I had a lot of help becoming an entrepreneur. Here are 16 names.

19 years into my advertising career I did something cray-cray. Despite the fact that there were already a bazillion ad agencies I could have worked at I decided to start my own. That agency, The Weaponry, just turned 5-years old. Which is kind of a big deal because so many businesses bite the dust before they hit the 5-candle cake.

Reflecting

Our recent milestone has prompted me to reflect on my entrepreneurial journey. What I have discovered is that entrepreneurship is like an epic game of connect the dots. Most of those dots are people. And in my case, none of them are actually named Dot.

I have been thinking of many of the people who have played an important dot in my experience. And I quickly go back to the very beginning. Which is a very good place to start. Because the hardest part of entrepreneurship is simply getting started. Here are some of the people that inspired me to get started and the role they played in my adventure.

16-ish People Who Have Played An Important Role In My Entrepreneurial Adventure.

  1. Bob and Jill Albrecht My parents gave me the confidence to think I could do anything I set my mind to. Except maybe play baseball. Or win at The Quiet Game.
My parents, during one of my speeches.

2. Dawn Albrecht My wife fully supported me trading in a well-paid career as an employee to chase the elusive success of entrepreneurship. And she had the most to lose. Like food, shelter, and wi-fi.

Me and Dawn: The Early Years. A good life partner makes all the difference.

3. My Uncles I have 18 uncles, most of whom are either farmers or other forms of entrepreneurs, or both. Seeing that kind of self-reliance all around you makes you believe in yourself. My Aunts (rhymes with wants) were also important partners in the team’s success. Which provided a template for Dawn and me to follow. And some shared genetics.

4. Roger Rathke My college journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin was a copywriter who eventually owned his own agency and made plenty of money in the process. He provided a model and a path I wanted to follow. Plus he had a fancy sports car. Which is not something most professors have. He also introduced me to an agency CEO named Paul Counsell, which was the first domino. We all need a first domino.

My college professor Roger Rathke really got my career rolling.

5. Paul Counsell Paul was the CEO of Cramer Krasselt, and hired me for my first job in advertising. He provided another great agency leader model for me. He had also started his own agency. And when I asked what he would have done differently in his entrepreneurial journey he said he would have gone after bigger clients sooner. I never forgot that and followed his advice when I started The Weaponry. He also once told me I had no diplomacy. He was right. I fixed that.

Roger, Paul, and me at an awards banquet. I was voted most likely not to wear a sport coat.

6. Neil Casey My first boss. At a lunch 2 years into my career, he told me I had the skills to lead the whole agency. I was 25. That made a major impression on me.

Neil Casey, without the sunshine band.

7. Ashley Lazarus Ashley is a world-class director, who in 1999 told me I had to start my own agency to stay in control of my own career. I believed him. Our discussion was a key driver in my career. I wrote about it here.

Ashley was the first person who told me I had to start my own agency to protect my career. He also made cranberries look delicious. Not like the little balls of face-contortion that they really are.

8. Chris Dawson Chris and I first met 21 years ago when he was a marketing hotshot at Ski-Doo, leading their advertising agency review. Me and my team pitched and won the account. Chris is hyper-smart and we became good friends and excellent collaborators. In the summer of 2015, Chris called me and encouraged me to start my own agency. While the idea of entrepreneurship had been simmering for years, that call and that encouragement was the tipping point. Chris has now helped hire The Weaponry 3 different times for 3 different companies.

Chris Dawson, before he grew his ZZ Top beard.

9. Chad Thompson Chad was a former client of mine at Nationwide Insurance. He called me 2 hours after I talked to Chris Dawson and also told me he was interested in working together again but didn’t think my current agency was right for his needs. I told him that was good news because I was going to start my own agency. This second call of the afternoon felt like the universe hitting me over the head, telling me it was time to get going.

Chad Thompson, inducing hair envy with a smile.

10. Mark O’Brien I had a 4-hour dinner with Mark, a close friend, and former client a few days later at Marlow’s in Alpharetta, Georgia. #SweetTeaBender I told him that I was thinking of starting my own agency. He said, ‘You HAVE to do this!’ Not you should, or could. He made it clear that success was certain, and the world needed what I was planning to build. That was a huge endorsement. A few months later he hired The Weaponry to work on Mizuno.

