It was at our AP Summit in 2016 when Robert Glazer, founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners (AP), first shared his Vivid Vision for what AP would look like and have accomplished by 2020. And what an audacious vision it was. Many employees openly questioned whether the goals he’d set were overly ambitious for the company—then a 55-person agency. This year, 170 team members from around the world once again gathered at the Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Centre outside of Philadelphia for our annual AP Summit. Our “Summits” not only give our remote team members the opportunity to come together in person, create fun memories and celebrate all that we’ve accomplished as a company over the past year, but also to learn from both successes and failures and collaborate on new ways to reach our future goals. This year, we did that and more. “APers” new and veteran mingled, conversed and forged even stronger relationships that will no doubt help them elevate their capacity in the years ahead. We were also able to proudly reflect on the past three years and all of the ambitious 2020 Vivid Vision goals that were met and even exceeded.
The theme for our 2019 AP Summit was “Own It,” which is one of the AP’s three core values. To us, “own it” means stepping up to the opportunities in front of you, betting on your own abilities and rising to the occasion. With AP’s ever-expanding global presence, Day 1 opened by acknowledging our team member growth since the 2018 AP Summit. Despite the market nuances and cultural differences in all of our global regions, there was one insight from Chief Client Officer, Sarah Johnson Dayes, that truly hit the mark: “AP core values cross all borders.” AP’s senior leadership also acknowledged and discussed many of the growth challenges we’ve faced as a company, what’s been learned from them and how we’ll apply those learnings going forward. They also took the time to review our new marketing positioning, messaging and strategy for 2020 and beyond. Bob (CEO) and AP’s President, Matt Wool, also took to the stage for a Town Hall session. This open and honest portion of our Summit gave employees the opportunity to ask candid questions in real-time about the company, its leadership, our global expansion strategies and to hear the unscripted answers.
While AP Summits are a time of learning and growth, we’re also serious about building in time for lighthearted fun. This year we kicked-off AP Summit with our first “speed dating” style networking event. This allowed team members, especially the 70+ new ones who joined AP in the past year, to learn more about each other—be that their favourite foods, fondest childhood memories or their spirit animals. Team members had the opportunity to deepen their connections, flex their competitive muscle and show-off their smooth moves during AP Game Night. A bass-dropping DJ kicked the festivities up a notch, luring wallflowers and move masters alike to the dance floor. And for those who preferred to remain more stationary, life-sized versions of Jenga, Connect Four, Kerplunk, corn hole and more were readily available to provide competitive entertainment. A highlight of every AP Summit is AP Karaoke night. This year, an acclaimed local band provided live music, helping make everyone’s Rockstar dreams come true. One of the most anticipated acts of the evening was without a doubt the duo of Bob and Matt who valiantly performed what can only be described as an unparalleled and unexpected rendition of New Kids on the Block’s classic hit, “You’ve Got the Right Stuff.” Their matching t-shirts and advance rehearsals did not go unnoticed. Sharing many of the fun-filled aspects of our 2019 AP Summit were a few of our industry partners who stepped up to sponsor this year’s Summit, including RetailMeNot, Honey and Global Savings Group. Sponsors were able to meet many members of the AP team and participate in learning and social events alongside the AP team. Their support allowed us to bring world-class presenters to AP Summit again this year.
Discovering Our Strengths
Prior to AP Summit, all employees partook in the Clifton StrengthsFinder Assessment to help individuals identify, understand and maximize their unique strengths. Jamie Douraghy, Founder of Life Work Integration and a Gallup-Certified Strengths Finder Coach, led a company-wide session on how we can best align our work and teams around strengths. In true “own it” spirit, employees were able to more clearly identify their strengths and discuss among their teams how their unique individual skills contributed to their team and to AP as a whole. Jamie’s session allowed team members to learn more about their colleagues’ motivators and strengths and how they personally can contribute to helping them bring their best selves to work each day.
In perhaps the most impactful and emotional session of the week, Philip McKernan guided four AP team members through their One Last Talk, a voluntary experience where they presented to the entire company, vulnerably sharing their personal truths and owning their narratives. The premise of One Last Talk is to encourage people to boldly speak their truth by thinking about what they’d say if they were about to leave this planet and had the opportunity to deliver one last talk to the world. These talks give people the opportunity to stand on a stage and share a part of themselves they may not want the world to know in order to heal and to reflect. AP team members courageously shared intimate life experiences, thoughts and emotions with their colleagues. Their incredible and inspiring stories resonated across the room and set the tone for the remainder of the Summit. Here are some reflections from a few of the speakers: “Throughout this One Last Talk process, I realised that I would use my smile as a mask and that I was afraid of showing how painful all of my memories were. I finally allowed myself to feel that pain and in turn, feel pride and courage in my story. This experience changed my life and I’m incredibly grateful to AP, Philip and my fellow speakers. I do not have any regrets. I feel light and very in control of my life.” “I chose to share my talk and my message as a way to let my colleagues see a piece of me personally, versus the professional side they have come to know. While this experience felt so vulnerable, I found myself surrounded by so much support, connection and love at the end of it. I am beyond grateful for the experience of One Last Talk and getting to build deep meaningful connections with those around me.” The impact was also felt by the audience. “The vulnerability of the four AP speakers was felt in every corner of the room. I know the impact their courage had on me and I can only imagine the ways in which they touched so many others that day. I was truly inspired to share my own truth with the world.” The emotional stories and perspectives shared in these One Last Talk presentations carried over to the final day of AP Summit, with four additional speakers giving Ted Talk-style presentations on lessons they’ve learned from some of their most impactful and difficult struggles both inside and outside of work. Tying it all together, Phillip then led a company-wide team deepening session where he posed challenging questions, encouraged authentic, vulnerable sharing and created a space that helped bring to light some of the barriers that hold many of us back. While it was an emotional and challenging session, for many at AP, it was also deeply impactful and inspiring. We laughed, we cried, and we learned a lot about both ourselves and our colleagues.
