5 Reasons why I got vaccinated.

On March 16th, 2020 my family and I began playing an epic game of dodgeball with the COVID-19 virus. We played to win. And winning meant not getting the virus. Every day the virus didn’t hit our home felt like a win. Like we made it to the next round on Frogger.

Gamifying COVID avoidance made it a competition that my family and I could win. But we didn’t hibernate. Not even close. In 2020 we traveled to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and road tripped from Wisconsin to Idaho. But we were smart and precautitory. We wore masks, socially distanced, washed, sanitized, wore garlic necklaces, burned our stuffed animals as sacrifices, and drank the blood of albino newts. You know, the basic CDC stuff.

The Vaccine

I have been a big fan of a vaccine for Covid-19 since, well, since the first talk of developing one. Because it is the only way we as a planet can beat the virus and party like it’s 2019.

Just as polio, chickenpox, measles, and corded telephones feel like challenges of the past, I wanted Covid-19 to be retired to the lore of yesteryear. That’s why I was ready for the vaccine as soon as I could get it.

On Saturday I got my second round of the Pfizer vaccine. I had no side effects other than my arm looked band-aidy. I know that there are still a few days before I reach maximum resilience, but I feel like I have won the game of dodgeball. And I am taking great pride in defeating my opponent, thanks to an army of scientists who quickly whipped up a sweet vaccine like Tom Cruise whipped up sweet cocktails in that movie where he whips up cocktails. (I forgot the name of the movie.)

Reasons For Getting Vaccinated

I was never afraid of getting sick. I’m not high risk. I have a robust immune system from all the dirt I ate as a kid, and as an adult. But I have plenty of other reasons to get vaccinated. Here they are in a particular order.

5 Reasons I got vaccinated.

  1. Because my kids can’t. I didn’t want to bring COVID home and infect 3 kids who didn’t have an option to get vaccinated. I didn’t want to be the reason they missed school, sports, music programs, or the Dad Appreciation Parade (that I am organizing).
  2. I don’t want to get other people sick. Other friends, family, coworkers, and lovely elderly people would be vulnerable if I got infected. I don’t like the idea of doing avoidable harm to others.
  3. Flying In a non-COVID year I fly a lot. Flying is odd right now. And the empty middle seats are going away. To fly again regularly I will feel best if I am not immunally naked.
  4. I want to see people again. Getting together with other people who have been vaccinated is a no-brainer. Getting together with people who have not been vaccinated is still a brainer. I don’t want people to have reservations about seeing me. I just want people to have reservations with me.
  5. To get back to business. Yes, my team at The Weaponry has been fully functional throughout the pandemic, with one notable exception. We really haven’t spent time with our clients or prospective clients in person in well over a year. There has been very little in-person relationship building. That is one of the greatest joys of business. And my next 2 weeks are already filling up with plans to see clients and friends (and client-friends) for the first time in 15 months.

Key Takeaway

Getting vaccinated feels like a win. It is how we defeat the threat of COVID-19. It is how we protect each other, especially those who can’t or shouldn’t get the vaccine right now. It is how we get back to life as we want it to be. And it is how we get back to developing culture within our organizations, and relationships within our communities. I am thrilled to be fully vaccinated, and I hope to see you in person soon!

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

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.

Opportunities are like showers. They need time to warm up.

Action and patience are like the chocolate and peanut butter of success. You need both. First, you need to act in order to create conditions for growth and achievement. You need to put the ball in motion. You need to hit start. You need to raise your hand. You need to plant seeds.

But then comes the hard part. You need to be patient. Because the universe doesn’t run on your timeline. The big break you are looking for doesn’t care how much you want it to happen right now, Sammy Hagar.

Opportunities are like showers. They take time to warm up. Which means you need to plan ahead. You need to take action early, so you can create opportunities later. You can’t wait until the moment you need results to get started. Or you are sure to get the cold shoulder, along with a whole bunch of other cold body parts.

Why? It takes time for the warm water of your positive actions to reach you. Remember, each shower works on its own timeframe. It depends on how far the shower is from the hot water heater, the size of the pipe, and how long it has been since you showered last.

