I will never forget a phone call I received from my wife in 2001. I picked up the phone, and without any other greetings Dawn said, ‘My Mom has breast cancer.’ Those unexpected and unwelcomed words landed with more weight than any others I have ever heard telephonically. With that phone call I joined the not-so-exclusive club of people whose family’s have been invaded by breast cancer.
A Better Call
Fast forward to the spring of 2018. I got a call from my friend Harper Cornell at Mizuno. Harper shared that she was leading the marketing efforts for an exciting Mizuno initiative called Project Zero. Mizuno was partnering with Fleet Feet Stores across the country to raise money to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). Harper and her team were looking for a partner to work with to promote Project Zero. I jumped* at the chance to get involved. (*There was actually no physically jumping. But I definitely jumped in all the non-physical ways.)
Over the next couple of months our team at The Weaponry created logos, themes, scripts, videos, point of purchase displays and a brand style guide for the effort. We thought through budgets, logistics and calendars. We researched and explored great stories we could tell about runners who had been impacted by breast cancer. Then we brought it all to life.
Kristyn ‘K-Lil’ Lilley and Sonia. K-Lil lead our design work, and directed interviews. Because she rocks. Sonia is an amazing advocate for other women dealing with breast cancer.
In August we traveled to Houston to work with Jennie Finch, the Olympic Gold Medal softball player, and Mizuno athlete. We spent a day at the Fleet Feet store filming a series of videos with Jennie promoting Project Zero. She was great to work with and a passionate supporter of the cause. I’m also thankful that she never balked or threw anything at me when I asked her for a long list of alternate takes.
Then we traveled to Atlanta to film four inspiring women who have battled with breast cancer, and six strong breast cancer supporters who have helped friends, mothers and wives through their fight with this menacing disease.
1 in 8 women around the world will be impacted by breast cancer in her lifetime.
45,000 women in the US and Canada are expected to die of breast cancer this year.
There are 3,850,000 breast cancer survivors in the US and Canada today.
The key to turning 1-in-8 women into 0-in-8 is research. That’s why the Breast Cancer Research Foundation is so important.
Harper and Yolaine and I after wrapping. Not rapping.
Impressive Facts About The BCRF.
It is the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research in the world.
They fund 275 scientist
They fund research in 15 countries on 6 continents
They help explore causes, new treatments, prevention and early diagnosis
Sorita is amazing. She owns a Fleet Feet Store in Reading, PA. She not only crushed breast cancer, she crushes triathlons too.
I am extremely proud that our team was able to contribute to such an important cause. Thanks to Jeanne Mayer, Kristyn Lilley, Matt Ackley, Kevin Kayse and Tony Sharpe for all of your hard work.
Here is a look at a couple of the 11 videos we created to support the cause.
Gretchen and her family are truly inspiring. I was just happy to be in their world.
If you could use a great new pair of stylish running shoes, please consider stopping by a Fleet Feet store during October, or going to MizunoUSARunning.com. By the way, today my Mother In Law, Cynthia Zabel, is doing great, 17 years after that initial phone call.
I recently traveled to Bangalore, India for work. My ad agency, The Weaponry, was hired to film a very impressive business based in Bangalore. And I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go. Not only was it my first time in India, it was my first time traveling anywhere in Asia, that wasn’t actually in Orlando, Florida. #epcot
Between my readings, my Indian friends, the people I know who have traveled there themselves, and my consultation at Passport Health, I felt fairly well prepared for what I would experience in India. But nothing compares to visiting a place yourself. It was truly a perspective-altering experience. To summarize this once-so-far-in-a-lifetime trip, here are the Top 20 things I noticed during my travels.
Top 20 Things I noticed on my business trip to India.
#1 Language One of the things that makes traveling to India easy for Americans is that so much of the population speaks English. In the area I was in about 60% of the population speaks English. But I never encountered anyone who didn’t. You can quickly understand why it is so easy for Americans and Indians to do business together. Which is why I was there.
Other languages spoken in Bangalore include Hindi and Kannada (the local language that is pronounced like the song, O Canada, without the O. The pervasive English definitely helps make you feel at home, even though you are 10,000 miles away.
