When your window of opportunity opens will you be ready to go?

This time of year always brings out the Clark Griswold in me. Which means that in late November or early December, I like to decorate my house and yard with Christmas lights. Yet, I try to avoid stapling my sleeve to my house, and kidnapping my boss.

I don’t have a preset date for my lightification. Instead, I watch the weather closely. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it’s not much fun to hang lights when it is 20 degrees outside. Or rainy. Or huricaney. By contrast, it’s an enjoyable task to do when it is in the 50s or above and sunny. (For international readers, all temps are in Fahrenheit. At 50 degree Celsius I turn into bacon.)

This year we have had a wintry November in Wisconsin. The snow arrived early and stuck around because of the cold temperatures. But as I kept checking the forecast, I noticed that off in the distance, on Saturday, November 26th, the temperature was supposed to warm up into the 50s. However, cold and rain were predicted for the following day. So I knew that yesterday would be my window of opportunity. Cue the Eminem.

I cleared my schedule for light hanging yesterday. And just as predicted, it was sunny, warm and beautiful. It was a perfect day for the task. I hung lights on the front of my house and 8 trees and bushes in my front yard. The universe presented a great window and I made the most of it.

But great windows of opportunity aren’t limited to light hanging. (Thank God.) They occur in all areas of your life. And when you plan ahead you are bound to find them.

My Window Watching

I always wanted to start my own business. That was my long-term career plan. So in 2015 when I had former clients tell me that I should consider creating my own advertising agency and that they had work for me, I knew I had found my window, Pella.

I always wanted to write a book too, but I needed time to do the actual writing. So when the covid lockdown of 2020 began, I knew my writing window of opportunity had also arrived. I got to work. Two months later I finished the first draft of my book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? And now it makes a great Christmas gift.

I look for windows of opportunity for travel, investments, and introductions. I look for windows for fun and for starting new businesses. I look for opportunities to support, teach and encourage too. My radar is always scanning for opportunities. As a result, I find them. And when I find an opportunity I act. And you should too.

Key Takeaway

Windows of opportunity are constantly opening and closing. But you have to be looking for them to notice. That’s why it’s so valuable to create a plan for your life, year, week, and day. Because when you know what you want in life you will recognize the windows of opportunity that open for you. Then it’s Go Time! Because opportunities don’t last forever. That’s what makes them valuable.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Want to become a mid-career entrepreneur? Here are 20 actions to take now.

I always loved the idea of being an entrepreneur. But like most normal people, I started my career as an employee. I worked for my first employer for 10 years. I worked for my next employer for 9 years. I liked my jobs. But I always knew that in my dream scenario I wanted to own my own business. I bet your dream scenario has a similar entrepreneurial ending. And maybe a swim-up bar.

After years of semi-scientific research, I have concluded that there are 3 great times to start your own business. I have published my findings below for your evaluation.

The 3 Great Times To Start Your Own Business.

  1. When you are first out of school, and have nothing to lose.
  2. When you retire, have plenty of money and time, and have nothing to lose.
  3. When you are 40ish, have a lot of experience, skills, contacts, and confidence. And a lot to lose.

The first 2 paths are popular for obvious reasons. Like the-nothing-to-lose part. When you are right out of school, you aren’t giving up anything. And at the end of your regularly scheduled career, you get to choose an overtime period. Which is fun. And only threatens your shuffleboard time.

I am a mid-career entrepreneur. Jeff Hilimire started his entrepreneurial adventure while still in college. We’re both happy with our decisions.

Track Switching

But how in the world do you switch from the employee track to the entrepreneurial track mid-career? Even more challenging, how do you do it if you have a really successful career and are well compensated? How do you make the transition when you have a significant mortgage? And car payments? And kids? And a spouse you really want to keep? Plus, there is the insurance thing. And the annual company Christmas party with all the free alcohol! How do you walk away from all that gravy?

Dream it up and make it happen.

You can do it!

Well W-2 Nation, I did it. And it has been an amazing experience. When I turned 40, I realized that if I died then and there, on the dance floor, while doing the Electric Slide, my greatest regret would be that I never started my own advertising agency. So I resolved to start my own business within the next 2 years.

I launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, 6 years ago. Today, we have 26 clients, 2 offices, health insurance, dental insurance, and a matching 401(k) plan. (Never forget the k, or all you have is an area code.) We are looking at a 50% year-over-year revenue growth rate. And most importantly, I got to create the dress code.

Make the move!

Now, I want to help you begin your mid-carer entrepreneurial adventure. What lies below the fold is the collection of tips, how-tos, and advice I wish I had 7 years ago. This isn’t how-to-build-a-unicorn stuff. I’m not talking about a Zuckerberg, Gates, or Jobs path, where you drop out of college and start a trillion-dollar business. I am talking about advice for regular people, with regular careers, who want to use their experience as a launchpad to entrepreneurial success.

That’s what I did. And you can too. Here’s how, brown cow.

20 Key Steps To Becoming A Mid-Career Entrepreneur.

  1. Surround Yourself With Entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a mindset more than anything. It helps to spend as much time as you can with other entrepreneurs. It helps rewire your brain to see opportunities and become a problem solver. It will help you develop your risk tolerance. Because once you are around entrepreneurs who are enjoying the rewards of their risk tolerance you will realize the nice homes, cars, vacations, and freedoms are well worth the wager. Ask your Mentorpreneurs all the questions you can think of. They will want to help. And by hanging with your Mentorpreneurs, you realize it is far riskier to leave the control over your income to someone else. Plus, you quickly realize that you can create anything you dream up. Like the word Mentorpreneur.

