Chase all your crazy dreams until you catch them.

I first met my wife Dawn in the summer of 2000. From the first moment I saw her on the elevator at my office I was cray cray for her. 6 weeks later we had our first date. 5 days later we talked about marriage. #WhenYouKnowYouKnow

We were young and just starting to build momentum in our careers. After college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Dawn had lived and worked in New York City and Chicago. To this country boy she seemed like Christie Brinkley in the Uptown Girl video.

Dawn and Adam in 2001 in Vermont.

At the time, I had already lived in Ohio, New Jersey, Missouri, Vermont, and Madison. Then, like Joanie and Chachi, we met in Milwaukee in 2000. I was still living in my first apartment after college, but I had big ambitions. The kind that don’t keep you tied to a specific geography.

Like Bill and Ted, Dawn and I talked about our excellent adventures ahead. We wondered where they might take us. Our jobs, apartments and city all felt temporary. We knew we had much more to explore.

During that exciting first year, Tim McGraw released a new album called Set This Circus Down. The first time I heard the title track I thought the song was written for us.

Here is the chorus:

“Set This Circus Down”

And we go rolling down this highway
Chasing all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

I loved the theme of this song. An adventurous couple was traveling the highway of life together, pursuing their crazy dreams. But they knew that someday when they had everything they were chasing, they would stop running and plant themselves somewhere wonderful.

Us on Hilton Head Island, like the chair says.

We adopted this song as the unofficial theme of our relationship in that first year. Since then we have had quite an adventure. We have lived in 4 apartments and owned 4 homes in several different states.

My career has been as successful and rewarding as I could have ever wanted. We’ve added 3 great kids along the way. Our circus got a little crazier and more fun with each new performer we added. Dawn has been the amazing wife and mother I knew she would be when I asked her to marry me under the St. Louis Arch in a thunderstorm in 2002.

This land is your land. This land is my land. This land is Badland.

Five years ago we bet on ourselves and I started my own business called The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency. We were living in Atlanta at the time. But due to a serious health scare in our family, we decided we needed to be closer to our parents. So we moved to Milwaukee. Which is where we bought home number 4.

At the time we said that if things went well with the new business we would look for one more home in 2 or 3 years.

Just after moving into The Weaponry’s first office in Milwaukee.

The Weaponry has been very successful. (Thanks to our fun and talented people, and really great clients.) So Dawn and I began looking for our forever home (#5) two years ago.

We have an excellent Realtor named Jamie Lubner who we love. But with all of the homes we have seen over the past 2 years, we didn’t make a single offer. We have been picky because we had waited a long time for this and wanted it to be special.

The process was growing long. And time was ticking because our daughter Ava was in high school. She only had 3 years at home before she left for college, or a van down by the river.

We found this cute little waterfall, delicious grapes and tons of honeymooners in upstate New York.

Then, on the morning of June 17th, 2021, Dawn and I saw a beautiful home listed for sale in our very favorite neighborhood in town. A great subdivision set in the middle of the Wisconsin countryside. We walked in and were amazed. It was just what we were looking for. A beautiful home on 1.5 acres.

We wrote a full-price offer immediately and had it accepted the next day.

We moved in 2 weeks ago.

Our new home is just a mile from this farm.

Today, September 28th, Dawn and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. While 20 years of marriage may look more significant on paper, this is the year we have been thinking about since we first heard Tim McGraw’s song back in 2001.

We have finally found our piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down.

Today it feels like we are winning at life.

Key Takeaway

Envision what you want your life to look like. Start with the end in mind. Then create a plan to get there. Chase all of your crazy dreams until you catch them. And enjoy the circus, wherever your tent is set.


Here is a link to the full song

And here are the full lyrics.

“Set This Circus Down”

Sometimes this road, it just keeps winding
Round and round and back again
But you’ve always kept me smiling
Over every hill, round every bend
Baby you’re the one smiling with me when the sun comes up
I got the wheel, you got the map and that’s enough

And we go rolling down this highway
Chasing all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

Sometimes I lie awake just thinking
Of all the horizons we have seen
And as another day is sinking
I thank God you’re here with me
‘Cause baby you’re the one laughing with me when the sun goes down
Living on faith and holding on tight to the love we found

And we go rolling down this highway
Chasing all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

And set this circus down

Maybe one of these days, gonna set this circus down
Set this circus down

Writer(s): William Luther, Josh Kear

Are you offering others promises of what you can do, or proof?

