Robert Glazer | How to Build Culture with a Virtual Team of 200

Robert Glaze

Robert Glazer is the Founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, which is a global partner marketing agency. He’s also the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards for two years in a row. 

Robert is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward, which is read by over 200,000 people in 60 countries on a weekly basis and he also authored the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller Elevate, and the international best-selling book Performance Partnerships. He has a couple more books coming out including How to Make Virtual Teams Work and his newest book, Friday Forward, which will be released in September 2020. Robert is also a sought after speaker at companies and organizations around the world and he also hosts The Elevate Podcast

Join John Corcoran on this episode of Smart Business Revolution Podcast as he talks with Robert Glazer, Founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, about Robert’s work in affiliate partner marketing and how he grew an agency to over 170 employees. They also discuss things like building company culture, creating scorecards and KPIs for a virtual team, and what Robert has learned from doing a podcast.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Robert Glazer talks about his podcast and what he has learned from it
  • Why Robert started the Friday Forward newsletter
  • What Robert does in affiliate partner marketing and how he scaled his team to become a big agency
  • How Robert gets and manages large companies as clients
  • Robert talks about his experience with the coronavirus pandemic over the last few months
  • How to build a good company culture for a virtual team
  • Why Acceleration Partners is a good place to work
  • The people Robert acknowledges for his achievements and success
  • Where to learn more about Robert Glazer

Resources Mentioned:

Sponsor: Rise25

Today’s episode is sponsored by Rise25 Media, where our mission is to connect you with your best referral partners, clients, and strategic partners. We do this through our done for you business podcast solution and content marketing. 

Along with my business partner Dr. Jeremy Weisz, we have over 18 years of experience with B2B podcasting, which is one of the best things you can do for your business and you personally. 

If you do it right, a podcast is like a “Swiss Army Knife” – it is a tool that accomplishes many things at once. It can and will lead to great ROI, great clients, referrals, strategic partnerships, and more. It is networking and business development; and it is personal and professional development which doubles as content marketing

A podcast is the highest and best use of your time and will save you time by connecting you to higher caliber people to uplevel your network. 

To learn more, go to Rise25.com or email us at [email protected]

To learn more, book a call with us here

Check out Rise25 to learn more about our done-for-you lead generation and done-for-you podcast services. 

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:14  

Welcome to the Revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we asked today’s most successful entrepreneur to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran  0:40  

All right. Welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, the host of the Smart Business Revolution podcast. And as you know, I get to talk to smart founders, CEOs and entrepreneurs every week of all kinds of companies and organizations like YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, lending tree, Open Table, x software and many more. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25 where we help to connect me to be business owners to their Ideal prospects and before introducing today’s guest I want to give a big thank you to Fran Biderman Gross for recommending our guest. She’s the founder of Advantages and the host of the Drive Profit with Purpose Podcast. Check out threekeysbook.com/podcast to check that out or go on iTunes or any of you Stitcher, any of your usual podcasting apps. 

But I’m excited today because my guest is Robert Glazer. He’s the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, which is a global partner marketing agency. If you’re wondering what is a global partner marketing agency he will explain in a moment in a moment. He’s also the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including this is amazing Glassdoors’ Employees Choice Awards two years in a row. He’s also the author of the inspirational newsletter “Friday Forward” which is read by over 200,000 people in 60 countries on a weekly basis and author of Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller “Elevate” and international best selling book “Performance Partnerships”. He’s also got a couple more books coming out like “How to Make Virtual Teams Work”, which is incredibly relevant right now as we record this in the end of July 2020 that will be coming out a couple weeks, and his newest book “Friday Forward” releases in September 2020. He’s also a sought after speaker at companies and organizations around the world and also the host of the Elevate Podcast. 