#2 Climate The Climate in Bangalore is perfect. Highs are typically in the 80s and lows are typically in the 60s. This is extremely pleasant weather (although I am not sure pleasant can be extreme). Bangalore is close enough to the equator to be consistently warm, yet at 3000 feet above sea level, the heat is moderated by the elevation. I can understand why people enjoy living there.
#3 People The people were fantastic. They were excellent hosts. They were hardworking and responsible. They always greeted me with a smile (except at immigration at 2:30 am). I, like so many other visitors, were struck by the remarkable people. I don’t mean struck in a Reginald Denny kinda way. More in an Eat. Pray. Strong-like kinda way.
#4 Food The food was a surprise. I have eaten Indian food before, but not in such quantities, qualities or with such great diversity. It all felt very different from American food. Different flavors, different textures, different smells, different seasonings. I would have liked to have tried an even greater range of the most adventurous food options, but I was on an important work assignment, and didn’t want to risk missing any of the work because of a gastro-tastrophe.
#5 Traffic The traffic was crazy. The craziest I have ever seen. In the city, during hours when humans were awake, there were vehicles everywhere. There was no adherence to lanes or signaling, or safe distances. It was like the wild, wild east. And I LOVED it! The traffic was pure entertainment. It was like high-caliber improv show, because the drivers seemed to be making up their wacky performances on the fly.
Our driver, Alfton, said, ‘If it wasn’t for the traffic I would be bored driving.’ My friend Tarun said, ‘Here, if I leave more than 4 inches between me and the next vehicle, someone is going to fill that space. But for all the crazy, I never saw a crash. Even better, I never saw anyone angry or hostile. There seemed to be an appreciation that everyone else was trying to get somewhere too, and nobody was trying to prevent you from getting where you were going.
I also noticed that the traffic never seemed to stop moving. Unlike in LA, Chicago, and Atlanta, where you can sit or creep for an hour, this traffic was denser, less organized, but almost always flowed forward. Maybe this self-regulated traffic can teach us something.
#6 Motorcycles There were motorcycles everywhere. Not giant, muscle-y hogs like we have in the US. All kinds of small, efficient, people-moving motorbikes ands scooters. These little bikes moved large quantities of humans, produce, and other random cargo.
A favorite game was finding bikes with more than 2 people on them. While 2 is the maximum allowed by law, the law didn’t seem to have a huge influence over the traffic participants. However, for the rule-less behavior, almost everyone wore helmets. Although several times we saw a father riding with a wife and children, and the man wore a helmet and the others did not. The dynamic was surprising. I later heard that the man would be ticketed for not helmeting up. But the women and children would not.
I also saw many women riding the motorcycles side-saddle. This always drew my attention, as I expected that any moment I would see the women un-saddle off the other side. But thankfully, I never did.
#7 Motorized Rickshaws There were little green and yellow motorized rickshaws everywhere. These mini taxis are like 3-wheeled, partially enclosed motor trikes. They are also kinda like motorized wheelbarrows. They have handle bars, not steering wheels. And they seemed to be able to navigate traffic faster than the cars.
#8 The Smells India smells like no place I have ever been. It is a combination of the plants, the natural environment, the spices and scents that the locals use in cooking and in the general scenting of their environment.
My hotel scented the hallways to make it smell like India. I wish I had a better nasal identifier to be able to tell you exactly what it smelled like. Although one morning during our film shoot the room we were working in smelled so good I finally asked what it was that I was smelling. The answer was cinnamon oil. I had no idea that was even a thing. But it is. And it smells amazing. Probably like being inside a bubble of Big Red gum.
#9 Poverty The poverty in India was impossible to ignore. I saw it as rundown buildings, homes and structures that had fallen apart and were not about to be fixed. It seemed to be intermingled with everything else. There were parts of the city that clearly were more poverty-dense than others. But there were few parts of Bangalore that didn’t exhibit a sense that there were fewer financial resources than there were people who could use them.
#10 Service The service was excellent everywhere we went; from the hotels to restaurants, to our drivers, to the places we worked. The people were extremely accommodating and responsive. It felt as if it was part of the culture to be thoughtful and offer great service to others. I will remember that as a core part of the brand experience in India.