Reminder

Once you have met a new contact, prospect, potential customer, hottie or employer, remember that you need to wait on their timing to be right to create a mutually beneficial transaction. If you insist on moving quickly, expect a cold shower.

Key Takeaway

Take initial action. Then be patient. We are all dependent on others. Arriving at synchronization takes time. Let the water warm up before you jump in. The wait is well worth it.

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

How to fill your life with Category 3 people.

There are over 8 billion people on Earth. That’s hard to wrap your head around. In fact, wrapping your head around anything is hard to do. And it’s not good for your head. But despite the astronomical number of Earthlings, all people fall into 3 categories.

The 3 Categories of People

  1. People you don’t know.
  2. People you kinda know.
  3. People you know.

An Important Distinction

So, what is the difference between Category 2 and Category 3? To be categorized as someone you know, you must know their name. This is the gateway to a real relationship.

Key Idea

To fill your life with Category 3 people you should introduce yourself to everyone you spend time with.

Category 3 is The Magic Category.

Category 3 is full of your friends and family. This is your network. It’s your safety net. The more people you have in bucket 3 the more support you have. The more love you feel. Category 3 is where your opportunities come from. These are the people that can help advance your career, can help you make a sale, or offer you a kidney. These are the only people who will show up at your funeral (other than random people who love little ham sandwiches and sorrow).

Turn 2s into 3s

Category 2 contains people that you see or interact with. However, you remain anonymous to each other. Literally. The definition of anonymous is a person not identified by name; or of unknown name.

What you do with your category 2 people has a major impact on your life. The greater the percentage of people that you move from category 2 to category 3 the richer your life will become.

Conversely, the more people you allow to accumulate in category 2 the more loneliness and isolation you feel. A negative emotion builds in us when we are surrounded by people that we don’t know on a first-name basis (And I don’t mean like Cher, Madonna and Pele.)

The Power of 2s

This means Category 2 people are the swing people in your life. Leave them in Category 2 and they will always be familiar but nameless strangers. A natural tension accumulates between such people. You will wonder why you don’t actually introduce yourselves to each other. You create theories about dislike, or snobbishness, or standoffishness, or Eliot Ness. These theories are almost always unfounded. And almost always negative. Just ask Al Capone.

Most people simply avoid making the first move to introduce themselves to their 2s. It may be the discomfort of making the first move, a fear of rejection from a disinterested party. Or it may be that a body at rest simply tends to stay at rest.

It’s Smart To Hide Your Smartphone.

When we have a free moment among category 2 people we often invest our time and attention in our smartphone and its endless rabbit holes. It would be a much more valuable investment of your time and attention to introduce yourself to those around you. Exchange names and pleasantries. Find commonalities. Express your desire to turn your 2s into 3s. (You may have to reference this post for it all to make sense.)

Key Takeaway

Introduce yourself to everyone you spend time with. Clear out your category 2 bucket Move as many people to category 3 as you can. You will find your life fuller, friendlier and more enjoyable. More people will know your name. Which makes your world feel smaller, more personal, and more rewarding. By filling your world with category 3 people you win at life. It is how you develop a successful career. And it is how you create positive energy everywhere you go.

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

To build a successful business make more friends first.

I recently was introduced to the CEO of a really fun business in Milwaukee. A mutual friend introduced us via email. And in the quick hellos and thanks-for-the-introduction exchange that followed the CEO invited me to his office for a pow-wow.

When we met in person a week later we talked and developed a quick friendship. Despite the fact that we had just met it was clear that we were on the same wavelength. Our mutual friend, who I will call Erin, because that is her name, must have detected that too.

The two of us began talking about his business. I loved the conversation. I am a big fan of his company. Like one of those Big Ass Fans you see in a warehouse. I noted the remarkable quality of the product his team creates. I shared my enthusiasm for his brand and the great potential for growth, expansion and domination.

Then something interesting and unexpected happened. The CEO paused and said, ‘Adam, every agency in town has come to me wanting my business. They all talk about what they can do for us. And they share their vision for our brand. But you are the only one who has shared MY vision for the brand.’

