5 Reasons why I got vaccinated.

On March 16th, 2020 my family and I began playing an epic game of dodgeball with the COVID-19 virus. We played to win. And winning meant not getting the virus. Every day the virus didn’t hit our home felt like a win. Like we made it to the next round on Frogger.

Gamifying COVID avoidance made it a competition that my family and I could win. But we didn’t hibernate. Not even close. In 2020 we traveled to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and road tripped from Wisconsin to Idaho. But we were smart and precautitory. We wore masks, socially distanced, washed, sanitized, wore garlic necklaces, burned our stuffed animals as sacrifices, and drank the blood of albino newts. You know, the basic CDC stuff.

The Vaccine

I have been a big fan of a vaccine for Covid-19 since, well, since the first talk of developing one. Because it is the only way we as a planet can beat the virus and party like it’s 2019.

Just as polio, chickenpox, measles, and corded telephones feel like challenges of the past, I wanted Covid-19 to be retired to the lore of yesteryear. That’s why I was ready for the vaccine as soon as I could get it.

On Saturday I got my second round of the Pfizer vaccine. I had no side effects other than my arm looked band-aidy. I know that there are still a few days before I reach maximum resilience, but I feel like I have won the game of dodgeball. And I am taking great pride in defeating my opponent, thanks to an army of scientists who quickly whipped up a sweet vaccine like Tom Cruise whipped up sweet cocktails in that movie where he whips up cocktails. (I forgot the name of the movie.)

Reasons For Getting Vaccinated

I was never afraid of getting sick. I’m not high risk. I have a robust immune system from all the dirt I ate as a kid, and as an adult. But I have plenty of other reasons to get vaccinated. Here they are in a particular order.

5 Reasons I got vaccinated.

  1. Because my kids can’t. I didn’t want to bring COVID home and infect 3 kids who didn’t have an option to get vaccinated. I didn’t want to be the reason they missed school, sports, music programs, or the Dad Appreciation Parade (that I am organizing).
  2. I don’t want to get other people sick. Other friends, family, coworkers, and lovely elderly people would be vulnerable if I got infected. I don’t like the idea of doing avoidable harm to others.
  3. Flying In a non-COVID year I fly a lot. Flying is odd right now. And the empty middle seats are going away. To fly again regularly I will feel best if I am not immunally naked.
  4. I want to see people again. Getting together with other people who have been vaccinated is a no-brainer. Getting together with people who have not been vaccinated is still a brainer. I don’t want people to have reservations about seeing me. I just want people to have reservations with me.
  5. To get back to business. Yes, my team at The Weaponry has been fully functional throughout the pandemic, with one notable exception. We really haven’t spent time with our clients or prospective clients in person in well over a year. There has been very little in-person relationship building. That is one of the greatest joys of business. And my next 2 weeks are already filling up with plans to see clients and friends (and client-friends) for the first time in 15 months.

Key Takeaway

Getting vaccinated feels like a win. It is how we defeat the threat of COVID-19. It is how we protect each other, especially those who can’t or shouldn’t get the vaccine right now. It is how we get back to life as we want it to be. And it is how we get back to developing culture within our organizations, and relationships within our communities. I am thrilled to be fully vaccinated, and I hope to see you in person soon!

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

If I could do it all again I would make more friends.

I always laugh when someone says ‘If I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything different.’ I appreciate the conviction of such a statement. But it shows that they have not learned and grown much during this dress rehearsal. So they obviously wouldn’t profit much from a life mulligan anyway.

My Re-do

I can find a seemingly endless supply of things I would do differently on my life do-over. I would have slowed down that night when I lost control of my car and flew it into a pasture full of cows Duke’s of Hazard-style. I would have skipped that Wednesday football practice when I tore my ACL my senior year. I would NOT have bought that cheap home printer that constantly jammed and guzzled ink like a drunken donkey. And I would NOT have taken work from that client who was like a real-life Mikey, and really did hate everything. Even Life cereal.

I have been thinking a lot lately about things I would change If I could do it all again. And there is one clear answer that rings out every time I ponder this question. It’s not a regret that haunts me. It’s not a mistake I would fix. And it’s not a detour I would take to avoid pain or punishment. It is something I wish I had more of.