#11 Cows Ever since I was a child I heard that cows are sacred in India. I read that you would see cows wandering the streets in India. I didn’t think that was still the case. But sure enough, I saw plenty of stray cows. But maybe not as many as in Moo-mbai. They seem to congregate near markets, where they benefit from produce being tossed out at the end of a day. It was both very odd and very interesting. I also never saw a cow related menu item either. But then again, I never visited McDonald’s.
#12 Tourist Attractions We had one afternoon to do some sightseeing. We had a driver and a host, Loknath, to take us around to various places he and his team thought we should see. Based on what we saw, Bangalore was not a city of obvious tourist attractions. We saw a historic palace, a historic temple and some interesting government buildings. The palace and temple both had the potential to be impressive. But both of them lacked for the resources needed to impress as a well-kept destination worth visiting.
In other words, the building were visually interesting, but the overall experience lacked because the building were not well cared for, or supported. The government buildings were large and impressive. But I left feeling as if Bangalore could use the help of a business dedicated to offering tourists interesting experiences, and investing in the things worth seeing. #businessopportunity
#13 5 Star Hotels I stayed at two amazing hotels in Bangalore. The Ritz Carlton downtown Bangalore, and the Taj Hotel, next to the airport. Both of the hotels were important to my stay in a couple of ways. They both offered a wonderful experience. The service was excellent. The rooms were extremely comfortable. The food was outstanding. And they both felt extremely safe. When in a place so far from home it is important to have a sense of safety and comfort. These places provided this and more. Which played an important part in enjoying the overall experience. Plus, they were easily the least expensive 5 star hotels I ever paid for. So If you go, I recommend 5 star-ing it up.
#14 American Knowledge It is an understatement to say that the people of India know America better than we know India. Among the people who I worked with, and socialized with, not only did it seem most had a very good knowledge of America, many of them had either lived in the US, gone to school in America or traveled to the US regularly. I was a bit embarrassed by the lack of American travel to India. And I was wowed that so many of the people I interacted with had spent time in America, given the fact that it is neither cheap nor easy to travel between the two countries.
#15 GI Attack If you travel to India prepare for an assault on your GI track. You have to be careful with things like water, ice, and fruits and vegetables that were likely washed in said water. Also the food is interesting and different and potentially spicy enough to create a glitch in your digestive system.
I traveled prepared. I had Travel-Ease tablets before each meal, I had Diahrease in case I ran into trouble, and I had antibiotics in case I ran into a lot of trouble. My stomach definitely got knocked off course by my gastronomic adventures, and I used everything in my weaponry just to make sure my work and flight home were not negatively impacted. The tablets and pills really helped keep me between the ditches. I would never travel to India without such reinforcements.
#16 The Beautifulness of the people I thought the people of India were beautiful and handsome. I had a great appreciation for how visually interesting so many of the people were. It reminded me of when I traveled to Iceland and was impressed by how good-looking the population was. Maybe I just like the looks of people from countries that start with ‘I’.
#18 Namaste I was not at all prepared for all the Namaste-ing I received. It is a beautiful greeting. But I didn’t know how to receive it. Was I supposed to respond with thank you? By replying with my own ‘namaste’ and pressing the palms of my hands together? Did I offer a high-five? Should I wink and point back at them? I still don’t know. But I do know that every time I was namasted, I thought of my friend Suzanne Darmory, who frequently drops a nam-bomb as a funny response to a frustrating situation.
#17 Billboards There were billboards all over Bangalore with no advertising on them. That made me sad. In a city of 12 million people there should be plenty to advertise, and plenty of people who would rather see your ad than a big empty board on the side of the road. I am still mulling over what I can do to help this situation. If anyone wants to collaborate on a “Make Bangalore Beautiful with Billboards’ initiative with me, let me know.
#19 The Head Bobble The most perplexing thing I encountered in India was the head wobble, or bobble. This head movement is neither a head nod, nor a shaking of the head, but both and neither at the same time. In fact, it seems to be the head moving in all the ways a head can move that are neither a nod nor a shake.
I found that I have no way of processing this gesture. So I was confounded by how to interpret it. Did it mean there was a problem? Is it the equivalent to the stink face? Or does it mean everything is ok? Eventually I came to realize it is not a bad sign. And no one was mad at me. But it still feels like an input that my processor doesn’t know how to interpret.
