I’m in the process of creating a process for creating processes.

Most businesses fail at some point. That is just a fact. I knew that 5 years ago when I began making plans to launch my own advertising agency. So I bought the book The E-Myth, because a bunch of smart people recommended it as a way of, well, not failing.

The E-Myth

The book is great, and I always recommend it to anyone thinking of starting their own business of any size or shape. I also recommend it to any business owner who hasn’t read it yet. In fact, The E-Myth is like my Frank’s Red Hot. I recommend that sh#t to everyone.

But I didn’t just read The E-Myth once. I study it. It has become one of my most important reference books. In fact, I handle this book so much it looks like I don’t know how books work. See the pic below. It looks like I tried to open it on the binding side until someone suggested that the other side might offer less resistance.

My copy of The E-Myth indicates I don’t know the proper way to open a book.

One of the key tenants of the book is that there should be a predictable, repeatable process for everything. I fully believe this. From the beginning, I established processes for my team at The Weaponry to follow. I have regularly revisited those processes, modified them, and added new processes.

But I have never been satisfied that our processes are as good as they should be. Which is the point. When people tell you to work on your business, not in your business, they typically mean, improve your processes. Unless those people are roofing consultants. In which case they probably mean you need to do some work up on top of your business.

Back to Business

Today, I am revisiting our processes again. In fact, last night, just before I went to bed, I went all the way back to the beginning, again. I asked myself, ‘What is The Weaponry’s process for establishing processes?’ And here is what I wrote in the notebook on my nightstand. (I translated it into type below so that non-chickens can also read it.)

My nightstand notes.

Process of Processes

  1. Figure out Step 1
  2. Write down Step 1
  3. List each subsequent step to a successful conclusion
  4. Follow established process until it reveals a flaw. Or until a better process is revealed.
  5. Modify process to eliminate the newly discovered problem, or to improve outcomes.
  6. Continuously evaluate each process, looking for flaws, and better ideas that will lead to better results.

Note: Always run the best process you know until you know better.

Note: Even this process process can be constantly improved until a better process process can not be found. At which point the process process will be perfect. (Then check the Vector Victor.)

Note: Run everything the organization does through The Perfect Process Process. 

Note: You will be able to do, make, and deliver anything with this process.

Key Takeaway

Creating a well-run business requires great processes. Creating great processes requires a strong process process. Figure out yours. Then use it. And perfect it until it can’t be improved any more.

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

Right after Labor Day is the best time for all professionals to do this.

Labor Day 2020 is in the books. We have put away our white pants, our seersucker suits and our inflatable pools. Summer is now history. This is the time that Don Henley sang about in Boys of Summer. But don’t look back, you can never look back. Because it is time to look forward to crushing the rest of the year.

It is September and you are ready to fully engage. You’ve adjusted to the new normal of life in the Covid Cabana. So let’s make the rest of 2020 great, just like Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters did.

Take Your Best Shot

Now that Labor Day is past, the first thing you should do is get new headshots of yourself. Right now you are tanned and healthy-looking from all that summer sun. You are still at your summer weight from all the warm weather activity you’ve been doing.

Let’s immortalize this version of you with a camera. Do it now, before the shorter days mean you get less sunlight on your skin than Boo Radley. Before you start replacing your summer fruits and vegetables with Halloween Skittles and Starbursts. Before Thanksgiving has you butterballing. And before Christmas time has you looking, well, jolly.

Look how good she looks!

Pre-Resolution You

There is a good reason we make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Because the next 3 or 4 months of the year have a way of adding to your weight collection. Which means it may take you until next June or July to look and feel the way you do now. So let’s get those new pics scheduled today!

Taking Care Of Business

Last September my whole team at The Weaponry got new headshots. Photographer Lucian McAfee did a great job. In fact, Lucian always does a great job with headshots. Or any other shots you ask him to take. Even Jagermeister.

Headshots should be fun.

Need Help?

