Want to become a mid-career entrepreneur? Here are 20 actions to take now.

I always loved the idea of being an entrepreneur. But like most normal people, I started my career as an employee. I worked for my first employer for 10 years. I worked for my next employer for 9 years. I liked my jobs. But I always knew that in my dream scenario I wanted to own my own business. I bet your dream scenario has a similar entrepreneurial ending. And maybe a swim-up bar.

After years of semi-scientific research, I have concluded that there are 3 great times to start your own business. I have published my findings below for your evaluation.

The 3 Great Times To Start Your Own Business.

  1. When you are first out of school, and have nothing to lose.
  2. When you retire, have plenty of money and time, and have nothing to lose.
  3. When you are 40ish, have a lot of experience, skills, contacts, and confidence. And a lot to lose.

The first 2 paths are popular for obvious reasons. Like the-nothing-to-lose part. When you are right out of school, you aren’t giving up anything. And at the end of your regularly scheduled career, you get to choose an overtime period. Which is fun. And only threatens your shuffleboard time.

I am a mid-career entrepreneur. Jeff Hilimire started his entrepreneurial adventure while still in college. We’re both happy with our decisions.

Track Switching

But how in the world do you switch from the employee track to the entrepreneurial track mid-career? Even more challenging, how do you do it if you have a really successful career and are well compensated? How do you make the transition when you have a significant mortgage? And car payments? And kids? And a spouse you really want to keep? Plus, there is the insurance thing. And the annual company Christmas party with all the free alcohol! How do you walk away from all that gravy?

Dream it up and make it happen.

You can do it!

Well W-2 Nation, I did it. And it has been an amazing experience. When I turned 40, I realized that if I died then and there, on the dance floor, while doing the Electric Slide, my greatest regret would be that I never started my own advertising agency. So I resolved to start my own business within the next 2 years.

I launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, 6 years ago. Today, we have 26 clients, 2 offices, health insurance, dental insurance, and a matching 401(k) plan. (Never forget the k, or all you have is an area code.) We are looking at a 50% year-over-year revenue growth rate. And most importantly, I got to create the dress code.

Make the move!

Now, I want to help you begin your mid-carer entrepreneurial adventure. What lies below the fold is the collection of tips, how-tos, and advice I wish I had 7 years ago. This isn’t how-to-build-a-unicorn stuff. I’m not talking about a Zuckerberg, Gates, or Jobs path, where you drop out of college and start a trillion-dollar business. I am talking about advice for regular people, with regular careers, who want to use their experience as a launchpad to entrepreneurial success.

That’s what I did. And you can too. Here’s how, brown cow.

20 Key Steps To Becoming A Mid-Career Entrepreneur.

  1. Surround Yourself With Entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a mindset more than anything. It helps to spend as much time as you can with other entrepreneurs. It helps rewire your brain to see opportunities and become a problem solver. It will help you develop your risk tolerance. Because once you are around entrepreneurs who are enjoying the rewards of their risk tolerance you will realize the nice homes, cars, vacations, and freedoms are well worth the wager. Ask your Mentorpreneurs all the questions you can think of. They will want to help. And by hanging with your Mentorpreneurs, you realize it is far riskier to leave the control over your income to someone else. Plus, you quickly realize that you can create anything you dream up. Like the word Mentorpreneur.

2. Become really great at what you do. When you are great at what you do you become sought after. And when people seek you out, it means you no longer need your employer to develop opportunities for you. Because you can create those opportunities for yourself. This is called career capital. The more you develop the easier it becomes to call your own shots (shots shots shots!) When your clients at your day job are more in love with you than the company you work for you have a green light to start your own business. And green means go, Mario!

3. Develop And Maintain Your Network. People work with people. And they love to work with people they like and trust. Continuously expand and strengthen your relationships. The more people who like and trust you the better. Those people will become customers, partners, connectors, and referrals. And those are the 4 most important people in an entrepreneur’s life. (After the supportive spouse and great coworkers.) If you’ve neglected this area of your career, it’s time to get to work. When I started The Weaponry I quickly realized I had done much of the hardest work of entrepreneurship decades earlier through my relationship-building.

4. Save Your Money. By having reserves in your bank account or investments you can tap into, you buy yourself running room to start your own business. Most people can’t consider starting their own business because they don’t have the luxury of not having a dependable paycheck for several months. Don’t be that kid. If you don’t have the money on hand yet, start your Run-My-Own Business Fund today. You might not need the money. Or not much of it. But simply having it available provides the confidence to jump, like David Lee Roth.