#20. The Time Zone The time in India is 10.5 hours later than US. Central Time Zone. I could not have kept this straight without the World Clock feature on my iPhone. I have never visited another place that did the .5 hour difference. Which made India feel just a bit more exotic than it already felt.
India was amazing. I have a new-found appreciation for all that I saw and experienced there. It all started with the very special people. It also ended with the people. In fact, the final night we were in India we were invited to the beautiful home of Parth and Roshen Amin. They treated us to a wonderful dinner and an unforgetable evening among our new friends on the other side of the planet. It was the cherry and whipped cream on top of our trip.
If you ever have the chance to travel to India for work or pleasure, I strongly encourage you to go. Interact with the people. Enjoy the food. Avoid the water. Smell the air. Look out for cows. Pack your pills. Grab some popcorn, and watch the traffic. And if you figure out how to interpret the head bobble, please let me know.
This week marks the beginning of the 22nd year of my advertising career. Over the past 22 years I have worked for an agency owned by private equity, an agency owned by a public holding company, and an agency that was privately held. I have learned a lot along the way. In 2016 I launched my own ad agency called The Weaponry. And I’m trying to apply all I have learned to make this bird fly.
Private Equity Goals
When I worked for the advertising agency owned by private equity, its main focus was growing to sell. A funny thing happens when you want to grow to sell your company. Especially when your investment clock is ticking, and you want to sell within the next 24 months or less.
You become hyper-focussed on revenue growth.When you obsess over revenue growth, you want to add business as quickly as you can.The quality of the work, the fit, the preparedness or the organization to take on the new work, and both the quality and the timeliness of the work flies out the window. Because short-term growth makes you do funny things.
Public Company Goals
Eventually that agency was bought by a large publicly held company. And the focus of the business changed. The new organization wasn’t obsessed with revenue growth. They were focused on margin growth.They wanted to make sure that we were making healthy profits on everything we did. They were constantly looking for ways to increase that margin.
The agency cut or discarded clients that didn’t offer the margin needed to sustain the infrastructure of a large, publicly held agency. As a result, they made decisions that were based on the target margin number of the day (that’s english for du jour). We walked away from clients who were facing some short-term challenges. We discarded several clients that had great long-term potential. Because the company was focused on meeting margins for the next quarter.
Family Business Goals
I recently worked with a company that had a very different way to think about their business growth. The organization was owned by a successful and impressive family. The key shareholders are not outside investors. They are family members. As a result, the most important measurement they focus on is generational growth. They ask deeper, more important questions, like ‘How can we grow a healthy organization that can sustain generations of positive growth?’ And ‘Who let the dogs out?’
They certainly want good revenue. They also want a good margin. But they play the long game in every decision they make. As a result, they don’t grow faster than they can maintain a high quality of delivery. They don’t cut clients because they don’t live up to today’s margin standards.They are flexible and understanding of their clients’ challenges. That builds trust and loyalty. And long-term relationships. All of this has helped build both revenue and margin. And a long runway for growth for years to come.
Revenue and margin are important to a business. But we should never forget that they are results of how we run our organizations, and the hundreds of decisions we make along the way. When you think about your business in terms of generational growth, you will make better decisions for the long haul. You will build relationships that get you through hard times. And you will build something that lasts long after you are gone.
I always wanted to write a blog. Ok, that’s a total lie. The term weblog wasn’t even born until after I was out of college. But ever since I first heard about blogs I knew I wanted to write one. But like a lame shopping mall, I didn’t have a hot topic to write about.
That all changed when I started planning the launch of my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I knew my entrepreneurial journey would make for an interesting story to write about. I just didn’t know if it would be more comedy, tragedy or a bit of both.
I launched the blog The Perfect Agency Project to share my entrepreneurial experience, and to serve as a personal journal of the adventure. Since the fall of 2015 I have written regularly. I have also written posts when I was irregular*. (*Not true, but I don’t have an editor to stop me from writing such nonsense. Which is one of my favorite things about blogging.)
