Why I am no longer writing The Perfect Agency Project blog.

In 2015, with the enthusiastic support of several former clients, I decided to create my own advertising agency. During the planning process I started this blog to help share my entrepreneurial adventure. I called the blog The Perfect Agency Project. I wanted to write about what I was doing, learning and thinking as I was launching, improving and growing what would become The Weaponry. That way, if I made huge mistakes, and wondered, What was I thinking!?!, I could simply go back and read what I wrote.

I Didn’t See THAT Coming.

However, in an unforeseen turn of events, creating this blog has become as significant to me as creating the business. The simple act of writing about my experiences has taught me even more than I have been able to share with my readers. And the feedback I have received from readers has made it one of the most rewarding elective projects of my life (even better than the 3 inch goatee I grew in college).

All Rights Reserved
The more I write, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I write. That’s why I decided to  get my virtuouscycle rider license.

Doing Time

Over the past few years I have spent 10 to 15 hours per week writing my blog. I publish new posts every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning. And I have been able to collect, sharpen and share more knowledge and insights than I ever expected. I learned so much about blogging that I wrote posts like, What I have learned about blogging after 200 posts. And 12 things I’ve learned from writing 300 blog posts.

A New Chapter

When I turned 40 years old I made a commitment to start my own advertising agency. I did it by the time I was 42. And as I continue to build and grow The Weaponry, I have added new goals.

All Rights Reserved
Some of The Weapons, laughing and smiling, as if someone was taking a picture.

I have another startup business that I would like to launch soon. I want to write a book. Ultimately, I hope to write more than one book. But before you can write many books you have to write one. Kind of like, before you become a porn star you have to first have sex, on camera. #pleasedontdothis

Broadening My Horizons

To share my various business experiences, my book writing adventure, and all of the other life lessons, insights and humorous experiences along the way, it is time to expand the scope of this blog. For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know that I have regularly wandered far from topics related to The Weaponry. In fact, one of the great things about having a personal blog is writing about whatever you want. Like A strange encounter at the Piggly Wiggly. And I find myself wanting to share my broader experiences, learnings and observations.

IMG_6462
I may share more stories, like what I learned on my family’s 2019 Father’s Day hike on Mt. Rainier.

As part of the broadening of the blog I am changing the name of the blog too. It will no longer be called The Perfect Agency Project. (#audiblegasps #CallCNN #WeInterruptThisBlogCast) I also want to make my writings easier to find, by humans and search engines alike.

So I am changing my blog title to… wait for it… The Adam Albrecht Blog. I know, this sounds crazy, like rich Asians. And you will never believe the new URL I will be using. So I will tell you. It is… AdamAlbrecht.blog. (However, theperfectagencyproject.com will still direct you to the blog. Because a rose by any other name may not immediately smell as sweet to Google and Bing.)

The rest of the blog will be totally the same. I will still share what I am learning. I am committed to humorous asides and totally random pop culture references that separate insiders from outsiders. (Use Google as your secret decoder ring for random references.) I will keep hashtag-style commentary. And captions will be written to make you giggle.

IMG_8500 2
Maybe I’ll share more stories like the time Danica Patrick and I filled a motorhome with 1.2 million ping pong balls. As DP said, ‘That’s a lot of balls!’

Key Takeaway

Thank you to all of you who regularly read my blog. Thank you for the comments, likes, emails, texts, phone calls, proofreading help, and in-person feedback on my writings. I know your time is limited. And I appreciate that you take the time to read my posts. But if you like what I have written in the first 412 posts, you will like what I write over the next 4000. And if you like this blog, I expect you will like the book. Which I look forward to spending more time writing in the year ahead. Thank you for reading all the way to the end of this post. Which is actually not here. Or here. It’s right here.

Want to think more like an entrepreneur? I have the book for you.

I love books. They are like fertilizer for your brain. I like to read them and listen to them. I like to collect books and display them throughout my house. I like books that educate, inspire and entertain. And I just finished a great book that did all 3 of those things in one handy-dandy, hard-covered, Amazon-Prime-delivered package.

