Can you judge someone’s character just by looking at them?

Cornelius Vanderbilt was one of the wealthiest and most powerful men the world has ever known. He dominated the shipping industry when it was America’s primary means of transportation. He dominated the railroad industry when it took center stage as the nation’s preferred means of movement for people and products. In fact, the only place Vanderbilt didn’t dominate was in college football. Where his university’s football team is a consistent bottom-dweller in the SEC.

In the excellent book, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (which won the Pulitzer Prize), author T.J. Stiles includes a quote about Vanderbilt from the Chicago Tribune that says, ‘He is so accurate a a judge of men, so clear-sighted, so fertile of resource, so skilful an organganizer of combinations, and the wielder of such an immense capital, that failure is next to impossible.’ That is a heck of a statement about a human. Which mean Vanderbilt was the original Parker Lewis.

The part of this quote that stands out to me is that Vanderbilt was noted for being a highly accurate judge of men. I translate men to mean people, because I often edit statements of yore to be more gender-intelligent.

If you are an accurate judge of humans you are able to surround yourself with the people of highest character. Which is key to personal happiness, friendship, and professional success. (And by highest character I don’t mean Willie Nelson.)

But how was The Commodore able to so accurately judge people? Vanderbilt himself provides an intriguing answer with the following quote:

‘God Almighty has stamped every man’s character upon his face.’

-Cornelius Vanderbilt

This is an interesting and profound statement. A statement given greater validity as it comes from one of the most successful humans of all time, known for his accurate judgement of people.

I encourage you to put this to your own test. Or said differently, I encourage you to see if you can accurately judge a person’s character simply by looking at them. Movies and TV shows regularly tap into your ability to make your own character judgements as new players are introduced and storylines develop.

Think about Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. Based on the scenario, Ferris should be the bad guy, and the Principal should be the good guy. But we instinctually see it differently. And we felt validated when we learned that the actor who played the principal pleaded no contest to a charge of soliciting a 14 year old boy. #ohhhhnooooo #chickachickaaaa

You have met people you didn’t like and didn’t trust the moment you first saw them. You have likely had the opposite experience too with people you instantly liked. You may have even experienced love at first sight, like I did  20 years ago, the moment I first saw my wife on a crowded elevator. All of these experiences provide evidence that Vanderbilt may be right.

Key Takeaway

The ability to judge character is one of the greatest abilities of all. It enables you to align with the right people, and avoid the wrong. The more attuned you are to the character of others the happier and more successful you are likely to be. Assessing character may be as simple as an eye test. Try it yourself. And let me know what you find.

Are you sharing your gift with the world?

On Tuesday I was visiting a home and saw an interesting piece of art hanging on the wall. It said, ‘The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.’ The quote was attributed to William Shakespeare. Although that didn’t really seem like the type of thing he doth writeth or sayeth.

I was tempted to take a pic of the artwork because I liked the quote so much. But I refrained. That night when I got home I looked the quote up on the Googler. I found that the quote is often attributed to Shakespeare or Pablo Picasso. Although there is no evidence linking either of them to those words. Other than a couple of enterprising Etsy shops.

David Viscott

There is much concrete evidence that these words came from David Viscott. Viscott was a psychiatrist and professor at UCLA who had his own radio and tv shows in the 1980s and 90s. You know, like Frasier. Perhaps Picasso liked to tune in.

Here is the full quote:

“The purpose of life is to discover your gift; the work of life is to develop it; and the meaning of life is to give your gift away.” — David Viscott.

That’s a pretty great idea, David. No wonder Shakespeare and Picasso wanted to take credit for it.

Key Takeaway

Discover your gift. Develop your gift. Share it with others. And if you discover you have more than one gift, develop and share them all. The world becomes a better place with more of your magic. And remember, gifts come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t need to be a singer to be a rockstar. You simply need to find what you are really good at, make yourself great at it, and gift it to the world.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

I’m in the process of creating a process for creating processes.