But first before we get into this interview, this episode is brought to you by Rise25. Rise25 helps b2b businesses get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. You’re listening to this right now. So you’re probably thinking, Okay, I like podcasts, and maybe you’re thinking Oh, should maybe I do one as well, since obviously, Bob has one. John has one. Everyone seems to be doing it. Well, for years I’ve been saying yes, you should. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. We specialize in helping b2b businesses with high client lifetime value. So if you want to learn more, go to rise25media.com. And we’ll tell you more. But Bob, I’ll put you into the conversation, how they’re like doing your podcast, what have you gotten out of it?

Robert Glazer  2:57  

I’ve gotten a lot. I love learning from I’m very intentional with people asking me on and, and love learning from them. And I think, I don’t know something like 80% of people never get to a second episode or something like that. I think things like writing and podcasts, they sort of reward perseverance and longevity and sort of putting in the work. So if you think you’re going to get a podcast turned into an ad and it’s going to be great for users and great for your business. It’s not right, I think you need to create value for your listeners and and and, and then eventually it could be helpful to your business, but it’s very similar to our business and affiliate marketing and writing, like what kind of business should I start to make money as an affiliate? I was like, well, that’s your goal. I might struggle because most people actually have a real passion about something and they develop this world renowned blog for it, and then they focus on monetizing it. So I think these things can be great, but I think you need to really, you know, do it for the right reasons and plan on investing a lot in it before you get anything out of it.

John Corcoran  3:59  

Right. There’s So many great lessons of what you just said, being intentional about who you interview I think is a great lesson, you know, being in for the, for the long tail. And you know, one of the things you’re most known for is that Friday for a newsletter, which actually didn’t even start as something you intended to share with the world, it was just something you did internally for your team. So talk about that.

Robert Glazer  4:19  

Yeah, I started that as a note called Friday inspiration. My team it was I had been working on my mornings and from a leadership training and trying to improve my mornings and one of the core things is kind of reading and writing and the stuff I was reading supposed to read something positive in the morning, it was not it was a little too rainbow and unicorn for me, so I was like, You know what, I have some quotes and stories and I’m gonna write something right to my team. It wasn’t really about our business. I realized it was getting shared outside the company as I was getting feedback through spouses and brothers and sisters. And so at one point, I just kind of opened it up and put some people on it and figured I got a lot of nasty e-mails saying, What the hell is this? Take me off of this?” But I didn’t and they started. According to me the name became Friday forward, and now anyone can sign up for it. And it’s crazy for me every Friday when I go look at the little map of pins all over the world where people are opening it.

John Corcoran  5:11  

That’s cool. Now, I’m looking at your website for Friday for it right now. And I have to say for a guy who’s involved in affiliate work, I mean, you’re missing some opportunities here. I mean, even the most recent article is about this experience going to a lobster hut, in which I got family connections in Kennebunkport and my mom worked at a lobster hut and college. I love lobster huts, but please come and come on. There are some affiliate opportunities here. So do you feel pressure to do that given what you do or do you feel like this is a safe space that I have?

Robert Glazer  5:43  

So Friday for has always been non commercial. I mean, people pitch me stuff they want stuff covered. I have a separate sort of newsletter under my name that I do every month or two like a famous service or something they want me to talk about. They want an ad if you know, do that there but I’ve always kept that really pure and it helps to just help to have a universal policy and things and values on things. So the answer is just know that everyone, in fact, other than occasionally, maybe I’ve linked to something on Amazon. You know, I don’t, I would never even put a link in that because I don’t want anyone to think that that’s why I’m writing about it.

John Corcoran  6:19  

Wow, that is definitely principal to not even put an Amazon link on there. So that’s pretty, pretty impressive.

Robert Glazer  6:27  

Yeah, Amazon link, because it’s just sort of universal. But it yeah, it would actually follow the advice I would give to someone else, which is to say, and actually what some of the really big publishers are, they have content teams who develop the content, like they write the review. And then they pass it over the monetization team and say, if you can monetize what I wrote without changing it, go for it, but they try to keep editorial and monetization separate. Yeah,

John Corcoran  6:55  

yeah. So talk to me about a little bit explaining for those who are listening about what you do for partner marketing is affiliate marketing. I’ve done a lot of affiliate marketing in the past and haven’t done as much in recent years. But most, you know, you on LinkedIn, you got 177 employees on LinkedIn. I don’t know if that’s the actual headcount. Yeah.