Winning new business is exciting. It means you convinced a customer or client to take a chance on you. (Like ABBA said.) But at this point, you are selling the promise of what you can do for them. Because in the beginning, the promise is all you’ve got.

The best moment in business is when a customer or client comes back for the second helping. Because this time it is not because of a promise you made them. It is because of the proof you gave them. (It’s in the pudding.)

The first transaction is based on your promise. The second is based on your proof.

The first engagement is based on hope. The second engagement is based on expectations met. Businesses live and die based on met expectations. Which is why repeat business is so important. It is the lag indicator that you are offering value and a positive experience.

If you track just one measurement on your way to success it should be repeat purchases. It is the pass-fail measure of long-term success. Because without repeat purchasers, you will run out of new prospects. And your business will be all grind, and no bump.

Recent History

Last week I had two great repeat experiences.

First, The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I lead, got a call from one of our first-time clients. We were almost done building a website for this client, and they called to tell us they want us to take on another website build for another division of their business.

Second, we had our first creative presentation to another new client. At the end of the presentation, The Boss Man told us he wanted us to work with their procurement team to get set up as an official, long-term supplier. Boom!

These second projects came because we lived up to expectations. We passed an important test. We weren’t one and done, like a University of Kentucky freshman basketball player. Which means we are running a sustainable business.

A Personal Note

The same principle holds true in your personal life. You get a first shot at relationships, opportunities, and trust based on the promise of delivering the goods. The second shot comes because you proved you were worthy the first time. Keep delivering and good things just keep coming your way.

Key Takeaway

Winning new business is simply an opportunity to prove what you can do. It is where the hard work begins. Make sure to deliver on the promises you made to that first-time customer. Because when you do, they’ll come back for more. And businesses only thrive if happy customers keep coming back for more.

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

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To grow your business you have to find great customers yourself.

I get a boatload of emails, calls, and LinkedIn requests from strangers who are trying to sell to me. Most of them want to help me generate more business leads for The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency that I lead.

It is crazy how many people want to help me with this. It is as if they all looked at my demographic information alone and want to sell me a hair growth tonic. But if you knew me, or ever looked at my LinkedIn profile pic, you would know I may have problems, but growing hair is not one of them.

The sales promises are often quantified. They say they will deliver hundreds or thousands of qualified leads per month. To the uninitiated, unsuccessful, lazy or naive this must sound amazing.

But business growth and development doesn’t work that way. Qualified leads and prospects are not a commodity. You can’t outsource them to a stranger. The type of clients or customers you want to work with are not like crops in a field. You can’t simply run a harvester through them, load them into a wagon and sell them on the open market.

Prospective customers and clients are not all created equal. The valuable ones come from relationships, connections, and conversations. From shared philosophies and values. You and your team should find the right ones for you. Then earn their trust. Develop a mutual attraction. And decide you are right for each other.

For a stranger to spam* me and tell me that they can find me a steady supply of qualified leads is like telling me that they can find me more friends. ‘We’ll dump a list of friends on you. You’ll really like them and they will like you too.’ But it doesn’t work that way. That’s a job we have to do ourselves.

*No offense to Spam, the innovative meat. If a stranger offered me some fried Spam for breakfast we would be friends for life.

Key Takeaway

Earn your own customers and clients. Create systems and processes to find them. Develop relationships. Keep your promises. Deliver results. Create a core of happy customers that spread the word about you. That never fails.

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

Every day you can find an excuse not to do the work.

Entrepreneurship is no joke. I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry in 2016. The business requires a great deal of effort to maintain and grow. It’s not for the weak of heart, weak of mind or weak of alarm clock.

At the same time I started my business I also started writing this blog. I wanted to share my experience and learnings with others. Now I publish a new post 3 days per week. Every day except Saturday I get up at 6 am to write. On Saturdays I sleep in until 6:30 am. I’m like the ‘Time-To-Make-The-Donuts’ man. Except consuming a lot of what I’m making won’t give you diabetes.