More, More, More

If I could go back and do it all over I would make more friends. There is no greater asset on Earth. There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet. But when I think about the tiny percentage of those people I actually know it gives me a major case of FOMO.

When I was younger I remember people saying that the person who dies with the most toys wins. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It is the person who collects the most friends, who develops and maintains the most and best human relationships that really wins this game. And if those friends have lots of toys, even better.

Friends With Benefits

Friends deliver on our most basic needs. They offer a sense of home and belonging. They offer support, encouragement and inspiration. They make us smile and laugh and sometimes blow things out of our noses involuntarily. And as I have gotten older I have found you can never have too many people in your friend column.

Collecting Friends

I still maintain friendships from pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school and college. I am still in touch with friends from all 9 cities I have lived in. I have friends I have met on airplanes, while on vacation, and while playing at the park with my kids. But I can’t help but think of all of the amazing friends I haven’t met. Especially the ones who have kidneys just like mine.

Work Friends

Friends have been the most important ingredient of my career success. My coworker-friends, client-friends and partner-friends have not only contributed immensely to my workplace wins, they have made me feel as if I am hanging out with friends all day long. In fact, I met my all-time best friend Dawn at work. And we have now been married for 18 years. #CompanyPicnicsAreTheBest

Entrepreneurship

When I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, it was my friends who became my first clients, coworkers and champions. Today, the business and all of the peripheral activities that come with it are a great source of new and growing friendships. In fact, I think of the ability to develop and maintain strong relationships as the greatest input to entrepreneurial success and the greatest fringe benefit of entrepreneurship.

The Greatest ROI

I have friends in every state in America and in dozens of countries around the world. They offer the greatest return of any investment I have ever made. But like the dollars I have squirreled away in my 401(k) plan, I wish had invested even more. Alas, if wishes were fishes we would all have a fry. So the best we can do is make more in the days and years ahead.

Key Takeaway

Keep growing your tribe. Make as many friends as you can in as many places as you can. Connect your friends to each other. Invest in your relationships. Make them deep and wide. At the end of our days, the only thing that matters is the impact we have made on each other. So create more impactful relationships, and enjoy the positive impact they have on you.

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

How to fill your life with Category 3 people.

There are over 8 billion people on Earth. That’s hard to wrap your head around. In fact, wrapping your head around anything is hard to do. And it’s not good for your head. But despite the astronomical number of Earthlings, all people fall into 3 categories.

The 3 Categories of People

  1. People you don’t know.
  2. People you kinda know.
  3. People you know.

An Important Distinction

So, what is the difference between Category 2 and Category 3? To be categorized as someone you know, you must know their name. This is the gateway to a real relationship.

Key Idea

To fill your life with Category 3 people you should introduce yourself to everyone you spend time with.

Category 3 is The Magic Category.

Category 3 is full of your friends and family. This is your network. It’s your safety net. The more people you have in bucket 3 the more support you have. The more love you feel. Category 3 is where your opportunities come from. These are the people that can help advance your career, can help you make a sale, or offer you a kidney. These are the only people who will show up at your funeral (other than random people who love little ham sandwiches and sorrow).

Turn 2s into 3s

Category 2 contains people that you see or interact with. However, you remain anonymous to each other. Literally. The definition of anonymous is a person not identified by name; or of unknown name.

What you do with your category 2 people has a major impact on your life. The greater the percentage of people that you move from category 2 to category 3 the richer your life will become.

Conversely, the more people you allow to accumulate in category 2 the more loneliness and isolation you feel. A negative emotion builds in us when we are surrounded by people that we don’t know on a first-name basis (And I don’t mean like Cher, Madonna and Pele.)

The Power of 2s

This means Category 2 people are the swing people in your life. Leave them in Category 2 and they will always be familiar but nameless strangers. A natural tension accumulates between such people. You will wonder why you don’t actually introduce yourselves to each other. You create theories about dislike, or snobbishness, or standoffishness, or Eliot Ness. These theories are almost always unfounded. And almost always negative. Just ask Al Capone.

Most people simply avoid making the first move to introduce themselves to their 2s. It may be the discomfort of making the first move, a fear of rejection from a disinterested party. Or it may be that a body at rest simply tends to stay at rest.

