Our unconventional website, Part 2: 7 Reasons we don’t have a real website.

Establishing a new business was much simpler before Al Gore invented the interwebs. You just established your legal entity with your state. You received a tax ID number from the federal government. Then, you got yourself a phone number from Ma Bell and listed it in something our forefathers called The Yellow Pages. Then you sat back and let your customers’ fingers do the walking across their phones to your business. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

It’s A Different World

In 2016, when I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, things were very different. The Yellow Pages were effectively extinct. Because the Google and its band of digital buddies changed everything. Suddenly, you were expected to build a website that told the world everything it wanted to know about your business.

A High Degree Of Difficulty

For most new business creating a website is really hard. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the Bob Villa skills to build their own website. At least nothing that looks like a website you would want your business to live in. Of course you can hire someone else to design your website. But that can involve more expense than most bootstrapped startups can pay when they have no revenue.

man holding drum sticks
Apparently this guy really loves to drink D- rum.

Marching To An Offbeat Drummer

The Weaponry decided to do things differently. We created a fun and frivolous, if not totally fricken random website at The Weaponry.com. The first headline visitors read says, ‘Am I in the right place?’ And the first body copy on the site reads, ‘This is not a legit website’. At least visitors can’t say we didn’t warn them. The main image on our home page is of Laverne and Shirley from the sitcom Laverne & Shirley. I wrote in detail about the site in The story of our crazy website. Part 1: What is this?.

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Give them any rule they’ll break it.

More Thought Than You Think

While it appears that we were just trying to be funny when we created our website there was actually a lot of thought put into the decision to create such an unconventional site. And here’s the rationale.


The 7 Reason The Weaponry doesn’t have a real website.

open neon signage turned on

1. Our website is not our business.

I have met far too many entrepreneurs and non-trepreneurs who spent all of their critical, early effort thinking about their website. They spun their wheels and delayed the real work of establishing a new business until the website was complete. Which stole far too much of their valuable time when the business was still in its veal stage.

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see startups make. Instead of focussing on your website, focus on business development. Work on your network. Work on your processes and procedures. Work on your product or service. All of those things are far more valuable to your growth and long term viability than a website. Don’t fool yourself. A polished website is merely a placebo that makes you feel as if you have a real, viable business.

neon signage

2. All agency websites looked the same.

Agencies love to puff about how creative and different they are. But the sites all say the same thing, which betrays the statement. If you are really different, and think different, do different. Our illegitimate website is nothing if not different. It helps us stand out. Which is the first order of business in marketing.

3. We didn’t start out with creative work to show.

Advertising agencies deal in the currency of ideas and creativity. In the beginning we didn’t have ideas that were born and raised at The Weaponry to share. I didn’t want to feature work that wasn’t conceived, gestated and birthed at The Weaponry. But agency websites that don’t show creative work feel as if the are covering something up. So we decided to avoid creative work altogether by not revealing anything.

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Now we have creative work to show.
swimming
Like this.
Dreams Come True copy
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And this.

4. Our website is meant for prospective employees. Not clients.

Websites, like any good piece of communication, should be crafted for a specific audience. The audience we most wanted to reach was prospective team members. We knew that creative thinkers would recognize what we were doing as very different. Which probably meant that the way we thought and operated was different. And that we are open to new and novel thinking. While I might not know much, I know, I know, I know this much is true.

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Our site is targeted towards people like Sarah Disanza, who hunted us down and demanded a job. So we gave her one.

5. The intrigue was too fun to let go.

When the first visitors found our fake site the fun began. People immediately wanted to know more. In fact, everyone told us that they read every single word on the site. We have now had that non-website for 3 years. And the stories just keep piling up. We could write a book on the stories we have heard, and the funny emails that have been forwarded to us. It has definitely created an inside/outside effect. All to the benefit of our insiders.

 

6. I didn’t want the business to grow faster than I grew as the leader of the business.

This is the most important reason we don’t have a real site. When I first launched The Weaponry I had a lot to learn. And I didn’t want the agency’s growth to outpace my own. It would likely lead to disaster. Unhappy clients, unhappy partners and unhappy employees.

