If you are like most people you have fantasized about owning your own business. It is an easy thing to fantasize about. Being an entrepreneur has many benefits. It’s an exciting challenge. It offers professional freedom and the potential for great income. Plus, it’s a really great way to finally learn how to spell the word entrepreneur. (The e always comes first.) But for most people, the hardest part is actually knowing what kind of business to start.
Here is a simple suggestion from a mid-career entrepreneur.
Think of products or services that you wish existed. Then create a business that delivers them.
Your business doesn’t have to be massive. It doesn’t have to change the world, go public or someday sell for a billion dollars. If those are your criteria you will likely never start anything. Instead, simply offer products or services that you would like to have for yourself.
I started a t-shirt business several years ago called Adam & Sleeve because I had humorous t-shirt design ideas that I wanted for myself. But when other people saw the designs, they wanted the t-shirts too. So I made enough shirts to sell to other people, which meant that I could get the shirt I wanted for free.
In 2015 I was ready for a job change. So I started talking to a number of advertising agencies about potentially joining their team. But I didn’t find the right combination of culture, clients, and opportunity. So I decided to create what I was looking for. And clients liked the idea too. After months of taking on night and weekend projects, the demand kept swelling. (Like my face after a bee sting.) So I officially launched The Weaponry, an advertising and ideas agency in April of 2016.
My friend Dan Richards started his business, Global Rescue, a worldwide field rescue service, after hoping that the business already existed. When he discovered that it didn’t, he decided it needed to, so he created it himself.
Today, I think about businesses that I wish existed all the time. In fact, my son Johann and I are in the process of launching a used piano business. But I also wish we had a local shoeshine that also cleaned sneakers. And I want a Flip Flop Ambulance that I can call when I’ve blown out a flip flop, or stepped on a pop-top. And maybe a business that came to clean out the bottom of your grill for you. (I would call that Grillax.)
Keep your antennae tuned to those things you wished existed. Businesses exist to fill a need. And if you have found a need that isn’t being met, you have found a space for a new business opportunity.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
On Saturday night I went to a massive concert in Boston. I saw the legendary rock groups including Joan Jett, Poison, Motley Crue and Def Leppard in what was called The 2022 Stadium Tour. Or what I would have called The Soundtrack Of My High School Weightroom Tour.
Despite the fact that all of the members of all of the bands I saw were in their late 50s or 60s (and Mick Mars of the Crue was in his 70s), they all rocked. But there was one senior rocker who impressed more than all the others.
Rick Allen, the drummer for Def Leppard not only rocked, rocked never stopped, he looked like he was having the time of his life. In fact, Rick and Poison’s lead singer, Brett Michaels, both looked as if they were having more fun than the fans at Fenway Park. Which is wicked hahd to do.
But what makes Rick Allen almost unbelievable is that he is a rock n’ roll drummer with only one arm. To be clear, he started off with a full set of arms. In fact, he and his 2 arms celebrated their 16th birthday by playing drums for Def Leppard while opening for AC/DC. I think I celebrated my 16th birthday by eating dinner with my family at Friendly’s in West Lebanon, New Hampshire.
On New Year’s Eve 1984, Allen crashed his Corvette, severing his left arm. Doctors reattached the arm but then later detached it because of infection.
But the show must go on. And Rick was determined to go on with it. So he designed an electronic drum kit that he could play with his feet to create the sounds he would have made with his right arm. Less than 2 years later Allen was back drumming for Def Leppard at the Monsters of Rock music festival.
When I saw Rick Allen on Saturday night with my high school friends Dan Richards and James Colligan we couldn’t believe how hard he rocked. He plays what looks like a normal acoustic drum set, augmented by the electronic foot pedals.
The 2 things that stand out about watching Rick play are that he has no left arm and that he plays the drums barefoot. The bluegrass look appears out of place amongst the glam boots and platform shoes of a big hair rock concert. But I dug it.
Besides tickling my eardrums with his foot drums for 90 minutes at Fenway Park, Rick Allen also provided a massive dose of inspiration. Because when you see a one-armed drummer rocking a packed stadium with a smile on his face you realize that with the right mindset there is practically no setback you can’t overcome.
What I have experienced through losing my arm, I wouldn’t change. The human spirit is so strong.
You can handle whatever you are facing. When a wave of adversity rolls into your life you can either let it take you under or you can surf it. You can use that adversity to drive you forward and take you further and faster than you could have gone without it. Setbacks set you up for greater success, but with a better story and a stronger sense of all that you are really capable of. Adversity is a gift. Use it to your advantage. And just keep rocking.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
As you begin down the yellow brick road of life you will constantly encounter new challenges and opportunities. You will find people who are trying to help you, people who need your help, and people who just want to steal your slippers.