However, almost every day I can find an excuse not to do the things I need to do to grow my business or write my blog. I can always, always find excuses not to get up and put in the work to improve our product, processes and people. I can find excuses not to write, polish, and publish the next post. But Like Forrest Gump kept on run-ning, I keep wor-king, and wri-ting.

Excuses are everywhere. And they can get you out of anything hard. In fact, excuses can make your life easier. Much easier.

Excuses are like A-holes, Taylor. Everybody’s got one.

-Sgt. O’Neill from Platoon

But every time you grab one of those excuses you are robbing yourself. You are robbing from all that you are capable of doing and becoming. You are robbing from your life’s work. You are robbing from your own personal legend. You are robbing money from your own pocket. You are robbing from your belief in yourself that you are accountable, reliable and resilient. That you are determined, focused and driven.

An excuse is like Superman’s Kryptonite. The excuse itself weakens you. It zaps you of your superpower. It makes you a very ordinary human. Which means you are Clark-Kenty. Not the super version of you that you really want to be.

Don’t touch the excuses. They only appear to be permission slips that let you sleep in, knock off early, put in half-effort, or not work at all. But they kill your momentum. They kill progress. And they sabotage your success. (Listen all y’all it’s a sabotage!)

At the end of your days, when your obituary is written and your eulogy is read, they won’t mention all the excuses you had for not doing more. They will only talk about what you did, who you were, what you accomplished and the impact you had on other people. Remember that the next time you consider grabbing an excuse.

Key Takeaway

Don’t accept the excuses life offers. Do what you are supposed to do to live into your vision for yourself. Let others take the excuses. And separate yourself from them. That alone is the difference maker. Both successful people and unsuccessful people know what they should do. The successful people actually do what they are supposed to do to make their dreams come true. Everyone else makes excuses.

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

Don’t be the cheapest. Be the best.

There has been a recurring theme at work lately. My team at The Weaponry has been involved in several new business pitches. Which means we are competing with other advertising or design agencies to win a project. Sometimes there are 2 agencies. And the pitch is like a rap battle, or the knife fight in Michael Jackson’s Beat It video. Sometimes it is a Royal Rumble where you are competing with every superhero and their sidekick.

The 3 Factors

There are 3 factors involved in winning a new project from a client or customer. At least where organized crime is not involved. (Those organizations add a few other important factors. Like how much you enjoy your family, and your limbs.)

  1. The Proposal. This is the written plan detailing what you are going to offer the customer or client if they choose you. This is quite literally the overview of the product or service being offered.
  2. The Price: This is the summary of how much your offering is going to cost. Your price relative to your competitor’s price is important. The critical question is how does the price and value of your offering stack up against the other options they are considering.
  3. Your likability. Do the deciders like you? Do they trust you? Are you funny, smart, kind, good-looking or tell great stories? Do they want to spend time working and problem solving with you?

All Things Considered

Recently we have heard several times that our price was more expensive than the other options we were weighed against. However, they chose us anyway. This creates a valuable math equation boys and girls.

The Math

In this case, what we were offering and our likability combined was greater than the price we were charging for it.

Offering + Likability > Price

This is exactly where you want to be in business. When you offer superior products or services, and a combination of likability, fun, and trustworthiness, more times than not you will not lose out on price. In fact, if the other two factors are strong enough you can charge more, because you are offering more value. And everyone comes out ahead.

Key Takeaway

In any business transaction, there are always more factors at play than price. As the seller, your responsibility is to provide a superior product and service. And if you deliver that with more likable, more trustworthy people you will not only break any ties, you will add more value to the overall experience, and people will be willing to pay more for your offering. So don’t fight others on price. Compete with them on the offering itself, and on the people who offer it. And like Bob Barker said, the price will always be right.

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

Getting the vaccine = Getting back together = Getting back to normal

Wednesday was a big day for me. I didn’t win the lottery. I wasn’t named a Most Beautiful Person. And I wasn’t asked to replace Alex Trebek on Jeopardy. Heck, I wasn’t even asked to replace Alex Trebek in the Colonial Penn commercials. It was a big day simply because it was one of the normalest days I have had outside my home in 15 months.

