand what heâ€™s trying to say.
Another one of his crazy ideas was he wanted to write a book. I actively think that all CEOs should write a book nowadays, especially when itâ€™s so easy to put out a good quality one. How did you guys launch his first book? It was called Performance Partnerships. What was the idea with that and how did you tie the CEO having a book into scaling the company? How have you leveraged that and used that strategically?
To his credit, this was the right idea, for sure. The thing about our industry is that it traditionally lacked what most industries would consider true thought leadership and luminant areas. The folks are the ones that cut through the crap in that industry and that clients and people tend to flock to. Bob to a certain extent became, prior to the book, both of those things to people who knew him. The problem was we needed a platform where we could go to larger stages literally and figuratively and have folks say, â€œThis guy and this company know what theyâ€™re talking about and we should be listening to them.â€ The real core idea behind the book was that there had never been a book laying out a vision of the future of our industry or real thought leadership. Thereâ€™d been a lot of tactical books of how-to, but not thought leadership and vision. It never existed. We thought that by doing that, we would differentiate ourselves from everybody else because nobody else is going to do that.
Ultimately, we were right about that. It became a real entree into opportunities to speak for him. We sent out lots of copies to lots of people. We have a lot of prospect meetings weâ€™ve gone into where the book is sitting on their table. Itâ€™s given us a megaphone that Iâ€™m not sure a lot of other things could do. At this point, even if somebody else writes a book, in our industry, we had the first, it was already there. It builds a moat in that way.
Letâ€™s go back to the best places to work in. Glassdoor ranked you as the 12th best company in the United States to work for. You guys have also won a number of awards in best places to work. First off, can you walk us through how youâ€™ve gotten there? Secondly, you donâ€™t have a place so how do you win these awards as best places to work when we donâ€™t have that traditional place to go to and to even create a great culture? People often thought it was about the office or the free lunches or the lunchroom filled with all the snacks and the massages. You donâ€™t even have any of that to your benefit. How have you guys done this?
Weâ€™ve done it by focusing on it. Once we got to that twenty-person stage, we realized we were a real company. Thatâ€™s when we said, â€œWe have something special here. How can we harness the specialness that we have and build on it?â€ Whatâ€™s done it for us, is that we very early on identified what we wanted to be. We then built out everything else around that. Early on, we knew that we were always going to be a remote company. We thought we had no interest to ever go into an office again. I had very little interest to ever go into an office again at the time we had young children. Theyâ€™re older now but theyâ€™re still relatively young. We said, â€œWhat do we need to do to scale a company where this can work?â€ We started saying, â€œWe probably need certain kinds of people,â€ at the time. For the first few years from then, one of the things that we did was we said, â€œIn looking at demographics, who are going to work best in that environment?â€
It meant that we couldnâ€™t hire people right out of college. They bring them in, work every week that turn into years. Ultimately, thatâ€™s where theyâ€™re making a lot of their money. We couldnâ€™t have that. We needed to have people who could work from home whoâ€™d already worked in a crappy cubicle for a couple of years and never wanted to do that again. We started with that. Once we had that, we started to say, â€œWhat do we need to do to build a company and a culture thatâ€™s going to make those people want to stay forever? What are the things we have to do and what are the structures that we have to do to make that work?â€
Everything then started growing organically from there. We were early adopters of videocalls. We recognized that even though people were remote, we wanted to see each other. Weâ€™ve had several different video systems over the years. We do tons of videocalls. We try never to do audio-only calls. Weâ€™re big on that. We try to have a lot of over communication because weâ€™ve never had an office. Weâ€™ve always had to figure out how to communicate with people in ways where theyâ€™re not all just standing around the office. We try to over-communicate as much as we can. We try to repeat things seven times. We still arenâ€™t great at it, but we try.
