This is a great time if you are great.

I know that right now the COVID-19 crisis feels terrible. It certainly feels bad If you lost your job. It feels bad if you are worried that your business may run out of money before the shutdown runs out of days. It feels bad if your life and career have been disrupted. And it feels bad if you were a high school or college senior during the Lost Spring of 2020.

Great Things Ahead

However, in the next phase things are going to be very interesting and exciting for great people. People like you, Gatsby and Tony The Tiger. There has been so much disruption and so much change that things won’t simply go back to the way they were before. For great people, things will become much better.

The job losses have surged past 30 million people. That’s not good. But it means millions of roles will need to be filled when the giant economic machine turns on again. Which is great, if you are great.

It’s Showtime For Rockstars

There are rockstars who felt stuck in their jobs who have suddenly been lodged free. You may be one of them. Your best chapter is still ahead. And this just freed you up to prepare for it.

man in blue suit
If you are a rockstar it’s time to take the stage.

The Replacements

This is going to be exciting. Companies that weren’t well-positioned to survive the COVID-19 crisis will be replaced by better companies who are smarter, more innovative, and more prepared. Many of these next-gen companies will be owned by the same people who owned the last-gen companies that failed. Except the great leaders will come back better for what they have learned.

Falling Into Favor

Entire industries will be disrupted. New opportunities will spring like, well, spring. And skills, locations and employee-types who had fallen out of favor, like Suzy Favor, will be favored once again. Companies will make big bets on on-shoring before they take on the risks of off-shoring or Pauly Shoring again. This means more opportunity for you, buddy…

There will be millions of people who have nothing to lose by starting their own businesses. Many of them will become wildly successful. This may be you, Wild Thang.

woman in yellow shirt sitting on brown wooden floor
If you are great, the future is so bright, you’ve gotta wear shades. And yellow.

The Dickinsonian Twist

Great stories will emerge about how this great disruption, which looked like the bleakest of times, turned out to be a blessing to so many. This could be your story. This should be your story.

Restacking The Deck

We are about to enter the great reshuffling. Prepare now. Because those great people who position themselves well during this timeout will be the winners. You simply have to be willing to make a move. Take a chance. Start something new. Or simply make a few phone calls. As JFK once said, ‘Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.’ And now is the time to make things happen, captain!

When we begin hearing the success stories that come out of the COVID-19 crisis, many people will kick themselves, or smack themselves, V-8 style, and think, I should have thought of that. Or,  I should have done that. Or worse, I thought of that, but didn’t do that. And now I see what I missed out on. Please, don’t be that kid.

Key Takeaway

Position yourself well for the opportunities to come. They will be transformative for those prepared to catch the wave. Greatness will be rewarded. Boldness will be rewarded. So will open-mindedness, creativity and innovation. So raise your hand now. And make sure the greatest opportunity of your lifetime doesn’t pass you by.

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4 things I have done wrong in my first 4 years as an entrepreneur.

After 19 years of working for other advertising agencies I started my own business 4 years ago this week. As the Founder & CEO of The Weaponry, I have made some good decisions over the past 4 years. But I have also made mistakes. As I look back at the past 48 months here are 4 things I did wrong that I will try to get right in the years ahead.

4 Things I Did Wrong Over The Past 4 Years.

1. I didn’t think big enough

My goals are big. And hairy. And audacious. To achieve them I need to push myself more. I recently read Grant Cardone’s book The 10X Rule. And I know my next challenge is to think and act bigger on a daily basis to accumulate the progress it takes to get to Goalville. I also know that if we don’t stop sheltering at home soon I will be 10X-ing my body fat.

2. I didn’t start a newsletter.

We launched The Weaponry’s first real website in the fall of 2019. (Yes we waited 3 years to launch a real website. You can read about that here.) I knew the next thing we should do is launch a newsletter. It would offer us a chance to regularly share additional value with our clients and friends of The Weaponry. We planned it all out. In fact, we have had our first edition 90% created for 6 months. We bought our Mailchimp subscription in the fall. And we have paid for it every month since, without sending a single email. Booo. We have been extremely busy over that same time period and haven’t made it a priority. But we will. (If you send your email address to info@theweaponry.com I will create a special first newsletter for you.)

3. I didn’t take enough chances.

Entrepreneurship requires you to take a fairly significant leap of faith. I had no problem Carl Lewis-ing into this adventure. And right or wrong, I am comfortable betting on myself. But I I have been conservative with our investments.