Vaccination Nation

I got my second vaccine shot 2 weeks ago (I’m Team Pfizer, not Hufflepuff or Slytherin). I now feel that I am as protected from the COVID-19 virus as I am going to be. Better yet, I feel as protected as I need to be. So I have started doing regular life stuff again. And I am reminded how much I love regular life stuff.

Wednesday, Normal Wednesday

Wednesday I traveled from Milwaukee to Madison (which is about a 90-minute drive for those of you who are Wisconsin-illiterate). I went to college at The University of Wisconsin in Madison, and I feel as at home in Madtown as I do anywhere on Earth. I was there to see people that I hadn’t seen since before the planet went cuckoo for Covid Puffs.

The Breakfast Club

I started my day at a breakfast meetup with a group of former University of Wisconsin Badger athletes. The last time I saw any of these W Club members in person was March 4th of 2020. The Crew included:

  • Charlie Wills: The Owner of the Charlie Wills Team -Real Estate Partners (basketball)
  • Scott Silvestri: VP and General Manager of Learfield’s Badger Sports Properties (swimming)
  • Derek Steinbach: Director of Development for Wisconsin Athletics (track & field)
  • Nicholas ‘Papa’ Pasquarello: Executive Director of the W Club and Strategic Partnerships – Wisconsin Athletics (soccer)
  • Andy Crooks: Managing Broker at T.R. McKenzie (football)
  • Adam Albrecht: Founder and CEO of The Weaponry and Dude Who Writes This Blog (track & field)
  • Kalvin Barrett: Dane County Sheriff (football (but he will tell you he was a swimmer))
Nick, Me, Derek, Sheriff Barrett, Charlie and Scott at the Original Pancake House in Madison. I’m always amazed at how many of those restaurants there are. Which makes me think most of them are lying.

It felt like a reunion. We were hugging and shaking hands and seeing each other’s naked faces. We were sharing stories, smiling, and laughing. And not once did anyone say, ‘You’re on mute.’

This was a group of ballers, that included All-Americans, Final Four participants, school record holders, Big 10 Champions, and Team Captains. But the rockstar of the group was Sheriff Barrett. Other people in the restaurant were asking to take pictures with him and to asked him to stop to talk. It was fun to see.

I asked Kalvin if he no longer likes the Bob Marley song, “I shot the sheriff.” He said that he loves that song and plays it in the office. Which reminded me of Shaq in the Grown Ups 2 clip below.

Brunch

After breakfast, I visited Dave Astrauskas, the rockstar throwing coach of the University of Wisconsin track and field team. Dave has coached 4 NCAA Champions, 1 NCAA Collegiate Record Holder, 41 NCAA Division I All-Americans, 4 Big Ten Records Holder, 11 Big Ten Champions and Olympic discus thrower Kelsey Card.

Coach Dave Astrauskas He can teach you how to throw anything but a hissy fit.

Dave has forgotten more about throwing than I will ever know. And of all the people I know Dave is the most likely to set off a spellcheck alarm. #astrauskas

I spent time with Dave for 3 reasons:

  1. Because he is a good human.
  2. To learn from someone who is at the top of their field.
  3. To foster a strong bond between the UW Track & Field program and alumni.

Spending time with Dave was enlightening. He offered me a number of new ways to think about throwing, human performance, coaching, problem solving, the Big Ten Conference, athletic facilities and competition. My time with Dave was a great reminder of how much we can all learn if we ask good questions of experts, listen, and maintain a beginner’s mind.

Lunch

My lunch meeting was pure joy. I met with my friend-client-superstar, Anne Norman, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer of UW Credit Union. Anne has been a favorite human of mine since we first met for lunch at Hi-Way Harry’s in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin in 2018. We have been working together weekly ever since. But we have only seen each other in-person once since February of 2020, at our TV commercial shoot with Jonathan Taylor, running back for the Indianapolis Colts.

The 3 greatest exports of Kenosha, Wisconsin are Orson Welles, my high school teacher Mr. Bill, and Anne Norman.