Most businesses fail at some point. That is just a fact. I knew that 5 years ago when I began making plans to launch my own advertising agency. So I bought the book The E-Myth, because a bunch of smart people recommended it as a way of, well, not failing.

The E-Myth

The book is great, and I always recommend it to anyone thinking of starting their own business of any size or shape. I also recommend it to any business owner who hasn’t read it yet. In fact, The E-Myth is like my Frank’s Red Hot. I recommend that sh#t to everyone.

But I didn’t just read The E-Myth once. I study it. It has become one of my most important reference books. In fact, I handle this book so much it looks like I don’t know how books work. See the pic below. It looks like I tried to open it on the binding side until someone suggested that the other side might offer less resistance.

My copy of The E-Myth indicates I don’t know the proper way to open a book.

One of the key tenants of the book is that there should be a predictable, repeatable process for everything. I fully believe this. From the beginning, I established processes for my team at The Weaponry to follow. I have regularly revisited those processes, modified them, and added new processes.

But I have never been satisfied that our processes are as good as they should be. Which is the point. When people tell you to work on your business, not in your business, they typically mean, improve your processes. Unless those people are roofing consultants. In which case they probably mean you need to do some work up on top of your business.

Back to Business

Today, I am revisiting our processes again. In fact, last night, just before I went to bed, I went all the way back to the beginning, again. I asked myself, ‘What is The Weaponry’s process for establishing processes?’ And here is what I wrote in the notebook on my nightstand. (I translated it into type below so that non-chickens can also read it.)

My nightstand notes.

Process of Processes

  1. Figure out Step 1
  2. Write down Step 1
  3. List each subsequent step to a successful conclusion
  4. Follow established process until it reveals a flaw. Or until a better process is revealed.
  5. Modify process to eliminate the newly discovered problem, or to improve outcomes.
  6. Continuously evaluate each process, looking for flaws, and better ideas that will lead to better results.

Note: Always run the best process you know until you know better.

Note: Even this process process can be constantly improved until a better process process can not be found. At which point the process process will be perfect. (Then check the Vector Victor.)

Note: Run everything the organization does through The Perfect Process Process. 

Note: You will be able to do, make, and deliver anything with this process.

Key Takeaway

Creating a well-run business requires great processes. Creating great processes requires a strong process process. Figure out yours. Then use it. And perfect it until it can’t be improved any more.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

This was my all-time favorite moment as an American.

I am proud to be an American. I always have been. Always will be. I love that our nation is constructed with checks and balances to be able to correct itself at any time. We have the freedom of speech that protects our right to speak out when we see wrongs. And we have the freedom of the press to report the wrongs, and draw attention to them. Of course, we also enjoy the Freedom of George Michael. And the Freedom Overspill of Steve Winwood. But those are less popular freedoms. Maybe because those guys are non-Americans.

Holidays

There are holidays that make me proud to be an American. President’s Day, MLK Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving.  These are all great days, to reflect on our country and our Americanism.

But my favorite American moment didn’t fall on any of those red, white and blue holidays. It didn’t happen while slurping cranberry sauce, or during a President’s Day car sale. So, as Betsy Ross used to ask, when the flag was it?

Some Of My Favorite American Moments

I have had thousands of proud moments as an American. While I don’t have them all ranked, here are some worthy of mention.

  • Watching veterans march down Main Street during a 4th of July Parade
  • Watching the Miracle On Ice on TV at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.
  • Watching everything at the 1984 Olympics (Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mary Lou Retton, Joan Benoit)
  • Standing at the base of the Statue of Liberty
  • Listening to America, Ef-Yeah, during the movie Team America. World Police.
  • Standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon
  • My first voting experience when I turned 18
  • Watching Lee Greenwood’s God Bless The USA music video

September 11, 2001

September 11th, 2001 was a dark day for America. It knocked us down as a nation is a way that I had never thought America could be knocked down. It was like when Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas, and Iron Mike was so out of it he couldn’t even operate his own mouthguard.

In the days following the attack, everything in America stopped. It was a very strange time. Like 2020. Then, like now, sporting events were canceled or postponed. The world seemed to be off its axis.

