The exciting first time my parents visited my office.

Starting your own business brings on a parade of exciting firsts. Each one marks an important milestone in the realization of your dream. There is your first client. Your first employee. Your first office. And your first lawsuit (I assume).

When I first launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I created a human-like set of life stages that I expected the business to go through. I listed key developments that would happen at Rolling Over, Crawling and Running. That way I would have some sense of where the business I birthed was on its maturing process from newborn to Olympic athlete.

An Especially Special Day.  

On February 7th I had a uniquely proud first. My parents came to see my office for the first time. As an entrepreneur, your business is like a child. So that day I got to introduce my parents to their Grandbusiness.

My Parents’ Influence

My parents were responsible for planting the seeds that led to The Weaponry. Since I was a small child they taught me how to develop meaningful relationships. They taught me to think about the needs of others. They built my confidence to believe I could do whatever I set my mind to. They taught me how to be financially responsible. My mom taught me writing and public speaking. My dad taught me how to work hard.

They made several important decisions that put me into great schools in my childhood. Their Big 10 educations at the University of Minnesota influenced my Big 10 education at the University of Wisconsin. They helped support me through college. After graduation, when I was offered my first job as an advertising copywriter at Cramer Krasselt, they gave me the $500 I needed to move to Milwaukee, put a security deposit on my first apartment, and stock my pantry with ramen noodles. If it weren’t for my parents I probably wouldn’t be here.

The Tour

Showing off the office was really fun. Kind of like the first time I brought my wife, Dawn, home to meet my parents. I gave Bob and Jill the grandest tour our space would allow. I pointed out all the changes we had made. I shared plans for what’s next. And I got to introduced my Mom and Dad to my team.

My parents brought an office warming gift. It was my favorite celebratory beverage: a bottle of nonalcoholic sparking cider (I still haven’t matured to the hard stuff). It was a meaningful gesture from the people who have helped shape me through meaningful gestures.

Business and Family

This week more of The Weaponry’s broader family have visited the office. We’ve had one Weapon’s husband and another Weapon’s brother spend time with us. It’s important to me to have siblings, parents, children and spouses come to our office.  I want them to understand our culture. And I want them to feel part of it too. The more we can integrate our at-work family with our at-home family the more we are able to understand and support each other.

Conclusion

Thanks Mom and Dad for taking time to come see The Weaponry. Thanks for taking the time to meet my teammates. Thanks for the little boy bottle of bubbly. But most importantly, thanks for giving this little birdie a great nest to grow up in. And thanks for teaching me how to fly.

*If you would like to follow The Weaponry’s maturation process please subscribe to this blog.

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The surprisingly simple way to test your risk tolerance.

Starting your own business requires a special mindset. You have to have both a tolerance for risk, and a confidence that you will succeed despite the odds stacked against you. But how do you know if you have the right kind of entrepreneurial wiring? Before I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry I didn’t have a predictive test to evaluate my risk tolerance. But now I do.

Tom O’Hara

I recenly had a very interesting conversation about risk with my friend Tom O’Hara. Tom is EVP & Enterprise Risk Management Director at Huntington National Bank. Evaluating risk is a challenging task. You must find a way to assess risk tolerance in a way that people can easily articulate.

One question Tom poses in his risk evaluation is this little diagnostic gem:

If you have a meeting with the CEO of your company at 7am, and your commute usually takes 15 minutes, what time would you leave for the meeting?

The answer to this hypothetical question reveals a lot about your risk tolerance. If you say 5:30am you have a very low tolerance for risk. If you say 6:45am you have a very high tolerance for risk. If you say 7am you have trouble understanding the time and space continuum.

My big aha!

As Tom talked through this simple predictive test, a fake lightbulb went off in my real head. I applied the same evaluative criteria to my approach to catching airplanes. When planning my departure for the airport I don’t work off the standard ‘Be at the airport 1-hour ahead of time’ rule of thumb. I know that the check-in period for domestic flights ends 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure. But I don’t use the 30-minute rule either, because I always check in online.