The 5-Day Turnaround

My great friend, former co-worker and serial (not cereal) entrepreneur, Jeff Hilimire, somehow stole enough time from his crowded calendar to author a book called The 5-Day Turnaround.

I’ll admit that when I first heard the title of the book I was quite skeptical. I mean, who needs 5 days to turn all the way around? I think the Earth itself only needs like 2 or 3 days to turn around, right?

IMG_20190819_102432
Five copies of The 5 Day Turnaround at Five Guys at 5:00 pm.

The Book

When I dug into the book I realized it wasn’t about slow-turning humans after all. It was about how to inspire established companies to think more like startups. And how to get corporate leaders to think and behave more like entrepreneurs.

I found this book fascinating. And highly relatable. Because 4 years ago I went from a very large, publicly held organization to a startup. My own startup. And as I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I noticed how different the 2 organizations were in their approach to, well, approaching things.

Comparing and Contrasting

The 5-Day Turnaround captures the mindset, speed and aggressiveness embodied in a startup, and contrasts it with the cautious, conservative nature of a well established company. The book is written as a fictional novel. Which means that the reader follows the story, and through ahh-smosis, picks up on all the important lessons learned by the story’s floundering corporate character, Matt.

The Pitch. And The Proposal.

The book really kicks into action after an ad agency pitch, when the potential client (Matt), tells the agency that they didn’t win the pitch because their ideas were so good and innovative that the conservative corporation didn’t have the chutzpah to implement them. Which meant the company was likely to choose a lamer agency instead.

However, the agency’s leader, Will, comes up with a daring plan to help Matt transform from a beaten down corporate dog into a daring, entrepreneurial leader within his large organization.

The story is a bit like the Fairy Godmother turning Cinderella into the belle of the ball. Only Cinderella was a cautious middle manager, who became an aggressive, entrepreneurial executive. And in this story Cinderella kept both of his Allen Edmonds wingtips on as he headed for home, at midnight, in his Tesla.

IMG_20191209_084527
At first I thought this said, ‘Always Lead White Porpoise!’ But it doesn’t.

The Lessons

The book is packed with relatable organization challenges. And Will teaches Matt how to overcome them all in just 5 days. Will does this using foundational fundamentals that help organizations and departments grow at startup speed. Which is only slightly slower than ludicrous speed. #wevegoneplaid

The book challenges the assumption that bad things will happen if you take a risk within a large organization. It walks through a worst case scenario to dispel the myth that bad things happen to people who stick their necks out. It encourages readers to become fearless in their thinking and actions. Which is a lesson that benefits everyone.

You Down With PVTV? (yeah you know me!)

The book walks through the importance of establishing your Purpose, Vision, Tenets and Values (PVTV). Which sounds like the local station in the Portland-Vancouver, WA metro area. It even guides you through a process to determine the PVTV for your organization or department. This alone is worth the read.

The book covers such important topics as:

  1. The Do Or Die Mindset
  2. Identifying the right and and wrong people for your organization, based on the PVTV. (I want my PVTV!)
  3. Moving Faster.
  4. Establishing Trust
  5. Embracing Failure.
IMG_20190916_114706
Here’s a great picture of Jeff and a whole pile of books he birthed himself. But I am fixated on the sign in the background that says, ‘Welcome to Igital Elights Anis.’

Who Is It For?

This book is great for any leader interested in thinking and acting more like an entrepreneur, even if you never plan to start your own business. The entrepreneurial mindset is confident, inspired and fast-acting (like Tinactin). Which leads to more success, because it creates more opportunities for success.

The 5-Day Turnaround is not just a book you read once. It becomes an easy-to-use reference book that you can pick up anytime for a quick hit of inspiration. It provides a series of valuable guideposts to keep you on course. Plus, it is a quick, easy and engaging read that flies by, allowing you to digest a lot of new information in a short time.