It’s Smart To Hide Your Smartphone.

When we have a free moment among category 2 people we often invest our time and attention in our smartphone and its endless rabbit holes. It would be a much more valuable investment of your time and attention to introduce yourself to those around you. Exchange names and pleasantries. Find commonalities. Express your desire to turn your 2s into 3s. (You may have to reference this post for it all to make sense.)

Key Takeaway

Introduce yourself to everyone you spend time with. Clear out your category 2 bucket Move as many people to category 3 as you can. You will find your life fuller, friendlier and more enjoyable. More people will know your name. Which makes your world feel smaller, more personal, and more rewarding. By filling your world with category 3 people you win at life. It is how you develop a successful career. And it is how you create positive energy everywhere you go.

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

To build a successful business make more friends first.

I recently was introduced to the CEO of a really fun business in Milwaukee. A mutual friend introduced us via email. And in the quick hellos and thanks-for-the-introduction exchange that followed the CEO invited me to his office for a pow-wow.

When we met in person a week later we talked and developed a quick friendship. Despite the fact that we had just met it was clear that we were on the same wavelength. Our mutual friend, who I will call Erin, because that is her name, must have detected that too.

The two of us began talking about his business. I loved the conversation. I am a big fan of his company. Like one of those Big Ass Fans you see in a warehouse. I noted the remarkable quality of the product his team creates. I shared my enthusiasm for his brand and the great potential for growth, expansion and domination.

Then something interesting and unexpected happened. The CEO paused and said, ‘Adam, every agency in town has come to me wanting my business. They all talk about what they can do for us. And they share their vision for our brand. But you are the only one who has shared MY vision for the brand.’

At that point the conversation changed from 2 guys getting to know each other to two business leaders collaborating and working through problems and opportunities together. Which is what I love most about business.

I didn’t think of our conversation as a sales call. I didn’t think I was pitching him on working with me and my business. I was just excited to meet a new friend. I’m like a puppy in that way. And in the process of developing a friendship we talked about his business, the same way we talked about his family, the places he has lived and what he likes to do in his free time.

Make Friends. Not Sales.

But sales is not what most people think it is. So much of business development is simply developing friendships and rapport. It is showing a genuine interest in getting to know others. It is about helping and providing value. It is not about asking for business.

I always focus on friendship first. I was genuinely interested in this baller of a CEO first. I was not about to ask for a shot at his business. Perhaps that was part of the appeal.

As the sales expert Jeffry Gitomer says, people hate to be sold, but they love to buy. That is why I always let people buy into me instead of asking for the sale.

Does it work? Well, I now have a meeting scheduled with my new friend and his leadership team next week.

6 Key Takeaways From This Experience

  1. A good introduction from a trusted mutual friend creates a great start to a new relationship.
  2. Make friends. Not sales calls.
  3. Add value first, last, and always.
  4. Think bigger.
  5. Paint a picture others want to buy into.
  6. Let your enthusiasm, energy and passion show.

Follow Up:

Between the time I first wrote this post and published it a lot has happened. We had a great meeting with the executive leadership team. We were asked for a proposal. The proposal was signed last Friday afternoon. We kicked off our official relationship with a 3-hour meeting (Gilligan’s Island-Style) on Monday afternoon. We will present ideas next week. And we will have new ads live for the holidays.

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

A simple, effective approach to conflict resolution.

Do you like arguing? I don’t. I think it is the lowest form of communication. Because it is not really communication at all. Arguing is like being in a boxing match. Because in an argument you hurl your point of view at another person, then defend yourself from their response. If your aim is to win an argument you’re fighting a losing battle. 

Understanding

What we should be doing is discussing to understand. We should demonstrate that we are listening and hear each other. It is the best way to make friends, build stronger relationships, earn trust, and become more likable. 

Conflict Resolution Technique

My wife, Dawn and I learned about a great conflict resolution technique early in our marriage. We were watching an Oprah special on relationships, and a guest on the show introduced a technique to help couples come to a mutual understanding. Dawn and I intuitively understood why this was such a smart technique. We began using this when we needed to resolve an issue. I expect this technique is pretty standard in couples counseling. But we haven’t been to counseling. We just watch Oprah together.