You’ll benefit from as much good advice from those who have traveled the road before you as you can get. So please allow me to contribute a little worthwhile advice from someone who has been there, done that, and discovered some secrets to a successful journey.
An Open Letter to High School Seniors.
Four to ten years from now, when you graduate from college, finish your military obligations, or give up on your Hollywood/Nashville/YouTube/Lottery dream, you will start focusing on your real career. When you do, everyone will tell you that you need to start building your network.
But they are wrong. You need to start building your network now. So before you throw your binders in the trash, your graduation cap in the air, and carve your initials into the wood paneling of the senior lounge, you should begin building your professional network.
WTH Is A Professional Network?
Your professional network is a collection of the people you know that may be able to positively impact your professional career. The people in your network, or community, will be able to help with career advice, finding a job, and connecting you to other people and businesses that are important to your career advancement. You will also be able to provide the same sort of help to others in your network. Because it takes a village to keep a child from moving back into their parents’ basement.
Who Are My Connections?
Your connections are your friends, your family, and your teachers. Your connections are your friends’ parents. They are the adults you know from church, and the extracurricular activities you’ve participated in. They are your coaches. They are the kids you competed both with, and against, in sports. They are the kids you know from camp (like that one girl who played the flute).
Starting A Connection Collection.
The best career move you high school seniors should make right now is to create a profile on LinkedIn and start collecting your connections. LinkedIn is an online social networking site for the business community. And right now is the best time to start collecting your network. By starting now, you will collect the most connections. And the more connections you properly maintain, the stronger your network will be. It’s kinda like being popular in high school. Only this type of popularity can dramatically impact your salary (your salary is the adult version of an allowance).
Grow As You Go
You will want to continue collecting your friends and acquaintances throughout college, trade school, military service, your walkabout, or your creative exploratory period. Every time you meet someone new, don’t just think about adding them to Snap or Insta. Sure, do that too. But definitely add them to LinkedIn. Granted, the filters on LinkedIn aren’t as good as Snapchat. But having a good job makes you look better than any photographic editing or augmented reality can.
It’s All About The Network, (and the Benjamins)
Eventually, everyone is going to tell you to network and build your network, and that it is all about your network. That’s just an adult way of saying:
Stay in touch with the people you know, because it will connect you to opportunities, advice and endorsements that will prove highly beneficial down the road.
Why Start As A High School Senior?
You know a lot of people now that you are going to forget. Those kids you go to school with are going to do amazing things with remarkable organizations. And they are going to have opportunities for you, but only if you stay in touch. You are also going to have opportunities for them. Even better, in the real world, there are things called referral bonuses. Which means you can make extra money for helping your organization find good talent. #cha-ching
Monitoring Your Classmates
Adding your friends to LinkedIn is like putting a tracking device on them. It will allow you to collect intel on each person, like where they went to school, what they majored in, and where they worked after college.
It also puts a tracking device on you, so that others will remember your educational track, your career path and your special interests and activities. That way your connections will know when their opportunities intersect with your skills, interests and abilities.
The Adult Rock Stars Around You
Your neighbors, teachers and friends’ parents are more successful and connected than you know. Four or five years from now you could end up in a job interview with them. Or with their friends or relatives. When that happens, you will want every advantage you can get. Like a good endorsement from someone who knew you were always such a good kid. (You were always a good kid, right?)
Trust Me. I Know.
I started my career in advertising as a copywriter. But I always envisioned becoming an entrepreneur and someday starting my own ad agency. 19 years later, that’s exactly what I did. In 2016 I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.
Do you know who my very first client was? My friend Dan Richards, whom I have known since 7th grade. Dan is the Founder and CEO of a badass company called Global Rescue. Which means that Dan and I went from high school classmates, and football and track teammates, to summer job coworkers, to trusted business partners. We have helped each other launch highly successful companies.
Today, one of my important clients is Sarah Wilde at Sonic Foundry, an innovative technology company based in Madison, Wisconsin. But Sarah and I have also known each other since 7th Grade, and we grew up together in Norwich, Vermont.
Sarah helped plan a couple of our Hanover High School class reunions. And I planned the most recent one. At that reunion back home in New England, we talked about potentially doing work together. Since then we have launched 2 completely new brands together from dust. As we would say in Vermont, that’s wicked awesome.
