Looking for Office Space Part 3: We Have An Office!

Welcome to the third post in my Finding Office Space series. This is a trilogy, like Rocky (which actually has seven chapters, but who’s counting?). In Looking for office space: A startup story. we began our quest for a great new office. In Looking for Office Space: The Messy Middle, we shared the middle of the journey, including an overview of all of the spaces we looked at. In this post we will decide which office we want, sign a lease, and defeat Mr. T (Clubber Lang). Then Eye of The Tiger will play, the credits will roll, and I’ll share some pics from the new space.

Quick Background

My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, first opened for business in 2016. Technology, including Slack, Google’s G-Suite, Dropbox, Asana and Zoom connected and enabled our team immediately. So we didn’t need a dedicated office. But I highly value culture and a team atmosphere. So we began searching for a new office space in July. We knew our first office should be in Milwaukee. But our rate of growth makes it difficult to know just how much space we will need a year from now.

Our Criteria

Looking for an office is a little like looking for a date. Here is a list of the criteria we included in our E-Harmony profile:

  1. 1000 square feet.  This provides enough room for our current team, and room for us to get really cozy as we grow.
  2. A 1-year lease. From year one to year two we will have doubled our business. We would like to maintain that trend. But we are not willing to bet the business on it. So we will not bite off more than we can lease.
  3. Downtown location. We want the energy of the city, sure. But we also want to make the commute reasonable for everyone. And all roads lead to downtown.
  4. Northern Downtown location (The North End). This wasn’t a mandate. But it was more than a tie-breaker. I live north of Milwaukee in the suburb of Mequon. Having moved to Milwaukee from Atlanta a year ago, I am eager to minimize my commute as much as possible.
  5. A separate conference room. Our team needs to gather, get loud and have fun client meetings without disturbing the rest of the staff. So a fully open concept wouldn’t work.
  6. A separate private office.  We wanted to have a private office that anyone could use to have more privacy when needed.
  7. Windows. I love the energy that comes with natural light. So we wanted significant windows that let in a lot of sunshine.
  8. Inexpensive parking. Downtown parking isn’t fun or easy.  But it is a necessity. So we wanted parking close by at the best rate available.
  9. Move-in ready condition: We didn’t want to have to build or move any walls. That would eat up time and money, and call for a longer lease term.
  10. A good feel. If you’ve ever shopped for apartments or homes you know that some places just feel right for you. The same thing holds true for office space. And underwear.

The RFP

After looking at eight properties we narrowed the field to a final four for an RFP process. Easy Breezy, which I will now call 1661 North Water Street, was our Goldilocks. It met all of the criteria listed above. And the porridge temperature was just right.

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Shut The Front Door! That’s our new office!

Legal Mumbo Jumbo

The first step towards securing our new space was a credit check. Which felt kind of like getting tested to make sure we didn’t have any diseases. Which, of course, we don’t. Then the property owners sent a 19-page lease agreement, which is like a pre-nup. I say this because it was the highly unromantic part of what had been a romantic experience. But in the lease application phase you go from dreaming about the space to distrustful statements and lawyery clauses that add a little bitter to the glitter.

The lease agreement failed to mention a couple of important clauses from the original proposal. Like the month of rent abatement that the property owners offered (a free month of rent). It also had some wonky wording around the insurance we were required to carry. Our insurance provider and I were both scratching our heads over the language, which I now believe was just a cut-and-paste error from the landlord.

Please allow myself to introduce myself…

I had to co-sign for the lease as Adam Albrecht, the human. So if Adam Albrecht, the Founder of The Weaponry can’t pay the lease, Adam Albrecht, the regular guy has to pick up the bill. I found this to be an odd part of the process. But as Bob Bradley, my business finance advisor, and the retired CFO of Cramer Krasselt told me, bankers and landlords still ask businesses that have been around for 100 years to have someone co-sign. Those experienced businesses have a track record that allows them to reject such requests. The Weaponry, with no rental history, and little credit history, hasn’t yet earned that luxury.

 

Trying to finalize.

I signed all of the paperwork, printed out my proof of insurance, wrote out a business check for the deposit. Then I told Mitch, my broker, I was ready to stop by the property owner’s office to drop everything off and pick up the keys. He called to warn them I was coming the next afternoon. But when I arrived no one there could help me (despite the fact that there were 50 people in the office).

The receptionist was new. The person she tried to page couldn’t be found. And I had to run to a CEO roundtable meeting.

When I came back that afternoon they restored my confidence in the organization.  A seasoned receptionist was at the desk. She summoned Daniel immediately, He greeted me at the front desk to take the paperwork and deposit check.