Mark made me wear this Clay Matthews jersey for a presentation. I have no idea why.

11. Nicole Hallada My friend Nicole and I had a phone call shortly after my dinner with Mark. When she asked me what I was up to I told her I was planning on starting my own agency. She told me that if I did she had work for me. She has now been a very important client for 5 years.

The first freelance project I did for Nicole in 2006 was paid for with a sandwich, and a bag of chips.

12. Christien Louviere Christien is a friend and entrepreneur in Atlanta. But most importantly as it relates to me, he is also a content creator. His blog post Top 10 Things You Don’t Need to Do To Start Your Own Business had a major impact on me. Because in the post he enlightened me to the fact that I should start my business before quitting my day job. He said let your day job fund your startup as long as you can. That key unlocked the gate for me. It took the pressure off of the need for immediate success. In fact, that advice was so important to me that I have now published nearly 600 blog posts since then in hopes that I help unlock something important for someone else by sharing what I know.

Don’t stare at Christien too long or his handsomeness will hypnotize you.

13. Jeff Hilimire Jeff is a serial entrepreneur and was the President of Engauge when I was the Chief Creative Officer. After Engauge was acquired by Publicis, Jeff started Dragon Army and was fully immersed in his new agency when I was ready to start The Weaponry. He was and has been a great advisor and supporter throughout my journey. I remember sitting on the deck at Dragon Army with Jeff in Atlanta when he asked me, ‘What is the percent chance you will actually start your own agency?‘ I told him ‘100%. I will fail at this before I do anything else.’ Which illustrated how committed I was to entrepreneurship. I wrote about it here.

Jeff and I and a meaty backdrop.

14. Dan Richards Dan and I grew up together in Norwich, Vermont. We played football and were on the track team together at Hanover High School. He is one of my closest friends. He is also an amazing entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of Global Rescue. Dan hired an embryonic version of The Weaponry to do its very first project on October 31st of 2015 in Boston. Over the following 12 months not only was Global Rescue our biggest client, Dan was a great mentor, sharing everything I wanted to know about running a business. Every aspiring entrepreneur should have a Dan Richards.

Just a couple of Green Mountain Boys. Never meaning no harm.

15. Troy Allen Troy and I both lived in Dublin, Ohio. We were both advertising guys. But when I met him he had already started his own agency called Elevate. Then he started another amazing business called Rise Brands, which creates amazing brands, including the wildly successful 16-Bit Arcade, Pins Mechanical, and No Soliciting. Troy was extremely helpful in sharing his experience and providing insights into pricing and offering revenue numbers to benchmark against. Having someone to talk real numbers with you is huge for new entrepreneurs.

Troy and I representing the bookends of the hair spectrum.

16. Brooks Albrecht My cousin Brooks was in Seattle working for Amazon in 2015. But we talked often. We have a lot in common. Including a good chunk of our DNA and our last name. Brooks played football and baseball at The University of Minnesota. I was on the track team at the University of Wisconsin. We both were on Big 10 Championship teams. And we were both looking for our next career challenge. So we teamed up to launch The Weaponry together. We planned and prepped and researched together. Brooks solidified our operations and was part of The Weaponry for the first year. He was a huge help, and really fun to work with. We still talk frequently and are always looking for our next collaboration.

My cousin Brooks and I demonstrating the 2 basic ways to wear a hat.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship may appear to be an individual sport, but it is far from that. It is full of supporters, encouragers, and role models. Finding those people is key to your success. Surround yourself with great people. It increases the likelihood of you doing great things too.

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

What my first boss said when he found out I was starting my own business.

While researching a longer post about key people who supported my entrepreneurial adventure I came across an email from my first boss in advertising, Neil Casey.

Neil was a partner at Cramer Krasselt and the Executive Creative Director. I started as a junior copywriter and thought I would get fired every day for the first 6 months. Neil and I were opposites in many ways. But I liked his style, and he tolerated mine. Neil is a really great swearer. I am not sure he knows this. He also taught me a lot about advertising, writing, strategy, creative thinking and how to stand up for your ideas.

