Chase all your crazy dreams until you catch them.

I first met my wife Dawn in the summer of 2000. From the first moment I saw her on the elevator at my office I was cray cray for her. 6 weeks later we had our first date. 5 days later we talked about marriage. #WhenYouKnowYouKnow

We were young and just starting to build momentum in our careers. After college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Dawn had lived and worked in New York City and Chicago. To this country boy she seemed like Christie Brinkley in the Uptown Girl video.

Dawn and Adam in 2001 in Vermont.

At the time, I had already lived in Ohio, New Jersey, Missouri, Vermont, and Madison. Then, like Joanie and Chachi, we met in Milwaukee in 2000. I was still living in my first apartment after college, but I had big ambitions. The kind that don’t keep you tied to a specific geography.

Like Bill and Ted, Dawn and I talked about our excellent adventures ahead. We wondered where they might take us. Our jobs, apartments and city all felt temporary. We knew we had much more to explore.

During that exciting first year, Tim McGraw released a new album called Set This Circus Down. The first time I heard the title track I thought the song was written for us.

Here is the chorus:

“Set This Circus Down”

And we go rolling down this highway
Chasing all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

I loved the theme of this song. An adventurous couple was traveling the highway of life together, pursuing their crazy dreams. But they knew that someday when they had everything they were chasing, they would stop running and plant themselves somewhere wonderful.

Us on Hilton Head Island, like the chair says.

We adopted this song as the unofficial theme of our relationship in that first year. Since then we have had quite an adventure. We have lived in 4 apartments and owned 4 homes in several different states.

My career has been as successful and rewarding as I could have ever wanted. We’ve added 3 great kids along the way. Our circus got a little crazier and more fun with each new performer we added. Dawn has been the amazing wife and mother I knew she would be when I asked her to marry me under the St. Louis Arch in a thunderstorm in 2002.

This land is your land. This land is my land. This land is Badland.

Five years ago we bet on ourselves and I started my own business called The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency. We were living in Atlanta at the time. But due to a serious health scare in our family, we decided we needed to be closer to our parents. So we moved to Milwaukee. Which is where we bought home number 4.

At the time we said that if things went well with the new business we would look for one more home in 2 or 3 years.

Just after moving into The Weaponry’s first office in Milwaukee.

The Weaponry has been very successful. (Thanks to our fun and talented people, and really great clients.) So Dawn and I began looking for our forever home (#5) two years ago.

We have an excellent Realtor named Jamie Lubner who we love. But with all of the homes we have seen over the past 2 years, we didn’t make a single offer. We have been picky because we had waited a long time for this and wanted it to be special.

The process was growing long. And time was ticking because our daughter Ava was in high school. She only had 3 years at home before she left for college, or a van down by the river.

We found this cute little waterfall, delicious grapes and tons of honeymooners in upstate New York.

Then, on the morning of June 17th, 2021, Dawn and I saw a beautiful home listed for sale in our very favorite neighborhood in town. A great subdivision set in the middle of the Wisconsin countryside. We walked in and were amazed. It was just what we were looking for. A beautiful home on 1.5 acres.

We wrote a full-price offer immediately and had it accepted the next day.

We moved in 2 weeks ago.

Our new home is just a mile from this farm.

Today, September 28th, Dawn and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. While 20 years of marriage may look more significant on paper, this is the year we have been thinking about since we first heard Tim McGraw’s song back in 2001.

We have finally found our piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down.

Today it feels like we are winning at life.

Key Takeaway

Envision what you want your life to look like. Start with the end in mind. Then create a plan to get there. Chase all of your crazy dreams until you catch them. And enjoy the circus, wherever your tent is set.


Here is a link to the full song

And here are the full lyrics.