Back to Live Sports

On Saturday, September 29, 2001, I attended a University of Wisconsin football game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. It was the first home game for the Badgers since the attacks of September 11. And it was the first time Badger fans had gathered en masse post 9/11.

My All-Time Favorite Moment As An American

Before the game started the crowd stood for the national anthem. I have been to hundreds of sporting events. And I have heard the national anthem sung thousands of times. But this time was different.

The moment the national anthem began there was an explosion in the stadium. It wasn’t a bomb or a fireworks display. It was the crowd itself. Singing the national anthem. Everyone in the stadium was belting out the song as if it was our school fight song. It was loud and proud and like nothing I had ever heard before.

We were all all-in that day. It was the kind of experience that gives you chills and makes you want to cry in the best way possible. I think of that experience every time the national anthem is sung at a public event.

2020

The past 6 months have been difficult for Americans. The Covid-19 health crisis, the ensuing economic crisis and isolation have been unimaginable. Then, on May 25th, my birthday, George Floyd was killed publicly, and senselessly. Which has inspired demands for change, justice and equality. It has sparked protests, demonstrations, riots and long-overdue conversation. Cities like Chicago, Kenosha, Minneapolis and Portland have been deeply scarred and charred as a result.

Moving Forward

Today, on the 19-year anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, my hope is that when we gather again for sporting events, graduation ceremonies, and American celebrations that we once again sing the National Anthem, the way it should be sung. Loud. Proud. Together.

The National Anthem is a symbol of our unity, our hope, and our belief that no matter what we face, we will make it through, together. The banner will still wave. It is an inspiring sight to see. It stands as the greatest symbol of this nation of ours that is still a work in progress. But capable of getting better all the time.

Cue Lee Greenwood.

Right after Labor Day is the best time for all professionals to do this.

Labor Day 2020 is in the books. We have put away our white pants, our seersucker suits and our inflatable pools. Summer is now history. This is the time that Don Henley sang about in Boys of Summer. But don’t look back, you can never look back. Because it is time to look forward to crushing the rest of the year.

It is September and you are ready to fully engage. You’ve adjusted to the new normal of life in the Covid Cabana. So let’s make the rest of 2020 great, just like Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters did.

Take Your Best Shot

Now that Labor Day is past, the first thing you should do is get new headshots of yourself. Right now you are tanned and healthy-looking from all that summer sun. You are still at your summer weight from all the warm weather activity you’ve been doing.

Let’s immortalize this version of you with a camera. Do it now, before the shorter days mean you get less sunlight on your skin than Boo Radley. Before you start replacing your summer fruits and vegetables with Halloween Skittles and Starbursts. Before Thanksgiving has you butterballing. And before Christmas time has you looking, well, jolly.

Look how good she looks!

Pre-Resolution You

There is a good reason we make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Because the next 3 or 4 months of the year have a way of adding to your weight collection. Which means it may take you until next June or July to look and feel the way you do now. So let’s get those new pics scheduled today!

Taking Care Of Business

Last September my whole team at The Weaponry got new headshots. Photographer Lucian McAfee did a great job. In fact, Lucian always does a great job with headshots. Or any other shots you ask him to take. Even Jagermeister.

Headshots should be fun.

Need Help?

If you would like advice on how to get great new headshots taken for you or your team, let me know. (If there is enough interest The Weaponry may put together a shoot day for you to join in Milwaukee)

If you are a photographer who loves to do headshots (or what professionals may call portraits) leave a comment on this post letting people know you can help them capture their best 2020 look. I suggest you write, ‘I can help people in (YOUR CITY HERE) get spectacular new headshots.’

If you know a great photographer, please share this post with them so they can use it to remind people that now is the time to get shot in the head with a camera.

If you know someone whose bio pic and social media photos look like they were taken during the dial-up era, consider sharing this with them too.