It’s A Hard Blog Life
But writing a blog is hard. It is an elective that can take up as much time as your required coursework. Maintaining a blog requires a dedication to writing and editing. It requires a commitment to learning, observing and listening to the feedback you receive.
This, my readers, is my 200th post. I am extremely thankful for all of you who have taken the time to read any of my writings. This feels like a good time to reflect on the experience so far, and share what I have learned from my first 200 posts.
17 lessons I have learned from writing my first 200 posts.
#1 Starting is the most important step. I talk to people all the time who tell me they want to start a blog. And my response is always, ‘You should.’ And ‘The best way to start a blog is to go to wordpress.com and start writing a blog.’ It is really that easy to get started. Remember in A Social Network with Fake Mark Zuckerberg said, “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented facebook.’? The same holds true here. If you want to write a blog, start a blog. (And how cute is that little Chariots of Fire Duckling pic above?)
#2 Write and publish 5 posts before you share any with others. This 5-post commitment ensures you are serious about blogging. It also offers your first visitors an established base of content to peruse on their first visit. This helps entice them to come back for more. The 5-post commitment also works for building fences.
#3 Posts Don’t Have To Be Long. Seth Godin’s blog posts are often very short. Often a paragraph or so. These are easy to read and easy to write. In our attention-deficit world people like a quick blog hit. If writing shorter keeps you writing, write short. And remember, if you dare wear short shorts, Nair for short shorts.
#4 Make people laugh. One of the most important reasons people look forward to my writings is that I try to sneak funnies, or ridiculouses into my posts. I think humor is key to keeping people coming back, like the Costanza hat. But if you don’t do funny well, try profound, or smart. They offer value too.
#5 500-word rule of thumb. I like a 500-word average for my posts. That seems to be a good length that lets me share a full thought, but not so long that it starts to drag. For perspective, we just hit 500 words in this paragraph. And maybe I should stop here. But not today! Today, we’re going Ludacrous Length.
#6 Use the Headline Analyzer. I often type my headline into the headline analyzer at coschedule.com. It helps me tweak the headline for maximum interest. It will show you what is likely to help your headlines draw more eyes and clicks. It gives each headline a score between 1 and 100. The headline on this post only scored a 69. But I snickered and thought that was good enough. Aim higher than I do.
#7 You never know what topics are going to resonate with readers. Everyone comes to my blog from a different mindset. So different topics, perspectives, and quotes are more relevant to some readers than others. I am often surprised when readers tell me that a recent post was their favorite thing I’ve written so far. So keep writing. You never know who will benefit from it. There are a handful of random blog posts that have had a major impact on my thinking. Your wisdom could have that kind of impact too. Which is better than an impacted wisdom tooth.
#8 A photo is important. The featured image seems to have a significant impact on readership. WordPress has a library of free images to use. Use them. They help. Apparently humans are visually stimulated. Who knew? (#ThePornIndustryKnew)
#9 Tuesdays and Thursdays work. Every community has specific days and times that work best for post readership. Although I have published posts on all 31 days of the week, Tuesday and Thursdays get the most love. I don’t know why. Experiment to find days and times that get the best response for your blog.
#10 Read your blog out loud before publishing. All of my posts are read out loud (ROL) before I push them live. You should do this too. It helps you find errors and omissions that you may not have found otherwise. For instance, by ROL-ing I might have realized there are 7 days in a week, not 31.
#11 6 is the magical monthly number. I talked to a mathematician who did statistical analysis on blog posts and readership. He found that posting 6 posts per month or more had a much greater impact on engagement and memorability. I have found this to be true. As soon as I made a habit of hitting 6 posts or more per month my average monthly readership doubled. Which doubled the pleasure and doubled the fun.
#12 Create a writing habit. I start each weekday morning by writing for about an hour from 6am to 7am. This has become a regular routine. It’s a positive habit that allows me to publish 2 posts per week. Establishing the writing habit is the key to making the blog work. My friend Jeff Hilimire, who blogs regularly, said that he frequently uses a 20 minute rule. He writes for 20 minutes, and publishes what he has when the dinger dings. I actually don’t know if there is a dinger. But the point is to find your habit and grab it like a rabbit.
