How to land your first customer as a startup.

Launching your own business sounds fun and exciting. Right up until the moment when you have to find your first paying customer. Because a business without customers is like a kite without wind. It just won’t fly.

A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday about a major challenge his startup is facing. He said that like Carmen Miranda, he has had several fruitful conversations with prospective clients. And he was excited about next steps. However, at some point in each conversation it came out that the prospect would be his organization’s first customer. After hearing that, all of them ghosted like Patrick Swayze.

Which comes first, the business or the customer?

I expect my friend isn’t the only person to ever deal with this issue. In fact, every business ever created has had to transition from fantasy-business to reality-business by acquiring their first customer. If you have had this challenge, or are concerned about it as you begin your entrepreneurial journey, here are some tips for getting over the humpty hump.

9 Ways To Land Your Startup’s First Customer

  1. Give Away Your Product Or Service For Free. This approach doesn’t technically give you your first customer, because customers are those who pay for your offering. But what it does do is give you proof of trial. You can point to someone you have worked with. You can refer to a user who has enjoyed your product or service. It can give you a testimonial to leverage. It can offer an example of where and how you delivered. All of those things help make your prospective customer feel like you have the experience they want.

2. Start With Friends and Family Start by turning to those who are most likely to want to help you succeed. If you are making a relatively low cost consumer good or service, approach your friends and family first. They will want to help. Unless you are one of the Menendez Brothers.

3. Site Examples Of Your Personal Experience. Maybe you haven’t offered this service or product under your own banner, but you have done this sort of thing in the past through a business you worked for.

For instance, if you are a barista, a financial planner or a home cleaner who has worked for someone else, and now want to start offering the same type of service on your own, point to the examples of how you have done this extensively in the past. Now, you are excited to offer your customers what you have spent years perfecting.

Even better, you have fixed all the problems your past employer had when offering such goods or services. In fact, the reason you were inspired to go out on your own was to offer an even better product than you could have when your hands were tied by your prior employer. Then show them the rope burns around your wrist to make the whole hands-tied-thing more believable.

4. Offer A Money Back Guarantee. The reason people avoid working with new businesses is because there is an inherent risk involved with working with a new entity before they get the kinks out.

The key is making yourself a safe choice. You can do that by offering a money back satisfaction guarantee. If wasting money is the customer’s concern, and it often will be, a guarantee helps a great deal. However, losing valuable time is also often a concern. And that you simply won’t be able to give back to them unless you have a Delorean and a flux capacitor. So understand when a prospect’s concern can be alleviated by offering to return their money if they aren’t fully satisfied, and when it can’t.

5. Seek Out Other Entrepreneurs. The people most likely to want to see you succeed, after your friends and family, are other entrepreneurs. They have been where you have been and just needed someone to take a chance on them, like ABBA. Someone who was willing to forgive a little early-in-the-game wonkiness. Entrepreneurs love startups. Startups are nostalgic and inspiring to those of us who have been there before. Use that against us.

6. Partner With Another Company That Already Has Credibility. There are lots of ways to sneak in the backdoor. One great way is to tuck yourself into an already proven entity. It’s how The Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow snuck into the Wicked Witch’s castle. In the beginning, my startup partnered with many respected organizations. Those businesses vouched for us. And that was all we needed for client approval. Everyone wins. And it opens up even more possibilities down the road.

7. Sell Your Prospect’s Role In Your Founding Story Every company magically transforms from dream to reality when they acquire their first customer. And that founding story will be told for eternity. This is your customer’s chance to be part of your history and the story you will tell for years to come. The opportunity will be appealing for many. It’s appealing to me. Practice your pitch until it becomes an irresistible Disney-esque story.

8. Offer Steep Early Bird Discounts There are plenty of services that provide sticker shock to new shoppers. Take weddings for example. The photographer, venue, catering, flowers and dress all cost way more than you would have imagined. If you want to break into the wedding game, offer a cure for the sticker shock by offering a soothing, doable price. This is how you get your foot in the door. You will be solving 2 problems for the happy couple. First, you will be offering the service they need. Second, you will provide room in their budget for the other things they really want. A discount on your first gig is no loss to you. In fact, lowering the barrier to entry to get your first clients can unlock the path to millions of dollars in revenues in the future. And with a little luck, your business will outlast most marriages.