At that point the conversation changed from 2 guys getting to know each other to two business leaders collaborating and working through problems and opportunities together. Which is what I love most about business.

I didn’t think of our conversation as a sales call. I didn’t think I was pitching him on working with me and my business. I was just excited to meet a new friend. I’m like a puppy in that way. And in the process of developing a friendship we talked about his business, the same way we talked about his family, the places he has lived and what he likes to do in his free time.

Make Friends. Not Sales.

But sales is not what most people think it is. So much of business development is simply developing friendships and rapport. It is showing a genuine interest in getting to know others. It is about helping and providing value. It is not about asking for business.

I always focus on friendship first. I was genuinely interested in this baller of a CEO first. I was not about to ask for a shot at his business. Perhaps that was part of the appeal.

As the sales expert Jeffry Gitomer says, people hate to be sold, but they love to buy. That is why I always let people buy into me instead of asking for the sale.

Does it work? Well, I now have a meeting scheduled with my new friend and his leadership team next week.

6 Key Takeaways From This Experience

  1. A good introduction from a trusted mutual friend creates a great start to a new relationship.
  2. Make friends. Not sales calls.
  3. Add value first, last, and always.
  4. Think bigger.
  5. Paint a picture others want to buy into.
  6. Let your enthusiasm, energy and passion show.

Follow Up:

Between the time I first wrote this post and published it a lot has happened. We had a great meeting with the executive leadership team. We were asked for a proposal. The proposal was signed last Friday afternoon. We kicked off our official relationship with a 3-hour meeting (Gilligan’s Island-Style) on Monday afternoon. We will present ideas next week. And we will have new ads live for the holidays.

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

It’s time to find new ways to meet new people.

Business development is a vital function of any healthy business. And it is dependent on interactions with non-customers. This is why trade shows exist. They are like massive dates for people with problems and people with solutions. They are the male and female counterparts that make business work. #Bowchickabowbow Lots of business opportunities are created at trade shows. Because people get to meet, mingle and leave non-single.

Trade No-Shows

Right now, thanks to the Covid-19 curveball, in-person trade shows are simply off the table. As are most in-person networking events. Which creates a major impact on new business prospects for most companies. This is a significant problem to solve. And a significant business opportunity.

Calling It Off

New sales calls are challenged right now too. You can’t simply ask if you can swing by someone’s office to show off your cart of potions and elixirs. Because the people you want to meet with are not there. In fact, most of my clients at The Weaponry have not been in the office for 7 months. Some of them have even moved far from the city they work in, because it doesn’t matter where people live when no one goes into the office.

With all of the Zooming that is happening now, it isn’t easy to get prospects to jump on yet another video conference either. Especially since video conferencing today means inviting people into your home, where families are hosting a 3-ringed circus of work, school and personal life.

Where Do We Grow From Here?

This means that to continue growing your network and your new business prospects you have to find new ways to interact with people. So it’s time to adopt new approaches. Or act like Chubby Checker and put new twists on old ideas.

What I Have Been Doing

Over the past 2 months here is what I have done to expand my network during a time of social contraction:

  • I spoke to the quarterly gathering of Spearity clients. Spearity is a great management consulting organization. This introduced me to 40 impressive people I didn’t know.
  • I gave an in-person speech at a country club to a group of 70 people participating in a fundraiser for Chapman Basketball Academy.
  • I did 3 virtual workshops on leadership during a crisis for University of Wisconsin student athletes and staff.
  • I guest-lectured on creativity to a Marquette University marketing class via video conference.
  • I guest lectured on creativity to a Carroll University marketing class via video conference.
  • I was a guest on The Positive Polarity Podcast with Dave Molenda: You can listen to the episode or read the transcript here.
  • I was a guest on the Sport Coats Podcast with Will Jurgensen. (podcast coming soon to a podcast player near you)
  • I published 25 new blog posts.