If you would like advice on how to get great new headshots taken for you or your team, let me know. (If there is enough interest The Weaponry may put together a shoot day for you to join in Milwaukee)

If you are a photographer who loves to do headshots (or what professionals may call portraits) leave a comment on this post letting people know you can help them capture their best 2020 look. I suggest you write, ‘I can help people in (YOUR CITY HERE) get spectacular new headshots.’

If you know a great photographer, please share this post with them so they can use it to remind people that now is the time to get shot in the head with a camera.

If you know someone whose bio pic and social media photos look like they were taken during the dial-up era, consider sharing this with them too.

Soon, his fleeting handsomeness will begin to fade…

Key Takeaway

So remember, by the 21st night of September, you should get some new headshots taken. Capture how good you looked at the end of summer in 2020, despite all the craziness of the year. A few months from now you’ll be happy you did when you look great on social media, on your website, on your business cards or on your favorite dating app.

*If you know someone who could benefit from some new pics, or who would like to take some new pics, please share this with them.

Take time off to tend to your other business.

I hold 3 jobs. I am the Founder and leader of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Which is a full time job and then some. But I am also a husband. And as if those 2 jobs weren’t enough, I am the proud father of 3 kids. It’s hard to tell which of these 3 jobs is most important. But I know for sure that it isn’t the ad agency gig.

Up North

This past weekend I took a little time off from The Weaponry, and my husbanding duties (I wrote duties…) in order to take my kids camping. With August drawing to an end, this weekend offered a perfect opportunity for Ava(14), Johann (13), Magnus (10) and I (ageless) to spend some time together before the kid head back to school(ing) on September 1st. It also offered my wife Dawn some overdue alone time before she resumes the role of Chief Educational Officer of the Albrecht Family School System. Because this year, our school district will be virtually schooling for somewhere between 1 week and all of eternity.

Spending time together builds a family foundation on stone. (See what I did there?)

Dad’s Camping Adventure 2020 took us 200 miles north of our home in Mequon, Wisconsin. Our campsite was on Bear Lake in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin. (You just mumble-read through the word Chequamegon didn’t you?) To say we got away from it all was an understatement.

Kids, clouds and quiet.

There was no electricity. No lights. No internet. In fact there was no phone service within 10 miles of our campsite. And that’s exactly the way I wanted it. Not only were my kids and I refreshed by the clean air, and cool lake water, we participated in a 3-day digital cleanse. Because with no phone service and no electricity to recharge our digital distractors, our mobile phones were quickly and thankfully dead.

It was 61 degrees this evening. My kids have viking blood.

I didn’t have to compete with social media, video games, or text messages. It was a full weekend of me and my children, fully engaged with each other. We talked and told stories. The four of us piled into our 17 foot canoe to go fishing and explore the lake together. We hiked. We campfired (which really should be a verb, right?). We cooked our own meals together. We stared at the stars as if seeing them for the first time. At night we crowded our sleeping bags close together in the tent.

Larry the Log Hauler.

As we were camping all seemed right with the world. In the middle of the woods we weren’t worried about COVID-19. We weren’t masking up or wearing out the pump on the hand sanitizer. We were just enjoying life together like it was 2019. Or maybe 1819.

We decided to come home through Michigan, which marked the 6th new state of the summer for my kids, who have now seen 42 states.

As a working parent, I can’t think of a better cherry on top of the summer than getting to spend 3 full days alone in the woods camping with my children without digital distractions. We were all completely present. Completely engaged. And completely invested in each other. We made memories we will never forget. At least until the Alzheimers or amnesia kick in.

We capped off our weekend with lunch in Escanaba, Michigan. Our table was as close to Lake Michigan as you can get without getting pruney.

Key Takeaway

It is easy to forget that we all have more than one job. Remember to put time and energy into your other important roles. Take your vacation days. Enjoy your upcoming Labor Day. Spend time with your family and friends. And Dad’s, spend time with your children. You can’t get that time back. Remember, it will be your kids that will decide which nursing home you end up in.