Personal Experience

I found a couple of other fun things in this book. A crazy, risk-taking example Jeff mentions in the book was inspired by a meeting Jeff and I had at Proctor & Gamble, that involved a surprise performance from an opera singer. It was weird, and fun, and memorable. #TakingRisks

IMG_0478

Pleasant Surprise

One of the really fun surprises at the end of this great read was that I found my name in the acknowledgements section. It was the first time I remember receiving a literary shout out. I think the major contribution I provided was simply encouraging Jeff to write the book in English, and number the pages, in order, starting with the smallest numbers.

IMG_1171
Don’t bail on this book before page 235. Or page 236 if you want to know what Qaadirah’s full last name is.

Thank You!

Thank for writing The 5-Day Turnaround Jeff. Thanks for sharing your insights, experiences and talent with the world. You have been a positive and motivational, and inspiration force for me and so many others. Now, you have inspired me to want to write my own book. I’m thinking of calling it The 4-Day Turnaround. Or maybe 6-Minute Abs.

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

What do you do when you hit a wall?

When I was a high school freshman I ran my first 400 meter race. 400 meters is one lap around an outdoor track. It is a difficult race to run. I started strong. The first 100 meters felt great. The second 100 meters felt good. The third 100 meters were tough. Then, with just 100 meters left to go, I hit the wall. Everyone who has run a 400 meter race knows where that wall is. Once you hit it you are no longer sprinting. You are just trying to survive. And you are suddenly thankful that more people don’t come to watch track meets.

Hitting Walls

Today I recognize that every difficult challenge has a wall. A point at which things are no longer easy. A point when people typically quit. We hit walls like college students hit weeder classes. And the walls stop those who are not determined to keep going.

I see it all the time. Someone will start a project full of energy and ambition. They start a side hustle, blog, a club or mustache. Maybe they get their real estate license, start writing a book, or begin exercising and eating right. Then something happens. A challenge confronts them. They hit a busy period. Or a dry spell. Or they go too long without seeing results. Or they simply take a moment to nap in a field of poppies with their friends Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion (all of whom have strange New York accents).

It could be hours, days, weeks, or months into the adventure. But at some point people run into something hard. And they stop. The momentum vanishes. The music dies. And the dream end.

Inspiration Strikes

In 2014 a co-worker of mine started taking on exciting marketing projects on his own.  He told me all about the projects, and how much money he was making. I was amazed. He was developing the start of his own agency. It was thrilling to see. It inspired me. I wanted to do what he was doing. And within a year I began planning my own agency.

While I was eagerly planning my dream agency, I sought out that same coworker to get another inspiring update. But when we sat down to talk about his latest success he instead told me he wasn’t doing it anymore. I was shocked, and asked him why.  He said, ‘It got really hard.’

The Perfect Agency Project

I started my wannabe-agency-project as a nights-and-weekends effort in the fall of 2015. By April of 2016 I had legally established The Weaponry LLC, left my job, and committed to making this new agency work. By the end of 2016 we had generated over $400,000 in revenue. Which felt great. Like Frosted Flakes.

The Wall

Then we hit a wall. Our very first client, the client that represented the lion’s share of our revenue for 2016, didn’t have any more work for us in 2017. This was bad news. It was the kind of news that kills businesses all the time. But we did one thing that saved us. We didn’t stop.

Yes, we hit a wall. But we kept marching. We were not going to let the loss of our largest client stop us. We wanted to succeed too much to quit. (We were also too legit.) So we hustled. We found new clients. And discovered more opportunities with our other clients. Instead of folding because things got hard, we doubled our efforts. And we doubled the business in 2017. Simply because we refused to stop.

Key Takeaway

I hope you try to do something hard this year. Something really ambitious. And if you do, know that sooner or later you will run into a wall. All great things are hard to do. The key to success is simply not stopping when things get hard. Find a way around, over or through the wall. Just don’t stop. Because all the great stuff is on the other side of the wall.

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

Entrepreneurs are 125% more successful if they do this.