The following email was from August 25, 2016. I had officially launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency just a few months earlier. I was moving form Atlanta to Milwaukee for family reasons. Neil found out what I was doing and shared this note.

The note:

Hey Adam, Paul told me you were opening an ad agency in Milwaukee. ARE YOU NUTS?! Yeah, Paul had I went bonkers circa 1980 and opened Counsell & Casey. After melding back into C-K things turned out pretty well. Luck is always a component, bad or good. We were fortunate to have good luck.

Put yourself in situations and environments that foster good luck. Then add your unique talent and you’re on your way to fame and fortune. Oh yeah, I forgot about all the drudgery and long hours. Hang out with talented people. Keep the faith.

I always saw you as a Brand Enthusiast, Adam. Milk it for all you can.

Let’s have lunch sometime soon.

Neil

Key Takeaway

Support and encourage people whenever you can. Every bit helps.

Sidenote (actually below note): Neil hates the name The Weaponry. But I love it. And I have always enjoyed being the pea under Neil’s mattress.

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

The Weaponry turns 5 years old!

I always wanted to start my own business. Not because I was an unhappy employee or a free spirit who couldn’t stand to work for The Man. I just like a good challenge. And everything I ever heard about entrepreneurship made it seem like it was the career equivalent to bull riding. Or free solo climbing. Or streaking at the Super Bowl. I knew it was dangerous. The likelihood of failure was very high. But if you are successful, there are few endeavors as rewarding.

On the set of a recent TV shoot with Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts. I tried to steal his necklace, and he tried to defend it. It was all very subtle.

Some Fun Entrepreneurial Facts

  • There are 31 million businesses in the United States
  • 90% fail within the first 5 years
  • Only 4% ever make $1 million a year.
  • The average age of startup Founders is 42 years 
  • A first-time entrepreneur has an 18% chance of succeeding
  • 70% of entrepreneurs were married when they started their first business
  • 60% had at least one child
  • 44% had two or more children
  • 66% of start-up founders pay themselves less than $50,000
  • 69% of American entrepreneurs start their business at home
  • 80% of small businesses are non-employer businesses. 
  • 51% of small businesses make less than $100,000 in annual sales. 

Riding The Bull

With these facts in hand, I launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, in 2016. I wholeheartedly believed that we would succeed. The statistics didn’t scare me. They motivated me to prove that I was one of the few, the proud, the elite non-failers. Although I am sure the failers also felt confident when they first started out. After all, you don’t jump out of an airplane unless you are highly confident your parachute will open. Unless maybe there were snakes on the plane.

A constant reminder in our offices to think.

Turning 5 Years Old

Today, I am thrilled and proud to say The Weaponry is 5 years old! We gave grown significantly each year. And despite the global pandemic, 2020 was our best year yet. Now 2021 is off to a strong start. We continue to add to our team. And we have added 2 new clients in the past 2 weeks.

From a trip to India in 2018 to work with our clients Fifth Third Bank and SLK Global Solutions. I didn’t get the White Shirt Memo.

Funner Entrepreneurial Facts

  • The Weaponry has offices in both Milwaukee and Columbus.
  • We have 24 clients
  • We have clients in all 4 US Time Zones.
  • We have clients in 3 countries: The United States, Canada and India.
  • We offer Health Insurance and Dental Insurance
  • We have a 401(k) plan with a 4% match
  • We have two red refrigerators
  • Both of our offices are in Suite #206 (Although the signs say Sweet #206. Because I thought that was funnier. Those are the kinds of dumb things you can do when you start your own business.)
This is where the magic happens.

What’s Next?

I feel as if we have only just begun, like Karen Carpenter. We have much more to accomplish. We expect us to grow and expand significantly. It is clear that we are having great success with happy clients who have hired The Weaponry 2 and 3 times as they have changed jobs. Which I think is the best compliment a client can give you.

Our 3 Pillars of Success.

Before we won our very first client (Global Rescue), I declared The Weaponry’s recipe for long-term success. And unlike that finger-licker Colonel Sanders, I am happy to share it with you.