Note To Self
They say the best day to plant a tree is 20 years ago. And the second-best day is today. The same holds true for building your network. Start now by collecting your connections before you leave high school. But if you are already in college, serving your country, or in the middle of your career, and you haven’t been building your network, start now. (By now I mean after you read the next paragraph.)
There are amazingly talented people all around you. So start collecting them today. It’s the very best way to assure an abundance of everything you will need later in your career. By doing so you may help one of your high school classmates find their dream job. Or launch their own business. Or they may help you launch your dream business. I know. Because it happened to me.
Founder & CEO of The Weaponry
+If you realize that this is worthwhile advice, you might also like my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? It is full of more lessons like this. It features 80 of the best life lessons I have learned since graduation. Good luck graduates! It just gets better from here.
* If you know a recent graduate that you think could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
9.Chad ThompsonChad 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.
10. Mark O’BrienI 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.
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.
12. Christien LouviereChristien 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.
13.Jeff HilimireJeff 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.
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.
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.
16.Brooks AlbrechtMy 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.
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.
Every business starts off as an idea, dream, or vision. You probably have a great business idea lounging in your brain right now. Or maybe you have a conglomerate-worth of business ideas up in your noggin. What entrepreneurs know that others don’t is that businesses are just ideas that someone decided to make real by simply living into their dream.
In the summer of 2015 my cousin Brooks Albrecht and I started talking about opening our own advertising agency. And the first step was really fun. Because all we had to do was dre-E-E-E-eam, dream, dream, dream. There are absolutely no constraints, no budget limitations, and no reality check at all in this phase. Just ideas and fantasies.
Brooks and I bought and devoured copies of The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. (It was delicious). Then we followed the book’s advice. We wrote down all the details we dreamed up about the business, its processes, procedures and culture. We thought about all the crazy things our business would have. Like Thinking Showers and Thinking Beds, because those are where people come up with many of their best ideas. And I wanted my imaginary HR director to have something real to worry about. #AmIRight
The whole thing was just a dream. And totally impractical. I lived in Atlanta and Brooks lived in Seattle. Yet we kept calling each other late at night to talk more about our fake little advertising agency. We were playing business, like kids play house. Which is to say we were grown(ish) men, imagining and pretending. But through all that pretending we seemed to have envisioned and imagined everything. And this ad agency we were pretending we owned seemed totally real to us. Like realer than Real Deal Holyfield.
We could have stopped right there. We could have told our friends, family and professional network that we had thought of a great agency idea. Like so many of my coworkers had done. And we would have wondered for the rest of our lives what would have happened to that idea had we brought it to life, like Pinocchio, Frankenstein, or that hot chick from Weird Science.
Don’t Stop, Get it, Get it.
But we didn’t stop at the dream, the vision, or even the janky police sketches we made of the business. We took the next step. And we told people what we were trying to do. And we talked to potential clients as if the business really existed. Because in our heads it totally did.
Then, one day, we decided to go online and register The Weaponry LLC as a legal business entity for $120. And the business got realer.
Then we sent for a federal tax ID number. And it got realer.
Then we opened a bank account and transferred $16,000 into it. And it got realer.
Then I took the day off of work, and flew to Boston to spend the day working with our first customer, Global Rescue. And shit got really real. Because Dan Richards, Global Rescue’s CEO and one of my best friends in the world, told me he needed what The Weaponry offered.
It’s Getting Realer!
Throughout the fall of 2015 and the spring of 2016 my favorite line to Brooks was, ‘It’s getting realer!’ Because that is exactly what was happening. The business I dreamed up was becoming realer every day. Because Brooks and I believed it into being. And this little figment of my imagination literally became a business because we pretended it was a business. And like visionaries and people suffering from serious mental illness, we could no longer separate reality from fantasy.
Soon, perfectly sane humans started referring to The Weaponry as if it was a real thing. Or even better than the real thing. #U2 In meetings people introduced me as ‘Adam Albrecht, from The Weaponry.’ And suddenly real business were working with The Weaponry. And it just got realer and realer and realer.
It has been 4 years since Brooks and I started dreaming about our advertising agency. And things keep getting realer. We have offices in Milwaukee and Columbus. We have 17 clients from coast-to-coast. Yesterday I saw advertisements The Weaponry created on TV, on billboards, on my mobile device, and on my computer. I saw packaging we created at the grocery store last night. I saw a trade show booth we designed. And I saw logos we designed for our clients on Facebook and Instagram. And the dream felt realer than ever.