Specifically, I have been slow to invest in additional team members who would allow us to expand our offering, our impact and our t-shirt wearing population. It has helped put us in a confident position during the Corona-cootie crisis. But when I turned 40 I realized I didn’t want to lie on my deathbed and regret not starting my own business. Now I don’t want to lie on my deathbed and feel like I wasn’t brave enough either. Fortune favors the bold. So do barbecue sauce sales. And I want to be much bolder between now and next February 29th.

4. I didn’t offload enough responsibility 

When you first start a new business every box on the org chart has your name in it. Eventually you erase your name and put someone else’s name in that box. Over the past 4 years I certainly have moved many of my responsibilities to others. But I am still handling more than I should. Which means that I should be transferring more of my load to others, and hiring additional people power. This would allow me to focus more time and energy on the things that would have the most positive impact on our clients and on our own business. Plus, I am pretty sure there are lots of other people who can buy stamps and bottled water as well as I can.

Key Takeaway

I am thrilled to have started my entrepreneurial journey. I know that The Weaponry has become a valuable resource for many. But there is so much more opportunity ahead. It is important to recognize the positive things we are doing first. To give ourselves credit for the attempts and the accomplishments already in the books. But if we want to be great we have to push ourselves. We have to give ourselves a regular performance review from our deathbed to see where we should focus our time and energy while we still have the chance. It turns out I still have a lot of work to do.

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

The top 4 things I have enjoyed about entrepreneurship.

For many years I dreamed of owning my own business. Like Bruce Springsteen, I loved the idea of being my own boss. I liked the idea of making my own money. I thought that starting your own business sounded badass. Because that entrepreneurial leap seemed like Evel Knievel jumping a whole fleet of school buses on his motorcycle. And I wanted to try it myself to see how it felt.

My Leap Year Leap

4 years ago this week I did it. I launched the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry.  And the leap certainly has offered an Evel Knievel-type thrill. Yet with very little risk of broken bones. Which is nice.

However, the things I have enjoyed most are not being the boss, making my own money, or feeling like a badass. In fact, I could not have predicted the things I have enjoyed most ahead of time. They are benefits that you have to take the leap to discover. Unless of course someone takes the leap, writes those things down, and shares them with the world in a blog post. Like I am doing right now. 

The Top 4 Things I Have Enjoyed Most About My 4 Years of Entrepreneurship  

1. Getting To Say Yes To Anything.

People long to get to a position in life where they can say no to things they don’t want to do. But that is small thinking. When you own your own business you get to say yes to anything. Kinda like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.  If an opportunity comes along that seems too small, too crazy, or needs too be completed too fast I can say yes to it anyway. In fact, I can decide to work on anything that interests me. The budget can be small, or nonexistent. And I can still say, ‘Yes, we will help.’ In business, that is a super power. 

2. Paying People.

I always imagined that making your own money as an entrepreneur would be amazing.  What I couldn’t imagine was the feeling of sharing thousands of dollars with others for their hard work. And then tens of thousands of dollars. And then hundreds of thousands of dollars. The first day that I noticed The Weaponry had paid people over a million dollars I just stared at my Quickbooks screen and smiled, like a perv watching online porn. Ironically, the payouts have been the great reward in the adventure. Because I know we are positively impacting many lives. Not just mine.   

3. Creating A Valuable Tool.

Early in my career I was in a focus group full of power tool enthusiast. And when asked what his favorite tool was, one Tim Taylor-type said, ‘My favorite tool is the right tool I need right now.’ Then he grunted.

I’ll never forget that.  Over the past 4 years we have developed The Weaponry into a valuable problem-solving tool. Our clients turn to us because The Weaponry is the right tool they need right now.

This business is a valuable tool because it helps convert opportunity into reality.  It helps make the invisible visible. It opens new paths. And it magnetizes brands and helps draw people to them. When clients call us they are saying, you have the tool our business needs right now to be successful. Which makes building and owning that tool extremely rewarding.  

4. Having Wet Clay.

Before I started The Weaponry I thought of a business like an office with people and desks and a logo. But once you create your own company you realize that a business is really wet clay. And as an Entrepreneur you have the ability to shape and reshape the business any way you want. In fact, it is your responsibility to continuously reshape the clay to improve and optimize it. As businesses respond to the COVID-19 crisis, we are all reshaping the clay to make sure we are prepared for what the world needs today, and tomorrow. Because the world needs small businesses. 

Key Takeaway 

Entrepreneurship offers one of the greatest adventures on the planet. It is empowering,  rewarding and infinitely creative. It offers the opportunity to positively impact others in ways that are hard to imagine before the journey starts. Thank you for sharing in my journey. I can’t wait to see where we go next!