We try to make sure that information is disseminated in all the ways that need to happen when you canâ€™t shout it across the office. We build up benefits. We build up programs. We build up all kinds of stuff that was all predicated on it. Thatâ€™s the biggest difference for us. Itâ€™s not like we started in an office and then we decided, â€œItâ€™s cool to work remote.â€ Some people are remote and some people are in the office, but the culture doesnâ€™t work. Weâ€™ve always been that way so weâ€™ve been able to build all the structures that are going to support that.
The legacy thinking, the old-school thinking is that you need people showing up working 9 to 5 being in an office to make sure they get stuff done or you get those managers who are fearful, â€œHow do I know that theyâ€™re doing the right stuff? How do I know my team is working?â€ What do you do to create that environment so that people are putting in a fair dayâ€™s work for a fair dayâ€™s pay and that youâ€™re getting results? Also, what technology tools might you use to give people the tools to excel in their jobs?
The first thing that this all comes down to is figuring out what works well in your company from a people perspective and it is hiring for that. Everything starts with core values. Weâ€™ve honed in on three core values that we find in this environment work well. The first core value is, â€œOwn it,â€ the second core value is, â€œExcel and improve,â€ and the third core value is, â€œEmbrace relationships.â€ With own it, itâ€™s about accountability. Itâ€™s your point of how do you know theyâ€™re doing an honest dayâ€™s work. If people who are accountable and who are intrinsically accountable, itâ€™s not that theyâ€™re being held accountable necessarily by others, but that they are holding themselves accountable. Theyâ€™re going to do what they need to do and so itâ€™s a matter of finding those people and giving them the opportunity to do that.
Excel and improve are people who want to get better because they want to get better. It doesnâ€™t matter if theyâ€™re going to be in the office or not. Theyâ€™re going to want to get better because thatâ€™s part of who they are and that will ripple through everything. Embrace relationships are we need people who want to build relationships with each other, with our clients, with our vendors, with everybody. If you were a total introvert and youâ€™ve no interest in relationships, then sitting at home and working all day for most of the positions at our company isnâ€™t going to be the right one.
The first thing is honing in on those core values and then hiring with a stringent hiring process to bring in the people where thatâ€™s going to fit. In terms of tools, we do a lot of videoconferencing and there are good tools for that. We use Slack a lot and weâ€™ve created a lot of channels. Some people would consider them a little frivolous but given the fact that weâ€™re not sitting next to each other, they perform that water-cooler chat function that people need to stay connected to each other in a not work way. We have a lot of collaboration through Asana and those kinds of tools. Honestly, itâ€™s primarily going to be on video and Slack at this point. Thatâ€™s what everybodyâ€™s working on.
You talked about the over communication, but youâ€™ve also had something around transparency and this radical transparency. Is that one of your core values, something related to transparency as well?
It used to be. Itâ€™s not anymore. Itâ€™s quarter or business operation, but itâ€™s not technically a core value. We believe that and this goes to the same thing, it goes a long way to make people not feel isolated when they are feeling connected to the company as a whole. One of the best ways to connect to the companies as a whole is to know whatâ€™s going on at all levels of the business. It doesnâ€™t mean like, â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ What it means is we share our financials every month with the entire company. We did a kickoff call for our third quarter with the entire company where we went through, what went right last quarter, what went wrong last quarter, what our goals are for this upcoming quarter. We talked about different milestones that were hit and were missed.
When it comes to big initiatives in the whole company, everybody heard that and they were able to ask as many questions as they want. Thereâ€™s pretty much nothing that happens in the company that we donâ€™t either share or would be happy to share if somebody asked. We operate by what we call the Sunday morning paper test. We try not to have anything. Weâ€™re like we would care that much if it got printed in the Sunday morning paper. If we donâ€™t have a lot of secrets, then it forces the issue.
You guys also have a system around, exit interviews, but whatâ€™s it called when someoneâ€™s leaving the company? You have some system around that.