#13 Run Spellcheck. WordPress and other blogging platforms have a spell checking feature. Use them. They will catch things you don’t, like Odell Beckham Jr. You will have the occasional error sneak through. My readers will often shoot me a heads up when I pull a Billy Buckner. I appreciate this. It takes a village to raise a grammatically proper post.
#14 Start a draft whenever you get an idea. Inspiration for posts can come from anywhere. When inspiration strikes, write the basic idea into a quick draft on your phone or computer. I currently have 195 unpublished drafts. In fact, my blog is so drafty it needs weather-stripping. Your ideas are likely to disappear if you don’t write them down. Having several drafts started gives you plenty of options to work with on days when you are less inspired to write something new.
#15 Posts are a great way to recognize others. I have written many posts about the people who have inspired, impressed and supported me. The posts offer a great way to say thanks, or show your appreciation or respect for others. In fact, my most popular post to date is my tribute to my friend Steven Schreibman. I have written about friends, family, clients, coaches, rappers and a strange woman I encountered at the Piggly Wiggly. They have all been popular posts. Granted, some of them had nothing to do with advertising or entrepreneurship. But it’s my blog, I can write what I want to.
#16 Posting brings good things. Every time I publish a post something good happens. I get an opportunity or an introduction. I hear from a friend or family member. Or I get a kind, thankful or supportive comment from a reader. Or I get asked to emcee a charitable luncheon by my friend Stacy Sollenberger, where I meet a future employee who helps bring great new opportunities to The Weaponry. Or my friend Tim McKercher forwards a post to Vanilla Ice, who tweets the post out to the world.
#17Don’tgetcaughtup in readership numbers. I would prefer to have one person read a post and really take something away from it than have a million people read it and forget it.Writefortheonepersonwhoneedstohearyour message that day.Not for the massholes who don’t care.Write good posts that offer value. That is all you should ever care about.Well, that and human rights.
The Perfect Agency Project has been the perfect writing project for me. It allows me to write a bit everyday. It forces me to think more about my life, my career and my observations. Nothing I have ever written feels truer to my style of thinking, writing and self-expression.
You have something to share too. We all do. I hope you consider sharing your thoughts, feelings, observations and learnings in your own blog. You never know who you might help along the way. Or who may help you. Life is funny that way. I hope to keep writing about this funny life adventure we are on for another 2000 posts.
**If you read this far (you are 1612 words in) you probably would enjoy subscribing to this blog. Please consider signing up to get each post emailed to you.
A few years ago I was having a serious conversation about my career with a close friend. I was talking about a job opportunity I was contemplating that would involve me and my family moving to one of the major cities in the United States. Chad, my son Magnus’ Godfather, asked why I was considering such a move and the impact it was likely to have on our family’s quality of life. Not to mention the impact it would have on the Christmas Eve tradition our families enjoyed together.
I told Chad that I was curious to know what my career might hold if I was in a major market. Chad took a long pause. And then he said slowly, in words I could easily understand,
I don’t think your career has ever been limited by your location.
Chad was right. My career has been full of interesting opportunities and adventures that have outsized the markets that I have lived and worked in. But without Chad’s comment I may not have recognized that myself.
I was reminded of Chad’s statement last week because my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, had a particularly interesting weekend. Here are the 3 big things that happened.
#1 Two of our Weapons flew to the other side of the planet to film a video about an impressive business in Bangalore, India. It was a trip that helped alter my world-perspective. I met amazing people, saw incredible sights and ate incredible food. And, now that I’ve seen the first rough cut, I can say I helped capture a really great video.
#2 A team of our Weapons were working with a former President of The United States. We sent a crew to the Plains Peanut Festival in Plains, Georgia. A major part of what our team did in Plains was work with President Jimmy Carter. Our team filmed President Carter, photographed him and his family and friends at various activities that weekend. Our team also wrote The Peanut Proclamation, on behalf of The Peanut Institute, which president Carter signed. Working with President Carter was a pretty great consolation prize for our team members who didn’t get to go to India. A trip to India was a good consolation prize for those who didn’t get to work with President Carter.
#3 At the same time as the international travel and the Presidential peanut-ing, our team was launching a new campaign for the sporting gear brand Mizuno, and their support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation during Breast Cancer Awareness month.
