This is how our new conference room came to life.

Breathing life into an idea is my favorite thing in the world. Taking a vision that only existed in my head, making it real, and then showing it to the world, offers a healthy, natural high. Even Nancy Reagan would approve.

I thought about creating my advertising agency for a long time before I named it The Weaponry and declared it open for thinkness. In the summer of 2017 I shopped for a new office space. But when I first got tossed the keys the office was pretty bland. So we began putting our mark on the place.


Furnishing our office has been a fun undertaking.  I have written before about our custom-built surfboard coffee table. We had readers of this blog vote on their favorite surfboard designs. Then we shared the final result. The coffee table has been a great addition to the office, and a great conversation starter. Since then, we turned our attention to another room.

Yep, we’ve got one of these. Read all about it at the links above.

The Conference Room

The conference room at The Weaponry was the last room we furnished. We wanted to keep it simple. In fact, we only wanted four elements in the room:

  1. Table
  2. 6-8 chairs
  3. TV monitor
  4. Whiteboard
Folding chairs and tape helped us determine the perfect table size and the number of chairs we could fit. In the end, we crumpled up this 4×8 foot table and tossed it in the trash.

Shopping For A Table

We looked at a lot of used conference room tables, and they all made me want to cry. Most of them felt like they would have been right at home on the set of the TV show, The Office. That would never do. We looked through catalogs. All the tables either looked too serious, too sterile or had no look at all.

Then something caught our eye. It wasn’t a traditional conference room table.  It was a high top. The type of furniture designed for an active huddle space. Not the kind of table typically used to pacify you before a Powerpoint lobotomy.

When we inquired about the table we discovered it could be custom-made. Which meant we could choose the perfect length, width, height and color.

We had our 58 inch TV monitor, but we couldn’t install it until we had the table, so we knew how high to hang it. It was our version of the chicken and the egg.

Placing The Order

We custom-designed our table to fit our conference room space like a proverbial hand in glove. We chose both the leg style and the leg color. Then came the biggest, and most important choice of all: the color of the surface.

These six tall stools were anxious to rip their plastic off and meet some new butts.

Surfacing the Surface Color

We saw a model of our table with a white table top. It had a birch pattern to it, and it looked nice. But we picked out a few other color chips that might work as well. On the day we placed the final order I glanced at the sign in our office that says, Think like a rebel. I knew that white wasn’t right.

We were finally birthing our conference room.  This is where the table began to crown.
Ta Da!  Our high red top table is up and ready for thinkness.
We finally knew the right height to hang our TV. Here you can see the monitor is well hung. The dry erase board, not so much.
The whiteboard is now up. And we already have several chips on the table top. Potato chips that is.

All of the other rooms in our office have one red wall. It makes a bold statement and adds energy to each room. The ConFro (I just made that up) doesn’t have outside windows. We wanted to keep the walls white and bright to make the room feel bigger. So we used the bright red, high top table to make the room feel like the rest of the office.

Because our table is tall, you can use it in sitting mode, like Britt, or in standing mode, like me.  Is your mind totally blown by this versatility?

The table feels active. The red color energizes the room. The height of the table means you can either perch on the high stools, and feel like you are leaning into a meeting, like at a bar. Or you can stand without looking any odder than you usually do. You can also easily switch between the two positions, if you have ants in your pants.


We love the way our conference room has come together. We love that it offers a great hub for active thinking. We love that we have a tall, red-headed 48 inch by 96 inch table. We love our giant dry erase board for ideating and illustrating. We love having a large TV monitor for presentations, and for watching Netflix while eating lunch. We look forward to adding a few embellishments to the walls. But most of all, we look forward to having your stop by for a think.

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5 reasons brainstorms are a waste of your time and money.

I have an idea. Let’s not do brainstorms anymore. Most organizations believe brainstorm sessions are a great way to generate a lot of ideas quickly. While you may feel like you see a lot of new thinking in these sessions, you don’t see what you don’t see. As a professional creative thinker, I consider the brainstorm session a highly visible, but highly inefficient way to develop new ideas. I thought about hosting a telethon to raise awareness of this problem. But I didn’t know where to find ten landline telephones. So this post will have to do.

