Dear Clients of IMA,
The holiday season has arrived, and 2017 is winding down to a close. I want to thank all of you for choosing to partner with IMA. We don’t take your choice for granted.
2017 rocketed past. I’m sure many of you feel the same way. We made significant changes to the way we work, we welcomed new members to the IMA team, and we welcomed many of you as new clients.
But for me, two things stand out.
This past May, we moved out of the San Francisco office that was our home for six years. Our office was in Dogpatch, an up and coming neighborhood that is adjacent to Mission Bay (current home of the San Francisco Giants and soon to be home of the Golden State Warriors). Over six years we were able to witness the changes firsthand. What was known as a “maker” neighborhood when we arrived became a trendy neighborhood with old buildings razed and replaced with new condos. The benefit to our team was the arrival of better coffee (Philz opened their headquarters a block away from us and nearly bankrupted me with $4 coffees and $12 avocado toast), three craft breweries, and a dozen new restaurants serving everything from gourmet street tacos to Hawaiian brunches.
So why, with all of the coffee, beer, and tacos, did we move? It was simple. As our team grew, I knew we needed to broaden our horizons when it came to finding talent. The San Francisco Bay Area is an incredibly competitive job market, and salaries here carry a 35% premium over the national average. I decided to keep our current strategic team as local as possible and move to a more distributed structure for the rest of our employees and contractors. I also saw productivity boosts when our employees worked from home. Towards the end of 2016 more of our team was distributed and, on any given day, half of our local team would be working from home. It no longer made sense to have 3,000 square feet of office space.
Today we have an office at a WeWork location in downtown San Francisco, an office on the coast near my home and a “work from anywhere” culture. The strategic team still gets together in San Franciso a couple of times each month, but on a daily basis, we use video conferencing and Slack to communicate, and we’ve never been more productive. Not only that, but we also lead healthier, happier lives because of less commute time which allows more time to be spent with friends and family.
On a recent flight home from Los Angeles, I sat next to another agency owner. We got to talking, and one of the first questions he asked was, “Have you gone distributed yet?”. I told him we had and we shared notes and tips and how neither one of us could imagine going back to the old way. Our lives are more networked than ever, whether it be social networks or computer networks, and this is happening in the physical world as well. Networked teams, using the latest technology, are more efficient, productive and happier. The work world is changing fast. It’s been fun to take this leap and witness the future.
The second thing that stood out this year was all of the new babies born to our strategic team. Over the first decade of IMA’s existence, there had been three babies born. This year, within three months, there were three babies born. To make matters more interesting, all three were born to members of our strategic team. It has been quite a ride.
I have learned more about our healthcare system, maternity and paternity leave and California’s disability system than I ever imagined. It has been eye-opening. After watching this TED talk (https://bit.ly/2kGK2Mw), I was committed to providing the best maternity and paternity leave that the agency could afford. For IMA, that meant three months of paid maternity leave and one month of paid paternity leave. By law in California, I am only required to offer six weeks of non-paid leave. But here in Silicon Valley that’s unheard of and becomes a competitive disadvantage. Companies like Netflix offer an entire year of paid leave. Others like Google and Facebook have similar policies. It also did not seem right only to provide six weeks, paid or otherwise. I’m the father of two young boys, Jack and Finn, and I remember those first six weeks very well. Actually, what I remember is the haze of sleep deprivation. Asking one of my employees to come back in that state did not make sense to me.
Has it hurt our profit margin? Of course. But I believe we will more than make up for it this year because the new parents on my team feel respected and ready to return at full force. And baby Caroline, baby Stella, and baby James will have a little smoother entry into this world.
That’s what stood out for me in 2017. As business owners, entrepreneurs and employees, we are always making adjustments, looking for advantages and improving our processes. I hope you all had a great 2017 in that regard.
IMA has some exciting new programs we are working on over the holiday period that will encourage more collaboration and communication with our clients. We look forward to sharing them with you in 2018. Here’s to another great year together.
Thanks for reading and have a safe and happy holiday!