5. Live Below Your Means. As your income increases, don’t let your expenses rise at the same rate or you will always need your current level of income. That’s a problem. You’ve heard of the golden handcuffs of a high-paying job that keep people locked into their employer. But the most dangerous career situation is the one where you need your current income level to support your lifestyle. Because you will never be able to downshift into a lesser-paying situation, even temporarily. And the first move an entrepreneur needs to make is downshifting into a lesser-paying situation for an undefined length of time. That is the price of entry. That is the entrepreneurial initiation ritual, my friends. Tip #4 helps you bridge that gap. My dip only lasted about a year. But it really made me hustle. And hustling helps you make money. #dothehustle

6. Don’t Quit Your Day Job. To combat the money challenges outlined in the previous points, don’t do something rash, like quit your job. Hold onto your job as long as you can. It will be the primary source of funding for your startup. Use your current job to help pay for the expenses of your next job as long as you can. Work on your startup at night and on the weekends. Like Shania Twain said, no one needs to know right now. Not quitting your day job allows your startup to gain speed, momentum, and cash flow. Not quitting until you have to makes it much easier to jump from the Employee Train to the Entrepreneur Train. If we were swinging from ring to ring on a playground, think about not letting go of the ring you are holding until you have your hand firmly on the next one. And if you never have a firm grip on the next ring, then you never let go of the one you were already holding. No harm. No foul. You tried. You can be proud of that.

7. Read The Book The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. This book is the bible on how to start and run your business the right way. (Only there is no Jesus.) I followed all of the guidance in this book before launching The Weaponry. It helped me think about the whole process the right way, and avoid a lot of problems. When people tell me they are planning to start a business, or are floundering in their startup, I always recommend they read this. And everyone always thanks me. If I were you I would hit the link above and order the book right now. Tip #8 can wait.

8. Create Your Legal Entity: It’s easy to create a legal business entity. Start simply by applying for your FEIN. Which is your Federal Employer Identification Number. It’s like your business’s social security number. This ID number enables you to do everything the way the government and IRS want you to. With this in hand, you can file your legal business entity with your state as an LLC (Limited Liability Company), Corporation, Limited Partnership, General Partnership, or as a Sole Proprietor. I set up an LLC. (Yeah you know me.) It’s quick and easy. Then you can open your business bank accounts and get your company credit card. With these things in place, you have your financial and legal structures ready to roll. Which means you won’t need to ask your customers to pay you in cash. Or chickens.

9. Get Quickbooks. Quickbooks is the accounting software that makes it easy to track and manage your accounting. You connect all of your bank accounts and credit cards to this. It makes it easy to create and send invoices (bills) and to know what is due and when. It also provides reports (profit and loss, profitability, balance sheets, etc.) and dashboards that help you manage your business. Get this going as soon as you can afford to. It will become the backbone of your accounting system. And your scoreboard. Best of all, Quickbooks is not the book equivalent to quicksand.

10. Get A Good Bookkeeper. Bookkeepers are God’s gift to entrepreneurs. They are reasonably priced specialists who have a valuable skillset that you likely don’t have. They can help you stay on top of your accounting while enabling you to spend more time on the things only you can do. Like finding paying clients. And putting on your deodorant.

11. Collect Recognizable People And Logos: You can start your business by working with anyone. But the goal should be to collect recognizable names as customers. That could mean that you work with well-known brands or people that other people know. When you share the kinds of brands or people that you work with you are elevating and legitimizing your brand by using theirs. If you work with individuals, work with the most popular most trusted, and most respected people you can. Their decision to work with you will carry more weight than say, your grandma. Sorry, Grandma.

12. Get involved in your community. The more involved you are in your community the more you will be connected to others and the opportunities they can introduce you to. You could be involved as a volunteer, member, attendee, or sponsor. You are going to want strong ties to the people around you and this is one of the best ways to get to know as many people as possible. Even better, when you support your community you will find that your community supports you too. It’s a thing.

13. Grab Chocolate Milk. Entrepreneurs understand the power of spending time with other people. Getting together for chocolate milk, (my preference) or coffee (most of America’s preference) is not about the beverage. It’s about the sharing and comparing of experiences and ideas. Through the process is sitting down with another person and talking you discover new ideas and resources. It creates a great transfer of knowledge and experience. It is the best way to tap into another person’s perspective and network. You could also meet for breakfast, lunch or drinks. Or fricken caramels. It’s all ah-bu-trary. #namethatmovie

14. Start A Blog, Podcast, Or Regularly Published Knowledge Share. It is not about who you know. It really is about who knows you. The more people who know about you, what you know, and what you are doing, the better. I started a blog right when I launched The Weaponry. And it has been a great vehicle to share my thoughts, ideas, successes, and learnings with the world. By doing so, my business and I are both top of mind when people have relevant opportunities. Podcasts, newsletters, columns, and social media channels all work too. The key is to share information and value with the world broadly so that more people than you could reach through individual messages know about you, your skills, philosophy, and eventually your business offering.