Dissecting the Brainstorm Problem

One of the reasons brainstorms are so popular is that in a one hour session you can generate a visible collection of new ideas. But the pile of ideas you leave the meeting with is misleading. Because brainstorm sessions are like gathering 100 horses and only generating 50 horsepower. You would be better off letting those ponies run alone.


 5 Problems With Brainstorms

1. Brainstorming is made for extroverts.

Brainstorming is a game where you rapidly blurt out half-baked ideas in front of a small crowd. For extroverts this is good sport. But to the other 50% of the planet this is an uncomfortable and unnatural activity. The quieter half of the population thinks more than they speak. They generate a lot of ideas on their own. Which means that the brainstorm is simply not their natural habitat for idea generation.


2. The 80/20 Rule

In line with the core tenants of the 80/20 rule, 80% of the good ideas in a typical brainstorm come from 20% of the people. Brainstorms give the false impression that everyone is birthing ideas. But this is not the reality. If you conducted a brainstorm in a petri dish, and observed it under a microscope, you would see a small population of valuable idea generators, a larger collection of evaluators, and a smattering of cheerleaders and spectators. Of course, they would all be wondering why you were staring at them through a giant microscope.


3. The Brainstorm Bottleneck.  

In a polite and orderly brainstorm session you have one person speak at a time. This is also a necessity when you have one scribe capturing the ideas and mounting them on a giant flip pad. The flip side of that orderliness is that when one person is talking, no one else is contributing ideas. There is simply not enough air time for all the ideas that should be generated by just three productive thinkers over the course of an hour.


4. Invisible Clay Pigeons:

There are not supposed to be any bad ideas in a brainstorm. Participants are not supposed to evaluate or criticize ideas. But there are a whole flock of less-obvious ideas that never get tossed to the group because the thrower is afraid their idea will get shot down in the minds of the other participants. Even if the group adheres to the rules of brainstorming during the session, participants will still feel judged by the group, in silence.


5. Great Brains Storm On Their Own

Great ideators generate ideas at a faster pace, with greater range and push more boundaries when working alone. A good thinker will quickly gather the low hanging fruit. Then they get to work on the rest of the tree. Then other trees. Then other orchards.  Then they harvest fruit on other continents. And finally, on other planets. You are far less likely to get a bushel basket full of Uranus Apples in a traditional brainstorm.



The Solution

To generate the most, best and broadest range of ideas, people should always think alone first. Give your team members a quiet place, a pen and a pad of paper. The ideas will flow and fill the pages. Only after the team has thought on their own should you bring them together to share their sparkly new brain gems. During The Thinkers Reunion, you experience the Reece’s moment, when people can get their chocolate in someone else’s peanut butter. The mash-ups, surprise combinations, epiphanies and amplified ideas at this stage are far more valuable.

Key Takeaway

Stop wasting time and money on brainstorm sessions. They are not the Holy Grail of idea generation they are thought to be. Work in isolation. Then pour all the ideas together. You’ll get more and better ideas every time. If you have other idea-generating ideas  you’ve thought of on your own, please share them in the comments section.

The most valuable product my business produces shocked me.

In 2016 I left a salaried position with a large, stable advertising agency. I had amassed almost 20 years of experience as an advertising creative. Over the course of my career I had developed a clear vision of what the perfect ad agency looked like. And like Bob The Builder, I believed I could build it.

1 Year Later

A year later my startup ad agency was buzzing with activity. So I joined a CEO roundtable to surround myself with people who knew things I didn’t know. My Council Of Small Business Executives (COSBE) group meets once a month to compare notes, discuss issues and serve as a thought-provoking sounding board.

My Introduction

At the first meeting I attended back in August, the group asked me to take a couple of minutes to talk about me and my business. It was like the introductions you make at an addiction recovery group. You know, ‘My name is Adam, and I am an Ideaholic.’ Welcome brother Adam.

