How to think about meetings like a NASCAR team.

Most businesses have way too many meetings. They last too long. They have too many participants. And they are held in conference rooms with chairs that are too comfortable. Too often our days are defined by these meetings, rather than by the stretches of non-meetingness when the real work gets done.

NASCAR

If you want to solve this problem in your organization, watch more NASCAR. Scratch that. Find yourself a NASCAR Pit Crew Meeting Mentor. In a NASCAR race, the goal is to get to the finish line before anyone else. The more time a driver spends driving the car as fast as he or she can, the better. Calling the driver to a meeting during a race sounds crazy, right? But that’s exactly what happens.

The Meetings

In every NASCAR race, the driver will pull into the pits, and a company meeting breaks out. Attendees typically include the driver, the Gas Man (#snickering), The Jack Man, A couple of Tire Jockeys, and maybe someone to extend some fresh beef jerky to the driver.  If you watch a full race you’ll pick up on a few key meeting tips that you can put to work in your place of business.


 5 Meeting Tips You Can Learn From A NASCAR Pit Crew.

  1. Go into each meeting with a clear, concise agenda. If you don’t have a clear agenda, clear the meeting off your schedule.
  2. Only invite critical team members. Which means Barney from accounting will be invited to as many meetings this year as he was invited to parties in college.
  3. Meet as quickly as possible and get out. Time your meetings with a stopwatch, not an hourglass.
  4. Meet as infrequently as possible.  The more time you spend working alone the better. Just like that business trip when you forgot your deodorant.
  5. The longest team meetings should be in the winner’s circle.  And everyone should be wearing confetti and a fizzy beverage.

Key Takeaway

Meetings are occasionally necessary. When they are, think like a pit crew. Plan the meeting ahead of time. Know how many people need to jump over the wall, and how many tires they should bring. Always make the meetings short and sweet. It’s the best way to ensure you and your team will accomplish more of your long-term goals.

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What is it that makes hard work so hard?

High achievers constantly talk about the importance of  hard work. But hard work is hard to define. Because what is hard for one person is easy for another. Which means that we define hard work individually, relevant to our capacity for struggle, and tolerance for strain. Still, it is useful to have a universal way to think about hard work. Even if you only plan to think about it in a small corner of the universe.

Well, Well, Maxwell

I turn to pastor, author and leader of leadership, John C. Maxwell for his insight into hard work. This is what my man JCM has to say on the subject:

Hard work is the accumulation of easy things you didn’t do when you should have.

– John C Maxwell

I like Maxwell’s definition. But I have modified it for my own purposes. I say:

Hard work is the easy work you didn’t do when you had more time.

Time is not on your side.

The critical element that makes hard work hard is time constraint. Which means that hard work has to do with the density of work. Or written pseudo-mathematically:

Difficulty of Work = Amount of Work To Be Done, divided by Time To Do It.

Which means that if you start the work earlier, and spread it over a longer period of time, it really isn’t that hard. You feel the burden of work when you have to exert a high level of effort over a short amount of time.

Start Now.

To make any type of work easier, start earlier. Start working on that next big project now. Start studying earlier for the exam. Clean a little every day and it won’t feel like a colossal undertaking.

One of the things I have been pleasantly surprised by since launching my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, is the number of times that my work was made easier because I unknowingly did the work ahead of time. In fact, I spent the last several decades doing the hard work of entrepreneurship, well before I decided to become an entrepreneur. I did this by developing relationships, building trust, demonstrating real interest, and connecting dots.

Key Takeaway

Be proactive. Spend as much time on the important tasks as possible before they become urgent. The easiest way to build an ark is under blue skies. Because, eventually it will rain. And when it does, you’ll be happy you gave yourself a head start. Just ask Noah.

 

 

 

I can’t believe everything you read!

Do you have any idea how many books there are in the world? I do. Because I got curious and looked it up. According to The Google, there are 130,000,000 published books. There are also 7300 magazines, and another 1300 daily newspapers in the United States alone. Which means there is no shortage of material for even the world’s hungriest bookworm to digest.

Thank You!

That’s why I am so thankful for everyone who takes a moment of their valuable time to read my blog posts. This includes you. Because it would be impossible for you to read this blog post without reading this blog post. But more importantly, I know there are a lot of other interesting things you could be reading right now.

Why This Matters Today.