Anne is a burst of sunshine on any day. Even on the phone or on Zoom. Especially if she is wearing her banana costume. But to be with her in person provides a full week’s worth of Vitamin C in one sitting.

We talked business and branding and teams. We talked about upcoming marketing initiatives. But we could have talked about hang nails, paper cuts and the DMV and I would have enjoyed it. Because spending time with Anne is even more valuable to me now than it was in 2019.

Key Takeaway

Get vaccinated if you can. See your people in real life. Spending time with great humans is joy fuel. And it is even better now that we have had that ability taken away from us. Today, life isn’t just returning to normal. Life is about to be better than ever. Because we have a newfound appreciation for all of the little things. Like simply being together with other good people. Let us never take that for granted again.

Thank you Charlie, Derek, Scott, Nick, Andy, Dave and Anne for sharing some of your valuable time with me.

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

I had a lot of help becoming an entrepreneur. Here are 16 names.

19 years into my advertising career I did something cray-cray. Despite the fact that there were already a bazillion ad agencies I could have worked at I decided to start my own. That agency, The Weaponry, just turned 5-years old. Which is kind of a big deal because so many businesses bite the dust before they hit the 5-candle cake.

Reflecting

Our recent milestone has prompted me to reflect on my entrepreneurial journey. What I have discovered is that entrepreneurship is like an epic game of connect the dots. Most of those dots are people. And in my case, none of them are actually named Dot.

I have been thinking of many of the people who have played an important dot in my experience. And I quickly go back to the very beginning. Which is a very good place to start. Because the hardest part of entrepreneurship is simply getting started. Here are some of the people that inspired me to get started and the role they played in my adventure.

16-ish People Who Have Played An Important Role In My Entrepreneurial Adventure.

  1. Bob and Jill Albrecht My parents gave me the confidence to think I could do anything I set my mind to. Except maybe play baseball. Or win at The Quiet Game.
My parents, during one of my speeches.

2. Dawn Albrecht My wife fully supported me trading in a well-paid career as an employee to chase the elusive success of entrepreneurship. And she had the most to lose. Like food, shelter, and wi-fi.

Me and Dawn: The Early Years. A good life partner makes all the difference.

3. My Uncles I have 18 uncles, most of whom are either farmers or other forms of entrepreneurs, or both. Seeing that kind of self-reliance all around you makes you believe in yourself. My Aunts (rhymes with wants) were also important partners in the team’s success. Which provided a template for Dawn and me to follow. And some shared genetics.

4. Roger Rathke My college journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin was a copywriter who eventually owned his own agency and made plenty of money in the process. He provided a model and a path I wanted to follow. Plus he had a fancy sports car. Which is not something most professors have. He also introduced me to an agency CEO named Paul Counsell, which was the first domino. We all need a first domino.

My college professor Roger Rathke really got my career rolling.

5. Paul Counsell Paul was the CEO of Cramer Krasselt, and hired me for my first job in advertising. He provided another great agency leader model for me. He had also started his own agency. And when I asked what he would have done differently in his entrepreneurial journey he said he would have gone after bigger clients sooner. I never forgot that and followed his advice when I started The Weaponry. He also once told me I had no diplomacy. He was right. I fixed that.

Roger, Paul, and me at an awards banquet. I was voted most likely not to wear a sport coat.

6. Neil Casey My first boss. At a lunch 2 years into my career, he told me I had the skills to lead the whole agency. I was 25. That made a major impression on me.

Neil Casey, without the sunshine band.

7. Ashley Lazarus Ashley is a world-class director, who in 1999 told me I had to start my own agency to stay in control of my own career. I believed him. Our discussion was a key driver in my career. I wrote about it here.

Ashley was the first person who told me I had to start my own agency to protect my career. He also made cranberries look delicious. Not like the little balls of face-contortion that they really are.

8. Chris Dawson Chris and I first met 21 years ago when he was a marketing hotshot at Ski-Doo, leading their advertising agency review. Me and my team pitched and won the account. Chris is hyper-smart and we became good friends and excellent collaborators. In the summer of 2015, Chris called me and encouraged me to start my own agency. While the idea of entrepreneurship had been simmering for years, that call and that encouragement was the tipping point. Chris has now helped hire The Weaponry 3 different times for 3 different companies.

