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.

This is how many people I hope to reach with each blog post.

When I first started writing this blog 5 years ago I thought a lot about the growth of the blog. I focused on how many subscribers I was getting. I thought about how many people liked, commented on, and shared my posts. But over time, as I should care more and more about such things, I find myself caring less and less.

It’s not because I don’t think growth and significance are important. It’s because I have thought more about the power we all have to add real value to just one person.

A Critical Post

Back in 2015, as I was preparing to launch my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I read a blog post that unlocked a critical door for me. It was written by my friend Christien Louviere. Christien is an entrepreneur in Atlanta. And he wrote a blog post about the top 10 things you don’t need to do to start your own business.

In the post he conveys that it is a lot easier to start a business than you thought. He encourages readers not to worry about the many things they likely thought were speed bumps, or impediments to entrepreneurship.

It was a very useful post. And it contradicted Johnny Paycheck’s take-this-job-and- shove-it philosophy. In fact, one of the 10 points was that you don’t need to quit your job to start your own business. In fact, he encouraged readers NOT to quit their day jobs until they absolutely have to. Instead, start your new business on the side (either side will do), and let your day job fund the night job, or side hustle, as long as you can.

The Entrepreneurial Track Change

When I read that post I already had potential clients encouraging me to start my own business. Which I was excited to do. The problem I couldn’t figure out was how and when to switch from salaried employee to on-my-own entrepreneur, like Patti Labelle. At that point, I was 42, making the highest salary I had ever made. I had a significant mortgage. I had 3 kids, and a wife I really wanted to keep.

Good Advice

The advice to get going while still holding onto my job was exactly what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. It unlocked a critical door for me to pass through. (And I have found that passing through is far better than passing out or passing on.)

But the funny thing is that I bet not that many people read Christien’s blog post. Christien wasn’t the French Seth Godin. He didn’t have millions of followers. For all I know I was the only person who read that post.

But Christien had knowledge and insights that I needed. And he shared it, like Sonny Bono. With that one post, I found exactly what I was looking for, unlike U2. I don’t know how things would have unfolded for me given other timing and circumstances. Because so much of life’s success is about getting the timing right. #TWSS

A Better Measure

I no longer concern myself with how many people read my blog. I am not trying to impact or influence the masses like a televangelist. I don’t expect to ever get paid for my blogging. Or be considered an important influencer.

Instead, what I think about is sharing what I know, what I have learned and what I have experienced. I think about sharing my accumulated knowledge on entrepreneurship, creativity, advertising, marketing, networking, positivity, wellbeing, and adventuring.

I expect that what I share will be valuable to one person who reads it. And that’s all that matters to me. I don’t even worry about whether or not they tell me that something I wrote was impactful to them. I trust that there is a person meant to read each post I share. And that it will help them in an important way. Even if it is just getting through a challenging day.

Proper Perspective

At the end of our days, the only thing that really matters is the impact we had on each other. If I can share something I have learned, and have a positive impact on another human, then my effort is well rewarded.

Key Takeaway

If you have a blog, vlog, podcast, newsletter, twitter feed, Pinterest board or Instagram account where you are sharing what you know, what you think, or what you enjoy, don’t be discouraged by a small following. Focus on adding value. If one person benefits from what you are creating you are positively impacting a life. That is our highest calling. Thank you for answering. And keep sharing. Someone is listening. And that someone is everything.

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

Want more tips on blogging? I think you’ll like these:

What I have learned about blogging after 200 posts.

12 things I’ve learned from writing 300 blog posts.

One day I started a blog. Now I have published 500 posts.

If you need encouragement here it is.

If you want to do great things find your Encouragers. They are the people who will listen to your crazy dreams and tell you that you should. Not that you shouldn’t.

Spend time with those who believe in you. It will make you believe in yourself. Find people who have bet on themselves and won. That mindset is contagious. Like the coronavirus. Only it’s good for you.

Too often when we have dreams, especially big crazy dreams, others see the problems and not the possibilities. They know it will be hard. They focus on the downside, the drawbacks and the pitfalls. But focusing on the downside doesn’t make dreams come true. Just ask Hall & Oates.