2. Become really great at what you do. When you are great at what you do you become sought after. And when people seek you out, it means you no longer need your employer to develop opportunities for you. Because you can create those opportunities for yourself. This is called career capital. The more you develop the easier it becomes to call your own shots (shots shots shots!) When your clients at your day job are more in love with you than the company you work for you have a green light to start your own business. And green means go, Mario!

3. Develop And Maintain Your Network. People work with people. And they love to work with people they like and trust. Continuously expand and strengthen your relationships. The more people who like and trust you the better. Those people will become customers, partners, connectors, and referrals. And those are the 4 most important people in an entrepreneur’s life. (After the supportive spouse and great coworkers.) If you’ve neglected this area of your career, it’s time to get to work. When I started The Weaponry I quickly realized I had done much of the hardest work of entrepreneurship decades earlier through my relationship-building.

4. Save Your Money. By having reserves in your bank account or investments you can tap into, you buy yourself running room to start your own business. Most people can’t consider starting their own business because they don’t have the luxury of not having a dependable paycheck for several months. Don’t be that kid. If you don’t have the money on hand yet, start your Run-My-Own Business Fund today. You might not need the money. Or not much of it. But simply having it available provides the confidence to jump, like David Lee Roth.

5. Live Below Your Means. As your income increases, don’t let your expenses rise at the same rate or you will always need your current level of income. That’s a problem. You’ve heard of the golden handcuffs of a high-paying job that keep people locked into their employer. But the most dangerous career situation is the one where you need your current income level to support your lifestyle. Because you will never be able to downshift into a lesser-paying situation, even temporarily. And the first move an entrepreneur needs to make is downshifting into a lesser-paying situation for an undefined length of time. That is the price of entry. That is the entrepreneurial initiation ritual, my friends. Tip #4 helps you bridge that gap. My dip only lasted about a year. But it really made me hustle. And hustling helps you make money. #dothehustle

6. Don’t Quit Your Day Job. To combat the money challenges outlined in the previous points, don’t do something rash, like quit your job. Hold onto your job as long as you can. It will be the primary source of funding for your startup. Use your current job to help pay for the expenses of your next job as long as you can. Work on your startup at night and on the weekends. Like Shania Twain said, no one needs to know right now. Not quitting your day job allows your startup to gain speed, momentum, and cash flow. Not quitting until you have to makes it much easier to jump from the Employee Train to the Entrepreneur Train. If we were swinging from ring to ring on a playground, think about not letting go of the ring you are holding until you have your hand firmly on the next one. And if you never have a firm grip on the next ring, then you never let go of the one you were already holding. No harm. No foul. You tried. You can be proud of that.

7. Read The Book The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. This book is the bible on how to start and run your business the right way. (Only there is no Jesus.) I followed all of the guidance in this book before launching The Weaponry. It helped me think about the whole process the right way, and avoid a lot of problems. When people tell me they are planning to start a business, or are floundering in their startup, I always recommend they read this. And everyone always thanks me. If I were you I would hit the link above and order the book right now. Tip #8 can wait.

8. Create Your Legal Entity: It’s easy to create a legal business entity. Start simply by applying for your FEIN. Which is your Federal Employer Identification Number. It’s like your business’s social security number. This ID number enables you to do everything the way the government and IRS want you to. With this in hand, you can file your legal business entity with your state as an LLC (Limited Liability Company), Corporation, Limited Partnership, General Partnership, or as a Sole Proprietor. I set up an LLC. (Yeah you know me.) It’s quick and easy. Then you can open your business bank accounts and get your company credit card. With these things in place, you have your financial and legal structures ready to roll. Which means you won’t need to ask your customers to pay you in cash. Or chickens.

9. Get Quickbooks. Quickbooks is the accounting software that makes it easy to track and manage your accounting. You connect all of your bank accounts and credit cards to this. It makes it easy to create and send invoices (bills) and to know what is due and when. It also provides reports (profit and loss, profitability, balance sheets, etc.) and dashboards that help you manage your business. Get this going as soon as you can afford to. It will become the backbone of your accounting system. And your scoreboard. Best of all, Quickbooks is not the book equivalent to quicksand.

10. Get A Good Bookkeeper. Bookkeepers are God’s gift to entrepreneurs. They are reasonably priced specialists who have a valuable skillset that you likely don’t have. They can help you stay on top of your accounting while enabling you to spend more time on the things only you can do. Like finding paying clients. And putting on your deodorant.

11. Collect Recognizable People And Logos: You can start your business by working with anyone. But the goal should be to collect recognizable names as customers. That could mean that you work with well-known brands or people that other people know. When you share the kinds of brands or people that you work with you are elevating and legitimizing your brand by using theirs. If you work with individuals, work with the most popular most trusted, and most respected people you can. Their decision to work with you will carry more weight than say, your grandma. Sorry, Grandma.

12. Get involved in your community. The more involved you are in your community the more you will be connected to others and the opportunities they can introduce you to. You could be involved as a volunteer, member, attendee, or sponsor. You are going to want strong ties to the people around you and this is one of the best ways to get to know as many people as possible. Even better, when you support your community you will find that your community supports you too. It’s a thing.