The 4 Steps

Try these simple steps the next time you find yourself in an argument, disagreement, dispute or any other word the thesaurus says you can substitute for conflict.  

  1.  The 1st person speaks, uninterrupted, until they have said everything they have to say.
  2. The 2nd person plays back what they heard, to show that they listened and understand the 1st person’s position.
  3. The 2nd person then speaks, uninterrupted, until they have said everything they have to say.
  4. The 1st person plays back what they heard, to show that they listened and understand the 2nd person’s position.

Being Heard

Through this process, everyone gets to say all they want to say. Even better, everyone has their feelings and perspectives acknowledged. At the end of the day, this is all we really want. Once we know that we have said what we want to say, and have been both heard and understood, we can stop arguing our point.

Professional Application

I use this approach in my personal relationships. But I also use this technique in my professional relationship with clients, coworkers and vendors. It is the best way I know to resolve a dispute or misunderstanding. It shows that you care. It improves customer service. And it can save you significant money in lost revenue, lawyers fees and alcohol therapy.

Key Takeaway

No one wins arguments. We win through understanding. Listening without interruption is one of the greatest gifts we can offer each other. Being heard and understood is more enjoyable than being fed grapes while being fanned. Try this simple technique the next time you find yourself in a conflict. You’ll see that everyone comes out ahead, when you stop arguing like a behind.

The most valuable product my business produces shocked me.

In 2016 I left a salaried position with a large, stable advertising agency. I had amassed almost 20 years of experience as an advertising creative. Over the course of my career I had developed a clear vision of what the perfect ad agency looked like. And like Bob The Builder, I believed I could build it.

1 Year Later

A year later my startup ad agency was buzzing with activity. So I joined a CEO roundtable to surround myself with people who knew things I didn’t know. My Council Of Small Business Executives (COSBE) group meets once a month to compare notes, discuss issues and serve as a thought-provoking sounding board.

My Introduction

At the first meeting I attended back in August, the group asked me to take a couple of minutes to talk about me and my business. It was like the introductions you make at an addiction recovery group. You know, ‘My name is Adam, and I am an Ideaholic.’ Welcome brother Adam.

I told the group that my business, an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, had attracted ten clients in the first year. Those clients stretched from Florida to Atlanta, Boston, Montreal, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

Then I dropped this fun, and almost unbelievable footnote:

We did this despite the fact that we were a brand new business with:

  • no logo
  • no business cards
  • no website

The Insight

After I finished my quick overview on my business, the guest speaker that day said something that I will never forget.

‘There is only one way you could build a business like that. People really trust you.’

This guy was a total stranger. We had been in a room together for 15 minutes. Yet he gave me an amazing insight as to why my perfect agency project was working.

I knew I had clients that liked me. I knew they had good experiences with me. I knew that some of them thought I was funny or smart or creative, or perhaps a non-alchoholic cocktail of all three. But the only reason my business stood a chance of succeeding is that people I have worked with in the past, and those I meet today, trust me.

It’s a matter of trust. (Like Billy Joel said)

Trust is the key ingredient of a successful entrepreneur. It is the most valuable product that you will ever deliver to your clients.

  • My clients trust me with their money.
  • They trust me with their confidential information.
  • They trust me with their valuable time.
  • They trust me to reflect positively on their personal reputations.

Key Takeaway

If you want to increase your value to other people, increase your trustworthiness. Do what you say you will do. Deliver what you say you will deliver. Meet the timeline you said you would meet at the price you quoted. Always demonstrate that you’ve heard and care about the concerns of others. You’ll find the rewards far exceed the cost of doing business.

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Let’s stop TGIFing around.

Welcome to the second post in my Days Of The Week Series (my gut says this will be one of the seven best). Today we’re talking about Friday. Which is really more like Friday! It’s one of the most popular days of all time (see what I did there?) Everyone loves Friday. But I don’t love the way we often think about the day.

We all know the phrase TGIF.  The thing I dislike about this is that Thank God It’s Friday is really saying, ‘OMG! I am so thankful I have reached the end of my week of suffering!’