I knew the business would grow. But I didn’t want the pressure of additional demand before we created the systems and processes to accommodate for it. So a magnetic website with great SEO and a sharply-honed paid search strategy, like we implement for our clients, would have actually worked against our long term plans.

All Rights Reserved
This guy has been growing like a weed wearing tweed.

7. My Own Rebelliousness

I simply like doing things differently. And I wanted to prove that even in the digital era you can grow a multi million dollar business without a website that shares a dot of data about you. Which is exactly what has happened.

What is even better is that smart businesses trust us to design and build their websites, despite the fact that we don’t have one ourselves. That will provide a great hook when I finally write the book about my experience. #MarketingBakedInFromTheStart

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Find great people and start doing great things. That’s how you grow a business without a website.

Key Takeaway

There are no absolutes in business. There are multiple ways to do everything. If everyone else is zigging then you should zag. Or zog or zeg. Because breaking the rules always gets you noticed. And getting noticed is the first step to making a sale. So learn all the rules. Then decide which ones are worth breaking. Then break away. It may just provide the break you’ve been looking for.

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

How your opportunities are like popcorn.

Opportunities are like popcorn.

They both start as small unassuming kernels.

And if you leave them alone they will stay that way forever. Just small kernels of potential. Unrealized. And Inedible.

orange corn kernels
Look at all that opportunity!

There are millions of un-popped kernels around you. They are in jars. In stores and in cupboards. Just waiting to be popped.

But unless you live in Hades, those kernels won’t pop in the store. They won’t pop in the jar. And they won’t pop on the shelf in your cupboard.

You have to pop them yourself. The way your grandparents and Orville Redenbacher did.

The Recipe For Popcorn

  1. Pour kernels into a pan.
  2. Bathe them in oil.
  3. Crank up the heat.
  4. Start shaking the pan. Then keep shaking and shaking until all the kernels pop.

Key Takeaway

Opportunities surround you. But they won’t pop on their own. You need to apply heat and action. But when you do, the results just keep piling up. So crank up the heat to high and start shaking. Then keep heating and shaking until you have a bowl full of delicious, salted, buttered popcorn in front of you.

How to impress others with a follow up note.

It’s important to surround yourself with great people. In business, as in life, the better the people around you, the better you become. That’s why I am always on the lookout for special people. I want to find rockstars with great experience that I can learn from. And I’m always searching for young guns who will turn heads when they kick in the swinging doors of the saloon. Like Emilio Estevez.

Scouts

I have talented people in my tribe who scout for people they think I should know. I regularly receive emails, texts and LinkedIn messages from friends and family about people they want to introduce me too. I love this. But this only happens because they know I am an avid collector of rockstars.

Stephanie Herbst-Lucke

One of my people scouts is my great friend Stephanie Herbst-Lucke. Stephanie is a fellow University of Wisconsin track alum (although she is not actually a fellow, she is a lady). She is also a very talented marketer, who now teaches at Georgia State University in Atlanta, while working on her PhD from Case Western. Stephanie recently connected me to one of her senior students at GSU that she was quite impressed with, and thought I should know. The student’s name is Erika Bevers.
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My friend Stephanie is a rockstar. Here she is (front left), with me (front middle) and a group of Wisconsin track alum at a get together at her house in Atlanta.

The Call

On Wednesday night I drove from Louisville (remember the I and S are silent) to my home in Milwaukee. Which is a 6.5 hour drive. During a fuel stop in Indiana I sent Erika a message saying that I was driving for the next few hours, and had time to talk. Erika called me within 10 minutes.
We talked about her career aspirations, strengths and passions. She asked me a lot of smart and insightful questions about my career path, and what I thought were the keys to success. (As if I would know…)
It was a fun conversation between an energetic student, excited to get her foot in the door of an advertising agency, and someone who remembers struggling to find a door to stick a foot in. That is until one of my college professors, Roger Rathke, introduced me to Paul Counsell, the CEO of Cramer Krasselt. And now, 2 decades later, I am the CEO of an ad agency, The Weaponry.  And now professors send me students, with feet, to stick in my doors.
I offered Erika advice and answered questions. She seemed to be paying attention. But you never really know, you know?