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

How to land your first customer as a startup.

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

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

Which comes first, the business or the customer?

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

9 Ways To Land Your Startup’s First Customer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaway

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

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

Want to be happy? Work on your work ethic.

When I was a kid I worked. My parents were both Minnesota farm kids with annoyingly untiring work ethics. My Grandparents were active farmers throughout my youth. So were my Uncles Allan, Jerry, Randy, Rod, Kendall, Jim, Gerald, Tom, Paul, Chuck and Tim. Which meant I had a lot of opportunity to work. (It also means my grandparents liked to get busy.)

At an early age I began breaking child labor laws. I baled hay, picked rock, mowed lawns, painted houses and barns, and hauled firewood. I worked in construction during high school for my neighbor Tom Kearney, whose daughter Hannah Kearney would go on to win the Olympic Gold Medal in mogul skiing in Vancouver, and the Bronze medal in Sochi. My college summers were spent swinging a sledge hammer driving tent spikes into the granite of Northern New England. If you’ve never seen someone ring the bell in the strongman game at the fair, I’ll show you how it’s done.

I know the hard, physical labor I performed at an early age has benefited me ever since. The work ethic my parents, Robert and Jill Albrecht, natured and nurtured into me has been an important driver throughout my career. It mentally prepared me to step fearlessly into the entrepreneurship arena when I launched  The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency. But apparently I am not the only one who understood how important a strong work ethic is to your success.

silver macbook on brown wooden table
Working late one night, this guy invented the white computer screen, then shared it on Instagram.

George Vaillant

Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant spent his career studying predictors of success. He found that childhood work ethic was perhaps the best and most accurate predictor of adult success and mental health.

The Work Ethic Study

Vaillant conducted a longitudinal study of 456 men from the inner city of Boston. The study began when the men were just 14 years old. As barely-teenagers they were rated for their ability to work. Their lives were then tracked regularly into middle age. The results showed that the men who had the highest work ethic rating at 14 years old earned 5 times more than their lower ranked counterparts. They were also happier and had far more successful marriages and other social relationships. I assume they liked the 80s band Men At Work more too. #WhoCanItBeNow

Vaillant’s finding means that your willingness to work relates not only to your financial success, but to your ability to work on your relationships. Even more importantly, it indicates your ability to pursuit your own happiness. Which means that your capacity for work is actually the greatest predictor of how much you will enjoy your life.

Key Takeaway

Your work ethic drives your actions. Which drive your financial success. The ability to put work into your relationships means you get more out of your relationships. So develop your work ethic. Lean in. Build your endurance, your grit, and your tolerance for pain and discomfort. Grow your ability to delay gratification. Don’t just eat the first marshmallow you are given. Teach your kids to work too. And to enjoy the rewards of their labor, like my parents did for me. It is a lesson that will last a very happy lifetime.

*If you have kids, consider sharing this with them.

Do you love your work like Stephen King loves writing?

I love to shop for books at Goodwill. I love the treasure hunt. I love finding great books for cheap. And I like picking up value that someone else discarded. So when they toss it and leave it, I pull up quick to retrieve. Just like Sir Mixalot.

Stephen King

One of the books I nabbed at the G-Dub was On Writing by Stephen King. It’s the only Stephen King book I have read. I’ll admit, there was way less blood than I was expecting.

0EDAC0AC-4910-4323-A439-F09D1047F295
This was written on the inside front cover of the book I picked up at Goodwill. Sorry Mom. I don’t think Ben loved it as much as I do.

I am always trying to improve my writing. And I figured who knows more about writing than a guy who has written a bazillion novels. (I guess a person who has written 2 bazillion novels.)