Chris Dawson, before he grew his ZZ Top beard.

9. Chad Thompson Chad was a former client of mine at Nationwide Insurance. He called me 2 hours after I talked to Chris Dawson and also told me he was interested in working together again but didn’t think my current agency was right for his needs. I told him that was good news because I was going to start my own agency. This second call of the afternoon felt like the universe hitting me over the head, telling me it was time to get going.

Chad Thompson, inducing hair envy with a smile.

10. Mark O’Brien I had a 4-hour dinner with Mark, a close friend, and former client a few days later at Marlow’s in Alpharetta, Georgia. #SweetTeaBender I told him that I was thinking of starting my own agency. He said, ‘You HAVE to do this!’ Not you should, or could. He made it clear that success was certain, and the world needed what I was planning to build. That was a huge endorsement. A few months later he hired The Weaponry to work on Mizuno.

Mark made me wear this Clay Matthews jersey for a presentation. I have no idea why.

11. Nicole Hallada My friend Nicole and I had a phone call shortly after my dinner with Mark. When she asked me what I was up to I told her I was planning on starting my own agency. She told me that if I did she had work for me. She has now been a very important client for 5 years.

The first freelance project I did for Nicole in 2006 was paid for with a sandwich, and a bag of chips.

12. Christien Louviere Christien is a friend and entrepreneur in Atlanta. But most importantly as it relates to me, he is also a content creator. His blog post Top 10 Things You Don’t Need to Do To Start Your Own Business had a major impact on me. Because in the post he enlightened me to the fact that I should start my business before quitting my day job. He said let your day job fund your startup as long as you can. That key unlocked the gate for me. It took the pressure off of the need for immediate success. In fact, that advice was so important to me that I have now published nearly 600 blog posts since then in hopes that I help unlock something important for someone else by sharing what I know.

Don’t stare at Christien too long or his handsomeness will hypnotize you.

13. Jeff Hilimire Jeff is a serial entrepreneur and was the President of Engauge when I was the Chief Creative Officer. After Engauge was acquired by Publicis, Jeff started Dragon Army and was fully immersed in his new agency when I was ready to start The Weaponry. He was and has been a great advisor and supporter throughout my journey. I remember sitting on the deck at Dragon Army with Jeff in Atlanta when he asked me, ‘What is the percent chance you will actually start your own agency?‘ I told him ‘100%. I will fail at this before I do anything else.’ Which illustrated how committed I was to entrepreneurship. I wrote about it here.

Jeff and I and a meaty backdrop.

14. Dan Richards Dan and I grew up together in Norwich, Vermont. We played football and were on the track team together at Hanover High School. He is one of my closest friends. He is also an amazing entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of Global Rescue. Dan hired an embryonic version of The Weaponry to do its very first project on October 31st of 2015 in Boston. Over the following 12 months not only was Global Rescue our biggest client, Dan was a great mentor, sharing everything I wanted to know about running a business. Every aspiring entrepreneur should have a Dan Richards.

Just a couple of Green Mountain Boys. Never meaning no harm.

15. Troy Allen Troy and I both lived in Dublin, Ohio. We were both advertising guys. But when I met him he had already started his own agency called Elevate. Then he started another amazing business called Rise Brands, which creates amazing brands, including the wildly successful 16-Bit Arcade, Pins Mechanical, and No Soliciting. Troy was extremely helpful in sharing his experience and providing insights into pricing and offering revenue numbers to benchmark against. Having someone to talk real numbers with you is huge for new entrepreneurs.

Troy and I representing the bookends of the hair spectrum.

16. Brooks Albrecht My cousin Brooks was in Seattle working for Amazon in 2015. But we talked often. We have a lot in common. Including a good chunk of our DNA and our last name. Brooks played football and baseball at The University of Minnesota. I was on the track team at the University of Wisconsin. We both were on Big 10 Championship teams. And we were both looking for our next career challenge. So we teamed up to launch The Weaponry together. We planned and prepped and researched together. Brooks solidified our operations and was part of The Weaponry for the first year. He was a huge help, and really fun to work with. We still talk frequently and are always looking for our next collaboration.

