The best way to start the New Year right.

Tonight is the big night! It’s New Year’s Eve! Like the Lexus December to Remember, it’s time to put a big red bow on 2018. Or, if your 2018 was a lemon, it’s time to put on some Del Amitri and kiss this thing goodbye. Either way, this is the biggest party night of the year. Because we always save the best for last. Or do we always start off with a bang? (I always forget.)

New Year. New You.

With the new year comes new expectations. We set goals and resolutions for the next 365 days. It’s exciting to think that, like a new iPhone or Fast & Furious release, the new and improved version of ourselves hit the shelves tomorrow!

Most of us think our lives, habits and body fat will all get better, starting tomorrow morning. But there is one simple thing you can do tonight, on New Year’s Eve, to give yourself the best possible start to a great 2019.

Don’t stay up until midnight.

Go to bed at a decent hour tonight. Going to sleep early on New Year’s Eve is a wonderfully rebellious move that sets you up for success in the new year. I went to bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve last year. And I loved it.

No Bonus Points

You don’t get any credit, in either the old year or the new, for staying up to witness the clock tick to midnight. There will be very little productive work that happens between 10pm and midnight. If you haven’t made your goals in the first 364 days and 22 hours, you’re not likely to achieve them in the last 120 minutes. And Auld Lang Syne is a dumb song, which I presume is about Mr. Syne, who lived next door to me when I was growing up in Vermont. He wasn’t worth singing about at any hour.

The fact is that you don’t get a jumpstart on your goals, hopes, dreams or resolutions by staying up past midnight tonight. You get tired. And maybe you’ll start the new year with a hangover. Neither of which you really want.

The Downside To Staying Up Late

If you stay up until midnight tonight, one of 2 things will happen:

  1. You won’t get an early start tomorrow morning. Getting an early start to your day is the best way to be productive. So if you are motivated to achieve more in the year ahead, get up early and get going.
  2. You won’t get a good night of sleep. Let’s say that you stayed up late, but also get up early tomorrow. That means that you are not fully recharged, fully energized, and ready to make January 1st an outstanding start to the new year. If you are serious about making positive changes, you should seriously get serious about creating good sleep habits, starting tonight.
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This could totally be you tomorrow.

Let’s get it started

Aim for getting a good 8 hours of sleep tonight. Try getting to bed by 10:30pm and waking up by 6:30am. As we all know, the end is determined by how we begin. One great step leads to another. And one great day leads to another. Remember, the longer you wait to get into a new, positive habit, the less likely it is to happen.

Key Takeaway

Consider being a rebel tonight and turning in early. Get a great night sleep. Start 2019 early, well-rested, recharged and re-energized. It’s the best way to start your best year yet. Have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve! Oh, and if it is already 2019 when you are reading this, there is no need to read any further.

We have come to the end of our first lease. So now what?

I walked into my office on Monday morning at 7:30am. For many this would serve as a low point for the new week. But for me, in the quiet and calm, before the week roared to life, I could not have been happier. Because I was standing in the middle of the advertising agency I always dreamed of building.

Time Flies

It has been 13 months since The Weaponry moved into our office space. When we first signed the lease the space had less personality than an empty bucket. Which simply wouldn’t do for the agency I had founded 18 months earlier. Today, as we near the end of our initial lease, it looks as if The Weaponry has always been here. Here’s why:

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My friend Elizabeth Rees, Founder of Chasing Paper, stopping by The Weaponry. Clearly this was not in July.

 

The Furniture

We have real desks and Herman Miller Aeon chairs (which are AEON-MAZING!). We  have comfortable guest chairs in my office that feel like you are getting a hug from a giant Teddy Bear. We have our loungey area couch and chairs that offer a casual place to stop, collaborate and listen. We have our custom designed surfboard coffee table. Because who doesn’t need one of those, right?