Instead, I use the ‘What time will they close the door?‘ rule of thumb. I have always thought this was the only indicator that really mattered. As a result I am often the last person on the plane. Which has freaked out many of my more conservative coworkers. Yet, I can only remember missing a plane one time in my entire business career. And that was because I had the wrong departure time in my head. Stupid departure time memory malfunction!

What this says about entrepreneurship

Clearly I have a high tolerance for risk. Because those airplanes, they don’t wait (I heard that in a country song). That being typed, I am never unprepared for my  travel too and through an airport. I have timed my airport route to the minute, and I allow for a degree of error in traffic, difficulty finding parking, and for crowds at security. On the other hand, my drive to the airport makes me feel alive. So does owing my own business.

Key Takeaway 

Know thyself (but don’t call thyself ‘thyself’). If you have to be at the airport two hours  before a domestic flight you may struggle with the coo-coo crazy of entrepreneurship. But if you like rolling onto the plane just as it prepares to roll away from the gate, you likely have what it takes to stomach a couple of years of unpredictability. But there is no right or wrong answer to risk tolerance. There are just different types of rewards. So whether you are traveling for work or pleasure, always consider the rewards that make you happy when you file your flight plan.

*If you like living dangerously and don’t mind missing any of my blog posts then don’t subscribe to this blog. But if you want to play it safe, and have every post emailed to your inbox upon publication, please subscribe today.

Only the paranoid survive.

I haven’t read Andy Grove’s book Only The Paranoid SurviveI don’t need to. I get everything I need to know from the title alone. If you want to survive in business you have to be paranoid.

Why I bring this up.

I am part of a CEO roundtable known as the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE) in Milwaukee. We had our monthly meeting yesterday at my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. The theme of the meeting was clear. The CEOs in my group are all feeling paranoid.

But here’s the funny thing: none of us are in imminent danger. There is no grim reaper at the door preparing to cut our internet connections and leave our businesses for dead. Quite the opposite. Our futures all look bright. We continue to grow and add new clients. We are hitting exciting milestones that indicate our businesses are moving in the right direction.

Yet we all seem concerned that we are not doing enough. That we are not as productive as we could be. Or as aggressive as we should be. Or as focused. Or as successful. To a therapist we may all appear to have odd self-image issues. Or a lack of confidence. But that is not the case.

The Real Issue

We are doing exactly what you need to do to survive as an entrepreneur. You have to worry about issues before they become issues. You have to invest in relationships you don’t need today. You have to develop plans and infrastructure that aren’t critical right now.

You need to do the little things that are important but not urgent before they become urgent. Because if you wait until they are urgent it will probably be too late. Self-inflicted paranoia keeps you a step or two ahead of the real danger. It activates your fight or flight responses when there is no imminent fight. That’s how you prevent complacency. And that’s how your thrive.

Your personal life.

The same power of paranoia can also help your personal relationships, fitness and finances. If you are paranoid that you are not doing enough, you will invest action in each of these three critical areas before they become real problems.

Key Takeaway. 

Embrace your self-inflicted paranoia. It’s a great survival tool. By pulling the fire alarm in your head you’ll be prepared before any actual fire has a chance to block your escape route. Better yet, there is a good chance that fire will never come.

*If you are paranoid that you will miss a post from this blog, please subscribe to receive each new update via email.

 

 

Our newest piece of office furniture is also the most unique.

If you like shopping for furniture you should become an entrepreneur. Because one of the by-products of owning a growing business is you need to buy products like chairs and table for your team. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, now owns 14 comfortable chairs, a couch, several tables, and one custom-made lamp. The lamp is probably considered lighting. But this is my blog and I’m calling it furniture.

The Coffee Table Quest

We quickly found options we liked for most of our office furniture needs. But there was one piece that we just couldn’t find in stores or online. We wanted a statement-making coffee table. In full disclosure, I don’t drink coffee. So I think of it as a chocolate milk table. But because the rest of the world knows these types of drink-stabilizing platforms as coffee tables, I will give in to peer pressure and act like I will enjoy coffee on them like everyone else.