My cousin Brooks and I demonstrating the 2 basic ways to wear a hat.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship may appear to be an individual sport, but it is far from that. It is full of supporters, encouragers, and role models. Finding those people is key to your success. Surround yourself with great people. It increases the likelihood of you doing great things too.

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

What my first boss said when he found out I was starting my own business.

While researching a longer post about key people who supported my entrepreneurial adventure I came across an email from my first boss in advertising, Neil Casey.

Neil was a partner at Cramer Krasselt and the Executive Creative Director. I started as a junior copywriter and thought I would get fired every day for the first 6 months. Neil and I were opposites in many ways. But I liked his style, and he tolerated mine. Neil is a really great swearer. I am not sure he knows this. He also taught me a lot about advertising, writing, strategy, creative thinking and how to stand up for your ideas.

The following email was from August 25, 2016. I had officially launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency just a few months earlier. I was moving form Atlanta to Milwaukee for family reasons. Neil found out what I was doing and shared this note.

The note:

Hey Adam, Paul told me you were opening an ad agency in Milwaukee. ARE YOU NUTS?! Yeah, Paul had I went bonkers circa 1980 and opened Counsell & Casey. After melding back into C-K things turned out pretty well. Luck is always a component, bad or good. We were fortunate to have good luck.

Put yourself in situations and environments that foster good luck. Then add your unique talent and you’re on your way to fame and fortune. Oh yeah, I forgot about all the drudgery and long hours. Hang out with talented people. Keep the faith.

I always saw you as a Brand Enthusiast, Adam. Milk it for all you can.

Let’s have lunch sometime soon.

Neil

Key Takeaway

Support and encourage people whenever you can. Every bit helps.

Sidenote (actually below note): Neil hates the name The Weaponry. But I love it. And I have always enjoyed being the pea under Neil’s mattress.

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

The Weaponry turns 5 years old!

I always wanted to start my own business. Not because I was an unhappy employee or a free spirit who couldn’t stand to work for The Man. I just like a good challenge. And everything I ever heard about entrepreneurship made it seem like it was the career equivalent to bull riding. Or free solo climbing. Or streaking at the Super Bowl. I knew it was dangerous. The likelihood of failure was very high. But if you are successful, there are few endeavors as rewarding.

On the set of a recent TV shoot with Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts. I tried to steal his necklace, and he tried to defend it. It was all very subtle.

Some Fun Entrepreneurial Facts

  • There are 31 million businesses in the United States
  • 90% fail within the first 5 years
  • Only 4% ever make $1 million a year.
  • The average age of startup Founders is 42 years 
  • A first-time entrepreneur has an 18% chance of succeeding
  • 70% of entrepreneurs were married when they started their first business
  • 60% had at least one child
  • 44% had two or more children
  • 66% of start-up founders pay themselves less than $50,000
  • 69% of American entrepreneurs start their business at home
  • 80% of small businesses are non-employer businesses. 
  • 51% of small businesses make less than $100,000 in annual sales. 

Riding The Bull

With these facts in hand, I launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, in 2016. I wholeheartedly believed that we would succeed. The statistics didn’t scare me. They motivated me to prove that I was one of the few, the proud, the elite non-failers. Although I am sure the failers also felt confident when they first started out. After all, you don’t jump out of an airplane unless you are highly confident your parachute will open. Unless maybe there were snakes on the plane.

A constant reminder in our offices to think.

Turning 5 Years Old

Today, I am thrilled and proud to say The Weaponry is 5 years old! We gave grown significantly each year. And despite the global pandemic, 2020 was our best year yet. Now 2021 is off to a strong start. We continue to add to our team. And we have added 2 new clients in the past 2 weeks.

From a trip to India in 2018 to work with our clients Fifth Third Bank and SLK Global Solutions. I didn’t get the White Shirt Memo.