9. Work With Former Clients Or Customers. If you already have a proven track record of success with happy former customers they should be the first clients you approach for your new venture. Customers know that people, not businesses are the key to delivering a great product, service or experience. And if you have delivered for your customers in the past, they will expect that you will do the same for them in the future.

This is how I launched my business. After nearly 20 years of working for other companies I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. I talked to 5 former clients about my plans in order to get input, feedback, and hopefully interest in my new business. All 5 of them told me that if I did what I was planning to do they had work for me.

Global Rescue was The Weaponry’s first client. CEO Dan Richards and I have known each other since 7th grade. So we had a high level or trust. And he became one of my biggest cheerleaders. Doesn’t he look like a cheerleader?

In fact, my Original 5 became my biggest cheerleaders. They wanted to see me succeed, and wanted to be part of that success. I think they felt as if they helped discover The Weaponry, in the same way Clive Davis discovered Whitney Houston. Let those former clients in on the experience. Let them help mold your offering to meet their needs.

Because your former clients have history and trust with you, and they know you are starting something new, they will likely be more forgiving of you as you navigate the process for the first time.

Like so many others, I started The Weaponry as a side hustle. Not because I thought of it as a side hustle, but because I wanted to breathe life into it and gain momentum before I quit my day job. And I knew that my trusted former clients would understand why I needed to meet early, late or over a lunch hour. They wouldn’t expect me to be responsive throughout the day, and they would be forgiving of the various other quirks that came along with a startup side gig. And sometimes an understanding first customer is all you need.

Key Takeaway

A business is not really a business until you have your first paying customer. But there are multiple ways to find that legitimizing customer. Don’t worry about making a profit on your first client. Simply get the deal done. And you’ll have proof that someone else has trusted you with their hard earned money. That’s often all a prospect needs to hear. Then keep looking for that next customer as if your business depends on it. Because it does. Good luck. And get going!

*If you know someone who could benefit from these ideas, please share this post with them.

When was the last time you became a different person?

My family and I just returned home from a 4100-mile road trip. It was one of the great adventures of my life. I know that sounds dramatic. But the trip itself was dramatic. And I don’t just mean the dramatic splattering of bugs on the front of our car.

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Hiking at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota wasn’t bad at all.

We pulled into our driveway last night just before 6pm, parked and began unloading our Family Truckster. As my 10-year-old son Magnus and I were walking into our home for the first time in a week and a half he turned to me and said,

I feel like I am a different person now. -Magnus Albrecht (10 y/o)

I told him I felt the same way. Over the past 11 days we had seen and done too much to be unchanged. We had seen a Jolly Green Giant and the world’s largest Holstein cow. We had seen famous presidents’ faces carved on a mountainside, creating the greatest marketing tactic in the history of state marketing.

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Magnus didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to wear green.

We got an all-access tour of my cousin Rita and her husband Joe’s 2000 cow dairy where my kids got to pet wet and wobbly calves the moment they were born. If you want to follow a really great blog check out Rita’s blog So She Married A Farmer

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Me and my cousin Rita and a crop of kids.

We chased Lewis and Clark across the land and water they first navigated over 200 years ago. We saw fields of sunflowers, and I heard Post Malone every time.

We saw the world’s only Corn Palace. So there’s that.

We visited the Minuteman Missle National Historic Site and learned about all the nuclear missiles that dotted the Northern Great Plains, designed for peace, but ready to destroy the Earth and its inhabitants in just 30 minutes. Like a Dominoes pizza.

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Yellowstone blew Magnus’ mind.

We had close encounters with moose, mice, mountain goats, elk, bighorn sheep, a fisher, prairie dogs and a dead snake.

We were surrounded by a herd of buffalo at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. We swam in glacier-fed streams in Montana. We went cliff jumping. We saw geysers and gal-sers, glaciers and bubbling mud volcanoes.

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Being among the buffalo at Theodore Roosevelt National Grasslands was wild.

We hiked to a lake fed by no less than 6 waterfalls. We hiked in badlands that looked like the moon, only closer, and less made of cheese. We camped just feet from where dinosaur fossils were found and can still be seen, and we lived to tell about it.

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My son Johann and a bit of scenery at Glacier National Park.