Don’t spend time or give credit to those who discourage you. They are quite literally trying to rob you of your courage.

Courage and effort are all you need in order to do hard things. Courage helps you get going. Courage helps you keep going. Courage is the bridge between believing and knowing. And it is the only way to get where you want to go.

Courage is a super fuel. It’s more valuable than gold, diamonds or oil. Because it propels humans. Courage is one of the most valuable resources you have because it helps you power past bumps, barriers and boundaries. You know, The Killer Bs.

Courage is the fuel to try. To dare. To do. Courage creates movement. Courage is what makes people take the leap, take on an enemy, speak up, speak out. And it’s what makes you throw a bucket of water on a wicked witch.

Increasing another human’s courage is one of the most valuable things we can do on this planet. When I told people that I wanted to start my own advertising agency no one told me not to. In fact, the response was quite the opposite. Everyone I talked to about my plan encouraged me to make it happen. So I did.

Now it’s your turn. Now is your time. And I’m happy to be your courage donor. I signed my card and everything.

Key Takeaway

If you have a dream you should follow it. If there is something you have always wanted to do, go do it. If you want to turn your passion into your profession don’t let anyone stop you. If you want to travel, volunteer or build something special you should make it happen. You can do it. And I encourage you to.

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

Why compliments are one of the most valuable gifts you can give.

Money does not grow on trees. Unless you work in lumber industry, you’ve likely heard this saying a hundred times. The takeaway is that money is not free. You don’t have an endless supply of it. So be careful how you spend it. However, there is another extremely valuable asset that you have at your disposal, right now, that I encourage you to give to others as often as you can.

Compliments

If you have ever received a great compliment you know that they are worth more than gold. They are the currency that pre-pay many of the greatest accomplishments in our lives. They are the prizes that reward our greatest efforts. They positively reinforce our positive actions. They pick us up when we are feeling down. They keep us going when the going gets tough. And they help counterbalance the times we are told we have lipstick on our teeth, bats in the cave, or have left our barn door open.

Confidencements

Receiving compliments builds confidence. Compliments are proof that the world noticed you getting things right. They shine a spotlight on the skills and abilities that others value in you. Which reminds you to value them in yourself.

Get Comfortable With It.

However, paying people compliments can feel uncomfortable. We worry that our praise will sound weird. Or creepy. Or Weinsteiny.  Or that a compliment won’t mean much coming from little ole me.

To avoid personal discomfort we often add a qualifier or a disclaimer to our compliments. We say things like, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way…’ or, ‘I don’t want to give you a big head but…’ (which is materially different than giving someone a big headbutt.)

Straight Up, like Paula Abdul

Don’t add disclaimers to your compliments. Serve them straight up. Share your positive feedback and observations without any negativity. That’s how it has the most positive impact, and greatest value. Compliments are a tremendous gift. And they should be offered the way you offer cash in a birthday card. Crisp. Clean. Un-crumpled, un-ripped, un-torn. And in reasonably large quantities.

Making It Rain Up In Here

I make a point of offering compliments any time I can. Which means that I notice all the good things I want to see in the world. And I encourage others to create even more of it.  I find myself complimenting others for the following:

  • skill
  • effort
  • humor
  • kindness
  • adventuresnous
  • intelligence
  • braveness
  • creativity
  • problem solving
  • style
  • taste
  • commitment
  • improvement
  • inspiration
  • positivity
  • giving
  • smiling
  • good cooking
  • unselfishness
  • creating nice lists of bullet points

Creating Change

Mahatma Gandhi said that we must be the change we wish to see in the world. (He also said, ‘I feel like sheet today!’) But we must also call out and compliment the good that we want to see in the world. That positive reinforcement is the best way to ensure that you will see even more of it around you in the future.

Key Takeaway

Compliments are one of the most valuable gifts we can give another human. They are often the greatest payments a person will receive for their efforts. Compliments encourage. They reinforce. They have the power to change lives. So give them freely. Give them often. Give them without qualifier or disclaimer. And know that your small investment of time and effort may last a lifetime.

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