This morning in the section on editing Stephen King made a statement that jumped off the page like an Acapulco cliff diver. On editing he wrote:

I love this part of the process (well, I love all the parts of the process, but this one is especially nice).  -Stephen King

I love this statement! Not because Stephen King loves editing and re-writes. But because I love hearing that someone loves all the parts of the process. Loves all the parts of their work. Because that is exactly how I feel about my job.

Advertising!

I love everything about advertising. I love pitching new clients. I love the research. I love studying the audience. I love developing and sharpening creative briefs. I love the creative thinking. The ideating and concepting. I love pulling ideas and language out of the ether. I love directing creative. And I love presenting new ideas the way an obstetrician loves presenting naked newborns.

All Rights Reserved
I love that nobody really wears socks.

I love it when clients love our ideas. But I also love it when clients give us a difficult challenge. Because I love being thrown a good curveball.

I love big budgets, and I can not lie. But I also love small budgets and short timelines, and the way those constraints force you to think harder and dig deeper.

I love production, casting, shooting and editing. I love finding the perfect music track. I love testing and optimizing. I love creating work that produces laughter. Or chills. Or good tears. I love the results that come as a result of the work we produce. That’s the best. It is the reason we exist.

I love the people of this industry, both on the agency and client-side. I love how interesting and smart and varied they are. And they are very varied. Like Vera Bradly and aloe vera

I love the dress code. I love the travel. I love that I met my wife Dawn at work in an advertising agency. And I love that she understands all the things I love about my work.

Entrepreneurship

Since I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry,  I have found that I love everything about owning an agency too. I love the competition of business. It’s my all-time favorite game.

All Rights Reserved
This guy loves to write about things he loves. 

I love budgets and revenue and profit & loss statements, and balance sheets. I love taxes and capital expenses. I love adding software and apps to our infrastructure to create a better, smarter, more efficient machine. I love filing our annual report with the state. It’s a reminder that I am officially a business owner.

I love finding office space, and negotiating leases.  I love partnerships with other businesses. And dealing with our client’s CFOs and procurement and reviewing legal agreements. Which may sound like drudgery. But it feels like a privilege to me.

I even like the challenge of a crazy global crisis that comes out of nowhere. It tests your preparedness, your resourcefulness and your resolve. The do-or-die nature of such challenges is a thrill. It forces you to ask yourself just how much you want what you want. And I really, really want. Just like the Spice Girls.

Key Takeaway

Find work that you love. It makes every day fun. It lets you wallow in your passion. It makes you look forward to every day and every new challenge. A love for your work is a key performance indicator. It’s hard to be passionate about your vocation and deliver poor output. Because the time, energy and interest you invest will drive continuous improvement. And over time you’ll become frighteningly good at what you do. Just like Stephen King.

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

It’s time to think beyond the bear in the trail.

I am a long term thinker. I view lives and careers as long journeys with lots of transformation along the way. I expect to drive my own change and growth. Which comes through a combination of planning and action. Or what might be called plaction.

The Bear In The Trail

However, the COVID-19 crisis has caused me to take my eye off of the long view. Over the past several months I have focused almost exclusively on short-term thinking. It’s as if I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and suddenly encountered an ornry bear blocking my path. Instead of focusing on reaching Mount Katahdin, I needed to focus on the bear-virus, and live to hike another day. As result, true long-term improvement initiatives have been on hold for months. Darn you bear-virus.

Back In The Saddle.

But today my team at The Weaponry will gather again to think about our long term vision for the first time in months. We will open our planning and improvement session by describing what the fully formed version of our advertising and idea agency looks like. Then we will focus on what we need to do to close the gap between the ideal version of The Weaponry and the organization that exists today. However, we will have nothing to do with The Gap closing at your local mall.

We then assign each person a set of tasks, or rocks, to complete over the next 90 days to help us improve our organization. This approach, which is part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) outlined in the book Traction by Gino Wickman, has proven to be a highly effective way of helping us grow and progress. Because it ties our vision to meaningful and fruitful actions. Which helps us gain traction towards our goals.