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Our casual meeting space where you can put your feet up on The Weaponry surfboard coffee chocolate milk table, or lay down on the couch if you are feeling wiped out.
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Me and Chris Meece in the Teddy Bear Chairs.

The Conference Room

Our conference room is home to our custom-built red, high top conference table. It has been as great as we thought it would be. It allows people to sit or stand and magically be at or near the same eye level. Which is great for staring contests.

The active sitting position of the high chairs means that you simply can’t relax for hours on end at this table. So we meet quickly, then get back to the work to be done. We also have a 55-inch TV mounted to the wall to share work, host video conference calls and watch Netflix at lunch.

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My friend Britt Beck is demonstrating how to sit at our conference room table. I’m executing what we call ‘the stand’. We are both pleased with our individual performances.
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This year a group of CEOs, including Darren Fisher, Larry Bangs, and Adam ‘Little Adam’ Ausloos,  gathered for a regular roundtable lunch at The Weaponry. Shhh. Don’t tell them that the table is actually rectangular.

The Walls

We have a new map on the wall that will be the subject of future posts. But we also have important messages on the wall. Oh, and we painted all of the walls either Snowfall White or The Weaponry Red. So the space feels like us, and we feel like our space.

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Some of our Weapons on our 2-year anniversary, wearing office camouflage.

The Fridge

We have a refrigerator in The Weaponry Red too! It’s the hottest thing in cooling. It cost us twice as much as a black or white fridge. But the fact that it goes perfectly with our space makes it totally worth it. Because you gotta coordinate.

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Our refrigerator, which we call Perry.

What Next?

Now that we have imposed our vision on this space we are facing some interesting realities. We may not fit here for much longer. So we are working with our building’s management team to determine how we can expand over the course of the next year as we will most definitely outgrow this space. In fact, by December 31st I will sign a new lease. But I still haven’t decided which option I will choose.

The Options:

  1. Add new space to our current office
  2. Move from the 2nd floor to the 3rd floor
  3. Move from the 2nd floor to the 5th floor
  4. Sign a 1, 3 or 5 year extension
  5. None of the above
  6. All of the above
  7. Let love lift us up where we belong

Key Takeaway

We have been very happy with the office. It has been a great asset to our team. These 1000 square feet transform The Weaponry from a business to a place. People drop by to see us all the time. I love that. Our clients come and work from our office. Students stop by to see what an agency looks like. Friends and family passing through Milwaukee schedule a stop into their travels (there is also a great beer tour a block away if you are planning your itinerary).

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My parents (who celebrated 49 years of marriage yesterday) on their first visit to The Weaponry.

The day that we outgrow this space will be bitter-sweet for me. It will mean that we have grown beyond our starter office, which is the goal. But it also means leaving our first real home. A home that Kristyn Lilley and I painted and personalized. No matter what, 2019 will be an interesting year. At some point we will be moving on up like George and Weezy. I can’t wait to find out where and when. Thanks for following the journey. Because we’re in this blog together. And like berries on the vine, it gets sweeter all the time.

*If you want to know what happens next consider subscribing to this blog. And if you want to know more about how I did any of this, please let me know. I am happy to share.

To make 2019 the best year ever, start right now.

I have a confession to make. When I set my yearly goals, I cheat in order to attain them. It’s not the kind of cheating that hurts anyone else. In fact, it’s not the kind of cheating that hurts anyone at all. But it sure gives me an advantage. And I don’t feel the least bit bad about it either.

Getting it wrong.

Most people set their goals for the year, and begin working towards them, on January 1st. Or maybe they start on January 2nd, depending on when the holiday falls. Or maybe January 3rd, depending on what bowl games are on TV on the 1st and 2nd. Then, despite the fact that we all have 365 days to accomplish our annual goals, most people lose their momentum before the end of the first month.

Getting it right.

I don’t want to be one of those people. So I give myself every advantage possible. I noticed long ago that no one calls you for a false start if you start working towards your annual goals early. So I cheat. I start working on my goals for next year before the current year is over.