The Results

As a result of these actions I have grown my LinkedIn network. I have received new introductions, I have had in-person, yet comically-physically-distanced meetings. I have developed great new relationships. In fact, it looks as if I will have developed at least 4 new clients as a direct result of these activities.

I didn’t make a single cold call. I didn’t ask anyone for their business. I simply gave away my time, knowledge and expertise. I gave value first. And as a result I got even more value return. Anyone can do this. Even today.

Key Takeaway

Remember it is not who you know. It is who knows you. During these unusual times you have to make sure more people know who you are in order to grow your network and improve your long term prospects, opportunities and sales. Provide value first. And good things will come your way. Even in 2020.

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

How to improve your natural ranking among humans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaway

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

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

The best thing you can invest in right now is friendships.

I like to create friends and allies everywhere I go. It’s the way I am wired. If you asked me what my number one hobby is I would say befriending. Or turning strangers into friends. Like Courtney Cox and David Schwimmer.

I develop strong friendships quickly. And my friends are like snowflakes. Meaning they are special, not cold and icy. They are all different. And they all add to my life in unique ways. Like human seasoning. #MrsDash

Non-networking-networking

We are repeatedly told that to be successful in our careers and in our lives we need to network. But I don’t think of networking as networking. It isn’t shallow and transactional for me. Instead, I spend real time befriending people. I don’t expect to get anything in return, other than an additional friend. I wrote about my approach to befriending in the post, Why I hate networking, and what I do instead.

But a funny thing happens when you develop a lot of friends. You develop a lot of allies. People who look out for you, who advocate for you. People who alert you to opportunities. And people who invite you to things.

New Business Opportunities

When I am not making friends, road-tripping out west with my family, or writing blog posts, I own an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Last week I had two new business meetings, both of which arose because friends of mine submitted my name for interesting opportunities I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

The first came from a neighbor of mine in Atlanta who introduced me to a friend of hers who was looking for marketing help. (Thanks Jennifer!)

The second came from a friend of mine who knew that his organization in Chicago was looking for advertising help, and thought we might be a great fit. (Thanks Arun!)

Through those new business calls, I feel like I befriended 3 new people that I really liked. Even if we don’t do work together (which I hope we do), I already profited by adding to my friend collection.

The Library

However, the benefits of befriending others goes far beyond business and career success. Yesterday I had to return an audiobook to the library. I hadn’t had it very long, but I got a notice that I couldn’t renew it.

The book is called Last Stand. It is not about the end of nightstands as we know them. It is about Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle Of Little Big Horn. Following my recent road trip out west, that I wrote about in When was the last time you became a different person?, I have an exciting new geographical awareness to apply to this historic American tale.

Last stand
This is a great book that has nothing to do with REM’s song Stand.

I am about halfway through the book, and things are getting really good. Well, things are getting really good for me as the reader, and about to get really bad for General Custer. So when I stopped by the library I planned to ask if I could return the book and check it out immediately.

Luckily for me, my favorite librarian was working yesterday.  I will call her Page to protect her identity. Page is probably in her 60s, and looks like she knows her way around the Dewey Decimal System. I always joke around with Page. So I expect I stand apart from most people she deals with at the library. Plus, I usually wear flip flops, which creates a flagrant noise violation in the ‘Brary. Which gives me more to discuss with the staff.

I told Page that I was loving my book, like McDonald’s, but wasn’t quite done with it. So I was really hoping I could check it out again. I handed her the audiobook case and she looked it up in her Librarian machine. She then said, ‘Someone has a hold on this book, so you can’t renew it.’

I made a disappointed boo boo face by sticking out my bottom lip and pretending I was about to cry. I was obviously just trying to be funny. Page laughed. Then she paused a moment, and looked around to see if anyone was listening. They weren’t. So she leaned towards me and said in a quiet voice, ‘We aren’t collecting late fees right now. Why don’t you take this back and finish it…’ She flashed me a mischievous librarian smile, and she handed me the now illegally possessed, but secretly un-fined book. I whispered ‘thank you’, flashed her a big smile, and bolted for the door.