We connected the dots of 4100 miles of America. As a result, our brains, our lives, and our image of our country and our planet will never be the same. We developed new mental maps that showed the connections between previously unconnected places, experiences and ideas. Which is exactly why we adventure in the first place. To see, do, learn and grow.

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Me and Magnus at Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. We were both disappointed to not see any avalanches. #FalseAdvertising

Key Takeaway

Experience as much of life as you can. See the world. Understand it. It will help you grow and expand your views and thinking. It improves creativity and innovation. It will make you more compassionate and empathetic. It will help you relate to others. It helps you refuel and reset and come back smarter and more capable than before. You know, like a whole new you.

One of the best things you can do right now is plant radishes.

When I was a boy my family always planted a garden. Ok, that may be an understatement. We were the only family I knew that had fresh cow manure delivered by the truckload to be spread over our sprawling vegetable garden. Which meant that when spring was in the air it was really in the air at my house.

When I bought my first home I proudly continued my family’s gardening tradition. However, I buy my cow manure by the bag, not the big rig. It helps maintain more neighborly relations.

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My baby sister Donielle and one of our monster, manure-powered heads of broccoli. 

The Benefits

Vegetables you grow yourself taste better. Which alone would be enough reason to grow your own. But there is more. You can save yourself a lot of money growing your own fruits and vegetables. You feel safer eating your own harvest because you know how the plants were raised. And today, the garden feels like a safer place to go for produce than the local grocery store. Which looks like it has been taken over by masked suburban bandits, all trying their hardest to stay 6 feet away from each other.

Filling the Cornucopia

Each year my wife Dawn and I plant tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the backyard garden boxes we built ourselves. We plant carrots, peas, beans, lettuce, onions, pumpkins and squash.

The Radishes

But my favorite things to plant every spring are radishes. I love the taste of radishes. They are full of flavor. And these bright red spheres of spice add color and personality to both the garden and to our plates.

But that’s not what I love most about radishes.

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You look radishing…

Time Passages

After we plant most of our vegetables we have to wait months to harvest them. Typically that means 60, 70, 80 or even 110 days of tending to them before we get eat. 

But radishes are different.

Ready Already

Radishes are ready quickly. Usually in just 20 days. Which makes radishes like short term goals. They offer a quick sense of progress and a tasty reward far before the other vegetables are ready. Radishes keep us motivated and satisfied until the peas, beans and lettuce are ready to step up to the plate. (See what I did there?)

Life Lessons

Gardening is like life and business. You must sow seeds before you reap rewards. Gardening requires long term thinking. There is watering, weeding, and fertilizing required along the way. And you only get out of it what you put into it.

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Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries. It starts as a bowl of radishes.

Reward Season

To get us to our long term goals we all need short term goals along the way. We need to see quick progress. Especially now. We know that our world and our economy will bounce back eventually. But we could use some quick wins. Some short term progress. Something tasty and rewarding to sink our teeth into sooner than later. So make sure you are planting seeds in both your personal and professional life that you can harvest and enjoy quickly. Preferably something legal in all 50 states.

Key Takeaway

As humans we need quick, positive reinforcement. We need these wins now to remind us that we are making progress over the short term. Which gives us the fortitude we need for the long term. The tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkins will all come eventually. But right now the radishes will help get us through.

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

How to get really smart by playing dumb.

I am no longer a beginner. Far from it. I have now amassed 23 years of experience in advertising and marketing. I have worked for several great agencies. And in 2016 I launched my own agency called The Weaponry and gave myself a title that sounds way more important than I will ever be.

Experience

I have worked with hundreds of different brands, including Nike, Reddi-Wip, UPS, Hertz and Wells Fargo. And I have experience in more industries than I knew existed 20 years ago. Including nacho cheese dispensers and rubber chicken feather plucking fingers. #whattheflock

What I have learned.

But the greatest thing I have learned is that I don’t know nearly as much as I could. In fact, there is a never ending supply of new things to know. Because life is an all-you-can-learn buffet.