Don’t just dream your dreams. Make them real. Envision your vision. Then live into it. Don’t quit your job. Just take one step forward. Taking that first step makes it realer. Then take another step. And another. And another.
Before you know it other people will call your made up idea by name. Fiction will become reality. Because a business is just a made up idea that someone began treating as if it was real. That’s all it takes. If you have a dream to create a business, organization, event, product or service, all you need to do is live into it. And it will get realer than you ever imagined it could.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
Do you ever think about your motivational fuel source? It’s valuable to understand what encourages, inspires and pushes you. Because once you know what fuels your personal fire, you can stockpile kegs of it. Then ignite it whenever you need another boost.
I have been a heavy consumer of motivation fuel my entire life. When I was young I guzzled it to help me perform my best in school and athletics. After college I started using motivational fuel to enhance my career, personal fitness and financial success.
My Current Focus
In 2016 I made a strategic decision to push both my career and financial success to the next level. As a result I launched my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. When I was in the planning stages of my entrepreneurial adventure I started this blog to document what I learned along the way. One of my key learnings is that you need to keep a steady stream of motivational fuel flowing into your system at all times.
Finding Your Fuel
Take some time to analyze what motivation fuel sources power your inner drive. Then acquire as much of it as you can. I find that I am inspired by many things. Which means that I have a lot of options when it comes to motivation propellents.
My 15 Sources Of Motivation Fuel
1. My Vision.
This is a major source, if not my primary source of motivation. I have a clear vision of the fully-formed Me. Unfortunately, it’s a lot better than the current Me. But I am already better than I used to be. Closing the Me vs Ideal Me gap is an always available fuel source.
2. Impressive And Successful People.
I love to see others have great success. When I see my friends crushing it, I want to crush it too. This is true in my career and in my personal life. I fancy myself successful, so I want to keep up with others I think are like me. It’s the most positive way to keep up with the Jones. Keep pace with their successes, not their expenditures.
Reading supplies me with steady, slow-burning motivation. I like to read biographies about successful people. I read How-To and Self-Helpy type stuff all the time. Book fuel is really a cocktail of numbers 1, 2, 3, 10, and 12.
Examples: See images above.
6. Motivational Speakers
If motivational speakers don’t fuel you up nothing will. Seek them out in person, or online. YouTube and Social Media platforms are thick with them.
Examples: Tony Robbins, Gary Vee, Zig Ziglar, my college coach Ed Nuttycombe’s spaghetti speech.
When I see others in poverty it propels me forward like the other side of a magnet.
Examples: Driving through a depressed part of town. India.
8. Unhealthy People
People who are obviously unhealthy are a constant reminder that I need to keep moving and eating right. I am thankful for them. And they are everywhere. Except the gym.
9. My family
Taking care of my wife, daughter and 2 sons is a major motivating factor. They are a constant source of motivation. But so are my parents, my 3 sisters and their families. Even broader, I am very proud to be a member of the Albrecht Family and The Sprau Family. (My Mom’s maiden name is Sprau. It’s fun to think of your Mom as a maiden.) I am always trying to be an asset to the family and enhance our brand reputation.
10. Financial Freedom
I am driven to acquire enough money to be able to choose how I spend my time. I want to be in control of my life. This is the way to maintain as much control as possible.
Examples: Hundred dollar bills. Fifty dollar bills. Twenty dollar bills
My goals provide constant motivation. They have big gaudy numbers on them. And they provide a constant measure of what I have left to accomplish in order to live up to my own standards. I really like raw, quantifiable number goals.
Examples of how I measure progress towards my goals: On my bathroom scale, In Quickbooks, Through my WordPress Blog Stats, the amount of weight I lift.
I think pride is the ultimate motivator. I look for it in employees. Because someone who values pride won’t let you down because they don’t want to let themselves down.
Examples: People who work at The Weaponry.
I never want to let others down. When I competed in athletics I never wanted to let my teammates down. As a business owner I am motivated to take care of my team and their families.
I like to compete. So when I see others do well, I want to do well. Your competitors are one of the best motivators you have. Use them.
Life and work can be hard. Motivation isn’t automatic. You need to seek it out. Stockpile it. Refine it. And consume it when you need a boost. Like the variety of foods in a well balanced diet, it’s best to keep a wide variety of fuel sources handy so you can quickly tap into the kind of motivation you need at any given moment. By understanding your motivational fuel sources you can ensure you will always have an abundant supply. And if you have an endless supply of motivational fuel your possibilities are endless too.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share it with them.