13. Grab Chocolate Milk. Entrepreneurs understand the power of spending time with other people. Getting together for chocolate milk, (my preference) or coffee (most of America’s preference) is not about the beverage. It’s about the sharing and comparing of experiences and ideas. Through the process is sitting down with another person and talking you discover new ideas and resources. It creates a great transfer of knowledge and experience. It is the best way to tap into another person’s perspective and network. You could also meet for breakfast, lunch or drinks. Or fricken caramels. It’s all ah-bu-trary. #namethatmovie

14. Start A Blog, Podcast, Or Regularly Published Knowledge Share. It is not about who you know. It really is about who knows you. The more people who know about you, what you know, and what you are doing, the better. I started a blog right when I launched The Weaponry. And it has been a great vehicle to share my thoughts, ideas, successes, and learnings with the world. By doing so, my business and I are both top of mind when people have relevant opportunities. Podcasts, newsletters, columns, and social media channels all work too. The key is to share information and value with the world broadly so that more people than you could reach through individual messages know about you, your skills, philosophy, and eventually your business offering.

Me and my crew.

15. Find a supportive spouse. In the middle of your career, you are likely to have a spouse or life partner who is tied to your success or failure. Their support and encouragement are critical to your success. My wife Dawn has been amazingly supportive. She never batted an eye or raised an eyebrow when I shared my entrepreneurial vision with her. I would share this post with your partner so that they have an idea of what you are trying to do. That way they can help and support you as much as possible. If they are not supportive you have an important decision to make. And that’s all I have to say about that.

16. Read Read as much as you can about business ideas, successful companies, leaders, and entrepreneurs. This is the greatest entrepreneurial hack there is. Learn all you can from others who you admire and want to emulate. Read about how other Founders did what they did. There is no end to what you can learn from others. Read books, online articles, and blogs. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks as you commute. Drink that knowledge in. Create your own curriculum. And give yourself your own, self-directed advanced degree. You can even walk across your own stage and hand yourself an official-looking piece of paper. That would be weird. But you could do it.

17. Grow Your LinkedIn Connections. LinkedIn offers the best measure of your network. Create a profile if you haven’t already. Become an active user. Add everyone you meet to your LinkedIn profile by sending a custom invitation reminding them of how you know them or why you want to connect. This will become ground zero for raising your profile and staying in touch with your broader network and the opportunities they bring. Like, comment, and share content from other people. Make people who don’t know you curious about who you are. Insider Tip: LinkedIn offers an audio icon next to your name that let’s you share how your name is pronounced. Click on mine to see how it works.

18. Learn As Much As You Can About The Business You Are In Now. While you are still employed by someone else, take advantage of the experts in the organization. Learn from the finance or accounting teams. Talk to HR about how benefits, recruiting, and reviews work. Talk to sales about how they generate leads and close deals. Talk to operations about what makes them such smooth operators. Talk to IT about, well, IT. You can learn about all of the things you are going to need to know as an entrepreneur while in your current job. Think of it like studying. Your coworkers will love your interest in their work. And they will be flattered when you start your own business and credit them as your sliver mentor in their specialty. You’ll also know who would be a good resource to hire after your non-compete clause expires.

19. Write down your plans. It’s one thing to think about starting a business. It’s another to write down a plan to make it happen. Once you have a vision for your dream business, write it down. The more details the better. That written plan becomes your blueprint to build it for real. I followed the written plan approach from The E-Myth, and it gave me great structure and clarity around what I was creating. Do this too. Also carry notebooks. Not only are they great for capturing spontaneous ideas, but if you get shot in the notebook, it just may save your life.

My great client-friend Nicole Hallada was one of the first people I told about The Weaponry.

20. Talk To Former Clients About Your Plans. Your best prospective future clients are your past clients. When I launched The Weaponry I discussed my plans with several former clients. Within the first week of discussions I had 5 clients tell me that if I created a business they would send work our way. That confidence, interest, and demand in my offering made it much easier to jump. 4 out of those 5 former clients became future clients. The other one is living with constant regret. Right Chad?

Key Takeaway

Starting your own business in the middle of your career can sound intimidating. But the more you know, the easier it is. You can do it. Utilize the knowledge of those who have gone before you. Most of it is easier than it seems. With the tips above (that I wish I knew when I was starting out) you will be able to start taking steps today. Then simply never stop. If you need a Mentorpreneur, just reach out to me through Linkedin. Tell me I sent you.

*If you know someone who wants to start their own business and could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How the most difficult decision in my career is still paying off today.

Our careers are full of choices. Some are small and arbitrary. Some feel ginormous. The tough thing about tough choices is that the right answer is never clear at the moment we need to make them. And we may not know whether we made the right call for years. Or decades.

Tough Call

Recently I was asked to think about one of the toughest business decisions I had to make in my career. Several decisions popped into my head. Including big ones like whether or not I should quit my job and launch my own business. And whether I should risk asking a coworker to go on a date. (I have now been married to that coworker for 20 years.) But there is one particularly challenging situation I faced that not even Robert Frost could help me through. I call it The Roanoke Decision. Here’s the story.

Roanoke

In the summer of 2008, I had a business trip to Roanoke, Virginia. I worked at an advertising agency called Engauge. And I was to fly to Roanoke from Columbus, Ohio with a client for a night of focus groups. I was excited about the trip because I love the knowledge and insights gained from a focus group of my client’s customers. I had never been to Roanoke. And visiting new places is one of my favorite things. Along with brown paper packages tied up with string.

A New Challenge

But a funny thing happened on my way to Roanoke. A new client of our advertising agency, Nationwide Insurance, scheduled a TV commercial shoot on the same day in Charlotte, North Carolina. #RutRo

To this point in the project, all of the work I had done was behind the scenes. My boss, the Chief Creative Officer, had been meeting with the client and presenting the work. The client had proved to be challenging, and after each meeting, there was a new story about the over-the-top client and how difficult they had been to please.