  1. Great Creative Idea
  2. Excellent Customer Service
  3. A Fun Experience for Everyone Involved.
Me and Dan Richards, CEO of our first client, Global Rescue. We were trying to look tough while wearing polos.

What’s Next?

If we continue to deliver on these 3 points we will enjoy perpetual success. And while I am very thankful to have made it to 5 years, I believe the job of leadership is to keep a business in business forever. To do that we will have to continue to listen, learn, adapt and improve. I am fully committed to it. Just like a streaker.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. In fact, it offers one of life’s greatest challenges. But if you want to try it, I highly encourage you. It is extremely rewarding in more ways than I have room to share in a concluding paragraph. To dramatically improve your chances of success start a business doing something you know well. Choose work you love to do. And you will have the intellectual equipment and the magnetic pull to get you to 5 years and beyond.

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

The money lesson I taught my son that he then shared with his class.

Over the past year, I have been able to spend more time with my family than ever before. For several months I conducted all of my work from my home office. Which allowed my 3 kids to see more of what I do during the day. This created interesting new opportunities to talk to them about work, business, and making money.

As an entrepreneur and business owner, I couldn’t resist talking to my kids about the challenges the pandemic was causing for businesses. And how toilet paper didn’t grow on trees. (They corrected me). But more importantly, I shared how much opportunity there was for businesses to innovate, solve new problems, and benefit from helping others.

As the stock market went into the toilet like a dooky, I shared that this was an amazing time to invest. My kids asked me if they could invest some of their money. So I helped them buy their first stock.

We also read books on money, investing, and wealth. I was surprised by how interested they were in the topic. And it gave me hope that someday they may be able to afford to put me in the good nursing home.

I was even more surprised when my youngest son Magnus came home one day and told me he wrote a story in school on how to get rich. I was curious to read it. I wanted to know what his 10-year old mind was thinking. When the paper finally came home I was tickled, like Elmo, to read what he wrote. I have reprinted the story here in its entirety with permission from Magnus.

How To Get Rich!

The first thing you need to know to be rich is the difference between what you need and what you want. Another way you can put this is you need to know the difference between an asset and a liability.

A asset is something that makes you money. A liability is something that wastes your money.

Some assets would be starting a business, buying stocks, set up a lemonade stand, or any stand, mow someone’s lawn or sell things.

But buying stock is the most efficient way to make money. Especially at a time like this when all the stocks are down.

If you don’t know what a stock is, it’s something you buy on any device and without doing anything you make money. You can also hold on to your stock and get paid four times a year.

My stock pays me 30 cents four times a year. When I bought the shares of my stock each one cost me $3.75. So in total I paid $37.50. And that stock has went up so high that last time I checked it was worth $120 if I sold it.

You can sell things, but I sometimes wouldn’t recommend it. What my Dad taught me is sell when it is high, buy when it is low.

A book I would recommend to get you started is called, Rich Dad. Poor Dad. That was the first book I read about how to get rich. So after reading this get up and ‘Act Now!’

-Magnus Albrecht 3-9-21

Key Takeaway

Teach others what you know. By sharing your knowledge you raise the intelligence and confidence of others. Talk to kids about important life lessons and skills, including financial literacy, when they are young. They are like sponges, primed for learning. Make it fun. Make it interesting. And you can make a positive, life-long impact. It may just be the most valuable investment you ever make.

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

Why adults should tap into the power of playing Pretend.

When I was a kid we didn’t have electronics. Check that, we had one television in our living room. It had no remote control, so you had to get up and go to the TV to change the channel and volume, or to fix the vertical hold. I didn’t have any video games. Our only phone was wired to the wall. And the only fun things you could do with the phone was prank call your friends, or dial 867-5309 and ask for Jenny.

The Pretender

As a result of my Amish-ish youth, I had to find other ways to fill my time. One of my go-to activities was playing Pretend. It worked like this: I pretended I was someone else with a more interesting life than my own. That’s pretty much it.