Today is my birthday. I have several birthday traditions. One is eating a full can of black olives in one sitting. Seriously. Another is taking time to reflect on my life. Or as the kids would say, ‘Evaluating my current sitch.’ As I reflect on all that I am thankful for today, beyond surviving another year, I am extremely grateful that you have taken the time to read my silly little blog.

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I started The Perfect Agency Project in 2015, as I began planning to launch my own advertising agency. I began sharing my ideas, experiences, and random thoughts on advertising, entrepreneurship and self-improvement. And people around the world keep reading up what I am writing down.

So thank you. The time you take out of your own schedule to read my writings is a tremendous gift to me. Not only because you have so many other reading options. But because, whether or not you realize it, your time is your most valuable commodity.

Conclusion

Thank you to everyone who reads, shares, likes and comments on my posts. Thank you to everyone who has subscribed to the Perfect Agency Project. Thank you for investing your time and attention. It is a wonderful gift to me. And I get to enjoy it year round here at The Perfect Agency Project.

My Birthday Request

If you have read this far, please consider leaving a mark (like/hate/thumb-any-direction/comment) in the comment section, so I know who to thank today. I hope you all have a very happy My Birthday, and a fun Memorial Day weekend.

*Looking for more thoughts on birthdays? (Of course you weren’t. That was a random, self-centered question.) Check out these posts about the Freakishly Unique Story of The Birthdays In My Family, and The 12 Most Popular Birthday Wishes on Facebook.

 

 

This is where I encourage you to pitch your elevator pitch.

In 2015 I decided to launch a new advertising agency. I already had a vivid image of the agency in my head. So I began mapping, sketching and listing every detail of the company. I considered the business from every angle. I even created a Life Stage chart of the yet unborn business. It was like What to Expect When You Are Expecting. Except I was expecting a bouncing baby business.

The Elevator Pitch 

However, there was one detail that start-ups typically obsess over that I skipped entirely: the Elevator Pitch. It is supposed to be the centerpiece of a startup’s marketing efforts. If you’ve never heard of an elevator pitch, the idea is that you have to summarize the essence of who you are, and what you do, in a short statement that you could deliver to a captive hostage on a brief elevator ride. Apparently, lots of entrepreneurs stalk high-powered executives on elevators, thinking it would be a great strategy for winning their affection.

I’m not buying it.

I hate the whole concept of the elevator pitch. I think it is the most overrated, over-discussed element of salesmanship. And entrepreneurship. And elevatorship.

Sure, it is important to be able to succinctly talk about your business. Your Great Aunt Petunia doesn’t have enough time left on Earth to waste it on your full story. But I have never bought anything or hired anyone because of a brief discussion I had on an elevator, escalator or Wonk-avator.

In fact, I have been in business for two years. And not once have I found myself in an elevator with someone who told me I had 10 floors of verticality to perform the sales pitch of a lifetime.

My Approach

Instead of scripting and performing an elevator monologue to an audience that never shows up, which feels a little like writing an acceptance speech for an award you didn’t win, I take the opposite approach.

The Quiet Game

I play the quiet game. You know, it’s that game where you see how long you can go without talking. I was terrible at the Quiet Game as a child. Scratch that. I was the Cleveland Browns of The Quiet Game. But today, as an entrepreneur, I am quite good at it. When I meet a marketer, I don’t whip out a polished sales pitch and throw it at her. Instead, I listen.

I want to hear what potential clients talk about. I want to hear what challenges they are facing. I want to know where their pain points are. I want to identify their greatest unmet needs. I continue to grow and transform The Weaponry in response to the unmet needs of our clients. Because we are focused on solving client problems, we grow in the direction that our clients’ needs dictate.

Key Takeaway

If you want to collect more great clients and grow your business, don’t practice your elevator pitch. Practice listening. Play detective. Or doctor. Listen for the discomfort, the bottlenecks, and the solution-less problems your clients and potential clients are facing.  Discover their unmet needs. And you’ll have found your next opportunity.

*If you found anything of value in this post, please consider subscribing to this blog. You’ll receive two fresh-baked posts via email each week. Oh, and you may also dig this post I wrote about My Vanilla Ice Philosophy. Vanilla Ice himself liked it. And Tweeted it. And hung it above his bed (ok, that very last part might not be true).

 

The best career move high school seniors should make right now.