Could You, Would You, On A Plane?

Eventually, we landed on a TV commercial script to produce. And because of other scheduling conflicts, I was asked to attend the Nationwide TV shoot. We determined that I would be able to travel to Charlotte the day before the shoot for location scouting and the important pre-production meeting. Then I could attend the first half of the TV shoot, and leave for the airport at lunch to catch my flight to Roanoke. At that point, the 2 experienced Associate Creative Directors on the account would manage the rest of the shoot. Easy Peasy.

The Best Laid Plans

Things did not go as planned. While attending the preproduction meeting I met two clients from Nationwide Insurance. One was Steven Schreibman, who was as over-the-top as advertised. He wanted the spot to be Spectacular! The other was Jennifer Hanley, who I was ice cold in the meeting. She had clearly done this sort of thing before, knew exactly what she wanted, and wasn’t about to suffer any fools who didn’t know how to deliver. This was going to be interesting.

The Commercial

The commercial was a simple idea. It was called ‘Burnout’ (think NASCAR victory, not Jeff Spicoli). The spot opens on a shot of a cul de sac in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Suddenly, a sports car speeds into the cul de sac and begins doing donuts. We cut inside the car to a shot of the driver, NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick, who tells the camera that he just saved a bunch of money by switching to Nationwide Insurance. Hence the celebratory burnout.

The 100-Degree Wrinkle

However, it was supposed to hit 100 degrees that day in Charlotte. So everyone involved was worried about how the heat would affect our shoot, the talent, and the car.

My team, including talented ACDs Jason Thomas and Oscar Reza, got to the set early. And it was already hot as balls. When the two clients arrived we met them and gave them the plan for the morning. We enjoyed a nice on-set breakfast together as the crew readied for the shoot and the sun began to broil the blacktop.

The Thaw

As the day warmed, so did my relationship with Hanley and Schreibman. The iciness and the craziness of the initial meeting didn’t come to the set that morning. Instead, they were both very pleasant. They were excited about the shoot and excited to work with Harvick for the first time. But they were also greatly concerned about the heat. (And not Dwyane Wade’s former basketball team).

Secretly Sweating

I too was concerned about the heat. I was worried it would drench Harvick in sweat as he delivered his lines to the camera. I was worried about the impact the heat would have on the Corvette, which would be repeatedly pushed to its max as we spun it in high-speed circles. I was worried about the young stuntman who was going to be performing the donuts that afternoon. And I was worried about making a graceful exit in the middle of all of this to head to Roanoke.

What To Expect When You Are Expecting

The day went exactly as I expected. Meaning that I was quickly bonding with the new client, and the heat was causing real logistical problems for Kevin Harvick. He was a great sport, but would quickly sweat through his Nationwide polo and we would need to repeatedly break to freshen Kevin and his wardrobe. Which was slowing things down, and generating tension on the set.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

As the heat was burning up our time, I was making regular phone calls back to my office in Columbus. I was updating the account supervisor who lead the other account that was conducting the important focus groups in Roanoke. I was originally supposed to leave for the airport at 11am. But with the delays and tension on the set in Charlotte, I felt like I couldn’t leave at that hour.

What to do?

We decided to rebook my flight for another flight 2 hours later. I would have a car service pick me up at 1pm and speed me to the airport. I would then OJ Simpson through the airport, and make the flight just before they closed the boarding door. (Remember when we used to Associate OJ with running through airports?)

Bond. Personal Bond.

It was a good plan. But I still hadn’t told the Nationwide clients that I would be leaving the shoot. As so often happens in difficult situations, we were bonding. There was both stress and gallows humor as the clock raced faster than our progress. I worked with the producer, director and client to create a workable scenario and adjustments that would enable us to get all of the shots we needed. We decided that during some air-conditioned cool-off breaks we could record some voiceover work for the commercial and radio spots to save precious time.

Here it comes!!!

But 1pm was coming faster than Kevin Harvick in an 800hp stock car. And like The Clash, I had to decide, do I stay or do I go now? I knew that if I stayed there would be trouble. But if I go, it may be double. What to do?

The Walk

I walked off by myself for a moment, and carefully evaluated the situation. Not just the logistics. But the intangibles. The relationships. The commitments. The business development potential. And both clients’ needs. There was a lot to process in a little time.

The Call

Then I called Peter Zenobi, the account supervisor, and reluctantly told him that I would not be flying to Roanoke as planned.

The Decision

I decided that I had to be on Nationwide’s side. The degree of difficulty we were dealing with in the heat with the stunts and the celebrity talent was too high to walk away from. I recognized that I was quickly developing a strong rapport with both Jennifer Hanley and Steven Shreibman. And the focus group, while it was my original commitment, and I really, really hated to back away from it, would be recorded. And there would be a detailed report produced.

Ahead Of The Curve

While I didn’t technically go to Harvard Business School, I did read a book about it. In Ahead of the Curve, author Philip Delves Broughton writes about his experience as an MBA student at Harvard Business School. He reveals that the 2 greatest things gained in this prestigious program are 1. A remarkable network. 2. Confidence to make difficult decisions when you don’t have all the information you would like. And The Roanoke Decision was a clear case of having to make a tough decision without all that information.

Was it the right decision?

The heat-related challenges continued the rest of the afternoon. But we worked through it all. We got the footage we needed of the Corvette doing burnouts. But barely.

The young stunt driver needed a lot of time to get his driving dialed in. Which, in the 100-degree heat, took a toll on the car. In fact, the brand new Corvette, borrowed from a local dealership, overheated and shut down completely. So by late afternoon the car literally shut itself down, and could not be started again for 6 hours.