My pretending covered a wide range of roles. Sometimes I pretended to be a farmer, doctor, astronaut, or soldier. Other times I pretended to be a professional athlete or a cowboy. I used to pretend to run a chapel in my basement. And my older sister Heather and I even used to regularly play (wait for it…) Brother and Sister! We played together the way we saw brothers and sisters play on TV, or in the movies. Which meant that we got along better and did way more adventurous stuff.

Today I am full-grown-ish, yet I still play Pretend. Because I now recognize that if you play Pretend long enough, and really commit to the part, you can make things happen for real.

How it has worked for me.

College

In college at The University of Wisconsin, I pretended I was going to be an advertising creative. So I declared a major in journalism to learn about writing, strategic communications, and the other isms behind journals. I also declared a psychology major, because I wanted to know more about human thinking and motivation. I realized that declaring a major is simply a fancy name for playing Pretend. Just like kilt is a fancy name for man-skirt.

Entrepreneurship

In 2015, at the height of my employed career, I started pretending I was an entrepreneur, and that I owned my own advertising agency. So I started doing all the things I thought entrepreneurs do. I read books about launching and running businesses. I hung out with successful entrepreneurs. I wrote down all my plans. And I talked to people as if I was a real entrepreneur. Suddenly, real people started asking me if I could do work for them with my pretend business. When that happened, my pretend business instantly became a real business. Just like Pinocchio became a real boy. No lie. And no strings attached. Today that business is called The Weaponry.

Blogging

About the same time, I also pretended that I was a blogger. So I did what I thought real bloggers did. I went to a blogging website called WordPress.com, I created a pretend blog, and I started writing pretend posts. Then, after I had written 5 of those, I started publishing them. Within minutes people started reading them. You, my reader-friend, are proof that I am a real blogger. Because you are most certainly a real reader. (Maybe you could write ‘Real Reader’ in the comments to confirm my Real Reader hypothesis.) My blog has now been read in nearly 130 countries around the world. (Because there aren’t 130 countries crowded into one part of the world).

No ending to the pretending.

Today, I am playing Pretend more than ever. Over the past year, I have pretended to be a cartoonist, an author, a community organizer, a high school track coach, an investor, an employee of a tech start-up, a t-shirt maker, and the owner of a food business. All of these things that I have pretended to be are now in various stages of reality. Just like Kanye West.

What About You?

Are you pretending to be who you really want to be? Are you pretending to do the things you really want to do? It’s easier than you think. Just act like you did when you were a child. You knew what to do then. Simply do the same thing now. And if you pretend all the way, you will get all the way to what you were pretending to be. Just like Jackson Browne. Or Chrissie Hynde.

Key Takeaway

Never stop pretending. It is the first step to creating. It is how you activate your beliefs, manifest your dreams, and live into your vision. Because when you pretend hard enough everyone will take you seriously. Including yourself.

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

If I could do it all again I would make more friends.

I always laugh when someone says ‘If I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything different.’ I appreciate the conviction of such a statement. But it shows that they have not learned and grown much during this dress rehearsal. So they obviously wouldn’t profit much from a life mulligan anyway.

My Re-do

I can find a seemingly endless supply of things I would do differently on my life do-over. I would have slowed down that night when I lost control of my car and flew it into a pasture full of cows Duke’s of Hazard-style. I would have skipped that Wednesday football practice when I tore my ACL my senior year. I would NOT have bought that cheap home printer that constantly jammed and guzzled ink like a drunken donkey. And I would NOT have taken work from that client who was like a real-life Mikey, and really did hate everything. Even Life cereal.

I have been thinking a lot lately about things I would change If I could do it all again. And there is one clear answer that rings out every time I ponder this question. It’s not a regret that haunts me. It’s not a mistake I would fix. And it’s not a detour I would take to avoid pain or punishment. It is something I wish I had more of.

More, More, More

If I could go back and do it all over I would make more friends. There is no greater asset on Earth. There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet. But when I think about the tiny percentage of those people I actually know it gives me a major case of FOMO.

When I was younger I remember people saying that the person who dies with the most toys wins. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It is the person who collects the most friends, who develops and maintains the most and best human relationships that really wins this game. And if those friends have lots of toys, even better.