The work we created included 11 videos, which featured Olympic Gold Medalist Jennie Finch. Jennie is not only the face of American softball, and a business woman, she is a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model, a contestant on the most recent season of Dancing With The Stars, and a wonderful human being. The videos also included profiles of 4 women who have been battling breast cancer, and 2 women whose mothers have battled breast cancer and won.
This was not a bad weekend for an advertising and idea agency headquartered in Milwaukee. That’s because we refuse to be limited by our geography. What I have found over and over again is that if you do great work, are great to work with, and live up to your commitments, great work will keep coming your way. So don’t think you need to live in the largest, most crowded, most expensive, most traffic-infested cities in the world to do great things. You just have to do great things, and the opportunities will find you.
Last week I visited a fascinating company in Bangalore, India. My team at The Weaponry was hired to tell the story of this impressive organization that has grown from 50 people to 5000 employees in just over 12 years. This kudzu-style growth fascinated me as a business owner. And I was determined to learn all I could from studying this organization.
The business has a beautiful, 500,0000 square foot campus that includes multiple interconnected buildings, two giant cafeterias, a walking path through a forest garden, a rainwater reclamation system, large art installations and a transportation system that moves employees between home and work that operates like a school’s bus system, but for business. And presumably without spit balls.
Throughout the campus of this remarkable organization there were posters of the grandfather of the two Founders. Each of the posters highlighted one of the Grand Patriarch’s core values. This iconic businessman was born in 1903, before the airplane, television and computer. He died 25 years ago. Yet his approach to life and business is very much on display as a source of inspiration to this progressive organization’s employees and visitors. And none of the posters simply said ‘Hang in there Kitty!’
As I read each of the posters I kept asking myself:
Which of your core principles could inspire great success in your grandchildren and the organizations they run 100 years from now?
Something to think about.
Do you have such principles, values or beliefs? Have you identified them, written them down and shared them? I think about my beliefs and philosophies often. But I had never thought about capturing them as a source of guidance and inspiration for future generation of my family, and future generations who will work in my business.
In light of what I saw in India, it seems like a great idea for us all to identify our core beliefs and share them with our children, friends and team members. You never know what you may inspire.
As children in America, we are taught that if you dig a hole in your yard deep enough, you will pop out in China. I now know that if you ever do dig such a hole, and I encourage you to try, two things will happen:
You will miss out on a lot of frequent flyer miles.
You will find yourself in India.
Brew City to The ATL
This week I decided to opt for the frequent flyer miles, instead of the tunneling workout, and I flew to India. I traveled there because one of our great clients hired The Weaponry to film a video of a business in Bangalore. The travel started with a flight from Milwaukee to Atlanta. Which was like a light jog before a marathon. I spent most of the flight talking to my seatmate John, who is a lawyer in Milwaukee. It was social and pleasant and short. It was a flight I have done 100 times before. So John was the highlight of the trip.
I met up with my fellow Weapon, Adam ‘Henry’ Emery in Atlanta. We grabbed some Arby’s, because Mexican food before two long flights had the potential to be a really bad idea. As we ate in the food court at concourse E, we sat next to a group of 60-somethings from Iowa heading to a two-week river cruise in Europe. It made me look forward to party-traveling with our couple friends in another twenty years. When they asked us where we were headed…, actually, they never asked. And when you are headed somewhere really interesting like India, you always notice when people don’t ask.
Atlanta to Paris
I washed down my roast beef sandwich with a Malaria medicine chaser. Then we boarded the plane for Paris. My next-seat neighbor looked like he may be Indian, so I was excited to chat him up. Turns out he lived in Warner Robbins, Georgia and was heading to Oslo, Norway for some work with the US Air Force. Oh, and he was originally from Pakistan. (Nice job with the racial profiling Adam!) From here on I will refer to my seat mate as Warner, because I never caught his real name.
The most noteworthy part of the flight was when we were served breakfast. Well it was breakfast if we acted like we were already in Paris. But in Atlanta it would have been a midnight snack. Moments after the flight attendant placed Warner’s breakfast on his tray and handed him a generous cup of water, Warner spilled his entire cup of water on his crotch.