Personal Goals

I start working on my fitness goals for the year at Thanksgiving of the year before. I am a bit of a contrarian. So I use Thanksgiving as a cue to get fitter, not fatter. That way I start the new year with a healthy routine already formed.

My wife Dawn and I begin planning our travel adventures for the next year as soon as we have taken our final trip of the current year. Which is now typically right before Labor Day (because kids ruin everything). I found that when I waited too long to plan my vacations they didn’t plan themselves. Which meant they didn’t happen. Now we schedule our adventures early, and we get more out of them.

WWGGD (What Would Gordon Gekko Do?)

I would never consider waiting to act on my professional goals until January 1st either.

Because in business, your year is determined by what you do in the 4th quarter of the year before.

When you add new business in the fall, you start benefiting from it right away, in the  beginning or the first quarter. And it pays out all year long. Whereas new opportunities that surface in the first quarter might not bear any fruit until the second, third or 4th quarter. Which means that a piece of business worth $1 million, $100,000 or $1000 over the course of 12 months will only be worth a fraction of that in the first calendar year.

Starting your own business

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in the spring of 2016. But I began planning my business in August of 2015. I took on freelance projects beginning in October of 2015. And I used the income from those projects as the seed money to start my own agency. That early start was key to a successful launch. You can do the same thing.

Key Takeaway

If you want to be great, you can’t wait (that sounds like a Jesse Jacksonism).  You can’t coast from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve. You have to build momentum. So improve your chances of making 2019 your best year ever by starting today. Do more tomorrow. Because a New Year’s resolution is most successful when you find your resolve in the old year.

*If one of your resolutions is to read more in the new year, consider subscribing to this blog.

What in the world does The Weaponry do?

What’s in a name? When I was launching my new advertising agency in 2016, I needed to come up with a name. But I didn’t want to do what other agencies do. I didn’t want a collection of last names that sounds like a law firm, (Welcome to Nonebrecht, Somebrecht & Albrecht…). I didn’t want random letters like SOS, PMS or IBS. In short, I didn’t want a boredinary name. What I wanted was a name that no one would forget.

Whoomp, there it is!

When I first wrote down the name The Weaponry, it might as well have been written in giant, flashing neon letters. Because it jumped off the screen at me. I instantly knew I had found the right name.

Like the boy named Sue, our name has been one of our great assets. People tell me every week how much they like the name. It’s intriguing. It sounds aggressive and provocative. And I am constantly asked about The Weaponry’s origin and meaning. In other words, it’s a great conversation starter (except maybe that conversation it started with the Immigration officer in India at 2am).

What’s behind the name.

When people ask me what the name means I usually answer with the follow statement:

‘Well, right behind the desk in my office is a giant sign that says, The most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind.’

Like the answer to a good riddle, that line always converts skeptics, doubters and critics, into enlightened insiders.

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But wait, there’s more!

However, there is another reason we are called The Weaponry. I absolutely love the definition of the word:

Weaponry (noun): all the weapons, collectively.

All The Weapons

When I set our to create my perfect agency, I wanted to offer our clients ALL the weapons, collectively. For two reasons. First, it would make life easier for our clients to be able to get all of the services they need from one resource. Having one agency translates to less time looking for agencies, less time managing agencies and no time coordinating agencies.

The second reason I wanted to offer all of the weapons is that I believe that if you have the ability to skillfully use each weapon, you will always use the right weapon for the situation. Whereas specialist, or sliver agencies, who only know how to operate a couple of weapons, will use what they have, regardless of what the situation or strategy dictate.

So, what kind of work do you do?