Me and my crew.

15. Find a supportive spouse. In the middle of your career, you are likely to have a spouse or life partner who is tied to your success or failure. Their support and encouragement are critical to your success. My wife Dawn has been amazingly supportive. She never batted an eye or raised an eyebrow when I shared my entrepreneurial vision with her. I would share this post with your partner so that they have an idea of what you are trying to do. That way they can help and support you as much as possible. If they are not supportive you have an important decision to make. And that’s all I have to say about that.

16. Read Read as much as you can about business ideas, successful companies, leaders, and entrepreneurs. This is the greatest entrepreneurial hack there is. Learn all you can from others who you admire and want to emulate. Read about how other Founders did what they did. There is no end to what you can learn from others. Read books, online articles, and blogs. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks as you commute. Drink that knowledge in. Create your own curriculum. And give yourself your own, self-directed advanced degree. You can even walk across your own stage and hand yourself an official-looking piece of paper. That would be weird. But you could do it.

17. Grow Your LinkedIn Connections. LinkedIn offers the best measure of your network. Create a profile if you haven’t already. Become an active user. Add everyone you meet to your LinkedIn profile by sending a custom invitation reminding them of how you know them or why you want to connect. This will become ground zero for raising your profile and staying in touch with your broader network and the opportunities they bring. Like, comment, and share content from other people. Make people who don’t know you curious about who you are. Insider Tip: LinkedIn offers an audio icon next to your name that let’s you share how your name is pronounced. Click on mine to see how it works.

18. Learn As Much As You Can About The Business You Are In Now. While you are still employed by someone else, take advantage of the experts in the organization. Learn from the finance or accounting teams. Talk to HR about how benefits, recruiting, and reviews work. Talk to sales about how they generate leads and close deals. Talk to operations about what makes them such smooth operators. Talk to IT about, well, IT. You can learn about all of the things you are going to need to know as an entrepreneur while in your current job. Think of it like studying. Your coworkers will love your interest in their work. And they will be flattered when you start your own business and credit them as your sliver mentor in their specialty. You’ll also know who would be a good resource to hire after your non-compete clause expires.

19. Write down your plans. It’s one thing to think about starting a business. It’s another to write down a plan to make it happen. Once you have a vision for your dream business, write it down. The more details the better. That written plan becomes your blueprint to build it for real. I followed the written plan approach from The E-Myth, and it gave me great structure and clarity around what I was creating. Do this too. Also carry notebooks. Not only are they great for capturing spontaneous ideas, but if you get shot in the notebook, it just may save your life.

My great client-friend Nicole Hallada was one of the first people I told about The Weaponry.

20. Talk To Former Clients About Your Plans. Your best prospective future clients are your past clients. When I launched The Weaponry I discussed my plans with several former clients. Within the first week of discussions I had 5 clients tell me that if I created a business they would send work our way. That confidence, interest, and demand in my offering made it much easier to jump. 4 out of those 5 former clients became future clients. The other one is living with constant regret. Right Chad?

Key Takeaway

Starting your own business in the middle of your career can sound intimidating. But the more you know, the easier it is. You can do it. Utilize the knowledge of those who have gone before you. Most of it is easier than it seems. With the tips above (that I wish I knew when I was starting out) you will be able to start taking steps today. Then simply never stop. If you need a Mentorpreneur, just reach out to me through Linkedin. Tell me I sent you.

*If you know someone who wants to start their own business and could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The best way to become an entrepreneur is through your unmet needs.

If you are like most people you have fantasized about owning your own business. It is an easy thing to fantasize about. Being an entrepreneur has many benefits. It’s an exciting challenge. It offers professional freedom and the potential for great income. Plus, it’s a really great way to finally learn how to spell the word entrepreneur. (The e always comes first.) But for most people, the hardest part is actually knowing what kind of business to start.

Here is a simple suggestion from a mid-career entrepreneur.

Think of products or services that you wish existed. Then create a business that delivers them.

Your business doesn’t have to be massive. It doesn’t have to change the world, go public or someday sell for a billion dollars. If those are your criteria you will likely never start anything. Instead, simply offer products or services that you would like to have for yourself.