Traction
This is a great resource to help you drive continuous business improvement.

Thinking Long Term

To achieve your long term goals you can’t remain in survival mode for long periods of time. You have to work with purpose towards your vision. You have to recirculate the ideal vision with your team and consider the next actions necessary to reach your vision.

This approach is valuable for organizations. And it is valuable for each of us as individuals. We need to know where our own north star is, and navigate towards it. Even in challenging times. Evn in bad weather. And even after wrestling angry bears.

Starting The Second Half

As we start the second half of the year, remember what you planned to do 6 months ago, before COVID-19 blew you off course and threw you into survival mode. If your original 2020 plans no longer apply to the new world reality, make new plans now.  What can and should you do now to progress over the next 6 months? I know this may be challenging. But in the inspirational words of Arthur Ashe:

‘Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.’  -Arthur Ashe

Key Takeaway

Move forward. We have been doggy paddling long enough. it is time to reimplement some time-tested swim strokes. Remember where you are headed. Or, if you haven’t determined where you are going, now is the time to decide. Determine the short term actions that will lead to your long term goals. Be purposeful. Be consistent. And you are sure to be closer to your ideal 6 months from now.

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

An important spark on my entrepreneurial journey.

Today I am at the beach vacationing with my family. I am also working. This is the reality of entrepreneurship. When work needs to be done you do it. Even if you are at the beach. Even if it is your birthday. Even with a fox or in a box or wearing socks.

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The sunrise this morning from my balcony as I write this post.

The Night Shift

On Sunday night, Father’s Day Night, I worked until 2am. Late in the night when my family was asleep, and my keystrokes were the only noise in the hotel room, I was reminded of a story from 6 years ago.

Cathy Maas

In the spring of 2014, my great friend Cathy Maas contacted me. I worked with Cathy, who is everyone’s great friend, for several years at Engauge. She is an excellent brand planner. And by 2014 one of the world’s greatest food companies had snatched her up and made them their Director of Consumer Insights.

One of the brands Cathy worked on needed some strategic concepts written for an upcoming round of new product research work. I told Cathy I was happy to help. Although when I discovered the timeline I realized that the whole project would need to be completed while I was in Florida, on spring break with my family. I took on the project anyway.

The Taste Test

On that vacation, my family and I had fun each day on Marco Island (which was also one of Cathy’s favorite places). Then, each night after my wife and 3 small kids went to bed, I would fire up my laptop and work on my side project like Rumplestilskin.

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My babies on Marco Island back in 2014.

I loved everything about that project. I thought the work was fascinating. I loved feeling like I was the head of my own ad agency. Albeit an ad agency of one. And I loved that the money I was being paid for the project would pay for our family’s vacation.

Start Me Up

That experience lit a fire in me. It gave me a glimpse of how I could create an advertising agency, develop great work for great clients, and provide for my family without being someone else’s employee. The door had opened just a crack. But all I needed was that little crack. Kinda like Whitney Houston.

George Mort

At the end of my vacation, I had lunch with my snowmobiling buddy George Mort. George had moved from Wisconsin to Marco Island. I was inspired by my freelance experience, and I told George that I was seriously thinking of starting my own agency.

George is a wise guy. I don’t mean he’s a mobster or a dude who gives frankincense and myrrh to a newborn. But George is a genuinely wise guy. And I remember George’s response to my entrepreneurial plans like it was yesterday. He said matter-of-factly, ‘This is the time to do it. It’s now or never.’

It’s Go Time.

I knew George was right. So I got to work. And less than 18 months I had planned out my agency in detail and landed my first client.

IMG_4640
My family and George Mort at his home in Marco Island in 2014

Today

Six years after Cathy Maas sent that spark project my way, The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, is 4 years old. We have offices in Milwaukee and Columbus. I am working on vacation. And I couldn’t be happier. Over the past few days I’ve been swimming and boogie boarding and enjoying time with my family. I have also been working on clients based in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas and Milwaukee. Because I chose now over never.