The Keys!

Then came the moment I had been waiting for. They keys.  If you’ve ever bought a car, house or sturdy pair of handcuffs, you know how great it feels to get handed those keys. It signifies that all of the paper road blocks have finally been cleared.

But this was slightly different. Because when Daniel pulled the keys out of the cabinet to hand them to me there weren’t just one or two keys. There were 13.  I had a whole mitt full of keys. I was like Edward Keys-hands. Or Schneider from One Day At A Time. It was a pretty exciting moment.

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The Keys!

The Opening Ceremony

I left Daniel and strutted across the parking lot to my new office building. I got on the elevator and rode to the second floor. I got off and walked about 50 feet down the hallway to Suite #206. Then I fumbled though the keys to find one that opened the door to the office. My FIRST office, for the very first time!

The first key I picked worked. I opened the door and walked in.

I was present in that moment. I drank it all in. I was by myself, which was nice. Because it gave me a moment to reflect on my very personal journey.

Of course there are several other people who I wish could have been there to share that moment with me too. I’ll mention them in another post. But for now, I am thankful to be starting what promises to be an even bigger, better chapter in The Weaponry’s story.

Today

Our official lease started November 1st. We have a bit of furniture moved in. Which I will write about soon. I’ve provided a few pics of the new space below. So, please take a self-scrolling tour.

Thanks for following our story. If you would like to know what happens next, consider subscribing to this blog. And please stop when you are in the neighborhood. Or, if you are really fun, smart, creative and adventurous, consider joining our team.

 

We’re picking out paint to freshen up the fort.

 

We have a minimum viable product.

 

 

 

 

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One of our areas is already equipped with a shared desk space. This is where we will have our staring contests.
We are looking at options for a couch, or sectional and coffee table (chocolate milk table) for our common space.
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The conference room furniture is a work in progress. But If you want to come over for card night we are totally prepared.

 

Need some inspiration? I have two people I would like you to meet.

Hugh Hefner always had multiple girlfriends. I can relate to Hugh. I don’t have multiple lady friends. But I always have several books in motion, simultaneously. I wish I could commit to just one at a time. But once an intriguing new book catches my eye, I can’t keep my hands off of it.

In October I read two books with a unique connection. They were both about men who lost use of their legs. This was purely coincidental. It wasn’t as if I was browsing the No Leg Function section of the library. But they were both great, inspirational stories that demonstrated that a strong mind is more important than an able body.

Stronger

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The first book I read was Stronger, by Jeff Bauman. Jeff had both of his legs blown off in the Boston Marathon bombing. But instead of letting the loss of his legs destroy him, as the title indicates, it made him stronger.

He was the key figure who helped the FBI identify the bombers. Even days after the bombing nobody knew who was behind it. Except Jeff.  Following his life-saving surgeries he described Tamerlan Tsarnaev in amazing detail. He had stood next to Jeff, near the finish line of the marathon. They stared at each other for a moment. Jeff knew he was a bad dude. Tsarnaev soon disappeared, but he left his backpack at Jeff’s feet. Jeff noticed it a moment before it exploded, taking his legs with it.

Within just months of the bombing Jeff learned to walk again with artificial legs. He has become a hero in Boston. And his inspiring story was turned into a book (obviously) and a movie, in which he is played by Jake Gyllenhaal.

The Impossible Just Takes A Little Longer 

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The second book was The Impossible Just Takes A Little Longer by Art Berg. Art was in a car accident when he was 21 years old that left him a quadriplegic. No one would have faulted him for living a small life after the accident. But Art had other plans.

  1. He got married.
  2. He had three children.
  3. He started several businesses.
  4. He played wheelchair rugby.
  5. He became a highly sought after motivational speaker, giving 150 speeches a year.
  6. He was inducted into the prestigious National Speakers Hall of Fame.
  7. He completed a grueling, 7 day, 350 mile ultramarathon from Salt Lake City to St. George, Utah, in July, despite the fact that he can not sweat to cool himself. Oh, and he set the world record in the process.
  8. He wrote several books.
  9. He won a Super Bowl Ring for his motivational efforts with the Baltimore Ravens

In the final pages of the book Art recounts a profound recent event in his life. He was on a plane with landing gear problems. As the plane circled to burn off fuel before attempting a dangerous landing, he reflected on his life and all that had happened since the accident. He realized that his accident had pushed him to become a stronger, more motivated person. He did more with his life because of the accident than he would have, had he not faced such a challenge (you’ll have to read the book to learn what happened when the plane touched down).