The idea of starting your own business can be scary. The statistics say that there is a high probability of your dream business failing. But then again, there is a really, really high probably that your heart will fail at some point too. And when that happens none of your other failures matter anymore anyway.

A Safer Bet

But there is a way to practice safe entrepreneurship. It’s not perfectly safe. Just like there is no perfectly safe sex. At least not any that involves other people.

Do what you know.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, but your tolerance for risk is sweet n’ low, the safe thing to do is to start a business in an industry you have already worked in.

It turns out that entrepreneurs are 125% more successful if they’ve previously worked in the industry they start their own business in.

Keep on rocking in the free world.

This should be encouraging to those of you who are rockstars in your current job and think you could do it even better on your own. That’s what I did. Okay, so I am not really a rockstar. I am more like a bluegrass artist with a loyal local following, that consists mostly of my family and the hard of hearing.

The Weaponry

After working for other advertising agencies for 19 years, I launched my own advertising and idea agency in 2016. Today, The Weaponry is nearly 4 years old. And I have been able to pour all of my industry experience directly into my entrepreneurial adventure. And in return, it has poured some sugar on me.

Key Takeaway

If you really want to start your own business, and I hope you do, consider starting a business in the industry you are already working in. Your experience and connections give you a major advantage. You do have connections don’t you? If not, work on building that parachute before you jump out of your current airplane.

Fun note: I am writing this on a plane as I fly to Florida to film the CEO of one of our greatest clients. We work with this great client because my friend and former coworker, Erin Lovett recommended us. But don’t worry. I won’t jump out of the plane. It would put a quick end to my 125% advantage.

If you ever want to be an entrepreneur, start doing this now.

Entrepreneurship is a wonderful and mysterious adventure. It is both easier and harder than it seems. Which is a hard thing to fathom. Hence the mysterious adventure.

Getting Started

The greatest challenge to starting your own business is simply getting started. Because you have to figure out how to run your household on an an alternative financial fuel source. Namely, self-generated income.

For most people who have spent their adult lives operating on a predictable, salaried income, this switch to self-generated financial fuel is a difficult conversion. But there is one simple thing you can do right now to put yourself in favorable position to start your own business.

man sitting down and using his laptop
Despite what Tom Petty said, the starting is actually the hardest part.

The First Thing To Do.

The first step on your entrepreneurial journey is to live below your means. Which means you should spend less money than you earn. This is the best entrepreneurial move you can make right now. It will help you start your own business in 2 ways.

1. It helps you save money to invest in your own business.

You can start a business with very little money. But you will need some. You have to register your business entity with your state. That cost me about $150. You will need some business cards. You can get good cards from Moo for about $100.

You will need the materials and supplies required to create your product, or offer your service. The more money you have saved the more you have to invest in yourself. Your stash of cash determines how long your runway is before your new baby business needs to make money.

I started The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, by depositing $16,000 I earned doing freelance work into a business banking account. Think of the money you are saving as they money you have to buy your own freedom. Which is the most valuable thing you can ever buy.

IMG_8298
Yes, you can start your own business even if you have 3 kids and a wife you really want to keep.

2. It makes it easier to replace your Minimum Required Income. 

Take a moment to determine your Minimum Required Income. Your MRI is how much income you need to survive this year. Make sure everyone you are responsible for has food, clothing and shelter. Otherwise Family Services will stand between you and your entrepreneurial dreams. Take your MRI and compare it your current income. Are they same? If you want to become an entrepreneur your MRI should be lower. If possible, much lower.

How Low Can You Go?

When I started thinking about my minimum required income I quickly came to a number that was less than half of my actual income at the time. Then I told myself that if I found a way to self-generate my MRI, I would jump, like David Lee Roth, or The Pointer Sisters.

That is exactly what happened. A few initial opportunities emerged that appeared as if they would help me hit my number. So I jumped like Camp Randall stadium at the start of the 4th quarter. Had my MRI been equal to my salary I would have needed twice as much opportunity to com together before I could press go. Living well within my means made it much easier to take the entrepreneurial leap.

black and gray photo of person in front of computer monitor
Crunch your numbers. Get to work. And if you know what language that is on the screen please fill me in.