Funner Entrepreneurial Facts

  • The Weaponry has offices in both Milwaukee and Columbus.
  • We have 24 clients
  • We have clients in all 4 US Time Zones.
  • We have clients in 3 countries: The United States, Canada and India.
  • We offer Health Insurance and Dental Insurance
  • We have a 401(k) plan with a 4% match
  • We have two red refrigerators
  • Both of our offices are in Suite #206 (Although the signs say Sweet #206. Because I thought that was funnier. Those are the kinds of dumb things you can do when you start your own business.)
This is where the magic happens.

What’s Next?

I feel as if we have only just begun, like Karen Carpenter. We have much more to accomplish. We expect us to grow and expand significantly. It is clear that we are having great success with happy clients who have hired The Weaponry 2 and 3 times as they have changed jobs. Which I think is the best compliment a client can give you.

Our 3 Pillars of Success.

Before we won our very first client (Global Rescue), I declared The Weaponry’s recipe for long-term success. And unlike that finger-licker Colonel Sanders, I am happy to share it with you.

  1. Great Creative Idea
  2. Excellent Customer Service
  3. A Fun Experience for Everyone Involved.
Me and Dan Richards, CEO of our first client, Global Rescue. We were trying to look tough while wearing polos.

What’s Next?

If we continue to deliver on these 3 points we will enjoy perpetual success. And while I am very thankful to have made it to 5 years, I believe the job of leadership is to keep a business in business forever. To do that we will have to continue to listen, learn, adapt and improve. I am fully committed to it. Just like a streaker.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. In fact, it offers one of life’s greatest challenges. But if you want to try it, I highly encourage you. It is extremely rewarding in more ways than I have room to share in a concluding paragraph. To dramatically improve your chances of success start a business doing something you know well. Choose work you love to do. And you will have the intellectual equipment and the magnetic pull to get you to 5 years and beyond.

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5 Random Observations From Vacation.

I’m on vacation this week with my family. We loaded up the Family Truckster and headed south for a week of warmth and adventure. But there is no Wally World for us. This trip is actually last year’s spring break beach trip that got canceled because of the plague. One year later we are certainly enjoying it more than we would have last year.

I have had a lot of time to think over the past few days. Here are 5 random things I’ve been thinking about during my time away.

  1. The work must go on. Even when I am on vacation there is work to do. It is what you sign up for when you become an entrepreneur. To minimize the impact on my family I work early, or late, or both. I am thankful for all the work to be done. I don’t believe in work-life balance. I believe in work-life integration. My vacations are evidence of this. I appreciate my team at The Weaponry who keep things running while I’m away. I’m also thankful for my family who understands my work commitments. They enjoy having food, clothing, and shelter too. And they see how having a job helps pay for such things.

2. Your family role is part of your career. Your role within your family is your most important role of all. You should view your parental and spousal job performance as part of your career success. You need to take it seriously or you will be the only one at your funeral. Seriously.

Me and my 3 interns catching the Baylor vs Gonzaga game.

3. My people are everywhere. I am at the beach in Florida. And I discovered several friends nearby. My former Engauge co-worker Raghu was in a hotel room right above mine. (We first talked on the balcony.) Our across-the-street neighbors from Atlanta, Christy, Kevin, and Fam, are less than a mile away, and we had lunch with them yesterday. Our Columbus, Ohio friends Troy and Katie are just down the beach a piece. So we had dinner with them last night. Running into your people randomly makes the world feel smaller. And better.

The Allens and the Albrechts: Brought together by spring break and alphabetical order.
Raghu isn’t as good at smiling as I am.

4. Boogie boarding is my jam. If I am on vacation at the beach I am boogie boarding. It represents everything you need to know about life. It’s about positioning yourself well, being prepared when opportunities come along, enjoying the ride, and laughing off the crashes. Oh, and if you are not careful you could lose your britches. For more on my life lessons from boogie boarding read 16 important life lessons I learned from boogie boarding.

Skimboarding is my daughter Ava’s jam. I don’t have a pic of me boogie boarding. No one really wants to see that anyway.

5. Funny things happen every day. Each night my 10, 13, and 15 year old kids love to recap all the funny things that happened each day. There is no shortage of funny things to talk about. It’s a great reminder that life is either a comedy or a tragedy, depending on which things you choose to focus on. I choose the funny.

Thanks for reading. I hope your day is full of meaningful work, friends, family, and funny.

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