Robert Glazer  7:16  

Yeah, that’s close. It’s about 70. Okay.

John Corcoran  7:19  

So that is extremely rare to see an agency of that size that is in affiliate and partnerships. So why, first of all, what is it? What do you do? And then why don’t you think that you’ve managed to scale up the team?

Robert Glazer  7:35  

Yeah. And there’s a great, probably learning in that, that I would tell a lot of businesses so affiliate partner marketing is a form of digital marketing where instead of paying for a click or an impression or some other metric you pay for an outcome so that you reach out to partners or publishers, it could be deal sites. They could be mom bloggers, they could be a podcast who’s linking to the guest books? Are there large public companies to people that control content media, and you have them join the program? It’s kind of like digital business development, and you track all their activity through to conversion, and you pay them on a conversion basis that could be revenue, elite or otherwise. So people really like this because it ties their budget to the outcome. It’s like paying for your marketing after you get the sale. And with more and more things going online and direct, there’s just a huge shift in performance. So we, you know, this is a channel that needs to be managed, kind of like your search needs to be managed and your social needs to be managed. And we started doing this years ago and just became kind of a large company that works with big brands and big programs on a global basis to run these programs, which may have hundreds, thousands or 10s of thousands of partners in them that have questions and needs things and need support. You know, from our trajectory, we used to do a lot more stuff. We did search, we did other stuff. We looked around and we said you know, this market keeps growing and no one seems to really want to do this and do this? Well, I, I would advise any business or particularly an agency to get to 10 million in revenue by doing something world-class, the more things you actually do below 10 million, I think the less you get yourself to that 10 million revenue mark, because you gotta be if you can give your world-class at something, you can build a $10 million business, a lot of times I look at a marketing agency or their website, and they have more people than practice areas, right? That’s not, that’s if you have seven people and eight services that you’re not really competent, and at scale in those areas. And so, actually, from the moment, we started peeling off some of the other stuff and really landed in that our business really scaled, you know, and that’s the point where you can make the decision to acquire, be acquired, go into other areas, we’ve actually continued to make the decision. We think this market is a market and it’s growing dramatically. We’ve expanded geographically rather than continue to add services. We’re now helping people with global programs, which there just aren’t a lot of agencies out there that can do that. So we’ve become a big fish in a small pond.

John Corcoran  10:05  

Right, right, and how have you managed to get these larger companies? A lot of people, a lot of business owners struggle with that or they’re curious about that, how do you get larger companies, we have a sort of a barbell approach. 

Robert Glazer  10:15  

So we try to service ourselves by doing really good work. A lot of our clients move around and we stay with them and we get a lot of referrals. And then we have really good content through leadership. So you know, that brings people to us looking for us finding an article finding a you know, to do or tip sheet that we had, and and really our sales team is there consultatively as people reach out and want to see how we could, how we can help them so we’ve always had advisors so that sort of the barbell which is like good content marketing, you can have a thin sort of sales bar and then you know, really good delivery so you get a lot of referrals and I think we just made life Have these larger enterprise companies comfortable with us being in charge of their brand, particularly since a lot of the businesses in our industry were kind of a lot of mom and pop operations, not someone that a fortune 500 company wants to have them sort of as their brand ambassador signing up these partners for their program,

John Corcoran  11:17  

right? In some ways, you’re pioneering it because you’re such a larger agency in an area that’s typically mom and pop. Like, I don’t know if this is a good comparison, but Home Depot, you know, which there were these small little hardware stores all around the country, but there wasn’t a large, you know, great experience hardware store. That was nationwide, perhaps.