Shorty Got Low, Low, Low.

The key is not to expand your lifestyle when your income increases. This is the single greatest thing you can do to afford yourself career options. The money you are not spending buys your freedom. Because the person who needs to replace $50,000 in income has an easier on-ramp to entrepreneurship than the person who needs $200,000. That’s math.

Limit Yourself Now To Unlimit Yourself Later

Once I started my entrepreneurial journey I quickly exceeded my MRI. But that bought me more freedom. It let me save more money. It also allowed me to reinvest in the business. Both activities added to the security of the new adventure. And long term financial security is one of the greatest reasons to start your own business in the first place.

IMG_8840
Set your MRI. Set your mind to making it happen. And set several red things on your desk. 

Key Takeaway

If you want to be able to start your own business you need to live below your means. Save money. Know your minimum required income for the first year. That becomes your go-no-go for launch income. Use that number as your benchmark when evaluating your opportunities. The lower your MRI the sooner you can get started. And the faster you will earn more money than you even thought possible.

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

The really easy way to pay people over the table.

Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business? I have. It’s easy to dream about the fun you would have being in charge. It’s fun to dream of a cool company name, the bazillion dollars you would make, and the crazy company benefits you would offer. #EveryoneGetsAPony

The Details

But on the other side of the dream are the details. It is the details of owning and running your own business that scare most people away. And the more people you have in your organization the more details there are to figure out. That’s why so many people decide to simply freelance, or become consulting cowboys and cowgirls, rather than deal with the complexities or paying other people.

selective focus photo of man in official shirt sitting in office working on laptop
Look how serious this dude is about taking care of business!

I have seen far too many freelancers, consultants and business-of-one types become so fearful of hiring additional help that they hurt their own business and limit their own income. They never take advantage of opportunities for larger projects. And they never scale up. Because they don’t know how to handle employees, freelancers, contractors or outside vendors. And that’s a real shame.

The Weaponry

When I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I had a dream. #MLKJr I dreamed of growing The Weaponry into a large, amazing organization. Which meant that we needed to be able to easily add to our team. Luckily for us, there has never been a better time in history to launch a business. Because there are so many digital resources to enable you to easily do big businessy things as a small startup.

All Rights Reserved
Some of The Weapons.

Quickbooks

We use Quickbooks to run our accounting. It makes it hyper-easy to create and send estimates and invoices. It allows us to track our accounts payable and accounts receivable. We can see our profit and losses anytime. We link Quickbooks to our bank accounts and credit cards. And it makes it easy to track everything.

Paying People

One of the challenges a business owner must be able to handle is paying the people who perform work for the business. Some business owners decide to pay people under the table. This typically means you pay them in cash to avoid officially tracking the payment. Which means no one has to report the payments or the income to the IRS or state or local taxing agencies.

But this is not how real businesses operate. If you want to have a legitimate business, which you should, you pay people real wages, report the payments and income legitimately, and pay the appropriate taxes and withholdings. (Cue the national anthem and soaring eagle.)

Gusto

Making all of your payments legally and correctly is actually really easy. We use a great payment app called Gusto. Every time we hire an employee, freelancer, contractor or vendor, we set them up on Gusto.

gusto logo

Here’s how it works:

  • Individuals enter their social security numbers.
  • Businesses enter their tax ID numbers.
  • Everyone enters their address.
  • Everyone enters a bank account where they want their payment directly deposited.
  • Everybody Wang Chungs tonight.

gusto-employee-management

Trust The Process

We then process all of our payments through Gusto. And it works like magic. Based on factors like location and type of work performed (employee vs contractor vs vendor), it knows what type of payment needs to be made. I think it even knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.

gusto_run_payroll

Gusto automatically figures out taxes, social security, unemployment insurance, workers comp details and the types of things that would otherwise keep you awake at night wondering why you decided to start your own business.

gusto_payroll image

Dream Team

Together, Gusto and Quickbooks, along with our accountant, Sally Bretsch, make our accounting one of the least stressful parts of owning my business. We have an easy-to- follow system for onboarding employees, contractors, clients and vendors. We get people set up quickly and we pay them on time. All of the difficult calculations happen automatically. And we spend more time doing the important work that helps us grow our business and keep our clients happy, like Pharrell Williams.