Most high school seniors will graduate within the next 30 days. High school commencement is one of the most exciting events in a human’s life. And with good reason. The best, most interesting chapters of your story start after high school. Unless, of course, you were in an epic high school-based movie. In which case, it’s all down hill from here.  (You can check the 50 Greatest High School Movies of all time here to make sure you weren’t in one).

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An Open Letter to High School Seniors.

Dear Seniors,

Four to ten years from now, when you graduate from college, finish your military obligations, or give up on your Hollywood/Nashville/Lottery dream, you will start focusing on your real career. When you do, everyone will tell you that you need to start building your network.

But they are wrong. You need to start building your network now. So before you throw your binders in the trash, your graduation cap in the air, and carve your initials into he wood paneling of the senior lounge, you should start building your professional network.

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WTF Is A Professional Network?

Your professional network is a collection of the people you know that may be able to positively impact your professional career. The people in your network, or community, will be able to help with career advice, finding a job, and connecting you to other people and businesses that are important to your career advancement. You will also be expected to provide the same sort of help for others in your network. Because it takes a village to keep a child from moving back into their parents’ basement.

So Who Are My Connections?

Your connections are your friends, your family members and your teachers. Your connections are your friends’ parents. They are the adults you know from church, and the extra curricular activities you’ve participated in. They are the kids you competed both with, and against, in sports. They are the kids you know from camp (like that one quirky girl who played the flute).

Starting A Connection Collection.

The best career move high school seniors should make right now is to create a profile on  LinkedIn, and start collecting your connections. LinkedIn is an online social networking site for the business community. And right now, before you graduate, is the best time to start collecting your network. By starting now, you will collect the most connections. And the more connections you properly maintain, the stronger your network will be. It’s kinda like being popular in high school. Only this type of popularity can dramatically impact your salary (your salary is the adult version of an allowance).

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Grow As You Go

You will want to continue collecting your friends and acquaintances throughout college, trade school, military service, or your creative exploratory period. Every time you meet someone new, don’t just think about adding them to Snap or Insta.  Sure, do that too. But definitely add them to LinkedIn. Granted, the filters on LinkedIn aren’t as good as Snapchat. But having a good job makes you look better than any photographic editing or augmented reality can.

It’s All About The Network, (and the Benjamins)

Eventually everyone is going to tell you to network and build your network, and that it is all about your network. That’s just an adult way of saying:

Stay in touch with the people you know, because it will connect you to opportunities, advice and endorsements that will prove highly beneficial down the road.

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Why Start As A High School Senior?

You know a lot of people now that you are going to forget. Those kids you go to school with are going to do amazing things with remarkable organizations. And they are going to have opportunities for you, if you stay in touch. You are also going to have opportunities for them. Even better, in the real world, there are things called referral bonuses. Which means you can make extra money for helping your organization find good talent. #chaching

Monitoring Your Classmates

Adding your friends to LinkedIn is like putting a tracking device on them. It will allow you to collect intel on each person, like where they went to school, what they majored in, and where they worked after college.

It also puts a tracking device on you, so that others will remember your educational track, your career path and your special interests and activities. That way your connections will know when their opportunities cross paths with your skills, interests and abilities.

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The Adult Rock Stars Around You

Your neighbors, teachers and friends’ parents are more successful and connected than you know. Four or five years from now you could end up in a job interview with them. Or with their friends or relatives. When that happens, you will want every advantage you can get. Like a good endorsement from someone who knew you were always such a good kid. You were always such a good kid, right?

Trust Me. I Know.

I started my career in advertising as a copywriter. But I always envisioned becoming an entrepreneur and someday starting my own ad agency. Twenty years later, that’s exactly what I did. In 2016 I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

You know who my very first client was? My friend Dan Richards, whom I have known since 7th grade. Dan is the Founder and  CEO of a badass company called Global Rescue.  Which means that Dan and I went from high school classmates, and football and track teammates, to trusted business partners. We have helped each other launch companies, and have exchanged hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of services.

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Key Takeaway

They say the best day to plant a tree is 20 years ago. And the second best day is today. The  same holds true for building your network. Start now by collecting your connections before you leave high school. But if you are already in college, serving your country, or in the workforce, and you haven’t been building your network, start today.

There are amazingly talented people all around you. So start collecting them today. It’s the very best way to assure an abundance of everything you will need later in your career. By doing so may help one of your high school classmates find their dream job. Or launch their own business. I know. Because it happened to me.