Robert Glazer  11:41  

Yeah, we’ve had to create our mark a little bit. I mean, one of the things that we did that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to most people but we felt like the market was misunderstood. It was rebranded under the partnership from affiliates. So we wrote a book three years ago titled performance partnerships and tried to go to the world and say, Look, this is the future and try to move the market. towards what we did, which is, which is a little bit like pushing the boulder uphill. But we felt strongly about that. And now, the term partnership marketing is just as in partnership automation is getting a lot of interest in financing. And there’s been a ton of m&a recently. So we’ve seen a lot of momentum in that direction. You think

John Corcoran  12:16  

using that term, your own term rather than affiliate as a term. Do you think that has helped? Yeah, we

Robert Glazer  12:25  

saw it more when the market was going if the affiliate is just a means a lot of different things. And there was a lot of low-end affiliate stuff that I think the high-end affiliate industry had a lot of like book swaps and list swabs and email stuff, which is very different from what we were doing with retailers. And so I think the industry really wanted to rebrand itself for a while because it didn’t totally explain what they did either. And, you know, when we like if we have a client who is advocating to get some resources, you know, internally if they say I need to do X for a partner of ours, versus an affiliate of ours. I just think the partner term is actually what they are, what affiliate is actually doing is morphing with business development. And it’s offering the tools to scale kind of business development and partner relationships in a way that the team you know, the small few ones that need a ton of customization and contracts and stuff can be helped by business development. But all these other relationships can be put on a platform and just much better managed at scale. A lot of companies waste our treasure, their BD team turns down a $50,000 a year partner because they want only one $2 billion deal, we can put that person on a platform and get them up and running in a day. If we had to sign up paperwork contracts, negotiate with them landing pages, then it wouldn’t work. Right, right.

John Corcoran  13:44  

I want to ask you about how you’ve got this book coming out and how to make teams work. We’re recording this ending July 2020. The pandemic is still unfolding. You’ve had a virtual team. Yeah, it’s not over unfortunately. You’ve had a virtual team all all this time. What has the experience been like for you over the last five months or so with already having a virtual team?

Robert Glazer  14:06  

It’s like going from pariah to, I don’t know, lecture. It was fun for years for a little bit. We had to even hide it. You know, we were this blue chip agency. This was a key thing that we use to get talent, we really believed in it. And I think even one of our clients would give us a really hard time if our people work from home and we have actually certain standards. So they’re not working from home with their kids running around and stuff. I mean, they weren’t. Now they are. But yeah, what people worried about before it’s now happening for everyone now. So because we have standards about how people need to be set up. But it’s been interesting. I mean, I have been speaking a ton. I’ve been asked to speak French to executive teams and companies around how we do this? Now everyone’s fascinated, both sort of, how do we get there now but now companies are really thinking about do I want to do this going forward and well, I can share a lot of the tips and tricks and things that we’ve done like the tools I’m really passionate about, like, the type of company that we build the culture that we build is the foundation to why remote work works for us. And so I’ve been really trying to share that with a bunch of companies. If you’re going to go all-in on this, then you need to, you really need to rethink your whole code culture. And if you have a bunch of micromanaging leaders like that, don’t trust people Good luck with your remote, you know, remote virtual work experience, we’ve always said, like, we were our environment was really about flexibility and autonomy, like remote work was just a byproduct of that. So people have asked me over the years to speak on stuff about remote workers at that remote work conference, and I was like, I’m not super passionate about just the concept of remote work from rote work. We love having the flexibility and account and autonomy and accountability. Like that’s what our culture is really about people that want flexibility and want to deliver outcomes. And it’s not that they never want to walk into an office. It’s just you know, that that sort of higher on the, on the needs for them. So most companies are not set up that way their management systems aren’t set up that way. We’re all on the same page, our company so like we have a world class, world class onboarding program because we have to, I just heard someone complaining, we can’t do onboarding virtually. This week. I’m like, That’s not true. It’s just you need a world class program because they’re not in the office. So it’s harder so we script out people’s first three weeks, you know, and they know exactly what they’re doing every hour. So it is but that forces us to be really thoughtful. I mean, my first job I started, they didn’t know I was starting that week, like, like, Oh, go follow windsurfer. Like that’s how a lot of companies handle onboarding. You can get away with that in person. It doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do.