Key Takeaway

Make as many friends as you can. It makes the world smaller and more enjoyable. The rewards of friendship are the most meaningful and lasting perks you will find on this planet. You never know when you will need someone to talk to, an encouraging word, a good laugh, an introduction, a kidney, or extended hours with a good book. And like Dionne and friends said, that’s what friends are for.

*If you liked this post, consider sharing it with a friend.

Need a job? 14 tips for interviewing in crazy times.

It’s that time of year again. College seniors should be triumphantly crossing the stage and grabbing their pricey diplomas to the proud applause of their relieved families. Only this year things are different. Thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, graduating seniors haven’t seen their classmates in months. Graduation ceremonies are on a laptop. And students are stumbling out of college to find nearly 40 million adults out of work and willing to stab them with a fork to get the same entry-level jobs.  

Under these conditions the smiles, pride, and sense of accomplishment of the college grad are short-lived. The student loans are coming like the Educational Grim Reaper.  Empty-nesting parents’ once again have birds in the nest. And everyone needs worms.

Find A Job Like It’s Your Job

Whether you are a new graduate or newly unemployed, it’s time to find a job. Except now, because there are many more candidates than there are jobs, you need to bring your A-Game. If you are anything like I was when I graduated from college you don’t have a clue how to land that first job. I have learned a lot since then. Here they are in a particular order.

12 keys to successful job hunting.

portrait of a man in corporate attire
Looking good is always a good idea.

1. Request an informational interview.

This is the single best advice I can offer. It’s a free audition for you and the employer. And if the person you are calling won’t take the time to help out a young prospect, or an experienced candidate who needs a hand, you don’t want to work for that selfish bastard or bastardette anyway.

2. Research the company you want to talk to.

If you really want to talk to an employer you should know something about them and their company. To impress, show up with as much knowledge as you can find on the business you’re interested in, and its clients. A great tool I recommend using to do your research is the internet. Because it has all the information ever accumulated by mankind. #noexcuses

3. Work Your Network.

Use Linkedin to see if you have a connection to someone who works where you want to work. Do your research to see if you know someone who can introduce you to someone at that organization. Having an insider vouch for you is like cutting to the front of the line. Ivy Leaguge kids know to do this. You need to too.

4. Make connections.

I’m not just talking about people networking. Make connections between the organization’s needs and your own areas of knowledge and expertise. I got my first job because I knew a lot about farming. And the advertising agency I called for an informational interview had a new client that manufactured farm equipment. The agency seemed to know nothing about agriculture. So to them, I was like Doogie Howser in flannel.

5. Write down your talking points and questions ahead of time. 

If you don’t have any questions for your interviewer you suck at interviewing. Because it indicates that you aren’t thinking, or are not interested. Both make you easy to move to the reject pile.  Yet it can be hard for humans to come up with a good question when you are asked if you have any questions. So script you questions before the interview. You’ll get extra points if you tie your question to some research you did on the company. One of the great things about video conference interviews is that you can keep you written prompts handy for reference at all times. Heck, you can stick Post-It notes all over your interview space if you want. This is like legal cheating. Do it. It helps.

man taking notes in front of his computer
Come prepared with talking points. Because it is hard to think on your feet when you are sitting down.

6. Show up with a pen and paper.

If your interview is in person make sure you bring a pen and notebook and demonstrate that you have them. It shows that you are prepared. That you are gathering information and taking tips and advice. It is a sign of respect to the interviewer. It says, ‘I would like to capture the pearls of wisdom you are sure to drop.’ Employers assume anyone who would show up to an interview without a pen and paper will forget to do other things too. Like zip their fly, wash their hands, and bring their corporate credit card when they are taking a client to lunch. Demonstrating that you have the pad and paper says more than you realize. Even if you never use them.

7. Show up a little early.

Don’t get carried away here. There is a proper amount of early. Too early and you look socially awkward. And late is the kiss of death. This is also true for a video conference interview. Log on a few minutes early to demonstrate your timeliness. Just being there when the interviewer logs on will make a good first impression. As long as you are clothed. For tips on how to look good on camera see this post I wrote about looking good on camera for a TV interview from home via Zoom.