But we had what we needed. No one got hurt. And the Nationwide clients and I headed to the airport, together.

That night, on the flight home to Columbus, Jennifer Hanley and I sat together and talked the whole way. We developed a fast friendship. And before we landed, Jennifer said that she had a lot more work that she wanted to send to our agency.

The Partnership

Nationwide and Engauge quickly developed a very strong partnership. Soon we had an annual retainer with Nationwide of over $5 million. We handled the advertising for Nationwide’s sports sponsorships, including their high-profile NASCAR and  PGA sponsorships, and work with NCAA basketball and the NHL. We refreshed their pet insurance brand, VPI. We rebranded Titan Insurance and created a very high-profile disaster response commercial, featuring Julia Roberts as the narrator.

My relationship with Jennifer continued to strengthen. And I developed strong relationships with many other great friends at Nationwide. In fact, my Nationwide relationships are among the strongest personal relationships I have developed in my career. (I considered listing all the great friends I made through Nationwide Insurance here, but it would double the length of the story.)

7 years after The Roanoke decision, when I made another difficult career decision to start my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, those Nationwide relationships benefited me once again. In fact, they have led directly to our work with Hertz and Thrifty rental cars, Fifth Third Bank, and American Family Insurance. (Thank you Matt Jauchius, Dennis Giglio, Nick Ferrugia, Tiffanie Hiibner, Susan Jacobs, and Dawn Pepin.)

Steven

Starting that hot summer day in Charlotte I developed a very special relationship with Steven Schreibman. And when Steven passed away in May of 2018, the tribute I wrote about him on this blog became the most popular post of all time. And just last month, over 4 years after Steven’s passing his Mom, E.J. Bloom called to thank me for writing the story about Steven, and how she reads it often to enjoy wonderful memories of her wonderful son. We talked for an hour, like new old friends. Last week I received a package in the mail from E.J. that contained a copy of Steven’s book, Blood in My Hairspray.  You can find the blog post here: Our time here is short. Make the most of it, like Steven did.  

14 Years Later

Did I make the right choice on that blazing hot day in August of 2008, in the subdivision in Charlotte? When Roanoke was calling, and Charlotte wouldn’t let go? With more than a decade of great friendships, partnerships, and funny memories now in the bank, it would certainly appear I did.

Key Takeaway

When making difficult decisions, trust your instincts. There may not be a right or wrong choice. You may not have all the facts you want. But be confident in your decisions anyway. When you walk confidently in the direction of your decisions the universe rewards you. Know that you have the privilege of choosing your own adventure. Take advantage of that. Take control of your career and your life. Things will work out. Someday I expect to visit Roanoke. And I will thank the city for all it gave me in that trade years ago.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The best way to become an entrepreneur is through your unmet needs.

If you are like most people you have fantasized about owning your own business. It is an easy thing to fantasize about. Being an entrepreneur has many benefits. It’s an exciting challenge. It offers professional freedom and the potential for great income. Plus, it’s a really great way to finally learn how to spell the word entrepreneur. (The e always comes first.) But for most people, the hardest part is actually knowing what kind of business to start.

Here is a simple suggestion from a mid-career entrepreneur.

Think of products or services that you wish existed. Then create a business that delivers them.

Your business doesn’t have to be massive. It doesn’t have to change the world, go public or someday sell for a billion dollars. If those are your criteria you will likely never start anything. Instead, simply offer products or services that you would like to have for yourself.

I started a t-shirt business several years ago called Adam & Sleeve because I had humorous t-shirt design ideas that I wanted for myself. But when other people saw the designs, they wanted the t-shirts too. So I made enough shirts to sell to other people, which meant that I could get the shirt I wanted for free.

In 2015 I was ready for a job change. So I started talking to a number of advertising agencies about potentially joining their team. But I didn’t find the right combination of culture, clients, and opportunity. So I decided to create what I was looking for. And clients liked the idea too. After months of taking on night and weekend projects, the demand kept swelling. (Like my face after a bee sting.) So I officially launched The Weaponry, an advertising and ideas agency in April of 2016.

My friend Dan Richards started his business, Global Rescue, a worldwide field rescue service, after hoping that the business already existed. When he discovered that it didn’t, he decided it needed to, so he created it himself.

Today, I think about businesses that I wish existed all the time. In fact, my son Johann and I are in the process of launching a used piano business. But I also wish we had a local shoeshine that also cleaned sneakers. And I want a Flip Flop Ambulance that I can call when I’ve blown out a flip flop, or stepped on a pop-top. And maybe a business that came to clean out the bottom of your grill for you. (I would call that Grillax.)

Key Takeaway

Keep your antennae tuned to those things you wished existed. Businesses exist to fill a need. And if you have found a need that isn’t being met, you have found a space for a new business opportunity.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

My new podcast interview is out. And we talk about everythang!

There are 2 main reasons that people want to hear you tell your story.

  1. You have experienced success and others want to hear how you did it.
  2. You have failed in a spectacular way and people want to hear how you did it.

I’m not sure which category I fall into.

But I was recently invited to sit down with the great Justin Honaman to record an episode of his ContenderCast Podcast. Justin interviews entrepreneurs and people doing interesting thangs. I either qualified or found a useful loophole.

Like you, I was not born an entrepreneur. In fact, I spent 19 years working for someone else. But in my early 40s, with a significant mortgage, 3 kids and a wife that I really wanted to keep, I switched from Team Employee to Team Entrepreneur when I launched the advertising and ideas agency, The Weaponry.