Thatâ€™s called mindful transitions. Bob did a TEDx Talk on this. This has become something that we push at our company. At the end of the day, itâ€™s for selfish reasons, but I do think that it has positive effects everywhere. What mindful transition means is that for an employee to give two weeksâ€™ notice at a company, it is the worst possible outcome. What that means is that the employee didnâ€™t trust the company enough to come to them and have a conversation that for some reason they werenâ€™t happy overlooking.
It means that the company only has two weeks to figure out what theyâ€™re going to do to fill that spot. It also means that the relationship of trust is completely broken between those people. In an industry like ours which is a small industry, everyoneâ€™s going to see everybody again. Itâ€™s not great for anyone, company or employee, to be out there with someone not feeling like they did the right thing or having some level of distrust between them.
Our approach is what we call the mindful transition. We encourage employees who are not happy to come to us, to their manager, to HR. Sit down, have a conversation, talk it through, determine what the root of the unhappiness is, and is it something that can reasonably be solved? If itâ€™s not, letâ€™s come up with a plan where over a period of weeks or sometimes even months, you will transition out of the company. We will help you find a job. We provide services. We send people to get resumes professionally reviewed. We send people to get headshots. We do all this kind of stuff.
We do whatever we can for them. We refer them to jobs. If we know someone whoâ€™s looking for someone who needs that skillset, we will refer them. Itâ€™s contingent upon that person doing the job to the best of their ability while theyâ€™re at the company still. What this results in is a much better relationship where the company feels good. We had time to replace them. The employee feels good. They did the right thing. They potentially got a much better-fit job for them because we helped them. Nobodyâ€™s left in the lurch. A lot of times when this happens, we see each other again. We do business. There are other good outcomes. Thatâ€™s the idea.
One of the things that you guys have had to do through this transition is growing people and a lot of your current mid-senior-level team are internals that has grown with the company.
Almost all of them.
How have you worked to grow them? When youâ€™re a 20, 50, 130-person company, the company is drastically different, not only for you and Bob, but also for them. What have you worked with them on in terms of growing their skillset?
We have worked with them on a lot of things. Primarily, what it is, itâ€™s their ability to become a coach themselves then. Bob and I will work with people. We have outside coaches that if people want help support in that way, they will go to them and work with them. We have quarterly book clubs for some of our senior members of our team where we select books on leadership and development for them to read and then we discuss.
We have different internal forums where people can get together to discuss leadership challenges. Weâ€™re starting to do more one-on-one mentoring at all levels of the company. These are all things that we focus on. Iâ€™ll be honest with you, this is one of the hardest things because it takes time, especially in a digital agency environment. Time is always a thing you donâ€™t have. A lot of it is trying to make sure that people have the time where they can invest in this learning and where theyâ€™re not scrambling to put out client fires and that can be a struggle.
How about the discussions where you realize someone whoâ€™s hit their ceiling of complexity and theyâ€™re not able to scale? How are those discussions gone?
First of all, transparency is one of the things that weâ€™ve been transparent about with the company. Bob developed a slide, a graph that shows how the requirements of positions as the company scales. Itâ€™s hard to keep up with that. If a company grows 50% in a year and jobs get 50% bigger, itâ€™s hard to get 50% better to keep up with that pace. The first thing is that we have been transparent with people like, â€œThis is the case.â€ Hopefully, people have on some level internalized it and maybe got it. When we have the conversation, oftentimes they see it first. Theyâ€™re like, â€œI get it.â€ A lot of times, the next level up may not be what they want. Itâ€™s not right for them. They see it. Those become those mindful transition conversations. Ideally, if weâ€™re doing it right, theyâ€™re very amicable and they donâ€™t turn into too bad talks.
The slide component of the people growing and scaling. If the company grows by 50%, their skill is having to grow by 50%. I talked to the founder of Infusionsoft about that number and he said that, â€œEmployees in a management role can only ever go through two consecutive doubles in the size of their revenue.â€ If youâ€™re a $4 million company and youâ€™re a manager of IT, when the company gets to $8 million, you could still probably be a manager.