“Set This Circus Down”

Sometimes this road, it just keeps winding
Round and round and back again
But you’ve always kept me smiling
Over every hill, round every bend
Baby you’re the one smiling with me when the sun comes up
I got the wheel, you got the map and that’s enough

And we go rolling down this highway
Chasing all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

Sometimes I lie awake just thinking
Of all the horizons we have seen
And as another day is sinking
I thank God you’re here with me
‘Cause baby you’re the one laughing with me when the sun goes down
Living on faith and holding on tight to the love we found

And we go rolling down this highway
Chasing all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

And set this circus down

Maybe one of these days, gonna set this circus down
Set this circus down

Writer(s): William Luther, Josh Kear

The Weaponry Turns 2 Years Old Today!

From the very beginning of my career I wanted to start my own advertising agency. I dreamed about it for years. I envied those I knew who had done it. And I had wise counselors tell me that starting my own agency was the only way I would be able to control both the path and the length of my advertising career. I figured it would also make it harder for my coworkers to tell me to turn down my music.

I began making concrete plans in the summer of 2015 after a couple of former clients strongly encouraged/challenged/incentivized me to launch a new agency. My cousin Brooks Albrecht and I began formulating plans to launch the new venture from opposite corners of the country. I was in Atlanta. He was in Seattle. We had a lot of late night phone calls fueled by sweet tea and coffee. We were like the Rumpelstiltskin Cousins, trying to spin straw into gold while the world slept.

Brooks was working at Amazon at the time. He was amazing at developing a smart, scalable infrastructure. We devoured the book The E-Myth, and were determined to build our machine the right way from the start. We thought we had a solid plan in place, and even performed some early ‘proof of concept’ alpha testing with two clients, one in Boston and the other in California.

I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having and how excited I was by what we were attempting to do. Then, in the spring of 2016, I filed the paperwork to make it official. Two years ago today on April 12th, 2016, The Weaponry was born, and the adventure began.

Our First Client

 

Our very first client was Global Rescue. On an early trip to Boston to meet with the GR team, I stayed at the home of their Founder and CEO, Dan Richards. When you are first starting off you do things like stay at your client’s home. Both because your first opportunity often comes from someone who you know really well (Dan is one of my closest friends in the world). And because when you are a lean start-up you’ll do anything you can to save money.

IMG_7912
Me and Dan Richards. We’ve known each other since we were 12. Since then we have been football and track teammates. We have been in each other’s weddings. We have helped each other launch companies. And we’ve hitchhiked together.

I had helped Dan with some foundational branding and marketing elements when he first launched his business in 2004. At the time, Dan was the only employee. But by 2016 Global Rescue had hundreds of employees, millions of members, and six offices around the world.

Dan and I went for an early morning workout before we got down to business. As we snaked through the empty streets of Boston at 5:30am on our way to the gym, I asked Dan,

“How long after you launched your business did it no longer feel like a startup?

The Answer

Dan responded quickly and confidently (the way he does everything). He said, ‘2 years.’  At two years he had clients, cashflow, systems and employees. It no longer felt like a victory just to be open for business. I filed that away, and wondered if that would hold true for The Weaponry.

IMG_8298
One of the greatest parts of starting The Weaponry has been sharing the experience with my family. Especially because it gives us a new place to take family photos.

Joining the 2 Year club.

Now that we are officially at the two-year mark, I can say with great confidence, that The Weaponry no longer feels like a startup. As we have approached this milestone, many of my friends who are entrepreneurs have pointed out that a startup’s life expectancy is barely longer than that of a fruit fly. They have emphasized how few startups actually live to eat their second birthday cake.

 

But I think about it differently. I don’t care what the average is. And I don’t think making it to two years in a major victory. My goal wasn’t to build a business that could break the 24-month barrier. It was to build the perfect advertising agency that could stay in business forever.

img_8943.jpg
We printed way more than 2 year’s worth of stickers. It was a sort of sticky life insurance policy.

 

Motor Boating.

The first two phases of a new business are like the first two phases of motor boating (snickering). In phase 1 you are happy to be moving forward and not hitting rocks or docks. But you are plowing through the water with a lot of resistance, and very little speed or elegance. Then you transition to phase 2. In phase 2 the boat builds enough speed that it actually climbs on top of the water and planes out. The ride smooths out, speeds up, and becomes a lot more fun. The nose of the boat (or bow) comes down, and visibility improves dramatically. At two years old, The Weaponry feels like it is planing and gaining speed.