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

The top 4 sayings I lean on to make difficult decisions.

Four years ago this week I started my entrepreneurial adventure when I launched the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. It truly has been an adventure. Every day presents a new set of opportunities and challenges. Even more so since COVID-19 became the hottest thing on the planet since Gangnam Style.

My self-appointed title at The Weaponry is Founder & CEO. Which means that I have 2 main responsibilities. As Founder, my job is to find the business. As CEO, my job is to not lose the business. The first job is already done. The second will never finish.

Decision Making

It is a significant challenge to make all the decisions that a business leader must make. You are typically working without all the information you would ideally like to have. That’s why I have developed a core set of questions and reminders to help guide my decision making.

Top 4 Sayings I Turn To To Help Make Tough Decisions. 

1. Always do what you know is right.

This is always my #1 reminder. It taps into my most basic sense of right and wrong. If I  adhere to this I can live with any decision. Even launching New Coke.

2. Don’t worry how much milk you spill as long as you don’t lose your cow.

If you are a business owner you are going to lose money. Sometimes in small ways. Sometimes in big ways. But you can’t live and die with each dollar you make or lose, or you would soon find yourself crying in a puddle of milk on the floor. You have to think big picture. And remember that as long as you are able to earn more money in the future, without taking your clothes off, everything will be alright.

3. We’ll do it this way until we know better.

Developing a great business requires developing great processes and procedures. As we develop The Weaponry Way we don’t set our process and procedures in stone. There is too much pressure on that. Instead, we believe in moving quickly, and establishing rules that guide us today. But we always remain openminded to adjusting and improving our approach as we learn more. My cousin Brooks Albrecht imported this approach from his time at Amazon. And things seem to be working out for that little bookstore.

4. What would I do if I was trying to beat me?

If you really want to make great decisions, think about each issue from your competitor’s point of view. Which is what Mr. Miyagi tried to teach Daniel San in The Karate Kid. It forces you to think of better, more aggressive approaches. It makes you think about meaningful differentiation. Which always elevates your thinking. And leads to better final outcomes. #WhoNeedsABodyBagNow

Key Takeaway

Good decisions fuel success. Yet we often lack the information we want to make the best choices. So develop your own decision making prompts and reminders to help you focus on what is most important and most valuable to you. It helps speed your decision making process. And leads to greater comfort with uncomfortable decisions.

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

The Weaponry turns 4! Here are 4 things I have done right along the way.

This is a big week in my world. On Sunday my family and the rest of the Christian Club celebrated Easter. Which is like Christmas for us sinners. But this week we are also celebrating the 4th birthday of The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I founded, on April 12, 2016.

When I first launched The Weaponry I was living in Atlanta. If you would have told me then that 4 years from now The Weaponry is thriving, with offices in both Milwaukee and Columbus I would have been thrilled. But if you would have then told me that no one actually worked in either of those offices I would have given you my best Whatchu-Talk’n-Bout-Willis look.

Celebrating our 4th birthday during COVIDPALOOZA makes for an interesting time. All of the Weapons are working together apart right now. But the business is well positioned during this unusual time. Which provides me an opportunity to reflect on the past 4 years.

Top 4 Lists

This week, to celebrate The Weaponry’s 4th Birthday I will share Top 4 lists. To begin, I am taking a look at what got us to our 4th anniversary and put us in a good position to weather the Corona-Cootie storm.

4 things I did right to help us get to our 4th anniversary.

1. I Took Action. 

Everyone has a dream. And I dreamed of starting my own advertising agency for a long time. But to actual start your own business you have to move beyond dreaming to doing. Starting in the fall of 2015 I took an endless series of small actions that led me to today.  So if you want to make sure you don’t die with your dream still inside you, take action to make it real.

Suggested readings to spur your action:

2. I Saved. (Not Like Jesus)

As a professional creative thinker I take lots of risks with idea exploration. However, I am fiscally conservative. I have been cautious with our expenditures, our office space and our staffing size. I have been conservative about leaving cash in the business, versus taking it home as part of my return. As a result, The Weaponry has strong reserves to outlast this downturn.

3. I Planted Seeds.

Business development is critical to creating a pipeline of opportunities. Over the past 4 years I have stayed in touch with old friends. I’ve made hundreds of new friends. I have had phone conversations, chocolate milk meetings and lunches. I have volunteered my time, I have guest lectured and given talks. I write a blog. I have given interviews and served on committees and boards.

All of those things are like planting seeds. You never know when they will sprout or what they will turn into. But over the past month, since we have been working from home, I have had 5 new seeds sprout into either new business opportunities or actual new clients. So keep planting seeds and watch what happens. #AndyCohen.