To continue to grow, learn and improve think of yourself as a glass-half full. Focus on what you don’t know or don’t understand. Focus on the tools you haven’t learned to use yet. Set your sights on the techniques you don’t know or haven’t mastered.

portrait of a man in corporate attire

The Apprentice Mindset

Rather than build a veteran’s false fortress of credibility and experience adopt the expandable mindset of the apprentice. The apprentice mindset is the secret to growth in  entrepreneurship and business. It is they key to improvement in marriage, parenthood and teaching. The apprentice mindset leads to growth in the kitchen and in other rooms in the home too… #brownchickenbrowncow

I have published 440 blog posts. But I feel as if I know very little about blogging compared to what I don’t know. I marvel at others who create posts faster than me. Who have developed massive audiences. Who blog for a living. That’s crazy to me. I am like a kindergartener among graduate students. But the sky is the limit. As long as I stay open minded.

Key Takeaway

Adopting, maintaining or reverting to an apprentice mindset keeps you seeking and learning. It’s the only way to become outstanding. Don’t place a premium on what you already know. Place a premium on the rate at which you accumulate new techniques, approaches, tricks and perspectives. Because the most valuable way to become a valuable expert at anything is knowing that you’re not there yet.

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

4 things I have done wrong in my first 4 years as an entrepreneur.

After 19 years of working for other advertising agencies I started my own business 4 years ago this week. As the Founder & CEO of The Weaponry, I have made some good decisions over the past 4 years. But I have also made mistakes. As I look back at the past 48 months here are 4 things I did wrong that I will try to get right in the years ahead.

4 Things I Did Wrong Over The Past 4 Years.

1. I didn’t think big enough

My goals are big. And hairy. And audacious. To achieve them I need to push myself more. I recently read Grant Cardone’s book The 10X Rule. And I know my next challenge is to think and act bigger on a daily basis to accumulate the progress it takes to get to Goalville. I also know that if we don’t stop sheltering at home soon I will be 10X-ing my body fat.

2. I didn’t start a newsletter.

We launched The Weaponry’s first real website in the fall of 2019. (Yes we waited 3 years to launch a real website. You can read about that here.) I knew the next thing we should do is launch a newsletter. It would offer us a chance to regularly share additional value with our clients and friends of The Weaponry. We planned it all out. In fact, we have had our first edition 90% created for 6 months. We bought our Mailchimp subscription in the fall. And we have paid for it every month since, without sending a single email. Booo. We have been extremely busy over that same time period and haven’t made it a priority. But we will. (If you send your email address to info@theweaponry.com I will create a special first newsletter for you.)

3. I didn’t take enough chances.

Entrepreneurship requires you to take a fairly significant leap of faith. I had no problem Carl Lewis-ing into this adventure. And right or wrong, I am comfortable betting on myself. But I I have been conservative with our investments.

Specifically, I have been slow to invest in additional team members who would allow us to expand our offering, our impact and our t-shirt wearing population. It has helped put us in a confident position during the Corona-cootie crisis. But when I turned 40 I realized I didn’t want to lie on my deathbed and regret not starting my own business. Now I don’t want to lie on my deathbed and feel like I wasn’t brave enough either. Fortune favors the bold. So do barbecue sauce sales. And I want to be much bolder between now and next February 29th.

4. I didn’t offload enough responsibility 

When you first start a new business every box on the org chart has your name in it. Eventually you erase your name and put someone else’s name in that box. Over the past 4 years I certainly have moved many of my responsibilities to others. But I am still handling more than I should. Which means that I should be transferring more of my load to others, and hiring additional people power. This would allow me to focus more time and energy on the things that would have the most positive impact on our clients and on our own business. Plus, I am pretty sure there are lots of other people who can buy stamps and bottled water as well as I can.

Key Takeaway

I am thrilled to have started my entrepreneurial journey. I know that The Weaponry has become a valuable resource for many. But there is so much more opportunity ahead. It is important to recognize the positive things we are doing first. To give ourselves credit for the attempts and the accomplishments already in the books. But if we want to be great we have to push ourselves. We have to give ourselves a regular performance review from our deathbed to see where we should focus our time and energy while we still have the chance. It turns out I still have a lot of work to do.

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

Are you spending your time with the right people? 

Who are you spending your time with?

This is one of the most important questions you you can ask yourself. It is right up there with, Am I eating well? Am I exercising enough? And, Am I getting enough sleep? The question is important because whether you like it or not, you are becoming more like the people you spend your time with.

Take a moment to think about those people you spend your time with, either by choice, by default.