-Adam Albrecht

Founder & CEO of The Weaponry


*If you know a high school senior who is about to leave the nest, please share this post with them. If you are a teacher wondering how to keep your students’ attention over the last few days, consider sharing this with your class. And if you want to connect with me, I’d love that. But you might want to read this post I wrote about connecting on LinkedIn first.

 

 

 

Our time here is short. Make the most of it, like Steven did.

The best part of business is the people. I didn’t know that when I started my career. But over the past two decades I have discovered that businesses aren’t just powerful economic engines. They are the primary source of social interactions among adults.  The workplace is dramatically undervalued as a matchmaker of friends, mentors, collaborators and life partners. In fact, I met my wife, Dawn, at work.

Steven Schreibman

On Mother’s Day I got a shocking text from my close friend, Jennifer Hanley, whom I first met when she became a client of mine in 2008. She had bad news. My friend and former client, Steven Schreibman, had passed away the day before. This was totally unexpected. He recently began experiencing severe headaches. Then, on May 7th, he suffered a fall that resulted in a brain injury. He never regained consciousness.

I am truly blessed to have known Steven. But we would have never met had it not been for business. Steven was a fancy pants marketing lead at Nationwide Insurance. I was the creative lead at one of Nationwide’s advertising agencies. And we became fast friends.

The Legend

Steven’s reputation preceded him. My coworkers would come back from meetings with Nationwide telling stories of this wild, rogue client. I couldn’t wait to meet this mythical marketing creature.

He didn’t disappoint. In fact, Steven Schreibman was such a fantastic character, that even though I am only halfway through my advertising career expectancy, I am declaring that I will never encounter another client or coworker that is more spectacularly unique than Steven.

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During an all night shoot in LA, we snuck into a diner for the best peanut butter chocolate shake I’ve ever had. I think Steven (back-row middle) had a Burberry Shake.

Today I am reflecting on Steven’s impact on my life. My last 10 years have been much more flavorful thanks to Steven. Here are four of the many things I will never forget about him.

The Steven Schreibman Top 4 List.

1. His Laugh

I love to laugh. But Steven’s laugh made me look like the farmer in American Gothic.  His laugh felt like the essence of life itself. His laugh was big and loud, like an alarm. And it never contained an ounce of restraint. Nor did it adhere to any social norms. I would have loved to have gone to church or synagogue or a library with Steven just to see if he could actually put a lid on his impulse to laugh without a hint of inhibition at the hilarity of the world. We should all live and laugh like that.

2. He cared.

Steven engaged with people as if he were a talk show host. Which is probably the job he should have had. In fact, I hope he gets that gig in Heaven. Because me and St. Peter would watch the Steven Schreibman Show every night.

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Welcome back to the Tonight Show. I’m Steven Schreibman. And you are not. BWAHAHAHA!

Steven always showed a genuine interest in my life. He was full of questions and remembered everything I ever told him. When we first began working together, my family was small and growing. I have three blonde haired, blue-eyed kids named Ava, Johann and Magnus. Steven would always ask me, ‘How is your little Aryan race coming along?’ I laugh out loud when I think about how completely inappropriate he was, even as he demonstrated how much he cared about me and my family.

3. He Was Eternally Optimistic

Steven was a great client to present creative ideas to, because he recognized the potential in every idea. This is an extremely rare and valuable skill. Everything was Fabulous and Brilliant and Amazing. He loved pushing each idea to see how far it could go. He loved making things bigger, wilder and more attention-getting. He loved making ideas more memorable, and less like everything else. He could have taught a class on getting the most value out of a creative idea. He also could have been the class clown in that very same course.

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This is a very bad picture from a very interesting night. While out in LA on a shoot, Matt Haritan (far right) and I had the idea to go to a taping of the Tonight Show. Not only did we go to a taping, afterwards we got invited back stage, on stage and even staged a coup d’etat on Jay Leno’s couch. Steven (third from the left) loved this kinda stuff.

4. He Was Entertaining

Steven was outlandish, and over-the-top, all of the time. His personality was completely incongruent with that of a large, conservative insurance company. But Steven reveled in being the pot stirrer. He understood his role as the person who could balance out a conservative corporate culture with his total irreverence for all things conservative.

The Master of Shock Value

We should all have a friend who is as endlessly entertaining as Steven was. He was so funny, and so outlandishly unpredictable, that you just wanted to be around him to see and hear what he would do next. There were no ordinary conversations with Steven. I think it would have been a violation of his personal brand to give you a straight answer. Every conversation with Steven was like a box of Cracker Jacks. And I looked forward to the joke, the surprise, or the shocking commentary that was tucked into every exchange.