Manage_employees-20151217141931-r-h400-q100-m1458162109-5

The Price Is Right

The fee structure is simple. You pay a small monthly fee. And then you pay a small, increment cost per-person-you-pay-through-the-system each month. It is highly affordable and totally worth the sanity it preserves.

gusto roster

A Great Time To Sign Up

Recently, my friend Dr. Theresa Pride, who owns a great business in Atlanta called Pride Physique Pilates and Physical Therapy told me she was going to switch to Gusto based on my recommendation. She asked me if there was a referral code she could enter to make sure Gusto knew I sent her. I looked in my email and sure enough, right now Gusto offers a referral bonus to both the referrer and the referree (that could be you you).

Here’s the information:

  1. Use the referral link: https://gusto.com/e/adam1529 by January 31, 2020 to sign up.
  2. My email associated with the account is still my startup-stage email: adamralbrecht@gmail.com (not my I-started-up email which is adam@theweaponry.com)
  3. When you run your first paid payroll, you’ll get a $200 Amazon gift card. And I will get a $200 Amazon gift card, too.

 Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to start a business. Don’t be afraid to hire contractors, employees or vendors. Gusto makes it easy to pay everyone you work with over the table, tax compliant, like a real, legitimate business. And because you don’t have to worry that you are paying people the right way you’ll have more time to think about the real business of your business. Which is what you have dreamed about from the beginning.

*If you know someone who owns, or would like to own their own business, please consider sharing this with them. #ThatsALotOfOwnsInOneSentence

Are you disappointed enough in yourself to do something about it?

I love being an entrepreneur. After spending the first 19 years of my career working for ad agencies owned by other people I decided to start my own. That was almost 4 years ago. It was also a leap year. Which is a good year to do anything because it gives you a 24 hour advantage. I tell this to presidential candidates and olympic hopefuls all the time.

The Reaction

Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, people often treat me like I am doing something impressive. Or daring. They are positive and supportive of my entrepreneurial adventure. I often hear from people who want to launch their own business. They tell me I was really brave to set out on my own. But when I analyze the driving force behind my leap into entrepreneurship it was not bravery. Not even close.

Ambition

I wanted to own my business since the beginning of my career. I envisioned myself as a business owner or business launcher-type-guy. Whatever that meant. In fact, in my head it was so clear that I would be an entrepreneur that after 15 years of working for other people I considered myself a failure for not actually being a real entrepreneur.

Disappointment for the win!

Eventually, it was the disappointment, and  sense of dissatisfaction in myself that finally moved things forward. Don’t get me wrong, I like myself. But I have a strong vision of my ideal self. And whenever I am not acting in accordance with that vision, or I am too far off the pace I set in my head, I really bothers me. And that disappointment and embarrassment is a powerful fuel. One we should guzzle regularly.

Disappointment (Is better den dat appointment)

Most people never become so disappointed in themselves that it propels them forward. But that is extremely valuable. An injury to your pride is one of the best things that can happen to you. You don’t have to become a prostitute or a heroin addict. Because there is a point of diminishing returns. You just need to be incongruent with your self perception. That feeling eventually pushes you forward like the other side of the magnet.

Key Takeaway.

Create a strong image of who you really are at your core. Write a glorious story about yourself in your head. Make it vivid and real. Think about it all the time. And eventually you will get so fed up with not being that version of yourself that you will take drastic measures. It’s in those drastic measures that the magic happens. And when you do you will feel remarkably alive. Like you are no longer coasting through life. I hope that happens to you. Here’s to you experiencing disappointment in motivating quantities in 2020.

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