On the eve of my 40th birthday, I sat down and wrote about the things I was most proud of from my first 4 decades on The Big Blue Marble. It was a fun process. I thought about my family and friends. I thought about my wins. My adventures. My career successes. I thought about that time I petted a hummingbird in the wild. (I have now done that twice!) And I thought about how I was creating a better person every day. (Not in a Mary Shelley kind of way)
Then I shifted my focus to my unfinished business. I asked myself this very simple question.
If you died tomorrow what would you most regret not doing?-39.99 year-old Adam Albrecht
The first and most obvious answer was that I had not tried to start my own advertising agency. So I put that at the top of my list. And I got to work on a plan to avoid that regret. The more I thought about it the more real the plan became. I was like Joaquin Phoenix in the movie Her. Or maybe like the dudes in Weird Science bringing their project to life.
When I was 42 years old, I did it. I launched the advertising and ideas agency The Weaponry.
That was 6 years ago today!
Simply trying to start my own agency would have eliminated the regret. Because I put a premium on simply trying. It was the not-trying that I knew would have bothered me most when things started heating up at the crematorium. It’s a major bonus that things have worked out and that The Weaponry is thriving 6 years later. Plus, most businesses don’t last past 5 years. And I never wanted to be like most people. Except maybe Johnny Most. (Bird Steals The Ball!)
Earning and Learning
I have learned a lot from starting my own business. And fortunately, when I started planning the business I also created this blog to share what I was learning along the way. (Cue Dana Carvey’s Church Lady saying ‘Well isn’t that special!’)
6 Things I Have Learned About Business.
`1. Every year in business is a success in itself. Leadership’s primary responsibility is to keep the business in business forever. Each anniversary is proof that we are doing our jobs. Just like we should be thankful for each day on top of the topsoil, having your doors open is a success. Although today businesses don’t even need doors. Kinda like a Jeep Wranger in summer.
2. You have to keep looking for ways to improve. I am always thinking about the gap between the ideal version of The Weaponry and who we are today. So the mission becomes to continuously work on closing that gap. We meet every Friday to talk about ways to improve our processes and strengthen our weaknesses. You have to call that stuff out into the light in order to be able to address it, work on it and improve it. Fall in love with that process and you’ll fall in love with business. Kinda like Lee Majors in that TV show where he was the stuntman.
3. You need great people. Our team is amazing. We are loaded with nice people who like to collaborate to get great team results. We take a lot of pride in doing what we said we would do. Our team members love to solve problems for our clients. The team is quick and productive. They are great at accumulating knowledge and applying that knowledge to create more and more value for our clients. They are smart people who are really enjoyable to be around. Recruiting and working with a great team has been one of the greatest rewards of the past 6 years.
4. You have to keep adding new clients. Like Lucille in that Kenny Rogers song, a client could leave you at any time. The decision-makers could quit, get pushed out, die or simply change their minds at any moment. So you have to always be growing your business with new clients because you can’t protect yourself from all client attrition through hard work, great ideas and excellent customer service alone. Plus, you need to create a diverse portfolio of clients to protect against shifts in markets, dry spells, spending cuts, or making a client so wildly successful that they no longer need to do anything to help their business thrive.
5. You have to have fun. Fun comes in a lot of different forms. And I love to have fun in everything I do. Including business. Here are just some of the things I find fun at The Weaponry.
- Learning new things.
- Game Planning
- Problem Solving
- Meeting New People
- Sending out job offers with a lot of funny non-traditional language.
- Saying silly things in meetings.
- Making clients smile and laugh
- Typing funny comments into the chat during Zoom meetings
- Creating new stuff
- Getting new swag
- Eating lunch together
- Winning new business
- Helping our clients grow
- Wowing our clients
- Putting on a show
- Receiving compliments for a job well done.
- Being told we are fun
- Baking humor into our setup slides.
- The humorous final slides of our presentation.
6. You have to be paranoid that the business will collapse. I am never comfortable with our success. I am afraid that if we are not careful everything we have been doing and building will go away. You can’t ignore the opportunities to get better. You can’t let things slide. Just like you should try to win over your spouse again every day, you have to be concerned that things could go bad with your clients if you take your eye off the ballpoint. And if you worry enough, and do something about it, the bad things will never happen.
A great business is simply a collection of great people running great processes, contributing great value to customers, having fun, and worrying that it will all end if they are not careful. I am extremely thankful for all of our Weapons, our great clients, and our partners who work as a trusted extension of our team. Here’s to 6 fun years. Let’s keep this thing going forever.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
+ To see more of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.