I loved his attitude. As I finished the book I noticed his website listed on the back jacket of the book (www.artberg.com). I typed the site address into my browser, but got an error message. So I googled Art Berg. The top result was his obituary. He died in February of 2002. The same year the book came out. He was 39 years old.

Conclusion

As you think about the obstacles that stand in your way, and the hardships you face, think about Jeff Bauman and Art Berg. I have faced setbacks. But nothing like losing my legs like Jeff did.  I have started my own business, I am married and have three kids. But I am not in a wheelchair with only partial use of my upper extremities like Art.

Both Jeff and Art used their adversity to make them stronger.  That’s what I am trying to do everyday. That’s why I started the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I wanted to try something hard. Because the harder something is to do the greater the reward.

If life doesn’t throw any adversity your way, find it yourself. Take on challenges that stretch, test or torture you. They’ll make you stronger. They’ll keep you growing. Growth and progress towards your goals, even if there is significant suffering as a result, will lead to a happier life.

Don’t lose sight of the WOW!

Do you remember the first time you ever flew in an airplane? It was crazy exciting, right? Remember how the plane began down the runway, slowly at first, then gaining speed until the plane’s nose levitated. Then the rear wheels left contact with the runway and things got quiet, and smooth, and it all blew your mind?

I remember that. Then I started flying so much for work that I would read, work, talk to my seatmate or rearrange my sock drawer during takeoff. I had become immune to the magic.

Then one day about 15 years ago I recognized just how crazy it was that I could yawn through an airplane takeoff. That day I decided to become a born again flying virgin. Every time I have launched to the sky since then, even as a Delta Gold or Platinum Medallion flier, I have stopped what I am doing at takeoff, and experienced the thrust, lift and other-worldliness of the experience as if it were the first time.

Holy David Copperfield!

Today I remind you that the entire world is mind-blowingly magical. Unbelievable things are happening all around you. Look outside. The sunrise, sunset, skies and storms are all sorts are phenomenal.

Watching your garden transform from dirt to sprouts to vegetables and fruit is awe-inspiring. The way the foliage transforms each fall from green to red or yellow or orange is no less miraculous than the caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

That mobile phone that is surely within arms reach of you right now provides access to every bit of information and entertainment ever known And yet it doesn’t have a cord, or pipe or conveyor belt to connect it to anything!  Somehow it all flows through the ether. WTF?

 

Do you realize that the automobile you drive is like a magic carpet that will take you anywhere on the continent that you want to go?!? Imagine time traveling back to any period in time before 150 years ago and seeing the look on people’s faces as you drove by in your car! Even if you drive a Yugo.

Those clothes you are wearing were somehow transformed from plants or animals or chemicals or all of the above into something soft and attractive and shaped just like you! Seriously!?!

Humans

Don’t even get me started on humans. Humans are the most amazing, beautiful and complicated of all machines. And somehow we all stack into a set of our relatives like Russian Nesting Dolls. Which means you were somehow inside both of your parents, and their parents and their parents, and on an on until the beginning of humans! Even if you are not Russian! Nyet. I can’t fathom that.

 

All businesses, teams, organizations, nations are created by humans. Somehow we have figured out how to collect, organize and activate groups of humans to do amazing things together.  From dancing to designing and operating the International Space Station, we have found millions of ways to work together to create things that are totally unnecessary to providing food, shelter and clothing. How cool are we!?!

Dawn

Today is my lovely wife Dawn’s birthday. I have been awed by her since I first saw her. I will never forget that moment. Today we have a wonderful life full of amazing everyday adventures. We have three little miracles named Ava, Johann and Magnus. And I am thankful everyday for the indescribable joy that fills our lives. And it’s all because, on this planet of billions, Dawn’s life-path crossed mine 17 years ago. Thank God.

 

 

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This is what Dawn looks like at dusk in Paris.

So as you go about your day, don’t miss the Wow. It is literally everywhere. Our entire world is full of magic. It is easy to overlook. Because there is just so much of it. Even right next to you, today, at home.

A real entrepreneur’s reaction to my desire to start my own business.

In the late summer of 2015 I got together with my friend Jeff Hilimire for a little update on our lives and careers. Jeff and I had worked closely together for several years as part of the leadership team at Engauge, an advertising agency with offices in Atlanta, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Orlando.

Engauge was a pretty awesome agency, if I do type so myself. Publicis bought the business in the summer of 2013. Jeff left the company the next day to start his next business (his first startup, Spunlogic, was acquired as one of the three initial pillars of Engauge).