I started a t-shirt business several years ago called Adam & Sleeve because I had humorous t-shirt design ideas that I wanted for myself. But when other people saw the designs, they wanted the t-shirts too. So I made enough shirts to sell to other people, which meant that I could get the shirt I wanted for free.

In 2015 I was ready for a job change. So I started talking to a number of advertising agencies about potentially joining their team. But I didn’t find the right combination of culture, clients, and opportunity. So I decided to create what I was looking for. And clients liked the idea too. After months of taking on night and weekend projects, the demand kept swelling. (Like my face after a bee sting.) So I officially launched The Weaponry, an advertising and ideas agency in April of 2016.

My friend Dan Richards started his business, Global Rescue, a worldwide field rescue service, after hoping that the business already existed. When he discovered that it didn’t, he decided it needed to, so he created it himself.

Today, I think about businesses that I wish existed all the time. In fact, my son Johann and I are in the process of launching a used piano business. But I also wish we had a local shoeshine that also cleaned sneakers. And I want a Flip Flop Ambulance that I can call when I’ve blown out a flip flop, or stepped on a pop-top. And maybe a business that came to clean out the bottom of your grill for you. (I would call that Grillax.)

Key Takeaway

Keep your antennae tuned to those things you wished existed. Businesses exist to fill a need. And if you have found a need that isn’t being met, you have found a space for a new business opportunity.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

My new podcast interview is out. And we talk about everythang!

There are 2 main reasons that people want to hear you tell your story.

  1. You have experienced success and others want to hear how you did it.
  2. You have failed in a spectacular way and people want to hear how you did it.

I’m not sure which category I fall into.

But I was recently invited to sit down with the great Justin Honaman to record an episode of his ContenderCast Podcast. Justin interviews entrepreneurs and people doing interesting thangs. I either qualified or found a useful loophole.

Like you, I was not born an entrepreneur. In fact, I spent 19 years working for someone else. But in my early 40s, with a significant mortgage, 3 kids and a wife that I really wanted to keep, I switched from Team Employee to Team Entrepreneur when I launched the advertising and ideas agency, The Weaponry.

When I started the agency I also started writing the Adam Albrecht blog, which now has 775 published posts. Most recently, I published my first book called What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? Did I mention I also juggle? (And jiggle.)

If you want to hear more, check out the podcast. I share my backstory that led to my front-story. I talk about a lot of different stuff. And Justin asks great questions.

Things I talk about on the podcast:

  • Growing up in Vermont
  • My track & field success, setbacks and comebacks
  • My college track & field experience at the University of Wisconsin
  • My advertising career
  • My real-life advanced degree in business
  • How the universe turned me into a mid-career entrepreneur
  • How you can become a mid-career entrepreneur
  • Launching The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency
  • The inspiration behind the name The Weaponry
  • The technology we used that made us pandemic proof
  • Sharing financial information with our team
  • The No A-Hole Rule
  • How and why I started the Adam Albrecht Blog.
  • Why blogs are amazing platforms for sharing ideas
  • Recognizing the power of positive messages
  • How I wrote My new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?
  • My next book on organizational culture with Jeff Hilimire
  • If you’ve read this far you might as well just listen to the whole podcast
  • How to continuously upgrade your thinking
  • Why I collect keys
  • The first thing I do every morning
  • The 2 questions my wife uses to inspire my career progress.
  • Much much more!

If you want a quick and entertaining recap of my story you can hear the podcast here. Or look for the ContenderCast Podcast from your favorite podcast dealer.

Have a great weekend!

-AA

The best first step to take to be highly successful.

Last week I was a guest on the ContenderCast Podcast with host Justin Honaman, Justin interviewed me about entrepreneurship, and the things I have learned by launching and running the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. We discussed lessons from my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? And we talked about his transition from Diet Coke to Coke Zero. (This paragraph has been brought to you by Coke Zero.)

I can’t wait for the podcast episode to drop. I expect it will change my life the way Sara Blakely’s life changed when she went on the Oprah Winfrey show. So don’t be surprised if the world starts wearing my undergarments too.

Advice

One of the great questions Justin asked me was, ‘What advice do you have for other people who want to start their own businesses?’

My answer was clear and instant:

Spend time with people who have already done it.

But that advice is not specifically for want-to-be entrepreneurs. Or wantrepreneurs.

It is the best advice I can share about any type of success and achievement.

The best way to achieve a massive goal is to spend time with people who have already done what you want to do.

