When Robert Glazer founded the digital strategy and marketing firm Acceleration Partners, his timing wasn’t great. It was 2007, and the global economy was spiraling toward a massive recession.
It took patience, but the business has taken off. Acceleration Partners has been ranked among the nation’s fastest-growing private companies, having brought in more than $200 million in online revenue for companies such as Adidas, Reebok and Target. Glazer has certainly made a name for himself in business.
“The best businesses don’t need to sell as much because they have people calling on them,” Glazer says. The key, he says, is maintaining consistently excellent results: “We’re really focused on making sure every [client] is at a certain level—not having one or two success cases surrounded by a lot of mediocrity.”
Glazer’s preferred method of building a company delights his clients, which often leads to referrals. Cultivating a talented core staff and doing bigger projects with just a few select clients best positions a business for long-term results, he believes.
“We also put a lot of time into recruiting and trying to find the right people,” Glazer says. “I’ve always liked businesses that… are about holding onto people and keeping them happy.”
Even if few realized the coming recession when Acceleration Partners opened for business, Glazer was already thinking long term. His focus on larger projects with fewer clients succeeded when he served as vice president of corporate development for Isis Parenting (a chain of pregnancy and postnatal health centers), so he employed a similar strategy at Acceleration Partners. Glazer also runs BobbysBest.com, a source for product research and buying tips, which he began as his first solo venture in 2005.
It’s hard for Glazer not to think long term, even in personal matters. His concern for the future was on display when he adopted green building practices in constructing his home. “The decision I made about building a house and not having it be wasteful is the same approach we take in business, too,” Glazer says. “Let’s not waste relationships, let’s not waste money, let’s find the right people, and let’s do things for the long run.”
When he’s not busying himself with one of his companies or with running the Boston chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (he is its president), Glazer volunteers and serves on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay. Mentorship is a cornerstone of Glazer’s philosophy, he says, because while giving, you also gain a lot.
“I think when you volunteer you see other perspectives. You see need; you understand how to help people,” Glazer says. “It’s not about you, it’s about them, and I think that’s a great perspective for an entrepreneur…. It’s easy to write a check, but when you’re volunteering, you’re out there seeing folks who are impacted. I think it makes more of an impression.”
It’s no shock that Glazer so easily sees the link between business success and interpersonal relationships, considering that his studies at the University of Pennsylvania focused on business and industrial team psychology. Networking has been a key to Glazer’s recent success, especially through his membership in the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, where he says he has learned from others who have shared similar business experiences and advice. “I just think it’s a total no-brainer for anyone who’s going through the growth of a business, when they have not done it before, to sit and talk with people who have.”
One bit of advice Glazer would give his younger self is to focus on his passions—forget your weaknesses, he advises, home in on your strengths, and be determined to learn and become better. “People seem to be most successful when they’re doing what they love and it’s something they’re passionate about.”
Among Glazer’s business inspirations is Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, who created a new approach to the airline industry. Singing flight attendants, wisecracking pilots and unassigned seats are not for everyone, Glazer says, but the appeal is clear to Southwest’s target customers. “They defined their culture and what they stood for,” Glazer says. Kelleher’s resolve to build a better product and ignore traditional rules is something Glazer admires in an entrepreneur.
Glazer is a fervent disciple of the 80-20 rule, otherwise known as the Pareto principle, which states that 80 percent of outcome derives from only 20 percent of the input. “I’m a big believer that it’s not as much about to-do lists, sometimes, as stop-doing lists,” he says.
In business, this means recognizing the most important factors and allowing those to receive the most attention.
Glazer uses the Pareto principle to prioritize his business and personal life, focusing on the vital 20 percent of activities responsible for most of the rewards. By zeroing in on and pleasing a select few clients as well as embracing mentorship and sustainability, Glazer has maximized his daily efforts for long-term triumphs.