When Adam Slone founded Slone Partners in 2000, he did so with a simple vision – to create a company that stood out from the crowd by delivering high-quality professional customer service in the thriving and often demanding industry of executive search. Through his many network connections, Adam was attuned to the ways in which his new company would serve a growing need for talented life sciences and healthcare industry executives in a quickly evolving and competitive marketplace.
Adam was the company in its earliest days, but as the business blossomed, so did the need to grow the firm. In its infancy, Slone Partners, like many of its competitors, had a physical office, but Adam soon realized that brick-and-mortar was both expensive and impractical. So, he chose to build the company as an all-remote enterprise, which was quite a novel concept at the time. The advantages were obvious. Without requiring employees to report to a physical office, he could recruit the most talented team members from across the country, regardless of their physical location. This would provide Slone Partners with a huge advantage over industry competitors.
The challenge, however, was in creating an all-remote company with a strong and healthy culture. It’s not easy to do when people are scattered across multiple states and time zones. As the company grew in the early 2000s, Adam and his leadership team remained intensely focused on building a workplace culture where people would feel welcome and thrive. There were several necessary components to accomplish this goal.
First, and perhaps most importantly, was the concept of intentionality. Culture was not an afterthought. It was baked into the company’s strategic planning process from the very beginning. Adam thought that the company would not reach the level of success it was capable of without having a strong culture at its core because culture is what inspires people, attracts talent, and retains high performers. So, from day one, the culture at Slone Partners was carefully and intentionally cultivated, closely monitored, and adjusted when necessary.
Secondly, culture was not and is not the exclusive province of management. Adam, along with CEO Leslie Loveless and their leadership team, has worked diligently to ensure that all employees of the company are involved in the creation and cultivation of its culture, so that it doesn’t just flow down from the top. The case can be made that the Slone Partners’ culture flows across all layers of the organization and every member of the team has an equal say in how it manifests. Just last year, an all-employee company survey resulted in the creation of a new set of company core values: Excellence, Commitment, Accountability, Inclusion, Collaboration, and Empathy. By enlisting the energies and ideas of every employee, those involved in the process have ownership and a stake in the outcome.
Culture clubs are also a very important part of the Slone Partners’ culture. These clubs are comprised of cross-functional teams of employees that discuss, plan, and proactively drive initiatives pertaining to Slone Partners’ unique company culture. Although the gatherings are virtual, they result in a substantive and often entertaining exchange of ideas and perspectives, allowing employees to become closer colleagues and friends. This sort of authentic interaction amongst co-workers is an extremely valuable exercise for people who are part of a small all-remote company.
The culture clubs at Slone Partners focus on taking a deeper dive into the company’s core values, encouraging healthy lifestyles, exploring employees’ unique talents and heritage, and keeping everyone informed of relevant news and company happenings through activities, education, company challenges, and quarterly newsletters.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are also integral components of the Slone Partners’ culture. Prior to founding Slone Partners, Adam Slone worked for a company where he felt excluded at times, so he wanted to ensure that his firm would make everyone feel that they belonged. That sentiment permeates every layer of the organization today and served as the inspiration for the launch of a DEI division two years ago which provides consulting services for strategic planning, diversity recruiting, education and training, and leadership coaching for companies in the life sciences, healthcare, and beyond. The vision was to help make the industry more diverse and inclusive – advancing the causes of social justice and equity at an important time in our nation’s history.
DEI is promulgated across Slone Partners in various ways. The company has closely examined its internal recruiting and hiring practices so that job postings appeal to the largest possible scope of potential candidates, and unconscious biases do not affect candidate screening, interviewing, and hiring. The firm has also intentionally expanded its networks through which it reaches out to and sources candidates, both for Slone Partners and its client partners. Slone Partners’ Managing Director of DEI, Candace Nortey, hosts regular company-wide meetings focused on diversity-related topics to stimulate discussion and inform employees about the ways that inclusion can be cultivated and sustained. DEI is also promoted through company-wide communications, including diverse employee profiles which provide colleagues with a unique glimpse into that person’s life and interests. This is one example of the “intentional learning” activities that take place at Slone Partners, which are designed to cross silos, bridge divides, and bring people closer together through education and learning. The idea is that the more people know about one another the more likely they are to appreciate each other, collaborate more effectively, and enjoy coming to work every day.
The past 22+ years at Slone Partners have demonstrated that the challenges involved in building and sustaining a strong healthy culture at an all-remote company can be overcome with intentionality, commitment, and perseverance. It must also be stated that workplace culture is never static. It is a living thing, always changing and evolving with the times, so companies and their leadership teams must be consistently mindful of what’s happening around them. As has been the case with Slone Partners, leadership at the top is critical, but enlisting the support and input of all employees is essential to creating and sustaining a great workplace culture where authentic connections, collective will, and devotion to the mission negate the physical distances between people.
A version of this article was posted by Hunt Scanlon on March 15, 2023.