When you spend time with superstars their mindset rubs off on you. Unlike tickets on the Polar Express, their mindset is transferrable.

Spending time with high achievers is like going to a Success Optometrist. They help you see success in much greater detail. You see the actions they take, the mindset they have adopted, and the relationships they develop and maintain.

When you see those things up close you realize that you can do all of those things too. Suddenly, your belief in what is possible expands. Your risk tolerance increases. Your view of money transforms. And your excuses fade away.

There is an intelligence that increases with increasing levels of success. It can appear mysterious or unattainable from a distance. But once you have a front-row seat to higher levels of success, it demystifies the process. It’s like seeing how magic tricks are actually performed. You quickly realize there is no magic. There are simply skills developed, practiced, and perfected until it looks like magic.

Key Takeaway

Seek out successful people. Step into their orbit and let their positive peer pressure propel you. Notice the way they act, read, and think. Modify their approaches to your needs and style. Soak up the education and inspiration. It will change your life like nothing else can. Because when you are close to those who model the behavior you want to see in yourself you can’t help but replicate it. It’s like a language immersion program. Only the language is success. Soon you’ll notice others who want to get close to you and learn how you do what you do. That’s when you know it works.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

To enjoy a happier life invest more time in your personal projects.

If you want a better, more interesting and more fulfilling life take on more personal projects. If you don’t, a disproportionate amount of your life will be taken up with your must-dos, and not your want-to-dos.

Personal projects allow you to take on exciting new roles in miniature. Because they let you dip your toe into a new world on a small scale. (Unless you have really big toes.)

Your personal projects are experiments. They let you test and learn. They let you take action and observe reactions. They enable you to adjust the variables to get new and better outcomes. No Bunsen burner required.

Your personal projects are small investments you place on yourself. With a small investment of time, money or energy you can generate significant personal returns, Jedi.

Matt Mullenweg says that WordPress, the platform this blog post is created and published on, was started as a project. It was simply interesting and enjoyable for him to develop. He never thought of it as a business. But that small project is now the hostess with the mostesss, as it now hosts more websites than any other platform in the world. Which allows millions of people to create their own personal projects.

My Projects.

I love starting personal projects. Here are a few of mine:

  1. I love to regularly print original t-shirt designs that interest me. That has evolved into a business called Adam & Sleeve, and a whole bunch of fun shirts I love to wear.
  2. I started an illustrated cartoon series called Kirky. Because I always thought that would be fun. And it has been. Thanks to Dan Koel for teaming up with me on this.
  3. I began writing a blog in 2015. This is my 726th post. But who’s counting? (The WordPress platform counts them automatically. Thanks, Matt Mullenweg!)
  4. I began taking on freelance advertising projects early in my carer. That eventually lead to me starting my own Advertising and Idea Agency called The Weaponry.
  5. A few years ago I volunteered to coach a middle school track program a couple of days a week. That evolved into becoming a high school assistant track coach at Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin. Which led to me coaching a handful of other Milwaukee-area discus throwers and shot putters on the side. Which means that my side projects have spawned side projects.
  6. During the Covid lockdown of 2020 I started a manuscript writing project. That evolved into publishing the book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? with Ripples Media in December of 2021.
  7. Since the beginning of my career, I have regularly volunteered to give talks to college and high school students and professional groups. I have gotten pretty good at sharing a good and compelling story. Now businesses, schools, clubs, conferences, tradeshows and other organizations across the United States have invited me to come share what I know. (And I am always up for more.)
  8. I volunteered to organize my high school reunion last year. A few months later I was hanging out in Hanover, New Hampshire with fellow Marauders who I hadn’t seen in decades. Thanks to Covid, we all walked away with a new appreciation for our time together, and some fun new stories to share from our shared experience.

Key Takeaway

Take on more personal projects. They are highly rewarding investments of your time and energy. They are great experiments that let you test, learn and improve. They can add great joy. They can unlock new doors and offer you more control over your life and time. When you take on a personal project it has the potential to both add to your story and change the course of your life. All you have to do is get started.

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

+For more life lessons I have harvested, check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?

The Weaponry Turns 6 today! Here are 6 things I’ve learned along the way.

On the eve of my 40th birthday, I sat down and wrote about the things I was most proud of from my first 4 decades on The Big Blue Marble. It was a fun process. I thought about my family and friends. I thought about my wins. My adventures. My career successes. I thought about that time I petted a hummingbird in the wild. (I have now done that twice!) And I thought about how I was creating a better person every day. (Not in a Mary Shelley kind of way)

Then I shifted my focus to my unfinished business. I asked myself this very simple question.