Pausing For thought…Playing that song from Jeopardy in my head…Which I always thought sounded like ‘I’m a little teacup.’…

The Human Conveyor Belts 

The people you spend your time with are like conveyor belts, taking you where they are going. That’s why it is critical that you carefully choose who you are spending your time with. Don’t settle for people who are simply nearby. Or convenient. Or who want to spend time with you. Make sure that they are people who will help carry you where you want to go.

My Journey (will always feature Steve Perry)

When I started my entrepreneurial journey I began spending a lot of time with other entrepreneurs. These were people who truly believed that they could make something out of nothing. Which made me believe I could alchemize my own success.

Their tolerance for risk made me more risk tolerant. Their boldness made me bolder. I quickly found myself thinking and acting like an entrepreneur. And before I knew it, I had established The Weaponry LLC. I had clients and revenue and employees and t-shirts. I also had other people wanting to know how I did it. And I have been sharing what I know ever since.

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Dan Nowak, Darren Fisher and Jordan Meyer are all great entrepreneurs who I spend a lot of time with. They try to teach me things,  like how real entrepreneurs pose for photos.

Heat Seeker

Seek out the people you want to be more like. The people who are headed where you want to go. People who are thinking and acting the way you want to think and act. Avoid the blamers and excuse makers. Ditch the complainers and the complacents. Attitudes are highly contagious. Make sure you are catching yours from the right people.

Key Takeaway

Become a better you by spending time with better people. Surround yourself with positive, can-do, will-do types. They will pull you forward. They will force you to grow to keep up. Then, as you grow, find more people who are even further ahead. Positive influence is a super fuel. Take all you can get. And share it with everyone you can.

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

To be an entrepreneur you need to know where clients come from.

2019 has been a very good year for my business. Lately, The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I started in 2016, has felt like the prettiest girl at the ball. Despite the fact that I am not wearing any makeup and haven’t had my hair permed in months.

Reflecting

As I reflect on this great year, I have been thinking a lot about our clients. Because the key to success as an entrepreneur is your ability to attract, maintain and grow clients. If you are considering starting your own business you need to start thinking more about finding clients than finding Nemo.

Daddy, Where do clients come from?

Clients don’t come from a client factory. You can’t buy them at a store like ClientMart or Clients R’ Us. The don’t grow at a pick-your-own client orchard. And they don’t fall from the sky on clienty days. So where do they come from?

My Client Roster Evaluation

Understanding where clients really come from is critical for aspiring entrepreneurs, startups, or any business who has forgotten how to grow. That’s why I decided to evaluate our client roster to determine where each of our clients actually came from. The following is a list of how we found each of our 19 clients (N-n-n-n-nineteen, nineteen).

How We Met Our Current Clients

  1. I was introduced to the Client by a mutual friend.
  2. The Client is a former co-worker I have stayed in touch with.
  3. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  4. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  5. The Client found us through my speaking engagement.
  6. The Client came to us because of one of my co-worker’s relationships.
  7. The Client is an old friend of mine.
  8. The Client is a new friend of mine.
  9. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  10. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  11. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  12. The Client came through a friend’s recommendation.
  13. The Client came through one of our other Client’s Recommendations
  14. The Client is an Old Friend
  15. One of our business partners recommended us to the Client.
  16. A former coworker recommended us to the Client.
  17. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  18. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  19. The Client is a New Friend.

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My good friend, former client, current client, and amazing tennis player, Marc-Andre Dubois and I have known each other nearly 20 years. 

Key Takeaway

Clients come through relationships. Maintaining and growing your personal and professional relationships is key to business success. When I first launched my business I quickly realized that much of the hardest work of entrepreneurship, which is developing and maintaining genuine relationships, I had begun decades earlier. If you want to start your own business, side-hustle, or simply help your current business grow, start by focusing on your own relationships. Because that’s where all the best things in business and life begin.

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

How to apply an Instagram filter approach to your work and life.

Remember photos before Instagram? I don’t. Because things are so much better now. Photos are no longer shared in their naked state. Instead, we use filters on our images to make them look their best. And the filtering of photos is fun. Not rollercoaster-riding fun. Or dance party fun. But you know, killing-time-at-the-DMV fun.

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The San Francisco Bay, filtered.

How Filters Work

If you haven’t used Instagram or Snapchat filters, here is an oversimplification.