But on Fridays at the Perfect Agency Project we want to: Make the most. Not just coast. So we are rebranding the day as Phone a Friend Friday. Or Fone a Friend Friday. Or Phone A Phriend Phriday. Your choice.

Relationships are really, really important in business. I’ve made a genuine effort to develop, maintain and grow mine. In fact, people are one of my favorite things about this planet. And they were an important factor in me choosing to live on Earth.

Today we use lots of ways to keep in touch. We text, email, tweet, snap, chat, IM, Link and stalk people. But Fridays were made for phone calls. Because schedules free up and the pace slows down at the end of the week. So instead of using that lighter load at the end of the week to knock off early, or hang out at either the real or the proverbial water cooler, I encourage you to call someone in your network that you haven’t talked to in a while.

At a minimum, my Phone a Friend Friday calls are always a highly enjoyable end to the week. But they routinely provide great insights, advice and learning opportunities. They help strengthen my relationships. They often shine a light on another friend or contact that could use a call, a hand or a word of encouragement. And these calls regularly lead to new opportunities for me to work with some of my favorite people again.

So don’t start mailing it in just yet my friends. Pick up the phone today and end the week on a high note. Your Friday calls may prove to be the most valuable part of your week on both a personal and professional level. If you don’t know who to call, call me (614-256-2850). Even if I can’t talk at the time I’m sure to call you back. And my voicemail messages alone are usually  worth the call. Have a great day. And I look forward to catching up soon.

5 words from my Grampy that will improve your business and marriage.

Marriage is one of life’s greatest adventures. You can never be too prepared for it. Half of marriages end in I don’t. A healthy percentage of the other half aren’t any healthier. So on my wedding day I wanted to cram in one last bit of preparation. I scheduled breakfast with my three marriage mentors, my dad and my two grandfathers (who would all laugh me off the family tree for calling them my marriage mentors). At the time my parents had been married 32 years. My grandparents had been hitched 61 and 63 years.

After we sat down at Emma Krumbies in Wausau, Wisconsin and worked through some Northwoods pancakes and sausage I decided it was time for the knowledge share. I asked The Paternity, ‘What is the key to making a marriage great?’  With 156 years of experience at the table I felt like I just lit the fuse on a 4th of July fireworks grand finale. This was going to be an amazing show. So I sat back to take it all in.

Then my maternal grandfather, Kenny Sprau, crossed his arms, leaned back in his chair and said,

‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’

Um… WTF Grampy?  61 years of trial and error, nine kids and a World War, and that’s all you’ve got?  I wanted to give him a mulligan and see if he could hit it past the women’s tee this time. But he went on. ‘You have to keep doing the things that got you to this point.’

Over time I’ve come to understand what Grampy was saying.  When we are dating we are at our best. The unfortunate tendency is to drop the hard work, the energy, the attention, and charm we put into the relationship after the contract is signed.

This advice holds true in business as well as marriage.  Treat your potential partners well. Act as if you would like nothing more than spending the rest of your time together. Listen. Make them laugh. Show them you are interesting, kind and thoughtful. Get the contract signed.  And then keep doing what you’ve been doing.

If you are a creative it is easy to get precious about the work you do.  It’s easy to throw hissy fits (although the best place to grab the hissy to throw it is hard to determine). It’s easy to be combative. Oh, and it’s easy to go out of business. The statistics aren’t good.

But in business, as in marriage, listening and collaborating are valuable approaches to your growth strategy. Clients and spouses alike really like that stuff. Crazy right?  When you respond favorably to a client’s request they generate something called ‘good feelings’ about you.  And these ‘good feelings’ make them want to see you more and work with you more. And the result is business growth.

The opposite is also true.  If you are the all-time best seller at The Jerk Store no one wants to be around you. This is true of both the individual and the organization.

If you recognize complacency, apathy or combativeness between your organization and your clients stamp that out like a flaming bag of dog poo on your front porch. The behavior may feel justified today. But you’ll regret the justice leveled tomorrow when you’re trading the offspring in the McDonald’s parking lot.

At the Perfect Agency Project our goal is to treat our current business like new business. We never want to take them for granted.  We are trying to re-win them every day. Even after we put a ring on it. Thanks for the wise advice Grampy. Me and Grammy miss you.