The Journey to a Big Honor from Google

A little over six years ago, I was laid off. The job was great, but the startup was struggling. It was the second time I got let go from a startup that was crumbling because of issues well above my pay grade.

So my wife and I took my two months severance and I promised I’d stretch it for 3 months, and if I couldn’t pay rent at the end of month 2, I’d go get a real job. At the end of month 2, the rent got paid, and I kept going. After freelancing on performance marketing for a few startups with the help of a couple of contractors for 18 months, I brought on my first full-time hires and decided to build an agency.

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A couple of years into working completely remotely at JDM, my wife and I went on an epic trip to Latin America, and I operated the business as a digital nomad. While working from Latin America, I was able to grow the company from 5 employees to 12 and nearly triple the revenue in 18 months before COVID shut our trip down. What the trip taught me, among many other things, was that it was possible to build a thriving remote-first, remote-only company that let people live the way they wanted to live.

Today, I’m still refreshing this page to make sure I’m not seeing things: JDM is a finalist for the 2023 Google Premier Partners Workplace Excellence award.

It hasn’t been a smooth journey (not at all). We’ve hit the same macroeconomic challenges every other agency has, and I’ve had to grow confidence in my leadership ability. 

What’s served me well, other than some great leadership hires and an incredible team willing to provide feedback and invest in our culture, is the North Star of building the company I always wanted to work for. 

That means:

  • a company that people fit into their lives, not vice versa
  • a remote company founded on that bedrock years before COVID
  • a culture of radical transparency
  • a company built on the premise of responding to employee and client feedback
  • a company that values everyone’s ideas and incorporates them into our policies when they benefit the team
  • a company that promotes ownership: of our culture, of our clients’ results, of the personal responsibility that comes with a flexible workday
  • a company that works with employees on mutual agreements of how each can benefit from the time together

In some ways, six years has felt like a lifetime; in others, it’s been the blink of an eye. My hope for JDM is that as we grow to provide opportunities for more teammates and clients, we stay focused on the culture that’s attracted some of the best marketers I’ve ever worked with. 

Building a great culture takes a ton of work, with some extra challenges from sticking to our remote roots. Many remote companies end up feeling like a group of consultants and not a cohesive team, and our leadership team saw some early signs of that at JDM and got intentional about making sure we would be built differently. 

We don’t work on building our culture so we can get awards, but you’d better believe I’m taking a selfie with the trophy that comes with this finalist honor – it’s a great sign that we’re making progress in the right direction.

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