8. Dress professionally.

Determine what that means in your world. For my first interviews out of school I borrowed a suit from my college buddy, Greg Gill Jr. Greg is now a judge and wears a black dress to work. I have never worn a tie to work since. But I made good first impressions. And I got job offers. Remember, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. And you are never fully dressed without a smile.

9. Practive telling your story.

You have an interesting story to tell about what you know, what you have done and what makes you a great addition to any organization that would hire you. Practice telling that story. Make it concise, funny and interesting. It should get better every time you tell it. Like a standup comedy routine. People love stories. Telling a great one will give you an unfair advantage over others you are competing with for the job you want. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. It’s how great candidates get noticed.

10. Lose the like.

If there is one thing that reminds me that you’re still a kid it’s using like the word like like way too like much. While on the topic of language, I would also like you to stop saying, ‘to be honest…’ or ‘to tell you the truth…’ Those indicate that the rest of what you said may not be fully honest or truthful. Also, avoid pairing kinda or sorta with really. Those words are opposites, and they negate each other. It’s like putting a humidifier and a dehumidifier in the same room.

confident young woman sitting on office chair in old aged artist workshop
Don’t dress like this. Unless you are interviewing to be a belly button model. 

11. Prove direction.

It’s great to be open to various possibilities. But I want to hire someone who knows what she or he wants. So know your skills. Know what interests you. Have a vision. And don’t get lost on the way to or from the bathroom.

12.  Don’t drink at the interview.

Interviews in some industries, like advertising agencies, can be tricky. Especially if you show up late in the afternoon or on a Friday. The beer is often available and encouraged (this is starting to sound like an ad for advertising). Don’t play along. The dangers outweigh the risks in this case. Demonstrate your self-restraint. Ad people are really good at drinking (see Mad Men). And there are always plenty of permanent markers around and artists who know how to use them on your face.

13. Talk about how you and your friends never use Facebook or Instagram.

Even if you are on Facebook all day every day say that you can’t stand it. Businesses are always trying to spot the next trend they know nothing about. Kids, this is the ace up your sleeve. Tell them about the cool new things you are into and how you are rejecting all previously embraced media. Your stock will rise. Trust me. For the experienced unemployed, make sure you know about TikTok, Snapchat and Dingle. Okay, I may have made one of those up. You should know which one.

14.  Follow up.

After the interview, send a note thanking the people you met for their time.  This is important in several ways. It shows that you are considerate. It shows that you follow through. And it ensures that the people you talked to have your contact information. Send a note in the mail or by email. Both work. Email makes it easy for them to reply to you. A mailed note always feels special. And retro. Here’s the story of a great follow up note I received after an interview.

 

Key Takeaway

A good interview, whether in person, on the phone, or online is all about being prepared. Do your homework. Know the company and the people you are meeting with. Prepare your talking points and your questions ahead of time. Bring a pen and paper. Don’t drink. Where clothes. Smile. And follow up. Good luck!

*If you know someone who needs a job right now, please share this post with them. Let’s give them every advantage they can get.

When was the last time you saw your people?

On Monday morning I woke up in Orlando, Florida. Most people would be thrilled to be in Florida in February. But before the sun came up I was at the airport, leaving sunny  Florida to head back to Wisconsin. And I was thrilled. Because I had a very interesting afternoon planned.

MKE

I landed at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport at 11:30am. I was eager to get off the plane. But the universe had other plans. In fact, I was kept on the plane for at least 30 minutes, at the gate, while police were summoned to deal with some human shenanigans that unfolded on the flight.

Deplane! Deplane!

Once I finally got off the plane I hurried to the parking garage and jumped in my car. I sped off towards the Illinois border, just 30 miles to the south. I had 3 meetings planned that afternoon. I hadn’t prepared at all. I did no research. No competitive analysis. No powerpoint presentation. Because on a random Monday afternoon in February, I simply made plans to see 3 old friends.

Hello Kenosha!