Dragon Army

Jeff gave me a tour of his new mobile agency, Dragon Army. I met his team. Then Jeff and I sat outside on the company’s deck, and he gave me exciting updates on his business and his life.

Sharing My Plan

Then Jeff asked how things were in my world. I had stayed on with the company we worked at after Publics acquired it two years earlier. I’m sure Jeff was expecting to hear how things were going at work. He was clearly surprised when I told him,

I am planning to start my own ad agency.

At the time I didn’t have a client. I didn’t have an employee. I didn’t have a name. I didn’t even have this blog. I didn’t have anything to make my claim credible, except my vision and a commitment to myself to make it come true.

Talk is Cheap

I am sure Jeff, who has started multiple successful businesses, has heard a lot of big talk from nontrepreneurs like I was. It is really easy to talk about your plans. Everyone does it. It is so much harder to live into them.

Part way through the conversation Jeff checked my entrepreneurial seriousness. Not in a disbelieving way, exactly. Jeff is a very positive person who loves entrepreneurship (it’s one of his favorite ships). He would help anyone who was truly committed to starting their own business. But he seemed to want to know if this was for realsies, or if he should just smile and nod, but not invest any real time, energy or advice.

Jeff cut through the conversation with this simple question:

What is the percent chance you will actually start your own agency? Because the greatest tragedy would be that the next time we meet we have this same conversation. You’d be talking about wanting to start your own agency, but still hadn’t.  

It was a great question. My answer could forever be used against me in The District Court of Hot Air and Blown Smoke. But I was glad he asked.

My Response:

100%!

Jeff looked pleasantly surprised by my answer, but double checked like Aaron Rodgers, asking, “Really?”

I responded definitively, ‘Yes! I will fail at this before I do anything else!’

My mind was set. I had already burned my employment ships. I was going to allow myself no chance of retreat. The only way ahead was through my own business.

Fast Forward

I recently talked to Jeff about this conversation. I wanted to know what was going through his head on the other side of the table that day two years ago. It was a fun question to ask because The Weaponry is now a very real business, with real clients, real employees and a real office of our own, despite what you might read on our website.

This is what  Jeff said:

I talk to literally hundreds of people that want to start companies and never do. So on the one hand I thought there was a slim chance you’d actually do it. But on the other hand, I know you’re a competitor. And I was trying to tap into your sense of competitiveness. But when you said ‘100%!’ I thought, Heck Yeah*!  That’s what I want to hear! Now go do it!

*he didn’t actually say ‘heck’.

Key Takeaway

If you really want to accomplish anything you have to be 100% committed. Don’t give yourself another alternative. Burn your ships. Talk is cheap. There are thousands of people who are buried every day with their dreams still inside them.  Don’t let that happen to you.

What kind of phone are you?

Have you ever wanted to be someone else? I have that feeling every day. I want to be a better version of myself. I want to be the me that I see in my head. That version of me is pretty amazing. Which means that the today-me is pretty lame by comparison.

But that doesn’t discourage me. I am no Eeyore. You won’t find me feeling bad about myself. Because I don’t see myself as less-than.

I see myself as an iPhone. I am constantly creating a new, more powerful model of myself. I’m adding more features, capabilities, a longer battery and more memory.

I read as if my future success depends on it. I listen to audiobooks while I drive, podcasts about entrepreneurship while I eat lunch, and podcasts about real estate investing while I mow the lawn. Each day I become a little smarter, a little more capable and a little closer to the me in my mind.

My vision of me as a better model of myself is why I workout. It’s why I set goals.  It’s why I try new things that force me to grow. It’s why I travel and see and do as much as I can. It is why I am excited to meet new people. All of these help me grow, expand and improve.

As Founder of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry, I am growing and learning on the job, every day.  The resistance that entrepreneurship provides works just like the weights at a gym. They are both there to help you develop a better, stronger version of yourself.

If the you in your head is an iPhone X and the real you feels like a flip-phone don’t be discouraged. Keep moving. Keep iterating. Keep learning and growing. There are thousands of versions of you yet to come. Each one gets stronger, smarter and more capable. And each new model of you is even more valuable than the one before.

Why I embrace last-minute requests and ridiculous deadlines.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything in life worked according to your schedule?  You simply set the amount of time you need to handle anything, personal or professional. Then nothing ever challenged your pre-established timeline. That would be pleasant. And it would bore me to tears.

The world doesn’t conform to your schedule. Business, and life, are far too unpredictable. As Nationwide Insurance used to say, life comes at you fast. Really fast. Opportunities and threats appear in a blink. In the social era you need to respond before your opportunities become yesterday’s tweets. You must be able to thwart threats before they become Napa-sized wildfires, engulfing your home and vineyard.