People always ask me what kind of work The Weaponry does. I say, ‘Whatever our clients need.’ Which I realize sounds kind of lame, and kind of smart-assy. But it is the truth. To illustrate the breadth of work we do at The Weaponry, here is a list of the things we are creating this week:

  • billboards
  • radio commercials
  • print ads
  • television commercials
  • mobile ads
  • social content
  • website design
  • package design
  • videos
  • credit card design
  • logo design
  • business card design
  • taglines
  • blog posts
  • podcasts
  • manifestos
  • media plans
  • media buys
  • photo shoot planning
  • brand style guides
  • Powerpoint template design
  • pre-roll video
  • SEO
  • website development
  • trade show booth design
  • and some fun promotional buttons

Key Takeaway

At The Weaponry we are living into the vision. We have created a valuable and flexible resource for our clients. Our broad range of opportunities have created a stimulating  environment for our Weapons. And thanks to our provocative name, we have great t-shirts, stickers and business cards that always get people thinking, and talking. Which is exactly what advertising is supposed to do.

How to share your ideas around the world like I do.

When I began writing the Perfect Agency Project blog in 2015 I was in the early phases of launching my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I had so many questions about starting a business that I tried to find information anywhere I could get it. Much of the information and inspiration I found was in blogs. I realized that future entrepreneurs could also benefit from my accumulated knowledge. So I began publishing blog posts on WordPress every week. I wrote about my experiences starting and running a business. I wrote about my philosophies on advertising, marketing, strategy and creativity. I wrote about networking and sales. And I wrote about a strange encounter I had with a woman at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Because hey, I had a blog.

Developing An Audience

Three years later, as 2018 draws to a close, I wanted to share a few interesting statistics that demonstrate the power of the blogging platform. When I began writing I knew that I would have readers across the United States. Not because I’m well-known. But because I have 31 aunts and uncles spread from Philadelphia to Phoenix. And 43 first cousins stretched from New England to Nevada. So thanks to my adventurous grandparents, I had America covered.

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America! Blog Yeah!

Going Global

What I didn’t anticipate, at all, was how my blog would reach an international audience.  Sure, I figured some of my friends is places like Norway, India and Germany would occasionally stumble across my posts. But my readership has now gone well beyond that.

In 2018 alone, my blog has been read in (I’m stalling to let you guess the number before you read it yourself…) in 105 countries! That is hard for me to wrap my head around. But it serves as quantitative reminder of just how connected the world now is.

As I look at the map below of the countries where my blog has been viewed, I am in awe of the potential to share widespread messages without paid media, access to a personal satellite (sung like Dave Matthews), a radio tower or fleet of macho carrier pigeons. The map also indicates that when you are interested in a topic, you can now find and connect with others who are sharing what they know on the subject from the other side of the globe.

 

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Where My Blog Is Not

As I look at my blog’s heat map, I can see that my coverage is pretty spotty in Africa. My posts are not the most in Mongolia. And I’m getting no love from the Stans, including Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and the birthplace of the Afghan: Afghanistan.

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A typical Stanscape.

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas.

Based on the geopolitical climate, I am not expecting a sudden burst in popularity in the Stans. But the country I really wish I had at least one reader in is Greenland. Look at how huge Greenland is! That is a large chunk of land just sitting naked on my map. However, the Earth’s largest island has only 55,000 people on it. Which means that not even Kevin Bacon is well-connected there.

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I flew over Greenland on my trip to Iceland several years ago. It is amazingly beautiful. Although there was no green to be seen. What really stood out to me was the endless sea of rugged, inhospitable, snow-covered mountains. As I flew over Greenland I remember thinking those mountains would make it hard to get to a good blog if you really needed one. But maybe, just maybe, by writing two paragraphs on Greenland, and an accompanying tag and category mention, I can turn this great white land mass yellow on my map before the end of the year. It would be a very sweet Christmas present.

A little more detail on my international exposure.