My First Impression

I first met Steven on a Nationwide commercial shoot, on a 100 degree day in North Carolina. His face was lathered in sunscreen that was barely rubbed in. Which meant that he looked ridiculous. And he loved it. He kept asking if there was something on his face, and he acted oblivious to the white creamy mess he wore like Halloween makeup, just to get a reaction.

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This is from Steven’s going away party when he left Nationwide. Clearly it was significantly retouched. Because he did not have red hands.

The Shirt Incident

One of my favorite Steven memories was from his birthday in 2009. We had a meeting together, and I wore a wild paisley shirt. When the SS waltzed into the meeting he was wearing the exact same shirt! When he spotted me wearing his birthday shirt, his jaw dropped, and he exclaimed, ‘Oh. My. Gawd!  We HAVE to sit next to each other!!!!’ So we did. The rest of the meeting felt like a Saturday Night Live skit. It was all just too ridiculous to take anything seriously. As I think about Steven now, I immediate go back to that meeting. We looked like twin clowns. And we loved every minute of it.

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Steven reacting to a production assistant on a shoot who warned him to be careful on the stairs.

This Blog

Steven was the most engaged reader of this blog. Literally. The insights page on The Perfect Agency Project show that he has provided the most comments on this blog, by far. In fact, Steven has 33% more comments than the next most prolific commenter. This blog will miss him.

Conclusion

I love characters. And Steven was one of the greatest characters I’ve ever known. My conversations with Steven were more provocative and entertaining than the Howard Stern show. Always hilarious. Always inappropriate. And never a bit predictable.

Steven was indeed larger than life. And to those of us whose lives he touched, he is larger than death. Nothing can undo the impact you’ve had on all of us Steven. We will miss you greatly. I can’t wait to hear your laugh again on the other side.

*If you know a friend or family member of Steven’s, please consider sharing this post with them.

Why Wheel Of Fortune is the perfect interview game.

I like watching Wheel of Fortune. It’s not because of Pat Sajak’s perma-tan, perfect hair or witty commentary. And it’s not because of Vanna White and her seemingly irreplaceable skills at touching lighted rectangles. Although 30 years ago that was a compelling draw.

The best part about Wheel of Fortune is trying to solve the puzzles. In case you hadn’t noticed, life is one big puzzle. As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am constantly trying to solve client problems. That’s why I am hunting for world-class problem solvers the way Imelda Marcos hunted for footwear.

The Interview

Lately I’ve been thinking about introducing WOF into the interview process. Because the game show offers valuable insights into a candidate’s approach to solving real world puzzles. Not only is this kind of problem solving valuable in marketing, it translates to success in business, finance, medicine, auto repair, courtship and just about every career Sally Struthers might mention.

The 3 kinds of contestants on The Wheel of Fortune.

Early Solvers.

My WOF heroes are the people who solve the puzzle in the least amount of time with the  least amount of information. I’m always impressed by those who find the answer well before I do. They are the see-ers of the unseen. These people are clever, insightful and daring. You should hire as many of these types as you can get your hands on (in an HR appropriate way).

Middle Solvers

The majority of the puzzle solvers take a crack at the answer somewhere in the middle of the fill. They offer an answer once many letters are exposed, and the puzzle is relatively easy to solve. At this point the viewer at home either has the answer or has several of the words figured out, but still fails to see a couple of un-purchased vowels. These are your average people. If you fill your organization with these average people you can build an average company. I would rather go bankrupt.

The Reader

At the tail end of the spectrum are the readers. These are the people who don’t attempt to solve the puzzle until every letter is filled in, and they can literally read the entire answer. These are the types that only bet on a sure thing. They are the belt and suspenders types. But Wheel Of Fortune favors the bold.

Please don’t be the reader. When you wait until the answer is obvious you have lost all competitive advantage. Because when there is no risk there is no reward.

Key Takeaway

The further upstream you can solve a problem the move valuable you are. There is a significant market for those who can see the unseen, forecast a trend, or alert a team to an opportunity or catastrophe hiding in the shadows.

In business development, you can’t wait until the account you want goes into review and invites you and every Tom, Dick and Mary to pitch. To offer value you have to be able to solve a problem before the answer is flashing in the middle of Times Square. Or before Vanna has flipped her final consonant.