If you died tomorrow what would you most regret not doing?

-39.99 year-old Adam Albrecht

The first and most obvious answer was that I had not tried to start my own advertising agency. So I put that at the top of my list. And I got to work on a plan to avoid that regret. The more I thought about it the more real the plan became. I was like Joaquin Phoenix in the movie Her. Or maybe like the dudes in Weird Science bringing their project to life.

To start your own business you need the support of your family. A couple of mums and pumpkins don’t hurt.

Go Time!

When I was 42 years old, I did it. I launched the advertising and ideas agency The Weaponry.

That was 6 years ago today!

Simply trying to start my own agency would have eliminated the regret. Because I put a premium on simply trying. It was the not-trying that I knew would have bothered me most when things started heating up at the crematorium. It’s a major bonus that things have worked out and that The Weaponry is thriving 6 years later. Plus, most businesses don’t last past 5 years. And I never wanted to be like most people. Except maybe Johnny Most. (Bird Steals The Ball!)

Just keep swimming!

Earning and Learning

I have learned a lot from starting my own business. And fortunately, when I started planning the business I also created this blog to share what I was learning along the way. (Cue Dana Carvey’s Church Lady saying ‘Well isn’t that special!’)

6 Things I Have Learned About Business.

`1. Every year in business is a success in itself. Leadership’s primary responsibility is to keep the business in business forever. Each anniversary is proof that we are doing our jobs. Just like we should be thankful for each day on top of the topsoil, having your doors open is a success. Although today businesses don’t even need doors. Kinda like a Jeep Wranger in summer.

2. You have to keep looking for ways to improve. I am always thinking about the gap between the ideal version of The Weaponry and who we are today. So the mission becomes to continuously work on closing that gap. We meet every Friday to talk about ways to improve our processes and strengthen our weaknesses. You have to call that stuff out into the light in order to be able to address it, work on it and improve it. Fall in love with that process and you’ll fall in love with business. Kinda like Lee Majors in that TV show where he was the stuntman.

3. You need great people. Our team is amazing. We are loaded with nice people who like to collaborate to get great team results. We take a lot of pride in doing what we said we would do. Our team members love to solve problems for our clients. The team is quick and productive. They are great at accumulating knowledge and applying that knowledge to create more and more value for our clients. They are smart people who are really enjoyable to be around. Recruiting and working with a great team has been one of the greatest rewards of the past 6 years.

4. You have to keep adding new clients. Like Lucille in that Kenny Rogers song, a client could leave you at any time. The decision-makers could quit, get pushed out, die or simply change their minds at any moment. So you have to always be growing your business with new clients because you can’t protect yourself from all client attrition through hard work, great ideas and excellent customer service alone. Plus, you need to create a diverse portfolio of clients to protect against shifts in markets, dry spells, spending cuts, or making a client so wildly successful that they no longer need to do anything to help their business thrive.

5. You have to have fun. Fun comes in a lot of different forms. And I love to have fun in everything I do. Including business. Here are just some of the things I find fun at The Weaponry.

  • Learning new things.
  • Game Planning
  • Problem Solving
  • Meeting New People
  • Sending out job offers with a lot of funny non-traditional language.
  • Saying silly things in meetings.
  • Making clients smile and laugh
  • Storytelling
  • Travel
  • Typing funny comments into the chat during Zoom meetings
  • Creating new stuff
  • Getting new swag
  • Eating lunch together
  • Winning new business
  • Helping our clients grow
  • Wowing our clients
  • Putting on a show
  • Receiving compliments for a job well done.
  • Being told we are fun
  • Baking humor into our setup slides.
  • The humorous final slides of our presentation.
We love to laugh. Like that song in Mary Poppins.

6. You have to be paranoid that the business will collapse. I am never comfortable with our success. I am afraid that if we are not careful everything we have been doing and building will go away. You can’t ignore the opportunities to get better. You can’t let things slide. Just like you should try to win over your spouse again every day, you have to be concerned that things could go bad with your clients if you take your eye off the ballpoint. And if you worry enough, and do something about it, the bad things will never happen.

Key Takeaway

A great business is simply a collection of great people running great processes, contributing great value to customers, having fun, and worrying that it will all end if they are not careful. I am extremely thankful for all of our Weapons, our great clients, and our partners who work as a trusted extension of our team. Here’s to 6 fun years. Let’s keep this thing going forever.

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

+ To see more of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Don’t just think big. Schedule big.