When it gets to $16 million, youâ€™re probably at the ceiling of complexity where you have to grow your skills again to keep pace rapidly. By the time it gets to $32 million, youâ€™re out of a roll. I read a book called The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. He said it was one triple, which is going from $3 million to $9 million. You canâ€™t do the next triple. Those numbers feel accurate. Do you have a data point that you watch on this or are you constantly working on growing your people?
It happens a little bit faster probably than three doubles. What we are doing is we do quarterly performance reviews of everybody. We give constant performance feedback in both ways. Weâ€™re trying to take as much performance feedback as we can. We have our finger on this pulse all the time and we definitely see it coming. Itâ€™s not a situation typically where either weâ€™re surprised or the person is surprised. If youâ€™re flagging issues or youâ€™re seeing someone fall behind and itâ€™s happening quarter after quarter and youâ€™re having that discussion, then it is what it is. In any case, I donâ€™t have a specific data point on it, but I would tell you that when we went from 5 to 10, there was a big difference and then. Now, from 10 to 20, we see a big difference, so maybe itâ€™s even a double and not a triple.
What do you think about growing globally? Youâ€™ve now opened up in a couple of other countries. Was it China or the UK?
We have folks in Singapore. We have folks in Sydney. We have a pretty big team in London and then a few people scattered elsewhere in New York.
What have you learned from doing that? What has been the big learnings, maybe assumptions that we made going as North Americans that you found to be not true or the big a-has that youâ€™ve learned that you could share?
The first thing is we assumed the impact that looks and says, â€œThe Americans are here. They must know what theyâ€™re doing because theyâ€™re Americans. Weâ€™re going to hire them.â€ That is definitely not the case. We have learned that lesson a little bit the hard way. Thereâ€™s a famous case study where Starbucks tried to open up in Australia. They tried to put their American blueprint on opening stores in Australia and it failed completely miserably. Thereâ€™s a lot of hypotheses as to why, but ultimately Australians have very different rituals around coffee drinking than we do. They have very different feelings about chain stores than we do. Thereâ€™s a lot of stuff that was there that Starbucks didnâ€™t take into account.
We knew that. We tried to specifically not do that but even when we try to specifically not do that, itâ€™s hard and we didnâ€™t do a great job. Weâ€™re trying to do better on that and do better acclimating to the local business nuances and the local industry needs a little bit better. Thatâ€™s a big learning. Being a remote company across all these time zones is hard to sell. People canâ€™t talk to each other at the same time. Itâ€™d be the same if we had offices, the communication gets exponentially harder.
If you were to talk to your 21-year-old self and try to take some of the ideas or lessons that you now know to be true but you wish youâ€™d known when you were 21, whatâ€™s a big lesson that youâ€™d like to have told yourself back then?
Listen before you talk, always. Itâ€™s number one. That is by far the biggest thing that Iâ€™ve tried to work on in myself as a leader and that I still work on all the time. My first inclination is to give my opinion and squash everything. You canâ€™t do that right as a leader. Itâ€™s listening before you talk. Let everybody put their opinions on the table. Itâ€™s not about consensus, but itâ€™s about getting the input and then making everybody feel like theyâ€™ve been heard and not being the first speaking and squashing the discourse.
Matt Wool, President of Acceleration Partners, thank you for being on the show.
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About Matt Wool
Matt WoolÂ is the general manager ofÂ Acceleration Partners, a performance marketing firm focused on online customer acquisition for growing consumer and ecommerce companies. Representative clients include Adidas, Gymboree, Jet, ModCloth, Reebok, Target and Warby Parker. Acceleration Partners was ranked No. 4 onÂ Fortuneâ€™s list of the 10Â Best Workplaces in Advertising and MarketingÂ and No. 26 on Great Place to Workâ€™s listÂ of the Best Workplaces for Small and Medium Businesses.
Acceleration Partners is a performance marketing firm focused on driving growth for the worldâ€™s leading brands via affiliate and other partnership- based programs. They have a client roster that includes Target, Adidas, Reebok, Warby Parker, and many others.