The Morning After

The following morning I got an email from Erika. Which is always a good move. But what I read was not just a good move. It was a textbook way to say I was paying attention throughout our conversation. It said that I picked up what you were putting down. That I am a quick study. And I would be a great addition to your team. All without literally saying any of those things.
I’ve attached her email below, reprinted with permission from Erika, who holds the copyright thereto.

The Follow Up Email


Hey Adam!
I want to thank you for the conversation we had yesterday– it was helpful, uplifting, and I learned a lot from your stories and advice. I’ve done my best to make an easy-to-follow outline of what we discussed. Feel free to let me know if I should go back and revise some points!
There are three things a person should remember if he/she wants to be successful:
1) Have a GROWTH mindset- Never stop trying to learn new things.
2) Surround yourself with good people. Learn from them.
3) Here’s the big one. Develop and MAINTAIN connections with people. It’s a small world and having that network is really important.
Here are some pointers on networking:
1) The secret to being able to talk to anybody in the room is to have a host-mentality​- that way, it doesn’t matter how shy or awkward the person may seem; you, as the host, will make sure the conversation flows.
2) Build LinkedIn Network to 300 by the time I graduate this December 2019.
3) Study market trends.
4) Get a Twitter! Not only is it full of useless drama, but it can be a great resource.
5) Informational Interviews are great- they’re casual, relaxed, and bit more “real.” Atlanta Creative Mornings is a great resource for this.
Some general bits that are very noteworthy and good to remember:
1) Get good sleep. Eat good food. Exercise. 
2) A B C D – ALWAYS BE COLLECTING DOTS TO ALWAYS BE CONNECTING DOTS!
I have attached a picture of my chicken-scratch notes just for the sake of entertainment. Again, I appreciate your time and insight. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.
Hope you have a great weekend!
Best,
Erika
notes

Wow.

Not only was Erika listening, she was taking notes, asking clarifying questions, and going back go make sure that what she heard, and understood, was correct! This is a great way to make a great impression. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Advertising taught me that.

Key Takeaway

If you want opportunities that other people don’t get, do things that other people don’t do. Bring value to everyone around you. Make them want to pass your name along to others. Then be as good as advertised. Make a great first impression. Make your strengths, passions and contributions obvious. It will open doors for you. And opened doors mean more chances to learn, earn and grow. Then follow up. Thank the people that have helped you move forward. By doing so you’ll develop a reputation that will open doors you didn’t even know existed.

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

The most underrated risk takers in entrepreneurship.

Americans have great reverence for entrepreneurs. I certainly do. Ever since I was a kid I was awed by men and women who were brave enough to start their own business. I looked up to them. I wanted to be like them. I still do.

Start Me Up

In 2016 I joined the ranks of those who dared to create their own living. I started an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Soon I developed an even deeper understanding of why we are so impressed by entrepreneurs. Not just because entrepreneurship is hard to spell. But because they really do risk a lot to play this thrilling game of business.

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Me and my original wingman, my cousin Brooks Albrecht.

You’ve Got Me Running Hot.

But there is another group that doesn’t get nearly enough credit for their bravery, risk taking and contribution to the success of startups: the early employees. Without the early employees, a startup never moves beyond starting. Without the early employees entrepreneurs can’t scale. We can never develop real businesses that create significant jobs and help grow the economy. Which means that company picnics could take place on a single pogo stick.

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My first hire at The Weaponry, K-Lil, and one of our billboards for the UW Credit Union, or no?

Let’s Do This Thang

It is the early employees who enable the ultimate success of the organization. I am extremely grateful to The Weaponry employees who have taken a chance on me, my business idea, my vision and my ambition. Without you I would be a 1-man band, limited to playing a pretty lame tune. Like Hot Cross Buns.

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Some of our Weapons at a recent team brewery tour including, Adam ‘Henry’ Emery, Kevin ‘Lower’ Kayse, Sarah ‘Ice’ Disanza, Calla ‘Superfragelistic’ Stanford, Sally ‘Money’ Bretsch,Jeanne ‘Meyer’ Mayer, Shirley Feeney and Laverne DeFazio.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurs can not create great organizations alone. It takes a strong team to make a strong business. I would also like to say thank you to all of those employees who have, or are taking a flyer on a startup. Especially my Weapons. Your bravery, commitment and confidence don’t go unnoticed. We couldn’t do this without you. Literally.