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 kind of motivation fuels you best?

Do you ever think about your motivational fuel source? It’s valuable to understand what encourages, inspires and pushes you. Because once you know what fuels your personal fire, you can stockpile kegs of it. Then ignite it whenever you need another boost.

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Stockpile your motivational fuel like Wildfire. #GameOfThrones

Background

I have been a heavy consumer of motivation fuel my entire life. When I was young I guzzled it to help me perform my best in school and athletics. After college I started using motivational fuel to enhance my career, personal fitness and financial success.

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I’ve transitioned my competitive drive from athletics to my career.

My Current Focus

In 2016 I made  a strategic decision to push both my career and financial success to the next level. As a result I launched my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry.  When I was in the planning stages of my entrepreneurial adventure I started this blog to document what I learned along the way. One of my key learnings is that you need to keep a steady stream of motivational fuel flowing into your system at all times.

Finding Your Fuel

Take some time to analyze what motivation fuel sources power your inner drive. Then acquire as much of it as you can. I find that I am inspired by many things. Which means that I have a lot of options when it comes to motivation propellents.

My 15 Sources Of Motivation Fuel

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My vision is a strong motivator. There is a long road ahead and life is short. So I gotsta go!

1. My Vision.

This is a major source, if not my primary source of motivation. I have a clear vision of the fully-formed Me. Unfortunately, it’s a lot better than the current Me. But I am already better than I used to be. Closing the Me vs Ideal Me gap is an always available fuel source.

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My friend Dan Richards is a badass, and a constant source of motivation for me.

2. Impressive And Successful People. 

I love to see others have great success. When I see my friends crushing it, I want to crush it too. This is true in my career and in my personal life. I fancy myself successful, so I want to keep up with others I think are like me. It’s the most positive way to keep up with the Jones. Keep pace with their successes, not their expenditures.

Examples: My rockstar entrepreneur friends Dan Richards, Troy Allen, David Florsheim and Jeff Hilimire.

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I read this quote every day in my office.

3. Great Quotes  

I am highly susceptible to a great quote. If you have them send them my way. I love the way a great quote summarizes an important lesson or reminder in a simple way. Quotes are like my nitroglycerin.

Examples:

  • ‘You are either getting better or you are getting worse.’
  • ‘There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.’
  • ‘A man with miles on his car has money in the bank.’
  • ‘You can’t take a pair of pants off a bare butt.’

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When all else fails crank up some ACDC.

4. Music 

Great music can help me power through anything. I use it to start my day, to power a workout and to push me through a long day at work.

Examples: Anything by ACDC or My Spotify Motivation Mix

5. Books  

Reading supplies me with steady, slow-burning motivation. I like to read biographies about successful people. I read How-To and Self-Helpy type stuff all the time. Book fuel is really a cocktail of numbers 1, 2, 3, 10, and 12.

Examples: See images above.

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If Tony Robbins can’t inspire you, you may be dead.

6. Motivational Speakers 

If motivational speakers don’t fuel you up nothing will. Seek them out in person, or online. YouTube and Social Media platforms are thick with them.

Examples: Tony Robbins, Gary Vee, Zig Ziglar, my college coach Ed Nuttycombe’s spaghetti speech.

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If I don’t keep moving this will be me.

7. Poverty  

When I see others in poverty it propels me forward like the other side of a magnet.

Examples: Driving through a depressed part of town. India.

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One of my greatest fears.

8. Unhealthy People  

People who are obviously unhealthy are a constant reminder that I need to keep moving and eating right. I am thankful for them. And they are everywhere. Except the gym.

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These people fuel me like caffeine.

9. My family  

Taking care of my wife, daughter and 2 sons is a major motivating factor. They are a constant source of motivation. But so are my parents, my 3 sisters and their families.  Even broader, I am very proud to be a member of the Albrecht Family and The Sprau Family. (My Mom’s maiden name is Sprau. It’s fun to think of your Mom as a maiden.) I am always trying to be an asset to the family and enhance our brand reputation.

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The more you have, the more freedom you have.

10. Financial Freedom  

I am driven to acquire enough money to be able to choose how I spend my time. I want to be in control of my life. This is the way to maintain as much control as possible.

Examples: Hundred dollar bills. Fifty dollar bills. Twenty dollar bills

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I want more time to do my favorite things with my favorite people.

11. Time Freedom 

See number 10.

Examples:  Fishing, Camping, Mountain Biking, Boogie Boarding, Traveling, Hammocking

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I have quantifiable goals that keep me chipping away.

12. My Goals 

My goals provide constant motivation. They have big gaudy numbers on them. And they provide a constant measure of what I have left to accomplish in order to live up to my own standards. I really like raw, quantifiable number goals.

Examples of how I measure progress towards my goals: On my bathroom scale, In Quickbooks, Through my WordPress Blog Stats, the amount of weight I lift.

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I look for pride in every hire. Because it is the greatest intrinsic motivator.

13. Pride 

I think pride is the ultimate motivator. I look for it in employees. Because someone who values pride won’t let you down because they don’t want to let themselves down.

Examples:  People who work at The Weaponry.

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My University of Wisconsin track teammates.

14. Teammates 

I never want to let others down. When I competed in athletics I never wanted to let my teammates down. As a business owner I am motivated to take care of my team and their families.

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My competitors motivate me. Although usually I don’t want to punch then in the face.

15. Competitors 

I like to compete. So when I see others do well, I want to do well. Your competitors are one of the best motivators you have. Use them.

Key Takeaway

Life and work can be hard. Motivation isn’t automatic. You need to seek it out. Stockpile it. Refine it. And consume it when you need a boost. Like the variety of foods in a well balanced diet, it’s best to keep a wide variety of fuel sources handy so you can quickly tap into the kind of motivation you need at any given moment. By understanding your motivational fuel sources you can ensure you will always have an abundant supply. And if you have an endless supply of motivational fuel your possibilities are endless too.

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