Great achievement begins with great thinking. The great news is that great thinking costs the same as terrible thinking. Because they are both free. But the return on great thinking is infinitely better.

As Napoleon Hill wrote in Think and Grow Rich:

Whatever Your Mind Can Conceive and Believe, It Can Achieve.”

Napoleon Hill

But it’s not enough to think big thoughts, dream big dreams, or goal big goals. You have to schedule them into existence. You have to set specific times on your calendar to do the important work of bringing those goals to life. You must schedule time for research, action and creation. Even God scheduled his creation days. You have to block specific times for connecting, scripting, ordering, booking or whatever other ings your plans require.

Calendering is Key

Dedicate time on your calendar to make progress. THIS IS THE KEY to alchemizing goals, hopes and dreams into reality. So when you think big make sure to calendar big too. Like Marie Callendar.

Shopping For Goals vs Buying Them.

Thinking big is like window shopping. Which means that you walk by stores looking at things and consider buying them. But by simply thinking-shopping you don’t get to leave the store with the stuff you want. Because to actually own those things you have to buy them. And you buy your goals with time on your calendar.

The Weaponry

Before launching The Weaponry, the advertising and ideas agency I lead today, I thought about every aspect of the business. I had a clear image of what we would create, how it would run, who would work there, and what the culture would be like. I imagined there would be no A-holes at The Weaponry. I even baked that into the logo.

Notice the A in our logo? There’s no A-hole. Because there are no A-holes allowed at The Weaponry. And since there are 5 letters to either side of the A, this rule is as central to our beliefs as possible.

This Blog

I then thought about writing a blog to share my experiences and learnings as an entrepreneur. I could see the whole thing in my head.

My Book

A few years later I had a goal of writing a book. I envisioned what it would be about and who it would be for. I could see the book being read by people around the world.

Bringing It All To Life

All the envisioning simply let me know what I wanted. It didn’t make any of it real. (Read that sentence again.) But I then put time on my calendar to do the real work of bringing the business to life. I scheduled time every morning to write my blog. This blog. And I gave myself a deadline and dedicated time to writing the book. Today all 3 of those dreams are realer than Real Deal Holyfield. All because I dedicated time on my calendar to bring them to life.

My new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? is now published because I made time to write, edit and push the book forward on my calendar.

Key Takeaway.

Don’t just think big. Schedule big. Give the big things you want to achieve big spaces on your calendar. It’s the only way to achieve your big goals. So block time in your day today. You’ll find that working towards your biggest goals is the most rewarding way to spend your time.

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

If you like messages like this you’ll also enjoy my newly published book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

It’s not too late to be who you wanted to be.

At the end of a gym workout recently my son Magnus asked if we could go sit in the hot tub. I said yes, and we made our way to the pool area. When we got to the hot tub there was one other guy already in it. After we settled into the water I greeted the guy, who was staring out the window, and we began to speak. (Which is also how the song The Gambler starts.)

As the conversation proceeded I asked him where he was from and what he does for work. He shared that he grew up near Mequon, Wisconsin, the town north of Milwaukee where we both live. And when he is not hot tubbing, he works at a nice job for a good company.

Then he asked me where I was from (Vermont), where I went to school (The University of Wisconsin), and what I do for work. I told him I owned my own business. I started my own advertising and ideas agency called The Weaponry.

My pruney new hot tub friend told me The Weaponry was a cool name for an ad agency. Then he revealed to me with great resignation, ‘I always wanted to start my own business. But now I am too old.’

I asked, ‘How old are you?’

He answered, ‘I am 37.’

I shot back, ‘F**k you. I was 42 when I started The Weaponry. This is a great time to start a business. And a great time to stop making excuses.’

(I should also mention that my son Magnus was cooling off in the swimming pool at that time. So he didn’t get hit with f-shrapnel when I dropped my f-bomb.)

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

― George Eliot

Key Takeaway

If there is something you’ve always wanted to do, then do it. Do the things the kid version or young adult version of you wanted to do. You are not too old. It’s not too late. It’s time to get going. Now you have 2 weeks to plan the great thing you are going to start doing with your life in 2022.

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

You need one of these 3 things to maximize your carreer.

I have thought a lot about my professional career lately. Writing a book about the most important lessons you’ve learned in life will do that to you. And it’s far more enjoyable to reflect on your career because you are writing a book than because you are on your death bed, thinking about what you would have done differently. Although the death bed reflection involves far less proofreading.