John Corcoran  16:40  

Right. I had a few experiences like that at the end of your first day, you know, someone asked you how was your first day and you’re like, honestly, I have no idea. I don’t think anyone knew showing up that day. It’s a horrible

Robert Glazer  16:50  

like, John, just go. Just go follow Sally. Right. Yeah, you can do that. So I Sally’s annoyed? I think I think we have processes and systems of $100 million plus company because we’ve been forced to build those and, and it is actually, it’s something that makes you create a little more discipline in your operation as a business,

John Corcoran  17:10  

give us some tips on how to build a good company culture for a virtual team. That’s something that we’ve been thinking about a lot recently. One, one piece of advice I got from somewhere else was to have a question of the day, which we do in slack. And actually joy on our team kind of took the initiative on that. And I started doing it and then she started doing it, which is great. So talk a little about things like that

Robert Glazer  17:32  

was a tactic. So I think most meetings need to be rethought and need to cut down in half. You can have additional update meetings, you should send memos and have meetings that are actual dialogue and engagement. We try to use video, you know, for one off interactions all the time. Now it’s a little hard because you have sort of total zoom fatigue. When you use asynchronous video a lot of people we focus on helping people structure their day in routine in a way that’s most productive. And thinking about how they work. Actually, the biggest problem with remote work is working too much, not enough. I think there’s this fear that people are off, doing whatever. But actually they overwork when, when everything can stay on and they can take work to bed with them. A lot of it is having to create that separation. But again, at a higher cultural foundational level, if this is something that you want to do, you need to have a culture with a lot of financial and accountability and transparency where people have scorecards and they know the metrics and they know the outcomes because not you don’t manage their hours. And you have leaders that hold people accountable, and don’t view sort of the time seeing them as productive again, as someone who’s a draconian micromanager and who doesn’t trust people will not be a good leader in a virtual team like we have standards we have goals it’s all public like it was how do you know people are getting anything done like I can I get some scorecard every day rep represents that Right, but the clients happy, the revenue for the account is good. If those things are both green, then I’m not worried how that person spends their hour if you manage time, you will get time. If you manage outcomes, you will get outcomes. And I think that’s a big shift for people that should have gone on a long time ago, right? we all understand this in sales like if Mary, you know, works 14 hours a day and sells you know, thousand dollars a day and Sally works two hours a day and sells $10,000 a day you value Sally as a salesperson much higher, I think we need to start thinking about all positions like that.

John Corcoran  19:39  

Now, one question people ask about creating a scorecard or KPIs or metrics is how do you give that to everyone? If there’s someone on the team who it’s not immediately evident, obviously with the salesperson, okay, you can figure that out. But sometimes there are members of the team who, you know, how do you come up with KPIs or metrics for that person?