Friends With Benefits

Friends deliver on our most basic needs. They offer a sense of home and belonging. They offer support, encouragement and inspiration. They make us smile and laugh and sometimes blow things out of our noses involuntarily. And as I have gotten older I have found you can never have too many people in your friend column.

Collecting Friends

I still maintain friendships from pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school and college. I am still in touch with friends from all 9 cities I have lived in. I have friends I have met on airplanes, while on vacation, and while playing at the park with my kids. But I can’t help but think of all of the amazing friends I haven’t met. Especially the ones who have kidneys just like mine.

Work Friends

Friends have been the most important ingredient of my career success. My coworker-friends, client-friends and partner-friends have not only contributed immensely to my workplace wins, they have made me feel as if I am hanging out with friends all day long. In fact, I met my all-time best friend Dawn at work. And we have now been married for 18 years. #CompanyPicnicsAreTheBest

Entrepreneurship

When I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, it was my friends who became my first clients, coworkers and champions. Today, the business and all of the peripheral activities that come with it are a great source of new and growing friendships. In fact, I think of the ability to develop and maintain strong relationships as the greatest input to entrepreneurial success and the greatest fringe benefit of entrepreneurship.

The Greatest ROI

I have friends in every state in America and in dozens of countries around the world. They offer the greatest return of any investment I have ever made. But like the dollars I have squirreled away in my 401(k) plan, I wish had invested even more. Alas, if wishes were fishes we would all have a fry. So the best we can do is make more in the days and years ahead.

Key Takeaway

Keep growing your tribe. Make as many friends as you can in as many places as you can. Connect your friends to each other. Invest in your relationships. Make them deep and wide. At the end of our days, the only thing that matters is the impact we have made on each other. So create more impactful relationships, and enjoy the positive impact they have on you.

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

Find people who ask you questions you didn’t know to ask.

I have a new startup business idea in the embryonic stage. I know what I want it to look like fully-formed, but I don’t know some of the most basic details that will help me get there. Or at least I didn’t until yesterday (when all my trouble seemed so far away).

Good Call

Yesterday morning I had a call with an expert that I would need to partner with to make this idea a reality. He asked me many important questions about my plan that I simply had no answers to. There were a lot of TBDs. But with each of the TBDs, I became more D to find the answers.

One Giant Leap For Startupkind

That conversation was a huge leap forward for me. Because now I have my homework assignments. I know the answers I need to find. I know the boxes I need to chickity check. I know what I don’t know, you know. And like Robert Frost said, that makes all the difference.

Move Forward.

Entrepreneurship, and growth of all kinds, are adventures into the unknown. The most important thing is to start moving forward. Take a step and the next step will reveal itself. Kinda like a striptease.

Don’t be afraid to be asked questions you don’t know the answers to. Those questions are gifts. They tell you what you are looking for next, where you need to go next, what you need to do next. Because growth is all about what’s next.

Grow vs. Wade

Get in over your head. It is the fastest way to discover the next step. Getting into a conversation that makes you feel dumb is the best way to get smart. Stepping out of your comfort zone is simply the first step to expanding your comfort zone. That is how you grow.

Key Takeaway

When you step into the unknown growth is inevitable. It helps you collect questions. In the beginning, the questions themselves are the answers you are looking for. Learn the questions. Find the answers. Then find yourself where you always envisioned you would be.

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

8 questions on how I became an entrepreneur.

This week I had a fun interview on entrepreneurship. I wasn’t talking to Inc., How I Built This or Squawk Box. I was interviewed by Jayson Koel, a sophomore at Germantown High School in Germantown, Wisconsin with great hair. Jayson is taking an entrepreneurship class and is working on his own business, an apparel company called Midwest Running Club. Which I assume doesn’t sell Speedos to New Englanders.

Jayson (Y ask Y there’s a Y) had 8 good questions for me that I thought would be worth sharing with others who are considering entrepreneurship, or who simply wonder how someone gets started on their entrepreneurial journey.

This is Jayson Koel. Check out that flow! (And the t-shirt his Dad and I designed.)