Get Creative

But opportunities abound in the imperfect schedule. As the Founder of the Advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am always thrilled by quick deadlines. They add excitement to the work. They test our abilities. They push us to learn what we can do without.

Ridiculous deadlines present favorable conditions for creativity too. When time is short the approval process is also short. You run through fewer approvers, who tend to be more accepting of really great creative solutions. So better ideas are often produced under tight timelines, because the client has less time for second guessing.

Walt Disney’s Magic

Recently I read about a crazy request Walt Disney received from Pepsi in 1963. Pepsi had been working on a collaboration with UNICEF for the World’s Fair, but had failed to come up with a worthwhile idea. So they approached Disney with the daunting task of creating an exhibit to fill their 94,000 square foot exhibit space. But they had far too little time and far too little money for the challenge. So Joe Fowler, the supervisor at Disneyland, turned down their request.

When Walt Disney heard this he was furious. He said, ‘I’ll make those decisions,’ and then informed his team that they would indeed take on the Pepsi project. To solve for the time, space and money challenges, Disney devised a boat ride through a canal, surrounded by animated dolls from around the world. The dolls sang a song that Disney commissioned the Sherman brothers to write. As Disney described the concept of the exhibit to the Shermans, he explained ‘It’s a small world after all.’  That, of course, became the name of the song, and the ride itself.

The World’s Fair exhibit was a resounding success for Pepsi and UNICEF. Today, almost 55 years later, that boat ride is still one of the most popular attractions at Disney World.  And its theme song is known around the world.

Conclusion

Your next great opportunity may show up at your doorstep wearing a really short deadline. But don’t be too quick to shoo it away. Don’t focus on all the reasons you can’t take on the challenge. Focus on the possibilities. That opportunity just may turn into the greatest thing you’ve ever done. But if you truly can’t find a way to make it work, send it my way. I love a short deadline after all.

The 2 Things You Can’t Google.

Do you remember life before the internet? Back in the day, when you had a question, you just had to guess what the answer was. Or you could spend a lot of time searching for answers with primitive tools. Like books and microfiche.

Now, the detailed answers to our most random questions are literally everywhere. We have harvested all human knowledge and loaded it onto the internet like stacking hay in a barn. Anyone with a smart phone has access to that barn and all the information in it anywhere, anytime. Yes, the barn door is always open.

The Google

Today, if you have a question you simply google it. Where did Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall get married? (Lucas, Ohio). What was the first interstate school district in America? (Norwich, Vermont and Hanover, New Hampshire). What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? (African or European?) Curiosity, and the ability to satisfy it, is the driving force behind Google’s success.

Curious Mind

I recently read Brian Grazer’s book, A Curious Mind. He positions himself as a modern-day Curious George (my words, not his). The Graze (my word, not his) credits his curiosity, not his creativity, as the driving force behind his Hollywood success. His curiosity lead him to interesting stories that turned into blockbuster movies like A Beautiful Mind, Backdraft, 8 Mile and The Da Vinci Code.

Curiosity also led him to push the limits of what hair gel can do. He talks about that in the book too. But you can just look at the picture below to find the answer.410161296_hr

However, one of the most interesting elements of the book was Grazer’s, statement about where Google’s supreme powers stop. He writes:

There are two things you cannot google.

  1. Answers to questions that have not been asked.
  2. New ideas.

Unasked Questions

If you are the first person to ask a question, the best search engine to find the answer is you. Don’t stop because the answer doesn’t exist. These are the most important questions to answer. And once you do, you get to pitch the answer into the haymow of knowledge to benefit the rest of humankind.

New Ideas 

You can’t google a new idea. You have to invent it. You have to do the work, the thinking, the ideation yourself. Only the human brain can come up with valuable new ideas. There will always be a great need and great value for those who can create a new idea, not simply blow the dust off of an old one.

More importantly, there are new ideas that can only be created in your mind. Yes you. The person reading this. Just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two minds are alike either. Your mind is formed by your unique combination of thoughts, perspectives, experiences, readings, learnings, language, friends, physiology and chemistry. Which means that despite the fact that there are 8 billion people on this planet, there are ideas that could only possibly come from you.

As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am constantly wowed by the power of the human mind. The power of the new idea. The power to create new things, new thoughts, new connections. There is so much still to come.

It is up to us to create new innovations, new stories, new humor, new lessons, new solutions to old and new problems alike. Stay curious and you will discover the new ideas yourself. Those ideas, your ideas, have the power to change the world. Which means the world may soon be googling you.