I told the group that my business, an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, had attracted ten clients in the first year. Those clients stretched from Florida to Atlanta, Boston, Montreal, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

Then I dropped this fun, and almost unbelievable footnote:

We did this despite the fact that we were a brand new business with:

  • no logo
  • no business cards
  • no website

The Insight

After I finished my quick overview on my business, the guest speaker that day said something that I will never forget.

‘There is only one way you could build a business like that. People really trust you.’

This guy was a total stranger. We had been in a room together for 15 minutes. Yet he gave me an amazing insight as to why my perfect agency project was working.

I knew I had clients that liked me. I knew they had good experiences with me. I knew that some of them thought I was funny or smart or creative, or perhaps a non-alchoholic cocktail of all three. But the only reason my business stood a chance of succeeding is that people I have worked with in the past, and those I meet today, trust me.

It’s a matter of trust. (Like Billy Joel said)

Trust is the key ingredient of a successful entrepreneur. It is the most valuable product that you will ever deliver to your clients.

  • My clients trust me with their money.
  • They trust me with their confidential information.
  • They trust me with their valuable time.
  • They trust me to reflect positively on their personal reputations.

Key Takeaway

If you want to increase your value to other people, increase your trustworthiness. Do what you say you will do. Deliver what you say you will deliver. Meet the timeline you said you would meet at the price you quoted. Always demonstrate that you’ve heard and care about the concerns of others. You’ll find the rewards far exceed the cost of doing business.

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How to invest in people the way Warren Buffet invests in stocks.

I like investing. I started investing in stocks not long after I landed my first job out of college. Back then I didn’t really know what I was doing. I made mistakes. But I wasn’t afraid. I kept reading, and listening and studying investment strategy. Today I have a solid, repeatable approach. That’s because I stole my strategy from Warren Buffet. Who stole his strategy from Benjamin Graham.

I bought Graham’s book, The Intelligent Investor, because I heard it was the bible on stock investing. I boiled the 600 page book down to this headline:

‘Buy when a stock is undervalued. Sell when it is overvalued.’

This strategy has served me well. I’m always looking to get in on a good company’s bad news. When banks were collapsing because of the mortgage crisis, I bought Huntington, Fifth Third and PNC stock. When there was oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico I bought BP. When Equifax was hacked, I was into Equifax stock. When there were diseases decimating the US chicken population I shouted, ‘Pass me a drumstick and some shares of Pilgrims Pride and Sanderson Farms!’

Investing in People

I invest in people the same way.  When people are hot, have the world by the bizzles and everyone wants to be close to them, I don’t need to be there too. I like to invest in people who have lost their jobs, hit icebergs, or are leaking oil. Those are the ones that really need to be infused with confidence and friendship. It is easy to divest when people hit all-time lows. But that’s when I like to double down.

People always rebound.

Your personal stock always rises again to reflect your true value. Which means that when you pick someone up who feels like they are sitting on the discard pile, the return on your invested time and attention truly appreciates. While you may have known things would get better for that person, they didn’t. Because when you feel like you are swirling around the toilet, it is hard to see past the very near term.

Take Away

Look for ways to invest in those that need it most. The good people, organizations, and teams that have fallen out of favor. Because the belief, support and confidence you invest  in them comes back to you in amazing ways. Oh, and if you have any undervalued stocks to pass my way, please post them in the comments section.

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Why walking in a blizzard is so good for you.

I recently found this post in my rough drafts folder. It was originally written in June of 2016, but never published. At the time, my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, was a startup in the first months of life. The swirling uncertainty of startup-ness surrounded us. And that can mess with you…

From June 10th, 2016

Today I had a long talk with a co-worker who was having a hard time at work. Which is understandable. Because startups are kinda hard. Launching a startup is like walking in a blizzard. Wind and snow are all up in your grill. It’s cold. Visibility goes into the toilet. It’s difficult to navigate in these conditions.

In the middle of a blizzard your survival instincts tell you to seek shelter. It’s natural to want to escape the relentless wind, disorienting snow and mounting drifts. Sitting by a crackling fire, drinking hot chocolate is far more appealing to most people.