8 Questions on Entrepreneurship with Jayson Koel

  1. When did you know you wanted to own your own business?

At the very beginning of my career. I immediately loved the idea of creating my own version of an advertising agency. I was always envious of entrepreneurs for being brave enough to do what everyone else dreams of doing. And I think envy is a great navigational tool. (Unless you are on a ship. Then you should use real navigational tools.) 3 years into my career a film director I was working with told me I had to start my own agency in order to secure my future. I took the advice. And I wrote about it here.

2. How did you prepare to get started?

I spent 19 years learning how advertising works, building relationships, creative skills, leadership skills, and nunchuck skillz. Because girls only like guys who have great skills. I had a subscription to Inc. magazine that whole time and continuously studied entrepreneurship. I surrounded myself with other entrepreneurs, and learned how they thought, and increased my courage and confidence through their examples. Then, in the last 6 months before I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, I bought The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber, which is a great how-to book on how to run a business the right way. Even for southpaws.

3. Who helped you start your business?

My cousin Brooks Albrecht and I launched The Weaponry together. Brooks was in Seattle working for Amazon, I was in Atlanta, working at Moxie, the largest ad agency in Atlanta. We collaborated and planned and made things happen from opposite corners of the country, with a 3-hour time difference between us. We used Zoom, Slack, Google G-Suite, and Dropbox while planning the business because we had to to bridge our distance. That created a perfect infrastructure for the business operations too. Brooks was like a rocket booster and stayed with us for the first year, then peeled off and rejoined Amazon full time. He is now a rockstar at Chewy.

4. What obstacles were incurred in starting the business and how were they overcome?

Our first and largest client in year one was only a 1-year client. Which meant that we had to figure out how to quickly grow and replace that revenue in year 2 and beyond. I had seen what happens to businesses that don’t continuously grow by attracting new clients. (They go out of business.) So from the beginning, I developed a mindset that all of our clients were going to disappear on New Year’s Eve each year, and we would have to start again with all new clients the next year. But at the same time, I wanted to treat our clients so well that they never wanted to leave. Those 2 approaches of continuous business development and excellent customer service have kept us going and growing.

5. What are your characteristics that have benefited you the most as an entrepreneur?

My relationship skills. Personal relationships have always been important to me. And I quickly realized once I started The Weaponry that the hardest part of entrepreneurship, which is relationship development and maintenance, was something I had been working at for the past 30 years. And that has made my entrepreneurial journey really enjoyable. My creative skills, strategic thinking, and careful financial approach have also benefited me significantly as an entrepreneur. My optimism and sense of humor help a lot too. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride. Believing each down will be followed by an up keeps you from throwing up your cereal every morning.

6. Where do you see this business in 10 years?

Large and in charge like Large Marge. We will grow significantly, have offices across the country, and will be sought after by the very best brands. (I shared my actual goals with real numbers and specifics with Jayson to give him a sense of how big I am thinking. But talk is cheap. So I’d rather show the rest of the world what we have done than talk about what we hope to do.)

7. What are the rewards of owning your business?

There is great peace of mind when we go through difficult economic times like we have experienced over the past year. I am still in control of my own future, and won’t be ejected by a business that wants to save money by dropping me like a hot bowling ball. There is also a great sense of control over my life and my future. I sink, swim or fly based on my own actions. I love creating a team culture, working with people I enjoy. Your earning potential when you own your own business is unlimited. I also get to decide on the company t-shirts and hoodies. And I never have to regret not starting my own business.

8. What advice would you give to my classmates and me?

Start thinking about owning your own business right now, while you are still in high school. Keep your eyes open for entrepreneurial opportunities all along your journey. Learn a craft really well so that you are good enough at it that you can start your own business someday. Develop and maintain your relationships. And read Rich Dad. Poor Dad. by Robert Kiyosaki and The E-Myth.

Oh, and start a blog. Share what you know with people and make them laugh if you can. People love to laugh as they learn, except when they are drinking really hot coffee or peanut brittle and it shoots out their nose.

What to do when you find yourself in a blizzard.

I woke up this morning to one of the heaviest snowfalls I have seen in several years thanks to winter storm Orlena. The lake effect snow machine is in full effect here on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. On top of that, the winds are whipping like the Dazz Band. And I say let it whip.