A New Vision
With the completion of AP’s 2020 Vivid Vision, an important part of this year’s AP Summit was looking toward AP’s future. Pointing us to our next destination, Bob presented his 2023 Vivid Vision, a bold new direction for our company with new, audacious goals and aspirations. A core component of our 2023 Vivid Vision is prioritising how we as a company can make a bigger impact both inside and outside of our industry, an aim that aligns with the capacity building concept Bob outlines in his book, Elevate. “The formula for AP’s success has been a virtuous circle of capacity building, seeking to find a better way in everything we do, and maximising our impact within AP and beyond the walls of our organisation.”
Better People + Better Process = Better Performance
– Acceleration Partners 2023 Vivid Vision So, where will AP be by 2023? Here are a few key highlights of Acceleration Partners’ 2023 Vivid Vision.
- AP has 250+ employees spanning over 15 countries
- AP University (APU): Our APU programme will bring all the company’s training and development under one roof. We will launch our first dedicated training centre with APU curriculum extending from new-hire orientation and on-boarding to advanced leadership and capacity building training, helping employees identify their strengths and personal core values.
- Dream Programme: By 2023, our employee Dream Programme will be entering its fifth year. We continue to discover what is most important to our employees and help make some of their most valued wishes and aspirations a reality. We’ve granted more than 50 dreams/wishes to date, including learning a new language, coaching for physical goals and even sending an employee on a life-changing journey that led to a new relationship.
- Community Impact Programme: Sustainable profitability has also allowed us to dedicate 1.25% of our profits each year to important causes that align with our core values through our Community Impact p. Each year, we make a substantial donation of time and resources. The experiences resulting from AP’s philanthropy are shared at our AP Summits, a tradition that began in 2019 with Rustic Pathways recipients.
This Vivid Vision outlines the Who and What of AP’s ambitions between now and 2023. However, it intentionally does not outline the How. To do that, Bob asked everyone to contribute – using colour-coded sticky notes — their insights and ideas for what they could do to help make this bold vision a reality. This exercise was perhaps one of the greatest takeaways from Bob’s roll-out of AP’s 2023 Vivid Vision. He underscored that, for us to grow individually and as an organisation, we must step up to the challenges that are part of growth – push outside of our comfort zones and pool our unique talents, strengths and skillsets.
On the final evening of Summit, the entire company dressed to impress for our annual awards banquet to celebrate and honour our friends and colleagues who have truly outperformed throughout the year. The AP Awards given out on this final night recognise team members who have exceptionally embraced one or all of AP’s core values, who stepped up their game over the past year and “rookies” who have excelled in their first few months at AP. With 170 employees, this year’s awards had a Golden Globes feel, with each nominee receiving many rounds of applause as several winners journeyed to the stage through a sea of high fives. This annual dinner has become renowned for its outpouring of excitement, gratitude and appreciation – and these emotions are heightened during the final Dream-granting portion of the evening. Prior to AP Summit, Bob had asked everyone at the company how they could better “own it” in 2020, in either a personal or professional context. Over 26 individuals were called up to the stage by Bob and AP’s Talent and Culture team and informed that their “Own It” submission had been selected as one AP was going to help make a reality. A few of the Own It “dreams” were:
- Financial Accountability: After expressing a desire to take control of their financial futures, four employees were offered a workshop and private session with a financial advisor in order to help set themselves and their families up for a stable and profitable future.
- Health and Wellness: Numerous employees stated that they intended to set lofty health and wellness goals that would push them out of their comfort zones and test their limits. To help them create a plan to meet those demanding goals, AP provided them sessions with a world-renowned coach.
- Embracing Relationships: As we get busier and take on more responsibilities, our lives can start to speed by quickly. When a few team members shared that their “own it” initiative in 2020 was to dedicate more time with their partners or spouses, AP stepped up to help make it easier for them to do just that. From covering the cost of a date night of their choice to providing a team member with a babysitter, AP committed to helping team members connect with their loved ones in a mindful and present way.
- Fueling Passions: We all have our passions, but we can sometimes lose sight of them as time goes on. That is why Bob and the Culture team were adamant about sending one AP employee to dance classes at the Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles in order to help her live her dreams and advance her dance career.
“The AP Awards and Dream Granting ceremony always caps off a fantastic week and I was thrilled to hear my name called to the main stage this year. Bob shared with the company what I felt I needed to do to “Own It” in 2020 to make it my best year yet. Not only did AP offer me the support to help hit my fitness goals, but they doubled down by offering me a bucket list trip if I held myself accountable and met those goals.” “I was completely shocked when my name was called at the Dream Granting ceremony and I was offered the support to pursue my passion for dance and performance. I am still in shock that AP is able to do something as incredible as this for their employees. This company not only cares about our happiness in the workplace, they are also committed to investing in our lives outside of the job.” “It’s really difficult to put into words because it feels trite to just say this [financial coach] will change my life, but it’s the truth. It means the world to me that someone would invest that in me as a person and I am inspired to pay that kindness forward in time.” To learn more about our company, core values and performance-driven culture, visit our Company page. For weekly inspiration from Bob, be sure to sign up for his Friday Forwards at https://www.robertglazer.com/fridayfwd/.