My interesting afternoon started with lunch at the Waterfront Warehouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin. If you are ever looking for a great place to meet someone for lunch midway between Milwaukee and Chicago, this is the place.

My seat had a great view of Lake Michigan. But what was really fun was having lunch with my friend Bryan Specht. Bryan lives in Chicago. I live in Milwaukee. So we decided to meet in the middle, like Maren Morris said.

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Bryan is a rockstar marketer. We first met when his former agency, Olson, was considering buying my former agency, Engauge. Bryan and I got to know each other through that process, and I really liked him. So we stayed in touch. But we hadn’t seen each other for 7 years.

As we ate we talked about life, and business. We talked about entrepreneurship, private equity firms, acquisitions, and earn-outs. We talked about the challenges of organizational integration. We talked about the people we knew in common. And Steve McQueen. And Monaco watches. (Bryan has the one I want.) We sounded like adult business people who have a lot of knowledge and experience. Which apparently we do.

Bryan and I are the same age. We were both college athletes. Our last names both end in ‘echt’. And he recently started his own marketing consultancy called Salient Group Ventures.  I started my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, 4 years ago. So it was great to spend time with someone I had do much in common with. We were both eager for more time together. So we’ve committed to making Kenosha Konversations a regular thing. (We didn’t actually kall them Kenosha Konversations.  That’s just a kute name I made up for this story).

Mark Dahms

After my lunch with Bryan I drove 15 miles north to a spot in Racine, Wisconsin called Route 20.  There, I met with my college track and field teammate at The University of Wisconsin, Mark Dahms.

Mark is wicked Smart. He was the valedictorian of his senior class at Waukesha Catholic Memorial High School. He was a great student at Wisconsin, and went on to get his MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. I always thought that was where you went to study cereal. But apparently it’s like, a good school, for smart people.

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Try to guess which one of us works in finance at SC Johnson, and which one works at an ad agency called The Weaponry. I’ll give you two guesses.

Mark has been with SC Johnson since he graduated from college. But don’t think Mark hasn’t gotten around. He worked for SCJ in England, where he met his wife, who was working for SCJ. #RaisedEyebrow  They also lived in Australia. And apparently, when you clean a mirror with Windex south of the equator, you should wipe it counter clockwise. (I may have just made that up.)

I had not seen Mark in 14  years. So we caught up on life, work and family. I learned that a traditional Polish Christmas celebration may involve keeping a carp in your bathtub. And I was reminded that if you were really tall in college, you are probably still going to be really tall 24 years after your graduate. Did I mention that Mark once made a bet that he could eat 6 giant fudge brownies for dessert at our college training table. That didn’t turn out well for anyone.

A Symphonic Ending

My 3rd meeting of the day was with my friend Camela Langendorf. Camela and I met our freshman year of college at the University of Wisconsin. We met in Symphony class. Which is way harder than it sounds. (I still got an A.)

Camela was always funny and smart and fun to be around. Today, she is a great photographer, and owns her own business called Varitay Studios. The company name comes from the fact that Cam is not just a little bit tay. Or even regular tay.

Before we got together on Monday, Camela and I had not seen each other since… 1995.  That’s right, it had been 25 years since we last saw each other in person! Yet it was like we had seen each other yesterday.

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We talked about life and family and careers. We talked about college and friends and the pursuit of happiness.

We also talked about photography and entrepreneurship. We dug into profitability and business development and the power of great employees. We talked about great books. And we talked about how we should get together again soon.

Why Do This?

So why did I schedule time on a Monday afternoon to see friends who I haven’t seen for 7, 14 and 25 years? Because life is short. And our human relations are extremely valuable. At the end of our days, the only thing that will really matter is the impact we have on each other. So I make staying in touch with my people a priority. It’s one of my best habits (along with smiling first thing when I open my eyes in the morning).

The Question

Who haven’t you seen lately that you should? A friend? A family member? A business associate?  Your waxer? This week I challenge you to make time to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in years. Maybe even decades. We have a limited amount of time on this planet. You never know when that time will run out. So make plans to see your people now.

Key Takeaway

See your people in real life.

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