But I like walking in blizzards. I like being out when no one else is. I like doing things that build my character, my will and my personal legend. In the same way a callus rises as the result of repeated friction, strength grows from pushing against resistance.

You have to keep walking. You must have faith that you know where you are heading. You have to take steps forward, even when it is hard. Blizzards of the wintry, professional and personal kind are temporary. Eventually the snow will stop falling. The wind will chill the eff out. And the sun will come out again. When that happens, where will you be? It’s a matter of what you did during the blizzard. If you keep pushing, you will find yourself far ahead of where you started, far ahead of those who sought shelter, and closer to your ultimate goal. You’ll find the ultimate rewards far outweigh the hot chocolate you sacrificed along the way.

*To learn what has happened to The Weaponry over the past year and a half, check out some other posts. To see what happens next, consider subscribing to this blog.

My unique spin on the coffee meeting has come full circle.

One of the great traditions of networking is grabbing coffee. When you meet someone for the first time you suggest grabbing coffee. When you see someone you haven’t seen in a long time, you talk about grabbing coffee. Coffee gets grabbed more than an aspiring actress at a Harvey Weinstein pool party. #timesup

I don’t drink coffee. Ok, that’s not fully true. I have now had 4 cups of coffee in my life. That’s about one per decade. But the coffee meeting is one of the most valuable elements of professional development. It is a useful tool for developing and maintaining relationships. It can be used for research, informal mentoring and for stay at home moms to have sanity-preserving conversations with full-sized rational humans.

Despite the fact that coffee tastes like burnt bark juice, I love using coffee meetings to catch up with old friends or get to know new people better. I just do it differently.

Barista, The Usual.

My go to beverage at the coffee shop is chocolate milk. I love that stuff. It reminds me of Fridays in elementary school. Which was the only day chocolate milk was served at school when I was a kid. Today, drinking chocolate milk still feels like a party.


This is my friend Andy. We regularly grab beverages,where we compare and contrast the merits of different hair styles. 

Andy Salamone

One of the people I regularly grab chocolate milk with is my friend Andy Salamone. Andy is an amazing guy. He started a business called CarSpot right out of college. He developed a way of aggregating used car inventory from dealerships into a centralized, customer-friendly online shopping experience. Andy and his team developed innovative technology to transform and grow the business until AutoTrader made Andy an offer he didn’t refuse. He sold the business several years ago, and now enjoys the fruits of his exit.

It is fascinating to talk to Andy as he scans the landscape looking for the next great entrepreneurial opportunity. He sees businesses the way an engineer sees a machine. He can talk you through the mechanics of creating an efficient device to deliver a great idea. He has been a great influence on me and the way I think about my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

Recent Visit

Andy texted me last week and said he wanted to swing by and see The Weaponry’s new office. I was thrilled to have him see our space. He arrived with some really fun surprises. He had a gallon of Oberwies chocolate milk. Which is the chocolate milk equivalent to a Goody McGood bottle of Scotch. That alone would have been a great office warming gesture. Then Andy reached into the bag that contained the milk and pulled out four glasses with the five Great Lakes printed on them. On each glass there’s a heart printed right where Milwaukee sits on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Cheers to friends, good fortune and frothy chocolate milk.

A Moment To Absorb.

Now picture this. As I poured my glass full of that chocolatey nectar of the Guernsey’s, I was sitting on a couch at the adverting agency that I always dreamed of creating. I toasted my good fortune with a friend and fellow entrepreneur. Then I set my new Great Lakes glass down on my custom-made The Weaponry surfboard coffee table.

My life was coming together just the way I had always imagined it would. Even my fellow Wisconsin Badger, Abraham Maslow would have grabbed one of my new glasses, raised it towards me and said, ‘Kid, it doesn’t get any better than this.’ #selfactualization.

A Toast

Make the time to grab a drink of your own choice with the people of your own choice. May you find your own version of The Weaponry, and chocolate milk and custom surfboard coffee tables. I hope that you look forward to going to work every day. I hope you get to design your life, your work and your tribe. May your days be full of great moments that are uniquely you. Here’s to feeling as if you are winning at life.

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