I love this kind of weather. Unlike hurricanes, tornados, floods and wildfires that leave massive destruction in their wake, a blizzard leaves the world better and more beautiful. After Orlena transforms the midwest and northeast into a fresh powder playground, images of the snowfall will be trending on social media like Gamestop. Or Grumpy Bernie.

My Daughter Ava sent me this pic from her room this morning.

Life Is Full of Blizzards

It’s useful to think of the challenges in your life like blizzards. They can be frustrating and disorienting. But once they pass, they often leave you better than they found you.

The Startup Blizzard

When I was first launching my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, the swirling uncertainty of startup-ness surrounded us. And that can really mess with you. Here is something I wrote about the experience we were going through 4 years ago.

From June 10th, 2016

Today I had a long talk with a co-worker who was having a hard time at work. Which is understandable. Because startups are kinda hard. Launching a startup is like walking in a blizzard. Wind and snow are all up in your grill. It’s cold. Visibility goes into the toilet. It’s difficult to navigate in these conditions.

In the middle of a blizzard, your survival instincts tell you to seek shelter. It’s natural to want to escape the relentless wind, disorienting snow and mounting drifts. Sitting by a crackling fire, drinking hot chocolate is far more appealing to most people.

But I like walking in blizzards. I like being out when no one else is. I like doing things that build my character, my will and my personal legend. In the same way a callus rises as the result of repeated friction, strength grows from pushing against resistance.

If a blizzard confronts you on your journey you have to keep walking. You must have faith that you know where you are heading. You have to take steps forward, even when it is hard.

Blizzards of the wintry, professional and personal kind are temporary. Eventually, the snow will stop falling. The wind will chill the eff out. And the sun will come out again.

When that happens, where will you be? It’s a matter of what you did during the blizzard. If you keep pushing, you will find yourself far ahead of where you started, far ahead of those who sought shelter, and closer to your ultimate goal. You’ll find the ultimate rewards far outweigh the hot chocolate you sacrificed along the way.

Key Takeaway

Blizzards are a part of life. They will make life hard for a while. But keep going anyway. Everything is more beautiful on the other side.

Follow Up Note

The Weaponry will turn 5 years old in April. Today we have 23 clients. Because we didn’t stop walking when things were hard.

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How to start a business by looking in the garbage.

If you have always wanted to start your own business but didn’t know where to begin, check the trash. I know several entrepreneurs who got their start turning trash into treasure. There is no cheaper way to get your raw materials than in the garbage can. Which makes me wonder why Oscar is so grouchy.

My friend Mark Thompson of Logan, Utah worked in a warehouse in his younger years. He noticed that truckers would discard broken pallets. So he got the idea to fix or replace the broken wood on the pallets and sell them back to truckers. The cost of goods was very low. The market was there. It just took some elbow grease. Or was it elbow sawdust? Today, Pallets of Utah creates custom pallets for companies around the world.

I recently worked with William Starkey who owns Flat Out Motorsports in Indianapolis. He got his start by fixing up wrecked motorcycles and reselling them. Kinda like Fixer Upper for bikes. Only with less shiplap. Again, the input costs were low. The market was there. He just needed to put in the time and effort to bring the busted bikes back to life.

In the classic book Rich Dad. Poor Dad., author Robert Kiyosaki’s first business was created when he fished discarded comic books out of the garbage and created a comic book library. He then charged other kids an hourly access fee, and soon discovered comics could be serious business.

Check The Trash

Look for things that others have discarded that still have latent value? Are there old books you can bundle by color and resell as design elements? Can you turn old album covers into framed pieces of art? Can you take jeans that are discarded because they are too holey, and re-market them to people who think they are just holey enough?

Far too much value is thrown in the wastebasket. So look for your entrepreneurial starter kit in the discard pile. And don’t let your opportunity go to waste.

Key Takeaway

The start of your entrepreneurial journey may be as close as the garbage can. Keep your eyes open for straw that you can spin into gold. Up-cycle, recycle, re-position or transform. Make the discarded into art. Make the old new again. There is opportunity all around you. Just open your mind to see it.

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