  1. You take a photograph
  2. You look at that photograph. Every time you do it makes you laugh.
  3. You upload it into Insta, or your favorite photo filtering app.
  4. You apply a filter to the photo.
  5. The filter applies its unique recipe of contrast, saturation, highlights, focal points, warmth and color to the image.
  6. You taste test anywhere from 2 to 102 different filters on the photo to decide which one makes the photo look most amazingable.
  7. You have a hard time deciding between two filters.
  8. You ask someone nearby which of the two is better.
  9. They don’t care.
  10. You just pick one.
  11. You share the image with the world.
  12. Everyone thinks you are cooler, better looking and living a more amazing life than you really are.

Filter Love

I love using these filters. It’s fun to look at the same photo through different filters and see very different images. In fact, I love it so much that I have been using the same process in my work and life.

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My family in Chicago, filtered.

Real World Filters

As Instagram quickly teaches us, there are many ways to look at the world. A seemingly poor image can look great through the right filter. And a great image can look terrible through the wrong filters. The same thing happens with our professional careers, finances, health and relationships.

Business

As an entrepreneur, I use many different filters on my business. I apply the Revenue filter to get a good image of how much money we are bringing into the business. I apply a Profit filter to see how much of that revenue we are actually keeping. I apply a Historical filter to see whether our finances are improving. I apply a Goal filter to see if we are doing what we set out to do.

But those are just the financial filters. I apply a Quality filter to determine whether my advertising and idea agency is producing great creative work. A Customer Service filter tells us whether our service is meeting our expectations and the expectations of our clients. A Happiness filter makes me look at whether me and my teammates at The Weaponry are enjoying the work we are doing. A Culture filter gives me a good look at our company culture and vibe. All of the images are slightly different. And they are all important to look at.

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Santa Cruz, filtered.

Personal Filters

I am always evaluating my personal life with a full spectrum of filters. Here is a list of the filters that I regularly use:

  • Happiness
  • Friendship
  • Adventurousness
  • Quality Time
  • Memory Making
  • Ideal Weight
  • Wedding Vow 
  • Self Actualization
  • Joy
  • Commitments
  • Personal Strength
  • Learning
  • Christianity
  • Dot Connecting
  • New People
  • Yard Care
  • Cleanliness
  • Mentoring
  • Dad
  • Humor

Application and Feedback

I apply these filters often to get a quick look at how I am doing in various areas of my life. Sometimes the picture is beautiful and I want to show everyone. But I don’t always like what I see. That’s okay. A poor image gives me something worthwhile to work on. The filters help me spot my weak links, my blindspots and areas of concern. Once I see them I can give them the attention they deserve. I like to work on my uglies until they are reach a point where I would share them with the world.

Key Takeaway

There are many ways to look at your work, health, relationships and personal lives. Don’t just focus on the filters that make you look good. Use a wide range of filters to see how you are doing in many areas of your life. Find the areas that need improvement. Give yourself credit for the areas that are focused, sharp and beautiful. Always keep the big picture in mind. It’s the best way to live your life in a way that is worth sharing.

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

11 ways my 11-year old would make my lame business awesome.

When I first launched my advertising and idea agency in 2016, I knew great things would happen. I just couldn’t predict the pace at which those great things would unfold. Despite my confidence, had I been grilled under oath by a great lawyer like Ally McBeal or Jackie Chiles, I would have had to admit that I had no hard facts, and no physical evidence to support my original assumptions about our imminent success.

Today,  The Weaponry has indeed been a great success. Our rate of growth, roster of clients and level of talent is tracking with my lofty expectations. Most people who know the details of our story are impressed. But not everyone. Namely, my 11-year-old son, Johann.

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Johann and I in Hilton Head, just before his little brother kicked his flip-flop under the railing and into the water, never to be seen again.

Johann

Last week, as I drove Johann home from his piano lesson he asked, ‘Dad, what’s new at The Weaponry?’ Which he always pronounces as Webonry. (I’ve noticed about 25% of the population does this.) I excitedly told him about our latest news, the number of employees, the new clients, the new lease and more. I concluded with, ‘It’s pretty great huh?’

Johann responded with, ‘Not really.’

It seems a 2-year old advertising agency, launched from dust, now rolling fast and picking up steam, still has a hard time impressing a 5th Grader. I wanted to know what would seem more impressive to my elementary-aged son. So I asked Johann. And here are his answers.


