In our blog posts, industry articles, podcasts, and internal trainings, we’ve spoken a great deal about our Mindful Transition program – what it is, the philosophy behind it, and why we encourage our team members to take advantage of it if/when they are ready.
I am one such team member. I’ve proudly worked at AP for over two years serving the paid marketing and digital strategy needs of our clients as well as supporting our internal team members with our technology needs. I’ve truly enjoyed working at AP and it was with mixed emotions that I decided to go through AP’s Mindful Transition program. However, it’ was time for me to move on and pursue an exciting entrepreneurial adventure – something that AP strongly supports.
Below is an article that I wrote and published on my Medium page. I’m sharing it here as it explains why I decided to take this leap, how the Mindful Transition program has helped me in this transition, and valuable lessons I’ve learned from AP along the way.
It Was Time to Learn
In the start-up world, VC Mark Suster has a famous article called “Is it Time for You to Earn or to Learn?”, which has had a lasting impact on me. My main take-away is that it’s critical to be honest with yourself as to whether you have more to “learn” (work for a company) before you “earn” (start your own company). I’ve shared some of the strategy I took when preparing for my most recent venture, but I want to show just how effective working for the right employer can be when your goal is to learn as much as possible.
After my previous start-up, it was time for me to find a job and I was fortunate to have a great network which presented me with an opportunity to interview with Acceleration Partners (AP). AP is a very strong player in the affiliate and digital agency world, and I was excited because I’d be able to work with other start-ups on building their growth strategies. Fast-forward almost 3 years later, and a refined set of marketing skills is only the tip of the iceberg.
Here are some key take-aways from working at AP…a clear example of how setting your intentions to growth and learning can manifest into lasting professional and life skills:
Growth Marketing/Strategy: I have a background in SEM, which is the role I was initially hired for. This quickly expanded to Paid Social, Content Promotion, Affiliate, Retargeting, etc. which has given me a solid toolset required to think big picture. I now look at marketing channels as a team where each player has a specific role, and crafting a growth strategy requires careful thought and preparation. Working with many serious start-ups in this capacity has given me confidence in applying the right strategy to the right situation.
Remote: As I begin my new journey building Pillow, we are currently, and plan on remaining, a fully remote company. “Remote” seems to be all the hype these days, and I know some companies are doing it very well (Automatic, Zapier, etc.), BUT it is not easy! Culture, hiring, meetings, planning, communicating; all require a different approach to make “remote” effective, and thankfully I’ve been a part of the strategy as AP scales beyond 70 employees in a fully remote structure.
Culture: AP operates on what is called the EOS Operating System, which is essentially a structure that helps a business efficiently scale. Aside from promoting openness, accountability, processes, etc., a core component is company vision, mission and core-values. Everything at AP is aligned to this, from hiring/firing, to meetings, to promotions, etc. Witnessing first- hand the ability to set a vision, mission and core-values at a leadership level, and then build an entire company around that has made a major impact on me, and will undoubtedly affect how we build Pillow.
Leadership Dynamic: The CEO and General Manager at AP are perhaps the most complementary leadership team that I’ve seen. The CEO is the visionary, name behind the brand, industry leader (speaking engagements, published book, podcasts, etc.) and can be a bit “scattered” at times with big picture thinking. The GM is grounded, structured and process oriented….essentially the glue that holds AP together and the force that keeps the visionary grounded and focused. Both are leaders in a different way, and in witnessing their dynamic for several years, it was a formula that I used in vetting and deciding to work with my current partner. I am grounded/structured and he is the visionary/industry expert which has proven to be a solid formula in the early stages of our business.
Accountability/Feedback: In the early stages of a start-up, roles and accountability can be chaotic. Everyone is wearing multiple hats and it’s easy for the lines to get crossed. This is likely inevitable to a degree, but the structure that AP uses for check-ins and feedback is something that I’ll eventually leverage for my company. It’s critical that accountability is clear and that feedback is based on defined responsibilities, even if they are a bit scattered at first. This becomes even more important when your workforce is remote.
Right-Seat: Possibly the biggest lesson from my time with AP was ensuring your team members are in the right seat within the organization; one that leverages their strengths and peaks their interest. Sometimes this means shifting around job responsibilities, changing roles completely, or even working with someone to find a new job outside of the company. Life is too short to spend significant time on something you don’t love, and as a company, you are losing efficiency if you have someone in a role that they are not thriving in.
AP has a completely open-door policy in this regard where any employee can openly discuss any concerns or feelings of discontent in their role with no negative consequences. Management will actively try to find a better role within the company for that employee, or if AP just isn’t the right fit, will actually help them find a new job. The impacts on turnover, hiring, efficiency, etc. has been incredible. You can read more about how AP describes it here.
When you think big for yourself but also the people that you work for, a world of opportunities opens up. The lessons I’ve learned are not available in a book or even an MBA. Little by little, I’m realizing that many of the decisions we’re making for Pillow are based on my experience with AP, and I’m certain will play a critical role in how I craft the rest of my life.