6 Reasons The Weaponry No Longer Feels Like A Startup:

  1. We have a real office.
  2. We offer our employees insurance benefits (from companies you actually know).
  3. We have retainer clients that provide predictable work and cashflow
  4. We have systems in place to organize, produce and deliver everything we do.
  5. We have a steady stream of new opportunities.
  6. We need to hire more great people

 

IMG_9140
I love that my parents can come visit me at my business. And I’m even happier that I haven’t had to move back in with them.

 

IMG_9319
Cheers!

Conclusion

I am thrilled that this perfect agency project is now two years old. Starting my own business has been the most exciting chapter of my exciting career. Thank you to all of the clients who have trusted us. Thanks to all of our team members who have made the magic. Thanks to my family for having faith. And thank You for taking the time to read about it.

If you are thinking about starting your own business and have questions, I am happy to share what I know. If you are looking for an exciting, growing and positive place to work, let’s talk. If you are looking for a date to the Marketing Prom, give us a ring (this isn’t a real thing, but if it was, we would totally go with you). And if you are looking for an interesting story to follow, consider subscribing to this blog. The next 12 months are sure to provide plenty to read about.

 

Lucky 21!

Do you remember the very first day of your career? You probably remember what the day was like. (You didn’t know anyone. You had to ask where the bathroom was. Lunch options were a mystery. And you didn’t know when it was acceptable to go home.) But do you remember the date? I do. I started my career in adverting 21 years ago today, on October 7th. I’ve always remembered that because it is also my Mom’s birthday. It must have been a pretty great birthday present for her, knowing that her son wouldn’t be living in her cellar (I’m from Vermont. We didn’t have basements).

Feeling Lucky.

Today I am feeling lucky that 21 years later I am just as excited about my career as I was on Day 1. Maybe even more excited.

On that first day, 21 years ago, I became an advertising copywriter. I think. I never actually saw my title written anywhere in that first year. Today, I am lucky to be the Founder and CEO of my own advertising agency called The Weaponry.  I’ve been able to take everything that I have learned about creativity, strategy, customer service, business development and having fun, and turn it into The Weaponry Way.

I’ve been lucky to develop a lot of really great personal relationships over the first 21 years. And I’m enjoying those relationships more now than ever. My latest chapter is a product of the trust my clients have in me and my team. As well as the faith that my colleagues have in my ability to help keep them fed and sheltered.

I feel lucky that my Weapons and I will soon move into our new office space (hopefully we will get our keys this week).

I am lucky to be working with so many great brands and great clients. There are even more great clients joining us over the next few months. Which is likely to make this year the most exciting year of my career yet.

I am lucky to still be learning.  But now I am also in a position to share all that I have learned.

As many of my friends consider career changes I am still intensely passionate about my work. I still get to wear t-shirts and flip-flops most days. I still get to play loud music in the office. And I still find nothing more exciting than a smart new idea.

On the first day of my career, 21 years ago today, I sat next to a young art director named Vince Demarinis. On Thursday I am traveling to Miami to meet with a potential new client. Thursday night I will be staying with Vince. We have remained good friends despite the fact that we haven’t worked together for 17 years. And despite the fact that he has way better hair than me.

IMG_7660
That’s Vince (art director)  on the left.  I’m in the middle. The third amigo is Dan Koel (art director) on the right. I am sporting the very informal costume I wore to the formal company Christmas party at Cramer Krasselt.  It’s not that I didn’t get the memo. I just decided to ignore it. Oh, and I would never wear that hat under normal circumstances. Go Sox!

Today I’m thankful for my supportive wife Dawn, whom I met at that first job. I am blessed to have three great, healthy kids who get to see a father who really loves his work. And I feel lucky to have friends, family and others willing to read a blog post about my career anniversary. Thank you for your time and your continued support. I can’t wait to see what’s next.