When I started the agency I also started writing the Adam Albrecht blog, which now has 775 published posts. Most recently, I published my first book called What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? Did I mention I also juggle? (And jiggle.)

If you want to hear more, check out the podcast. I share my backstory that led to my front-story. I talk about a lot of different stuff. And Justin asks great questions.

Things I talk about on the podcast:

  • Growing up in Vermont
  • My track & field success, setbacks and comebacks
  • My college track & field experience at the University of Wisconsin
  • My advertising career
  • My real-life advanced degree in business
  • How the universe turned me into a mid-career entrepreneur
  • How you can become a mid-career entrepreneur
  • Launching The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency
  • The inspiration behind the name The Weaponry
  • The technology we used that made us pandemic proof
  • Sharing financial information with our team
  • The No A-Hole Rule
  • How and why I started the Adam Albrecht Blog.
  • Why blogs are amazing platforms for sharing ideas
  • Recognizing the power of positive messages
  • How I wrote My new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?
  • My next book on organizational culture with Jeff Hilimire
  • If you’ve read this far you might as well just listen to the whole podcast
  • How to continuously upgrade your thinking
  • Why I collect keys
  • The first thing I do every morning
  • The 2 questions my wife uses to inspire my career progress.
  • Much much more!

If you want a quick and entertaining recap of my story you can hear the podcast here. Or look for the ContenderCast Podcast from your favorite podcast dealer.

Have a great weekend!

-AA

The best first step to take to be highly successful.

Last week I was a guest on the ContenderCast Podcast with host Justin Honaman, Justin interviewed me about entrepreneurship, and the things I have learned by launching and running the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. We discussed lessons from my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? And we talked about his transition from Diet Coke to Coke Zero. (This paragraph has been brought to you by Coke Zero.)

I can’t wait for the podcast episode to drop. I expect it will change my life the way Sara Blakely’s life changed when she went on the Oprah Winfrey show. So don’t be surprised if the world starts wearing my undergarments too.

Advice

One of the great questions Justin asked me was, ‘What advice do you have for other people who want to start their own businesses?’

My answer was clear and instant:

Spend time with people who have already done it.

But that advice is not specifically for want-to-be entrepreneurs. Or wantrepreneurs.

It is the best advice I can share about any type of success and achievement.

The best way to achieve a massive goal is to spend time with people who have already done what you want to do.

When you spend time with superstars their mindset rubs off on you. Unlike tickets on the Polar Express, their mindset is transferrable.

Spending time with high achievers is like going to a Success Optometrist. They help you see success in much greater detail. You see the actions they take, the mindset they have adopted, and the relationships they develop and maintain.

When you see those things up close you realize that you can do all of those things too. Suddenly, your belief in what is possible expands. Your risk tolerance increases. Your view of money transforms. And your excuses fade away.

There is an intelligence that increases with increasing levels of success. It can appear mysterious or unattainable from a distance. But once you have a front-row seat to higher levels of success, it demystifies the process. It’s like seeing how magic tricks are actually performed. You quickly realize there is no magic. There are simply skills developed, practiced, and perfected until it looks like magic.

Key Takeaway

Seek out successful people. Step into their orbit and let their positive peer pressure propel you. Notice the way they act, read, and think. Modify their approaches to your needs and style. Soak up the education and inspiration. It will change your life like nothing else can. Because when you are close to those who model the behavior you want to see in yourself you can’t help but replicate it. It’s like a language immersion program. Only the language is success. Soon you’ll notice others who want to get close to you and learn how you do what you do. That’s when you know it works.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Why I am so excited about my upcoming book talk.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from my good friend Matt Richmond. He was reaching out on behalf of the Mequon-Thiensville Chamber of Commerce, which is the chamber in the community that I have lived in for the past 6 years since moving to Wisconsin from Atlanta.

Matt and the MTCOC (which sounds like a band name), were calling to invite me to speak at the Chamber’s September Luncheon on September 14th. Specifically, they wanted me to share lessons from my book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?

I figuratively jumped at the chance.

A Bit of Background

Nine months ago I published What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? with Ripples Media. The book is a collection of 80 of the best life lessons I have learned over my human adventure.

The book contains:

  • Lessons that have helped me as a record-setting college track athlete.
  • Lessons I have used as an entrepreneur to launch and grow my advertising and ideas agency The Weaponry.
  • Lessons I lean on as a high school track & field and youth football coach.
  • Lessons I use to develop and maintain strong relationships.
  • Lessons I use to get the most out of every day.

I am eager to share these ideas because they have been so valuable to me.

Over the past 9 months, I have given book talks all over the country. I have shared my learnings and lessons with students, clubs, and businesses. I have shared my ideas at conferences and with teams. I have been on TV shows and podcasts. I have signed hundreds of books for readers. And I have only spelled one name wrong. #oops

Molly told me to throw my hands in the air, and wave em like I just don’t care.

I wrote this book to help readers learn a little, laugh a little and lift a little. The consistent feedback I’m getting indicates that the book hits the target. I have heard countless stories from readers who have been inspired to do more, think differently and reevaluate their outlook.

Like this:

I’m 65 and not looking to start a business or even want to be motivated to do anything! I’m surprised that I not only enjoyed Adam’s humor, but I did become motivated to get going in a new chapter of life! 

-Jenee Sprau

And this:

It’s like a behind the scenes tour of how an ambitious, driven and successful person approaches life. Keep a notebook handy, this is full of gems!!

