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At 3Q Digital, we’re always pushing the innovation envelope; we believe this is an essential component of success in an industry that changes so frequently. This post is part of our inaugural Innovation Week, where we showcase all manner of innovations that have improved results for our clients and teammates.

Since my assignment for this blog post was to write about innovation, I thought I’d walk you through the genesis of one of 3Q’s most popular perks – and one I’ve written about in the past – LocalPerks. Through LocalPerks, each office receives a monthly budget to spend on almost anything they want – I say almost because the purchases have to 1) be appropriate for work and 2) be in line with IRS rules.  🙂

 

Most of the Perks money goes towards food and drink: weekly office lunches, monthly birthday celebrations, happy hours, stocked kitchens, and coffee. We also see a lot of outings to baseball games (pretty sure 3Q Chicago’s support was behind the Cubs’ 2016 World Series win), Escape Room challenges, bowling, and the like. (And lest you think we forgot about our Remote employees who work out of their home offices, they also get a monthly stipend, which is usually spent on meals and coffee.)

So how did LocalPerks come about? It all started with 3Q’s acquisition of iSearchMedia in early 2014. Prior to that, there were loose budgets for each office to spend on Thursday lunches and snacks, and the occasional office outing. Everyone had coffee in the office, but nothing too extravagant. The iSM team, however, was used to having fine coffee and espresso, and there was a push from the newly integrated 3Q-iSM team in San Francisco to maintain those gourmet brews. At the same time, the San Diego office was asking about budget for a baseball game and Chicago was requesting sponsorship for a group race. Was it fair to shell out several hundred dollars for the SD team to go to a game, or Chicago to run a race, but then tell SF that they needed to drink the same basic drip coffee as the rest of us?

As we tried to figure out an equitable way to handle these requests, the answer came to us from a group of very vocal and very opinionated employees – and I say that with the utmost respect, because this group had intentionally been put together precisely because of those shared characteristics. With the recent acquisition and the merging of two companies with similar yet distinct working cultures (iSM was a smaller company where everyone worked out of the same office; 3Q Digital at the time had four offices and several Remote employees), we decided to put together a team of employees from both companies who could help management identify and iron out integration issues. Naturally, we chose individuals who we thought would be most likely to speak up!

Once the group got talking, they started to shift their focus from integration to the company culture in general. They talked about concerns and suggestions that they had, as well as things they heard from their peers. They renamed themselves “The Culture Club” and made it their mission to help shape and improve the culture of our new, merged organization.

One of the things the Culture Club discussed was their frustration with the need for all the offices to have the same perks. If San Francisco wants to spend a few hundred dollars on an espresso machine, and Chicago wants to spend that money on paying for entry fees to a race, and San Diego wants to take a boat cruise (see below), why not let them? Why should every office have the same food, the same drinks, and the same activities? Why couldn’t each office just have a budget to spend however they wanted to?

 

The Culture Club brought this to me and Scott Rayden, the executive sponsors of the Club. It was a very valid complaint with a very obvious solution: Create a per-head budget for each office, and let them decide how to spend the money.

Now if Chicago wants to spend half its money on LaCroix (don’t judge), and San Mateo wants to enjoy weekly boba, they can. But the benefits of LocalPerks have gone beyond just letting offices have what they want. It has allowed each office to create and express their own unique culture, and for the rest of the company to get to learn a bit about them. For example, I’m always amazed to see San Diego post pictures of barbeques or trips to the zoo in February; the Vermont office makes me jealous with all of the cool things available to them in their building – such as aerial yoga and massages; Chicago introduced the rest of 3Q to Whirlyball; and the Austin office makes everyone drool with images of local BBQ.

LocalPerks also gives offices (or the individuals who manage their Perks budget) some extra experience in “adulting” because there’s only so much Perks money to go around. It forces us to think about what we really want and need as an office, which makes us appreciate and value it that much more. It can be challenging at times, especially when trying to make everyone in the larger offices happy, but that presents an opportunity to build upon or learn new skills, such as negotiation.

Ultimately, LocalPerks is a manifestation of one of 3Q’s longstanding cultural tenets: flexibility earned by accountability. And it’s been perhaps the most popular amendment to our company handbook, one that came about because our team was empowered to give feedback, and we were open to putting it into play.