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Some of my biggest fans, and my biggest critic on their first visit to The Weaponry.


11 Things Johann thinks would make The Weaponry way more awesome.


1. A Better Building  Johann said, ‘Dad, nobody even notices your building. You need a much taller building. Either move into a building 20 stories high, or build one of your own. (He liked that my old office in Atlanta was on the 22nd floor.)

2. A Breakfast Buffet I couldn’t argue with this.

3. Promote Yourself!  ‘You need to advertise The Weaponry on billboards all over the city! You need big signs with your logo that say “The Weaponry is for hire!”‘ I think all the  personal injury attorney ads have gotten to him.

4. More People ‘Dad, don’t be an average business with very few people working for you. You need more than 100 people to be a big business. And the more people you have the more money you will make.’

5. More Clients  ‘You need more clients. Like hotels and resorts. You should work with Coca Cola, Ramen Noodles, Fortnite, oh, and movies!’

6. More Offices: ‘You should have offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta and Orlando. You know, the big ones.’ I said, ‘You know I have employees in Atlanta, right?’ He responded, ‘Yeah, but they just work with you online. You don’t have an office there yet.’ Touché! #appealdenied

7. Even More Offices ‘You really should have international offices in Tokyo, London, Paris and Sydney.’   Me: ‘What about Greenland?’ Johann: ‘Greenland has a very low population.’

(Yet I dream of my blog one day being read in Greenland. It is the largest country on Earth that has never viewed my blog. #popularitygoals)

8. Celebrities: ‘You should work with celebrity spokespeople, like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Justin Timberlake and the woman who plays Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns. Jack Black and the guy who plays Remy in Ratatouille. Oh, and Rachael Ray and Jimmy Fallon! But Not Miley Cyrus, because she was naked on a wrecking ball.’

9. Athletes ‘You should also work with sports people like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick, Aaron Rogers, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, LeBron James and Gronk!’

10. Directors: ‘You should work with directors like Brad Bird and John Lassiter. And you should also make memes.’

11. Real Weapons: ‘And Dad, The weaponry would be cooler if you actually made weapons. Like swords with skulls on the handles. That would be really cool. And you should have a sailboat that has your logo on the sail!’  Apparently I would be cooler if I was a pirate.

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Johann would be jumping for joy if The Weaponry was more Hollywood. Or more Pirates of The Caribbean.

Key Takeaway:

It is always helpful to have someone remind you that you are capable of more. It is easy to spend time counting your successes, and to surround yourself with those who tell you how great you are doing. But if you want to really accomplish amazing things that are universally impressive, find someone who will tell you all the things you have not yet done. You know, the things that would make you a worldwide success. And if you can’t find someone like that in your circle of friends, try stopping by an elementary school. Because as the saying goes, kids and the dumb ones tell the truth.

Your mistakes are your most important milestones.

I read as much as I can. I am always searching for knowledge, wisdom, inspiration, perspective and a good laugh. Because I am always searching, I often find what I am looking for.

DaVinci

This morning I was reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Leonardo DaVinci. On page 59, Isaacson describes the flaws in DaVinci’s painting, The Annunciation. The painting depicts the moment when the angel Gabriel breaks the news to the Virgin Mary that she is going to become the mother of Christ. And Mary is all like ‘WTF!?!’

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‘Hey Mary! How’s it going? Um, God wanted me to tell you that he wants you to have his son. Oh, and you get to ride a Donkey!’

Flawed Genius

The painting isn’t perfect. Because Leo was trying out some interesting new moves. The magic of this painting is revealed when you look at it from the angle he wanted you to see it from. But I think the real magic comes from Isaacson’s commentary:

‘In the process, he made some mistakes. But even the mistakes, which came from innovating and experimenting, heralded his genius.’ – Walter Isaacson from Leonardo DaVinci

Way To Grow!

I love that. I like to think that my mistakes are evidence that I am trying. That I am pushing beyond what I know how to do well, into areas of growth, improvement and innovation. I am more afraid of not growing that I am of messing things up.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You, your skills, and your abilities are iterative. Don’t stop at You 1.0. Try more. Learn more. Innovate and experiment more. Push yourself as far as you can. Discover what You 100.0 is capable of. And if you do, someone may write a book about you too.