Soon, his fleeting handsomeness will begin to fade…

Key Takeaway

So remember, by the 21st night of September, you should get some new headshots taken. Capture how good you looked at the end of summer in 2020, despite all the craziness of the year. A few months from now you’ll be happy you did when you look great on social media, on your website, on your business cards or on your favorite dating app.

*If you know someone who could benefit from some new pics, or who would like to take some new pics, please share this with them.

The best thing you can do for yourself right now is nothing.

Welcome to Labor Day Weekend 2020. You made it! We are now two/thirds of the way through the most unusual year in the history of years. The covid crises, economic crises, and ongoing racial crises mean that 2020 has officially met its quota on crises-es. And I’m guessing you have too.

Labor Day Weekend couldn’t have come at a better time. We have all been pushing through the new challenges, changes, oddities and frustrations for a full 6 months. Which means that the very best thing you can do for the next 2 days, is nothing.

This hammock should be your spirit animal this weekend.

I know you have a long list of to-dos, could-dos and should-dos. There is always work to do be done, both at work and at home. But I suggest you just don’t it. Instead, take the rest of this long weekend to do what Labor Day Weekend was intended for. Resting. Relaxing. And most importantly, recharging.

Becoming a stronger human requires a regular cycle of stress and rest. Because the growth comes on the days you rest and recover. Rest is an essential element of high performance. So to maximize your performance in the third act of 2020, get your rest in now.

You have 2 more days to be lazy. Or playzy. You have 2 more days to kick your feet up and rest. To give your computer a rest. And to not check email, slack, or texts. Seek out some sun, or some shade, depending on which solar party you belong to. Find a comfy couch, a swaying hammock, and think more Corona beer, and less corona virus.

Grab a book, a magazine or a sudoku. Grab some analog playing cards, or dominoes or board games. Unplug. Unwind. And drink some 7-Up, the Uncola. In fact, do all you can to do as little productive work as you can. It will help you relax and recharge your batteries. It will help you do a hard reset on your personal operating system. And it will help you remove your accumulated stress gunk, which I wrote more about here.

Get outside. It will help you inside. Enjoy the sights of summer. The fresh air has a way of freshening up your attitude and your outlook. And I’m not talking about your email.

The best part of all will come on Tuesday morning. Because if you spend the next 2 days chillin like a Godzillin villain swillin penicillin, you will be eager to get back to work. Which is the whole point.

Key Takeaway

Let’s finish this year strong. Let’s make up for the time we have spent dazed and confused. And let’s remember 2020 for all the good we were able to accomplish in the final 4 months of the year. To prepare yourself for a strong final push, get your rest now. Get yourself mentally, and physically ready for all of the good work to come. So kick your feet up this weekend. And you’ll be ready to hit the ground running on Tuesday morning.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them. Or just share a pina colada with them. It will have the same effect.

Why you should have an excite hustle.

College is an exciting time. You get to pick a major that inspires you. Suddenly, it becomes fun to study and learn. You develop a vision of what your career will be like. And that vision provides motivation throughout your college experience.

More than 2 decades after graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison I can say that I have used the knowledge I gained while studying for my degrees in psychology and journalism every day of my advertising career.

The Great Compromise

But I noticed when I graduated that many of my classmates didn’t hold out for the jobs they really wanted. College debt, life expenses, nagging parents and a desire to simply get busy cause many, if not most college grads to take the first decent job to come along. Regardless of whether the job fit their original vision, major, or life plan.

This means that many of us end up in jobs or careers that don’t align with our greatest interests and deepest passions. That is okay. There are many good reasons we do this. But if you are not inspired or fulfilled by your day job, you should take on another project in your free time that fires you up like AC/DC in a high school weight room.

Excite Hustles

People often refer to these kind of side activities as side hustles. But I think of them as excite hustles. Because the best reason to take them on is that they give you something exciting to work on. They enable you to tap into your greatest interests, passions, and your desire for adventure, or self reliance.

Excite hustles can feel thrilling and dangerous because you feel like you are cheating on your day job. Because you are having a career affair with work that excites you more than your steady job. That is a great thing.