Square Pegs.

Our office space is very square. The furniture in our casual seating area is very square too. So we needed a long table with a curvy figure to round out the room. A surfboard-shaped table would be perfect.

Desperately Seeking Surfboard.

Within 60 seconds of thinking, ‘A surfboard coffee table would to totally gnarly dude!’, I found a custom maker of surf furniture online. I was soon on the phone with Marker Six in North Carolina. Then the Weaponry whipped up six different design options and asked people to vote on their favorites. You can find the post ‘Surfing for a coffee table and we need your help.’ here.

If you didn’t play along then you can play now.

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Pick your favorite (or remember your favorite from the first time you voted). Then check below to see if we have similar tastes.

The Votes Have Been Tallied

After we had sufficient feedback from our social networks we ordered our custom designed table. Then we waited.

It’s Here!

After about a month, and some unfortunate weather delays in the epoxification process and FedEx’s delivering-during-a-snowstorm process, our new table showed up yesterday.

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The surfboard top came packaged like this. The box underneath it contained the legs. We didn’t read the instructions and thought this was how it should go together. #seesawtable
This is the revere angle of what our table top looked like covered with a cardboard prophylactic. 
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This is the cardboard cocoon our table emerged from. Its duty was heavy, but still medium.
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Rick from Marker Six, the makers of our coffee table, was listening during the ‘Use Protection’ talk.  He used layers of cardboard, pipe insulation, paper and styrofoam to protect the wood.

 

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Ta Da! Number 3 is the winner!  It’s a fun conversation piece. Even if I am just talking to myself. In the background you can also see our custom-made pen lamp from David Laro.
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This is a great place to surf the web.

What’s Next? 

The next step is for you to stop by to enjoy a tour of our office and a beverage on the board. Make The Weaponry part of your next swing through Wisconsin. If you live in Milwaukee, stop by and let’s have some chocolate milk, coffee, tea, beer or a juice box in our newly completed board room. We’re expecting you.

*To follow the good the bad and the gnarly of my entrepreneurial adventure please  consider subscribing to this blog.

 

That is actually NOT the definition of insanity.

Do you know what the definition of insanity is? No doubt you have heard a proposed definition of insanity many times. In nearly every meeting about change, or broken processes someone breaks out TDOI. If you haven’t been in a course-correction meeting since the Korean War, here is the statement I am referring to:

 “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”  -unknown

This quote has been misattributed to everyone. Einstein, Twain, Franklin, Cheech, Chong.

But it is not true. I have degrees from The University of Wisconsin in both journalism and psychology. Which makes the inaccurate reporting of this psychological definition feel like a wheel of cheese under my proverbial mattress.

Here is the actual definition

Insanity:

noun. The state of being seriously mentally ill; madness:

or:  extreme foolishness or irrationality.

Insanity comes from the Latin ‘in’ (meaning not) and ‘sanus’ (which makes me snicker, but means healthy).  

When you put them together you get insane, meaning not healthy.

My suggestion

I encourage you to continue pointing out the problem of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But let’s lose ‘the definition’ part. Definitions sound so… definitive. This statement is more of a creative observation. So let’s try it like this:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

We can call this a metaphor instead of a definition. It still works. Yet it doesn’t make me want to throw my DSM-IV across the conference room table. Deal?

Are you living the life of a yes-man or a no-man?

There are two kinds of people… We’ve heard this intro line many times before. We love to simplify the world’s inhabitants this way. Because it offers an easy construct to think about complicated topics. I recently read one of these ‘two-types-of-people’ observations that wowed me with its simplicity and profunditude.

Here it is:

There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no’. Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.

-Keith Johnstone  Author of Impro

Wow! With this simple statement Johnstone summarizes the difference between accepting and denying offers that come your way. Did you notice that both outcomes are positive? You either walk away with adventure or safety. Nobody goes home empty-handed.