Thank You

Thank you Cathy Maas for providing a spark. My journey has been propelled by hundreds of important and inspirational events. But this one was special. It allowed me to see what the future might look like if I started my own agency. And today, that future looks exactly the way I thought it would back in March of 2014 during those late nights of work in a hotel room on Marco Island.

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

The touching story of a repurposed billboard.

The week of March 16th was like nothing I had ever experienced. That Monday morning The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, met with the University of Wisconsin Credit Union about updating their outdoor billboards and TV commercials in response to the emerging COVID-19 crisis.

By the end of the day, The Weaponry presented a whole new billboard campaign. The new outdoor boards were up practically overnight in both Madison and Milwaukee. In the process, The Weaponry set new turnaround expectations that are likely to haunt me for the rest of my career.

Standing Together

I was very proud of the new work that we developed in a single day. I especially loved the billboard that said, ‘Even when we’re apart we, stand together.’  It was a great way to express UW Credit Union’s promise to be Here for every you. During that time of growing isolation and uncertainty, as our community faced both a health and financial crisis, the message was spot on. And true.

UWCU-Together-Milwaukee-Bulletin copy
Rome was not built in a day. But a new UW Credit Union billboard campaign was.

George Floyd

Two months later, just as our nation was beginning to emerge from the COVID-19-induced isolation, George Floyd was killed by police officers, and our country found itself deep in another crisis.

In the days since George Floyd’s murder, people across the country have searched for ways to express their outrage and create change. Some have found powerful forces for progress. A few have engaged in more divisive actions. Unfortunately, the media coverage of the divisive has far exceeded that of the progressive. Because flames, shattered glass, and unpaid for merchandise with legs make for more interesting video than peaceful demonstrations.

Back To The Billboard

Early Tuesday morning I received an email from Anne Norman, the Chief Marketing Officer at UW Credit Union. She had received an update from Adams Outdoor, the billboard company in Madison, Wisconsin. As the Adams team (no relation) arrived to do a scheduled replacement of the We Stand Together billboard they discovered the billboard has been spray-painted with the words George Floyd. They took a picture of the graffitied billboard and shared it with us so we could see what had happened.

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The George Floyd Board. It features a curious extra E, removed by Yellow-Out.

Wow

Anne and I were both struck by how powerful the graffitied board was. And we thought it would have been better to have simply left the billboard and its modified message in place. I suggested that we share the George Floyd board via our social channels.

Anne suggested an even better idea. She asked what I thought of putting the graffitied board back up. I thought it was an excellent idea.

The Reposting

Yesterday, on June 3rd, UW Credit Union reposted the George Floyd Board. Except this time they had it posted in one of the highest visibility locations in Madison, on the top of the Adams Outdoor building, beside the highly trafficked beltline. Because you know that a good billboard company always saves the best location for itself.

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The new home of the George Floyd Board. (Try saying George Floyd Board 10 times fast.)

Proud Partner

I am extremely proud to partner with UW Credit Union. It’s an organization fully committed to the communities it serves. I am proud of Anne Norman for making a courageous decision to repost this billboard, a billboard that no longer features the UW Credit Union logo, in support of George Floyd, the Black community and the Black Lives Matters movement.

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This is how Anne Norman shared the story in her own words. She uses the word ‘We’ a lot, as does everyone at UW Credit Union. But know that she was instrumental in making this happen. 

Key Takeaway

Do what you can to make a difference. Stand together. Work together. Support each other. Always do what you know is right. Like my friend Anne Norman and millions of others across America who are determined to leave this world better than they found it.

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

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

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

4 Things I Did Wrong Over The Past 4 Years.

1. I didn’t think big enough

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

2. I didn’t start a newsletter.

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

3. I didn’t take enough chances.

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

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

4. I didn’t offload enough responsibility 

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

Key Takeaway

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

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