-Anne Norman

And this:

A terrific book for anyone who needs some a healthy dose of inspiration and a (good) kick in the pants! The bite size chapters are fun reads with loads of humor and actionable insights. Fortune Cookie is relevant for all ages and any part of life – careers, family, passions and hobbies. Pick up a copy and then pass it on to another person who you care deeply about.

-Ashley Gill

I’ve heard from people who have shared the lessons from my books with friends, family, and coworkers. (Which always looks like cow orkers to me.) There are numerous readers who have read the book, then bought 20 more copies to give away to others.

Me and some Mules at a recent talk in Missouri.

Please Join Me

I enjoy sharing my learnings on happiness and success with the world. But I really love the opportunity to share these lessons with my community. With business owners, leaders, and educators who also have the ability to positively impact my friends, family, and neighbors.

Speaking to the marketing group at the Milwaukee Athletic Club. Apparently, my hands are always in the air.

If you live or work near Mequon or Thiensville I would love to have you join the luncheon. I will share some of the best lessons I have learned about happiness and success. I’m hoping to inspire you to help make our community a better place to live and work. I will also try to make you laugh. Ideally, while you are eating or drinking something. Which is my favorite thing about talking at a luncheon.

You can register for the luncheon here.

Fun Fact: Thiensville is a village completely surrounded by the city of Mequon. It’s like our West Berlin. Or Vatican City.

+ If you are looking for a speaker to share positive ideas and inspiration with your organization, or to say something funny while people are eating, send me a note. You can reach me at adam@theweaponry.com.

A good sign that you are doing things the right way.


One of my great goals in life is to provide great value to others. To become a trusted and valued resource for others. Like a human Google, Wikipedia, or Oprah.

A simple indicator I use to measure my value to others is the number of Non-Disclosure agreements I am asked to sign. The NDA is a legal document that says I will keep all the secrets I am told a secret. It’s the legally binding equivalent of the pinky promise. It contains adult language that essentially says that I will zip it, lock it and put it in my pocket. Or that I cross my heart, hope to die, and stick a needle in my eye.

I sign a lot of these NDAs. Because people and companies regularly approach me and my team at The Weaponry about secret new projects, products and plans. They are looking for insights, guidance and collaboration to help a big new idea become a big success.

I love being invited into the inner circle early. And you should too. It’s a great honor and indicator of trust.

Important Questions To Consider

Are people sharing inside information with you?

Do they bring you in early?

Do they want your input?

Do you get brought in to help plan, pressure test, and introduce?

Are you asked to problem-solve?

Do you find out about opportunities first?

Do you have a secret bat phone?

Key Takeaway

The inner circle is where you want to be. It is true in your career and in your social circles. It is a sign of trustworthiness. It means others value your opinions, ideas, and experience. It means you have problem-solving skills. Or turbo-charging skills. And it’s a sign that others enjoy spending time with you. When you get invited into the inner circle it means you are providing great value to others. Which is the greatest measure of all.

+If you found value in this post you will probably also find value in my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Here’s what new graduates should do now to improve their careers.

Most high school seniors will graduate within the next week or two. High school commencement is one of the most exciting events in a human’s life. And with good reason. The best, most interesting chapters of your story start after high school. Unless, of course, you were in an epic high school-based movie. In which case, it’s all downhill from here.  (You can check the 50 Greatest High School Movies of All Time here to make sure you weren’t in one).

As you begin down the yellow brick road of life you will constantly encounter new challenges and opportunities. You will find people who are trying to help you, people who need your help, and people who just want to steal your slippers.

You’ll benefit from as much good advice from those who have traveled the road before you as you can get. So please allow me to contribute a little worthwhile advice from someone who has been there, done that, and discovered some secrets to a successful journey.


An Open Letter to High School Seniors.

Dear Seniors,

Four to ten years from now, when you graduate from college, finish your military obligations, or give up on your Hollywood/Nashville/YouTube/Lottery dream, you will start focusing on your real career. When you do, everyone will tell you that you need to start building your network.

But they are wrong. You need to start building your network now. So before you throw your binders in the trash, your graduation cap in the air, and carve your initials into the wood paneling of the senior lounge, you should begin building your professional network.

WTH Is A Professional Network?

Your professional network is a collection of the people you know that may be able to positively impact your professional career. The people in your network, or community, will be able to help with career advice, finding a job, and connecting you to other people and businesses that are important to your career advancement. You will also be able to provide the same sort of help to others in your network. Because it takes a village to keep a child from moving back into their parents’ basement.

Who Are My Connections?

Your connections are your friends, your family, and your teachers. Your connections are your friends’ parents. They are the adults you know from church, and the extracurricular activities you’ve participated in. They are your coaches. They are the kids you competed both with, and against, in sports. They are the kids you know from camp (like that one girl who played the flute).

Starting A Connection Collection.

The best career move you high school seniors should make right now is to create a profile on LinkedIn and start collecting your connections. LinkedIn is an online social networking site for the business community. And right now is the best time to start collecting your network. By starting now, you will collect the most connections. And the more connections you properly maintain, the stronger your network will be. It’s kinda like being popular in high school. Only this type of popularity can dramatically impact your salary (your salary is the adult version of an allowance).

Grow As You Go

You will want to continue collecting your friends and acquaintances throughout college, trade school, military service, your walkabout, or your creative exploratory period. Every time you meet someone new, don’t just think about adding them to Snap or Insta.  Sure, do that too. But definitely add them to LinkedIn. Granted, the filters on LinkedIn aren’t as good as Snapchat. But having a good job makes you look better than any photographic editing or augmented reality can.