Which one are you?

The key is to know which outcome you really want. I am an emphatic Yes-Man. I like road trips without reservations. I am all in on the adventure or life. I am an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is all about saying yes. So is creativity. I see all of life’s challenges through the ‘Yes,and’ lens of improvisation. It truly makes every day adventurous, exciting and full of new possibilities. I’m not saying it is better than safety. It’s just better for me.

Key Takeaway

Make sure you know what makes you happy. Know what makes you sleep well at night. And reward yourself with more of that. If you prefer the safety, predictability and peace of mind of home then embrace it unapologetically. If you prefer adventure, embrace the bruises, wardrobe malfunctions and flat tires as souvenirs from the trip.

 

*Yes-Man and No-man are not intended to be gender specific. Regardless of your gender please consider subscribing to this blog. It’s written for people who prefer a safe reading adventure.

 

How to determine the best advertisers in the Super Bowl.

Did you see Super Bowl LII? What a show! The game is always hyped as the greatest television event of the year. It certainly lived up to that billing again this year.

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My fellow Wisconsin Badger Corey Clement scored big. He even started a Conga line in the end zone.

The Game

The game itself was amazing. There were so many Super Bowl records set that I think the game set a Super Bowl record for setting Super Bowl records. There were over 1000 yards of total offense. There were two pass attempts to quarterbacks playing wide receiver. And there was an exciting Hail Mary pass into the end zone as the clock expired. The only thing that would have made the game better for me would have been a Patriots victory. But as a huge Pats fan, I have two Super Bowl miracle wins in the last few years to console me.

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JT told the crowd in Minneapolis, ‘I once went fishing on Lake Minnetonka and caught a walleye this big!’

Halftime Entertainment

After getting off to a slow start Justin Timberlake’s halftime show made a nice comeback and finished strong. The momentum turned during JT’s tribute to Prince. His performance of Mirror was spectacular. Although I worried that one of the hundreds of kids running around the stage holding mirrors would drop one and bring seven more years of bad luck to the hometown Vikings.

 

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My cravings for M&Ms decreased dramatically when I saw this commercial.

The Commercials

Then there were the ads. As an advertising professional I love Super Bowl spots. At a price of over $5 million for 30 seconds, commercials during the Super Bowl are too expensive to get wrong. So most of the spots that run during the big game do what good commercials should do. They entertain us. They make us laugh. They surprise us. They wow us. They make us think differently about the products, services or brands they promote.

The Super Bowl ads are so good that people actually want to see them. They are part of the appeal and entertainment of the entire event. Sometimes they are they best part of the program. Especially when Up With People are the halftime entertainment. Or when the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Buffalo Bills.

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This Peter Dinklage spot for Doritos Blaze made me want to breathe fire as if I were the Father of Dragons.

The Best Advertisers 

So who won the battle of the advertisers? This is a question that gets asked every year. It will be a topic of conversation around the proverbial water cooler all week. Marketing types will weigh in with their professional opinions. And there will be polls that try to determine a winner. However, we will never know the real answer.

Here’s Why.

You don’t succeed in advertising by winning a popularity poll. You win by setting a marketing objective, and then nailing it. Advertising can help increase awareness, brand affinity and purchase intent. All of these dimensions are measurable. But not by a poll that asks viewers to pick their favorite commercial.

Your opinion of the marketing only matters if you are part of the audience the advertiser is trying to reach. I thought the beer commercials were funny. But I don’t drink alcohol. I also liked the Tide commercials, a lot. But I don’t make any of the decisions about which laundry potions my family uses.

 

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I liked this guy. But I still don’t like the taste of alcohol. 

Key Takeaway

Super Bowl commercials are not simply meant to entertain you. They are strategically developed marketing weapons. The only way to evaluate their success or failure is to measure the impact they have on their target audience. Anything else is just playing Monday morning quarterback.