An excite hustle will wake you up early and keep you up late. It will call your name over the lunch hour, and during your commute. (I’m just kidding. No one commutes any more.)

An excite hustle provides even more reasons to look forward to the weekends. (Not The Weeknd. #ICantFeelMyFace) It will prevent you from filling your free time digitally grazing on your mobile device. It will prevent you from resenting your career, and going postal. (Can you still go postal if we don’t have post offices?)

An excite hustle is full of potential. It provides an outlet for your energy. It fans your flames. When you find your calling it creates a gravitational force that keeps drawing you forward to do more, create more and explore more. Like Roger Moore, Michael Moore, or Benjamin Moore.

My Excite Hustle

When I decided to launch my own advertising agency I created my ultimate excite hustle. I already loved my career, I just wanted an even greater challenge. And I found one. Today, as the Founder of The Weaponry, I couldn’t feel more excited about the work I do. I can’t wait to get to it each day. I approach each work challenge with enthusiasm. And at the end of each day I don’t feel spent. I feel invested and fulfilled.

Key Takeaway

If your day job doesn’t tap into your passions it’s time to find your excite hustle. Fill your free time with work that motivates you. That keeps you looking forward to more. And that makes you feel as if you are living into your vision for your life.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

How to improve your natural ranking among humans.

There is a natural order among all humans. Put any collection of people into a room and that order will be revealed. It happens in businesses, schools and volunteer organizations. It happens in clubs and meetups. It happens in families and fraternities. It happens in the military and in mall food courts.

Like wolves in a pack or lions in a pride, we naturally sort and arrange ourselves. It’s as natural as the separation of oil and water. Yet our natural hierarchy is not arranged by height or weight. It’s not alphabetical order. It’s not by the color of your hair, eyes, skin or teeth. Actually, the color of your teeth may play a role. #keepbrushing.

Humans are sorted into their natural order by other humans based on their character and skills. This intuitive ranking system is as old as time. And it is baked into our DNA.

There are only 2 things that matter: character and skill. And maybe how you lean on wood.

You are valued and appraised for the content of your character. And for the quantity and quality of the skills you bring to the table. Even if there is no table. If you want to change your position within any group, focus on improving your character, and strengthening your valued skills, McGill.

To push yourself to the highest levels surround yourself with those who outrank you on both measures. There is little value in seeking out those with less character and skills than you. It is far better to sit at the bottom of the best collection of humans. Their character will strengthen you. Their skills will sharpen you. Just as iron sharpens iron, nothing improves humans like time spent with better humans.

Key Takeaway

To improve your standing in the world focus on your character and skills. Seek out those you admire. Spend time with the most capable and the most respected. They are the greatest teachers. They are the greatest guides. They hold the greatest influence. Not because they want influence. But because they have earned it, through their character and skills.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Take time off to tend to your other business.

I hold 3 jobs. I am the Founder and leader of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Which is a full time job and then some. But I am also a husband. And as if those 2 jobs weren’t enough, I am the proud father of 3 kids. It’s hard to tell which of these 3 jobs is most important. But I know for sure that it isn’t the ad agency gig.

Up North

This past weekend I took a little time off from The Weaponry, and my husbanding duties (I wrote duties…) in order to take my kids camping. With August drawing to an end, this weekend offered a perfect opportunity for Ava(14), Johann (13), Magnus (10) and I (ageless) to spend some time together before the kid head back to school(ing) on September 1st. It also offered my wife Dawn some overdue alone time before she resumes the role of Chief Educational Officer of the Albrecht Family School System. Because this year, our school district will be virtually schooling for somewhere between 1 week and all of eternity.

Spending time together builds a family foundation on stone. (See what I did there?)

Dad’s Camping Adventure 2020 took us 200 miles north of our home in Mequon, Wisconsin. Our campsite was on Bear Lake in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin. (You just mumble-read through the word Chequamegon didn’t you?) To say we got away from it all was an understatement.

Kids, clouds and quiet.