Career Path

While writing, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say, I have examined my career path and the forces that have influenced it. The short story is that I started my career at the bottom of the advertising ladder, as a junior copywriter. (Although truth be told, I have never actually seen the professional ladder. Or the Emporer’s new clothes. Or a snipe.)

My professional titles progressed as follows:

  • Junior Copywriter
  • Copywriter/Producer
  • Senior Copywriter
  • Associate Creative Director
  • Creative Director
  • Executive Creative Director
  • Chief Creative Officer

Entrepreneurship

After I became a Chief Creative Officer I decided it was time to start my own advertising and ideas agency called The Weaponry. That was 5 years ago. Today, my title is Founder and CEO. Which is a lesson in itself. Because if you have the fortitude to start your own business you can give yourself any title you want. I just thought that Galactic Czar was a little too much.

But Wait. There’s More.

I have made the full professional progression from entry-level to C-suite to entrepreneur. But I’m not done yet. I am just days away from publishing my first book with independent publisher Ripples Media. And I have several other exciting and challenging chapters of my professional career ahead of me. Some of these chapters are already planned. And I am sure there are some surprises in store. There always are.

Your Career Guide

To make the type of forward progress I have made you need at least one of the following people in your life:

  • A Mentor
  • A Career Coach
  • A Spouse or Life Partner

These 3 roles all have the ability or responsibility to look after you throughout your career. They can all help you map out your entire journey, and offer feedback, guidance, encouragement, and direction based on your goals. But only the third one should ever see you naked.

The important commonality is that mentors, career coaches, and spouses are not concerned about your current employer’s needs. They are not trying to keep you happy today. They are focused on the big picture, which might not include your current employer.

Mentor

I have never had a real long-term mentor. I have had mentor-ish people help me at various times, with specific roles or challenges. But not someone with whom I had an official ongoing mentor-mentee relationship. I would be happy to have one. I simply haven’t. Maybe it’s not ment to be.

Career Coach

I have never worked with a professional career coach either. Again, I see great value in this role, and would certainly be open to adding a coach to my weaponry. Because I am smart enough to know that I still have a lot to learn and that I could use all the help I can get.

Spouse

My wife Dawn has been the primary career minder for me. She knows what my goals are and she knows the timeline I have set for myself. For over 20 years she has regularly helped me evaluate my professional development and career progress with 2 simple questions:

  1. Are you where you want to be?
  2. Where are you going next?

The answers to these 2 questions provide the regular reality check I need to make sure I arrive at each of my preset checkpoints, but that I don’t stay there too long if I want to complete the race I am in.

Key Takeaway

Find someone to help you map out, navigate, and complete your career journey. Someone who can be there for the entire journey. Who is unbiased towards any particular role or employer, but simply wants you to accomplish all that you set out for yourself. Don’t be afraid to request a mentor relationship. Don’t underestimate the value of a professional coach. And if you have a spouse or life partner that’s in it for the long run, let them help ensure you reach the finish line together.

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

If you want to be an entrepreneur you have to be willing to eat the butt.

Yesterday I was making myself a sandwich for lunch. I have packed my own lunch for school or work nearly every day since I was 13 years old. The sandwich is always the star of the show, with pretzels and a banana typically playing Kramer and Costanza.

When I pulled out the bread to make my daily sandwich magic I realized I had come to the last 3 pieces of bread in the loaf. Two out of the 3 pieces were butts (meaning the end slices of the loaf). However, there was a fresh new loaf sitting on the counter right next to the sad bag of butts. (Which is what we called the math teachers at my high school.) Now I had to decide what kind of sandwich to make.

Would I…

A: Make a sandwich with 1 butt and 1 regular slice?

B: Open the new bag and make a sandwich with 2 regular slices?

C: Eat a 2 butt sandwich?

Moment of Profunditude

At that moment I realized that this wasn’t really about sandwiches. It was about life. It was about my choices, values, and philosophies. I could decide that life is too short to not eat great sandwiches. Or I could decide to suck it up and eat a 2-butt sandwich for lunch.

The Choice

The choice was clear and easy for me to make. Throughout my life, I have trained myself to do the harder things and take the harder path. It has helped me as an athlete. It has helped me as a parent. And I simply would not have succeeded as an entrepreneur if I wasn’t willing to take the more challenging path. Because as an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make the business succeed. Failure is simply not an option. At least not if you want to keep putting sandwiches on the table.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship is like eating a 2-butt sandwich. You have to take on whatever is in front of you. You use all of your resources. You don’t make excuses or avoid hard or unpleasant things. Train yourself to be comfortable with less than the ideal and success will come much easier. And it will be more enjoyable as a result.

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