I don’t know about you, but when I see someone de-planing after an overnight flight with a totally soaked crotch, I assume they suffer from nocturnal bladder control. Warner tried to soak up the water on his tray and nether regions with his blanket. But the damage was done. He was soaking wet in all the wrong places.
I tried to console him, saying, ‘Well at least you got a story out of it.’ But what I really meant was, ‘At least I got a story out of it!’
Soon the joke was on me.
As I opened my utensil pack, my plastic spoon fell to the ground by our feet. With our seat-back trays now loaded with food and drinks there was no way to retrieve the spoon within the allotted 5 seconds.
Suddenly I had to figure out how to eat my yogurt, and minced fruit cup without a spoon. So I had to go MacGyver Mode. I found a little package of jelly on my tray. I opened the jelly package, dropped the jelly into my plain yogurt (or is that plane yogurt?) to try to add a little flavor. Then I used the tiny empty plastic jelly dish to scoop out the yogurt and tiny bits of fruit in the fruit cup. Hunger avoided. And just 8.5 hours after takeoff, we were touching down in Paris.
Any time you start your morning in Paris, you know you are going to have an interesting day.Henry and I got off the plane and had to navigate another security checkpoint. While in line, we spotted the two clients we expected to catch up with in Paris. One was traveling from Boston and the other came from Cincinnati. It’s pretty wild to see people you know on another continent. And after a night with no sleep, it felt surreal. Like Sir Reals-a-lot.
The four of us made it through a highly inefficient security procedure and suddenly had three hours to kill. Our client-friends, Nina and Jake, had access to the Air France lounge, and could each bring a guest. So we got our lounge on.
Now I have traveled a lot. But I have never been any place nicer in an airport than the Air France lounge in Paris. We enjoyed complimentary breakfast and drinks. We lounged in comfortable chairs. Some of us took showers. Others of us worked on our blog and re-applied deodorant.
We were also learning to cope with our newly developed sleep deprivation. Which I enjoy. My favorite thing about being around people suffering from mild sleep deprivation is humor inflation. Thanks to humor inflation, very small bits of mild to moderate humor elicit much larger laughs than they deserve. In these situations my attempts at comedy typically receive greater rewards than they merit. The rest of the world is funnier to me when I haven’t slept much too. It is as close to drunk as I ever get. And I was laughing it up Paris.
Paris to Bangalore
As our departure time neared we grabbed a few extra beverages from the lounge for our flight, and made our way to our gate. It was there that we were told our flight was delayed because of a mechanical issue. I always secretly appreciate these delays. I think they are a sweet gesture from the airline. They say, ‘I know we don’t know each other that well, but we don’t want you to die on our plane.’
The delay was only about 45 minutes long, and we were on our way. The 9.5 hour flight from Paris to Bangalore, India was comfortable and uneventful. I had a window seat and got to see things like Southern Germany, The Austrian Alps, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and something that looked like Narcolepsy.
Then we crossed over Syria, Iraq and Iran.I saw much of the tense-est political areas on the globe from 35,000 feet. It all looked like Nevada.
We landed in Bangalore a little after midnight. But the immigration process was very slow and joy-less. This 2-hour slog through immigration in the middle of the night, after 24 hours of travel and spotty sleep would prove to be the low-light of the trip.
At 2:30am local time we made our way to baggage claim, and then outside the airport where drivers in white shirts were gathered like paparazzi trying to get the attention of those of us trying to find our drivers.
Somewhere in the drivers lineup we finally found Alfton, our driver for the week. I actually don’t know what his name is. At such a late hour I remember thinking his name sounded like my Grandpa Alton Albrecht’s with an additional F. So it may have been Falton, Alfton, Altfon, or Altonf.
As we walked with Alfton to his van we could see the fancy Taj Hotel directly across the street from the airport. This is where we would be staying every night of our trip, other than tonight. This night had sold out before we booked it. So now, at 2:30 am, we had to make a 50 minute drive into the city of Bangalore.
The air travel was an adventure. And it was long. But it really wasn’t that hard. I got enough sleep to keep powered up. Now, with that leg of the journey behind me I was curious to see what India had in store for me. And that is what I will be sharing next.