It’s All About The Network, (and the Benjamins)

Eventually, everyone is going to tell you to network and build your network, and that it is all about your network. That’s just an adult way of saying:

Stay in touch with the people you know, because it will connect you to opportunities, advice and endorsements that will prove highly beneficial down the road.

Why Start As A High School Senior?

You know a lot of people now that you are going to forget. Those kids you go to school with are going to do amazing things with remarkable organizations. And they are going to have opportunities for you, but only if you stay in touch. You are also going to have opportunities for them. Even better, in the real world, there are things called referral bonuses. Which means you can make extra money for helping your organization find good talent. #cha-ching

Monitoring Your Classmates

Adding your friends to LinkedIn is like putting a tracking device on them. It will allow you to collect intel on each person, like where they went to school, what they majored in, and where they worked after college.

It also puts a tracking device on you, so that others will remember your educational track, your career path and your special interests and activities. That way your connections will know when their opportunities intersect with your skills, interests and abilities.

The Adult Rock Stars Around You

Your neighbors, teachers and friends’ parents are more successful and connected than you know. Four or five years from now you could end up in a job interview with them. Or with their friends or relatives. When that happens, you will want every advantage you can get. Like a good endorsement from someone who knew you were always such a good kid. (You were always a good kid, right?)

Trust Me. I Know.

I started my career in advertising as a copywriter. But I always envisioned becoming an entrepreneur and someday starting my own ad agency. 19 years later, that’s exactly what I did. In 2016 I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

Do you know who my very first client was? My friend Dan Richards, whom I have known since 7th grade. Dan is the Founder and  CEO of a badass company called Global Rescue.  Which means that Dan and I went from high school classmates, and football and track teammates, to summer job coworkers, to trusted business partners. We have helped each other launch highly successful companies.

Today, one of my important clients is Sarah Wilde at Sonic Foundry, an innovative technology company based in Madison, Wisconsin. But Sarah and I have also known each other since 7th Grade, and we grew up together in Norwich, Vermont.

Sarah helped plan a couple of our Hanover High School class reunions. And I planned the most recent one. At that reunion back home in New England, we talked about potentially doing work together. Since then we have launched 2 completely new brands together from dust. As we would say in Vermont, that’s wicked awesome.

Note To Self

They say the best day to plant a tree is 20 years ago. And the second-best day is today. The same holds true for building your network. Start now by collecting your connections before you leave high school. But if you are already in college, serving your country, or in the middle of your career, and you haven’t been building your network, start now. (By now I mean after you read the next paragraph.)

Key Takeaway

There are amazingly talented people all around you. So start collecting them today. It’s the very best way to assure an abundance of everything you will need later in your career. By doing so you may help one of your high school classmates find their dream job. Or launch their own business. Or they may help you launch your dream business. I know. Because it happened to me.

-Adam Albrecht

Founder & CEO of The Weaponry

+If you realize that this is worthwhile advice, you might also like my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? It is full of more lessons like this. It features 80 of the best life lessons I have learned since graduation. Good luck graduates! It just gets better from here.

* If you know a recent graduate that you think could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

This week I was blowing out candles and a new list of goals.

It was my birthday on Wednesday. I had a lot of friends and family members reach out to me to wish me a happy birthday. But my birthday fell on a cool and rainy Wednesday. Which meant that I wasn’t able to enjoy the outdoor activities I usually enjoy on my birthday, like biking, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and nude sunbathing.

While my birth day itself was not remarkable, I spent time planning for a memorable year. This is one of my favorite annual traditions. It helps me focus on the things that are most important to me. I want to experience happiness, fulfillment and success in all areas of my life. So I set a number of goals. Here are the areas I focused on for my next 365 days.

  1. Marriage: I set goals to strengthen my relationship with my wife Dawn. This makes everything else work.
  2. Health: I have to take care of my machine. But I haven’t seen a doctor in 7 years. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did see a doctor walking down the street. But this year I plan to see one at a checkup.
  3. Parenting: This is my most important job. So I am focusing on how to further build my children’s confidence. And keep them out of government-issued jumpsuits.
  4. Travel: I have major life travel goals. And I want to cross 2 of my major destinations off my list this year. (I also want to go visit them.)
  5. Business: These are my goals related to the growth and success of The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I launched 6 years ago. It’s my 4th baby. But probably the best behaved.
  6. Career: I focus on where I am going next. (I have a long way to go and a short time to get there.)
  7. Job: I focus on becoming better in my current role. Sidenote: Entrepreneurs can’t say take this job and shove it. Because you are both the shover and the shovee.
  8. Self Education: I set goals for becoming smarter and more capable. (There are a lot of books involved.)
  9. Fitness: The best way to feel young is to feel fit. So I have a couple of important goals here. Including building out the workout room in my new home so that I can maximize my personal fitness.
  10. Faith God knows this is important. (I can’t tell if I just used God’s name in vain, or out of vain.)
  11. Financial: This is what funds everything else. I keep it simple and focus on my net worth. Like Shakira’s hips, the numbers don’t lie.
  12. Home: I have goals that focus on our family nest. And how to make it our favorite place in the world.
  13. Key Relationships: At the end of our days the only thing that will matter is the impact we had on each other. Here I focus on my relationship with my parents and my sisters. I focus on my relationship with my high school friends, college teammates, college roommates, and local friends. And if I am a good friend, I will have more people to focus on next year.

Key Takeaway

A great year doesn’t just happen. You make it happen. And it all starts by knowing what will contribute to your happiness and success. Refocus and rededicate yourself every year to your personal improvement and relationship development. It’s the best way to live the life you imagined.

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

+For more ways to get the most out of life, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.