4. I delivered

The best source of new business is a happy client. And you develop happy clients by delivering for them. We have grown by keeping our clients happy, and expanding our work with them. We are also expanding by having happy clients leave for new jobs and bringing us with them to their new companies. We have had that happen multiple times already in 2020. I have a really great team. And I appreciate all that they do for our clients. It is why we are still here, and still growing strong.

Key Takeaway

To develop a successful business you have to take action. Without action you are just a dreamer. You have to save money so that you are prepared to weather the storms that will surely come. You must keep planting seeds by creating and nurturing relationships and providing value to others. Then you must deliver the goods. Nothing grows a business like happy customers. None of it is easy. And none of it is that hard. It is simply the price you have to pay to get what you want in life.

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

Are you on your heels or toes right now?

It is easy to feel unbalanced right now. COVID-19 has infected every area of our lives. It’s not just our health. Work, school, worship, restaurants and bro-hugs have all been impacted. As the coronavirus blows across the country, and creates a new abnormal normal, it is time to check your stance.

Today’s question is:

Are you on your heels or toes right now?

Heels

If you are on your heels, you are letting the current situation get the best of you. You are not well balanced. You are simply reacting. And you can easily be knocked over by the next challenge that comes your way.

Toes

Right now you need to be on your toes. It means you are actively managing your situation. You are ready for whatever comes next. You are prepared to take on the next challenge. You are in a position to help others. And you are thinking ahead.

The Opportunity Stance

If you are on your toes it means you are seeing opportunities emerge. Today there are chances to help put your time and talent where it can be most impactful. There are opportunities for learning, growth, and skill development right now. In fact, this may be the best opportunity for self improvement you have ever had. Unless you have been to rehab.

Innovation

If you are on your toes you have the ability to innovate. You see the business opportunities and investments opportunities that are here today, or coming tomorrow. Which is only a day away. There will be a great demand for new ideas to better prepare us for our next great challenges. They have to come from somewhere. Why not you?

The Right Way

If your are on your toes you can help others get right, do right and be alright, alright, alright when the virus clears and we are back to full speed. It means that you will be the first to move when the red light turns green. And when the light changes, we will enter one of the most exciting eras we have ever known.

Key Takeaway

Even in this unusual and challenging time there is so much good around us. And so much more good ahead. Don’t miss out on any of it. Every great story needs a challenging plot twist in the middle to make the ending better. So make sure you are on your toes right now. Be ready when opportunity calls on you. And let’s make the rest of the story the best part of all.

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

 

The most important thing to remember during difficult times.

In January of this year you probably set new goals for yourself. You thought about what you wanted to do personally and professionally. Businesses around the world introduced their 2020 goals to their teams. As we plunged into February the new year-smell was still in the air. Progress was being made. Then came March. COVID-19 forced us back into our caves. Suddenly it became much more difficult to make progress towards our goals. And even harder to choreograph new handshakes with friends.

My Goal

As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency,The Weaponry, my career goal is to create the perfect advertising agency. Simple right? Or maybe not. Because attaining perfection is hard. And elusive. And a Milton Bradley board game that makes you feel as if you are racing the timer on a bomb in your rec room. But creating the perfect agency is my goal because it’s hard. And because achieving it would help make everyone involved (including my clients, my teammates and our families) happy, sought after and prosperous.

Pass The Test

If you are undertaking something hard, and I hope you are, it will test you, repeatedly. Like a diabetic tests their glucose. Your mission is like a boxing match. You step between the ropes and square off with whatever or whoever is standing between you and your goals. And you start throwing all you have at each other. Only one of you will win. It will be the one who wants it more.

The Coronavirus

Today, as you confront your own COVI9-19-era challenges, I have a quote that I want you to put in your pocket. As you fight for your dreams, your goals and your right to party, pull this quote out between rounds and use it as your smelling salts to help shake off the cobwebs and the fatigue.

‘Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other thing.’ -Abraham Lincoln

My friends, Abe Lincoln knew what he was talking about. Though he faced immense opposition, his personal resolution lead to the single most important victory in American history, both for our nation and for us as humans. He also used his unwavering resolve to achieve his other lofty life goals of getting his face on the penny, creating a popular log-based toy brand, and building a car company with Matthew McConaughey.

Key Takeaway

These are challenging times. We are all being tested. We are all experiencing setbacks. Things are hard, and may get even harder. But keep doing the hard things. Keep fighting. Keep your eyes on the prize. Remain resolute. And keep Lincoln’s quote close at hand.

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