There was no electricity. No lights. No internet. In fact there was no phone service within 10 miles of our campsite. And that’s exactly the way I wanted it. Not only were my kids and I refreshed by the clean air, and cool lake water, we participated in a 3-day digital cleanse. Because with no phone service and no electricity to recharge our digital distractors, our mobile phones were quickly and thankfully dead.

It was 61 degrees this evening. My kids have viking blood.

I didn’t have to compete with social media, video games, or text messages. It was a full weekend of me and my children, fully engaged with each other. We talked and told stories. The four of us piled into our 17 foot canoe to go fishing and explore the lake together. We hiked. We campfired (which really should be a verb, right?). We cooked our own meals together. We stared at the stars as if seeing them for the first time. At night we crowded our sleeping bags close together in the tent.

Larry the Log Hauler.

As we were camping all seemed right with the world. In the middle of the woods we weren’t worried about COVID-19. We weren’t masking up or wearing out the pump on the hand sanitizer. We were just enjoying life together like it was 2019. Or maybe 1819.

We decided to come home through Michigan, which marked the 6th new state of the summer for my kids, who have now seen 42 states.

As a working parent, I can’t think of a better cherry on top of the summer than getting to spend 3 full days alone in the woods camping with my children without digital distractions. We were all completely present. Completely engaged. And completely invested in each other. We made memories we will never forget. At least until the Alzheimers or amnesia kick in.

We capped off our weekend with lunch in Escanaba, Michigan. Our table was as close to Lake Michigan as you can get without getting pruney.

Key Takeaway

It is easy to forget that we all have more than one job. Remember to put time and energy into your other important roles. Take your vacation days. Enjoy your upcoming Labor Day. Spend time with your family and friends. And Dad’s, spend time with your children. You can’t get that time back. Remember, it will be your kids that will decide which nursing home you end up in.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

How to land your first customer as a startup.

Launching your own business sounds fun and exciting. Right up until the moment when you have to find your first paying customer. Because a business without customers is like a kite without wind. It just won’t fly.

A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday about a major challenge his startup is facing. He said that like Carmen Miranda, he has had several fruitful conversations with prospective clients. And he was excited about next steps. However, at some point in each conversation it came out that the prospect would be his organization’s first customer. After hearing that, all of them ghosted like Patrick Swayze.

Which comes first, the business or the customer?

I expect my friend isn’t the only person to ever deal with this issue. In fact, every business ever created has had to transition from fantasy-business to reality-business by acquiring their first customer. If you have had this challenge, or are concerned about it as you begin your entrepreneurial journey, here are some tips for getting over the humpty hump.

9 Ways To Land Your Startup’s First Customer

  1. Give Away Your Product Or Service For Free. This approach doesn’t technically give you your first customer, because customers are those who pay for your offering. But what it does do is give you proof of trial. You can point to someone you have worked with. You can refer to a user who has enjoyed your product or service. It can give you a testimonial to leverage. It can offer an example of where and how you delivered. All of those things help make your prospective customer feel like you have the experience they want.

2. Start With Friends and Family Start by turning to those who are most likely to want to help you succeed. If you are making a relatively low cost consumer good or service, approach your friends and family first. They will want to help. Unless you are one of the Menendez Brothers.

3. Site Examples Of Your Personal Experience. Maybe you haven’t offered this service or product under your own banner, but you have done this sort of thing in the past through a business you worked for.

For instance, if you are a barista, a financial planner or a home cleaner who has worked for someone else, and now want to start offering the same type of service on your own, point to the examples of how you have done this extensively in the past. Now, you are excited to offer your customers what you have spent years perfecting.

Even better, you have fixed all the problems your past employer had when offering such goods or services. In fact, the reason you were inspired to go out on your own was to offer an even better product than you could have when your hands were tied by your prior employer. Then show them the rope burns around your wrist to make the whole hands-tied-thing more believable.

4. Offer A Money Back Guarantee. The reason people avoid working with new businesses is because there is an inherent risk involved with working with a new entity before they get the kinks out.