Robert Glazer  19:58  

We’re super aligned like we work from the top down like here are here’s our vision, here are our goals, here’s our values, what then how do we get there? You know, everyone’s got a top five, everyone’s got three things that they were gonna get done for the quarter everyone. So we just have systems where all of that stuff is out there. So, it either has a qualitative or a quantitative metric. And let me explain like, one of the ones that we have in our different levels of client service is like, you’re able to answer, you know, 90% of the client’s issues without escalating, right? That’s not a financial metric. But that tells us like, is that person doing a good job as a senior manager if they’re constantly having to fly everything up the flagpole we’d sit down with them and say, Look, your need to escalate things is way out of the norm for this role. So we need to figure that out because you’re being paid at this level to where it really should be the five or 10% of things that need to be escalated. So I really, look I you should know in any role what good looks Like you should be able to describe qualitatively or quantitatively what good looks like for people three to four months down the line. And you eliminate a lot of awkward discussions like when if you start a job at our company, your job in your in the thing that you responded to the job rack, it would have said, success at six months looks like x success at 12 months looks like why would have that all listed out both to make sure you do that when you took the job. And then John, when we’re sitting down with you at those times, either six months, we’re talking about why it’s not gonna work out or whether you’re gonna have a promotion. It’s still those six, five things. The problem is when the employee and the employer have totally different definitions of success. I think that’s where all of this and those are usually things that are unstated, like when people tell me they’re looking to hire a sales and marketing leader, what are my thoughts? My thoughts are don’t do that. As what would send me the KPIs like the sales team is gonna want them to sell the marketing team is gonna want them to market like I just seen These disasters when a person thinks they’re doing a great job and are working 100 hours a week, and marketing’s not getting what they think they want, and sales isn’t getting what so we force people to solve all this stuff before the person is hired,

John Corcoran  22:12  

hmm, anything else that you know, you’ve received this insane array of different recognitions for your company’s culture, best workplace. Anything else that you’ve been doing that has helped contribute to that? being authentic,

Robert Glazer  22:29  

so we can read all these great places and work awards and I would tell you and your audience like we’re a great place to work for one to 2% of the population, we’ve done a really good job finding people who are aligned to that. So I just find that you know, the ideal for a company is that what they think, what they say and what they do are all light. Everyone’s happy in those scenarios. So you know, their values match their actions match their sort of vision, and most companies do that. problem being honest. I always say like, if you’re founder and you’re competitive athlete and you believe in winning and losing, don’t put crap on the wall, like we value teamwork around here and everyone’s equal, no say, look, we’re about winning and losing 80% of our bonuses, go to the 20% of the top people, this is how it works here. And you will get those competitive people. I just, I think a lot of leaders aren’t self aware enough to know who they are, what kind of culture they want to build. So they just say a lot of things that aren’t really who they are and who the company is. We try to be really upfront and clear about what you will do, why you would love working at Acceleration Partners, which is mostly our core values, which not everyone is, and here’s why you wouldn’t we aren’t we are not for everyone.

John Corcoran  23:43  

Hmm, that’s great. Well, this has been great, Bob, and I want to wrap things up with the question that I was asked, which is let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet, much like the Oscars or the Emmys, and you’re receiving an award for lifetime achievement for everything you’ve done up until this point. And what we want to know is who do you think are the mentors who are there? And who are the peers? Who are the business partners or the team members or the people you would acknowledge in your remarks?

Robert Glazer  24:05  

Yeah, I think it’s probably, you know, three groups. I had some incredible mentors, board members, coaches, over the years, and I wrote all the names out to make sure I didn’t reach them, you know, they’re the ones who are sort of coaching me. And then at the same time, I have a great team member that I’ve been part of on my Acceleration Partners team, Matt Will’s been our president. For years, our whole leadership team has really, you know, supported me and allowed me what I do well, and then I’d be remiss, my wife and three kids, you know, they’ve, they’ve probably sacrificed the most in terms of what I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of nights, a lot of weekends. And so those are really the three groups that I would want to thank.

John Corcoran  24:48  

Well, they’ve seen a lot of you recently, right?

Robert Glazer  24:50  

They’ve seen a lot of me recently to each other. Now like, what are you? What are you going away again?

John Corcoran  24:54  

Yeah. Back to the office that you’re not gonna Well, this has been great. Where can people go to learn more about you, Robert?

Robert Glazer  25:04  

Sure. Yeah, you can find everything at RobertGlazer.com. You could sign up for podcasts, learn about the books, and sign up for Friday Forwards. If you go to slash Connect, I put a bunch of the resources on virtual work and some of the stuff we talked about today on there.

John Corcoran  25:19  

Great. All right. Thanks so much.

Robert Glazer  25:21  

Thanks, John.

Outro  25:22  

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at smartbusinessrevolution.com. And while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution podcast.