The key is making yourself a safe choice. You can do that by offering a money back satisfaction guarantee. If wasting money is the customer’s concern, and it often will be, a guarantee helps a great deal. However, losing valuable time is also often a concern. And that you simply won’t be able to give back to them unless you have a Delorean and a flux capacitor. So understand when a prospect’s concern can be alleviated by offering to return their money if they aren’t fully satisfied, and when it can’t.

5. Seek Out Other Entrepreneurs. The people most likely to want to see you succeed, after your friends and family, are other entrepreneurs. They have been where you have been and just needed someone to take a chance on them, like ABBA. Someone who was willing to forgive a little early-in-the-game wonkiness. Entrepreneurs love startups. Startups are nostalgic and inspiring to those of us who have been there before. Use that against us.

6. Partner With Another Company That Already Has Credibility. There are lots of ways to sneak in the backdoor. One great way is to tuck yourself into an already proven entity. It’s how The Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow snuck into the Wicked Witch’s castle. In the beginning, my startup partnered with many respected organizations. Those businesses vouched for us. And that was all we needed for client approval. Everyone wins. And it opens up even more possibilities down the road.

7. Sell Your Prospect’s Role In Your Founding Story Every company magically transforms from dream to reality when they acquire their first customer. And that founding story will be told for eternity. This is your customer’s chance to be part of your history and the story you will tell for years to come. The opportunity will be appealing for many. It’s appealing to me. Practice your pitch until it becomes an irresistible Disney-esque story.

8. Offer Steep Early Bird Discounts There are plenty of services that provide sticker shock to new shoppers. Take weddings for example. The photographer, venue, catering, flowers and dress all cost way more than you would have imagined. If you want to break into the wedding game, offer a cure for the sticker shock by offering a soothing, doable price. This is how you get your foot in the door. You will be solving 2 problems for the happy couple. First, you will be offering the service they need. Second, you will provide room in their budget for the other things they really want. A discount on your first gig is no loss to you. In fact, lowering the barrier to entry to get your first clients can unlock the path to millions of dollars in revenues in the future. And with a little luck, your business will outlast most marriages.

9. Work With Former Clients Or Customers. If you already have a proven track record of success with happy former customers they should be the first clients you approach for your new venture. Customers know that people, not businesses are the key to delivering a great product, service or experience. And if you have delivered for your customers in the past, they will expect that you will do the same for them in the future.

This is how I launched my business. After nearly 20 years of working for other companies I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. I talked to 5 former clients about my plans in order to get input, feedback, and hopefully interest in my new business. All 5 of them told me that if I did what I was planning to do they had work for me.

Global Rescue was The Weaponry’s first client. CEO Dan Richards and I have known each other since 7th grade. So we had a high level or trust. And he became one of my biggest cheerleaders. Doesn’t he look like a cheerleader?

In fact, my Original 5 became my biggest cheerleaders. They wanted to see me succeed, and wanted to be part of that success. I think they felt as if they helped discover The Weaponry, in the same way Clive Davis discovered Whitney Houston. Let those former clients in on the experience. Let them help mold your offering to meet their needs.

Because your former clients have history and trust with you, and they know you are starting something new, they will likely be more forgiving of you as you navigate the process for the first time.

Like so many others, I started The Weaponry as a side hustle. Not because I thought of it as a side hustle, but because I wanted to breathe life into it and gain momentum before I quit my day job. And I knew that my trusted former clients would understand why I needed to meet early, late or over a lunch hour. They wouldn’t expect me to be responsive throughout the day, and they would be forgiving of the various other quirks that came along with a startup side gig. And sometimes an understanding first customer is all you need.

Key Takeaway

A business is not really a business until you have your first paying customer. But there are multiple ways to find that legitimizing customer. Don’t worry about making a profit on your first client. Simply get the deal done. And you’ll have proof that someone else has trusted you with their hard earned money. That’s often all a prospect needs to hear. Then keep looking for that next customer as if your business depends on it. Because it does. Good luck. And get going!

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