Here are a few other facts that I found interesting when I performed Adamlytics on my blog:

  • My blog has multiple views from 79 different countries. Which means there are only 26 countries that have only 1 view (depending on whether you like your stats framed positively or negatively.)
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This is not my dashboard. This is not my beautiful wife. #waterflowingunderground

My Blog’s Top 10 Countries By Total Views:

  1. The United States
  2. Canada (Thanks to all my friends in Quebec and Ontario)
  3. India  (Thanks to this post I wrote about my work travel to India)
  4. The United Kingdom
  5. Germany
  6. Australia
  7. South Africa
  8. Sweden (Thanks Anneli & your friends at Ikea)
  9. Romania
  10. Ireland

  • There are 5 different continents represented in the top 7 countries!
  • In a very symmetrical statistic, the 20th most popular country, Brazil, has 20 views of the blog.
  • The only continent that the blog doesn’t register on is Antarctica. But I’m not sure a view would register as being from Antarctica anyway. Because it is so cold there.
  • There are at least 2 countries where the blog has been viewed that I had never heard of before: Mauritius and Vanuatu (which I think may have been a Survivor Island (meaning a location for the reality tv show, not the rock band from the 80s).

The Perfect Agency Project’s International Exposure By Year

2015: 25 countries

2016: 41 countries

2017: 68 countries

 2018: 105 countries


Key Takeaway

Blogging is an amazing way to reach a very wide audience. You don’t need approval from anyone to start a blog. You don’t have to buy media to get your message out. You simply have to write about things that people are interested in reading. As you write, be patient. Keep writing insightful, educational or entertaining posts, and people will find you. Even halfway around the world. I look forward to seeing where this goes next. Because thanks to the world-wide web, there are no limits to how far your message can reach. Heck you might even get noticed in Mongolia, the Stans, and, Leif-Eriksson-willing, Greenland.

*If you’d like to see if I ever make to Greenland, please consider subscribing to this blog.

A follow up on my Christmas Card post.

Last week I wrote about how Social Media is Killing The Christmas Card. But the Christmas card and its non-religious cousin, the holiday card, are not dead quite yet. I know this because yesterday my wife Dawn and I finished creating our Christmas cards.

Dawn had the Christmas message on the front of the card covered, but she asked me to add a Happy New Year message to the back. I wrote a bunch of options, but we could only use one. So…

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We had a little trouble taking our Christmas card picture this year becuase the old Hilton Head Hairdryer was blowing on high.

Here are the 6 rejected messages:

1. Happy New Year! This card is proof that you and the Albrechts are friends, family or both. Carry this card with you to gain access to exclusive establishments, including grocery stores, shopping malls and public libraries.

2. Happy New Year! Now that you’ve opened the envelope and read both sides of the Christmas card, it is ok to pitch it in the garbage. We understand. That’s what we are doing with yours.

3. Happy New Year! May we all rejoice in knowing that the US Postal Service has survived another year.

4. Happy New Year! Yes, we know where you live. And it would be helpful if you kept your curtains open a little wider so we can see what you are doing in there.

5. Happy New Year! We all survived another trip around the sun. We hope you don’t fall off the ride next year.

6. Happy New Year! May it be better than the depressing collection of days you muddled through this year.

Key Takeaway

Everyone should have a blog. Because it gives you a place to share the messages and pictures that you couldn’t put on your real Christmas card.

How Social Media Is Killing the Christmas Card.

For much of my life the Christmas Card Season was a highlight of my year. I loved going to the mailbox to see it stuffed full of cards from friends and family all over the country. The cards typically came with beautiful or funny photographs and a written update offering highlights from the year for each member of the family. It was reassuring to know that the people I hadn’t heard from in the past 12 months were still not dead.

The Christmas Card, and its blue-collar brother, the letter, used to be the only technologies that allowed us to share pictures and status updates with our family, professional network and social circles. The people you exchanged cards with defined your social group. Being on someone elses Christmas card distribution list meant that your relationship was worth at least the cost of a card, an envelope and a stamp.

The Year That Changed Everything

Today things are different. The change began in 2007 with the introduction of two new technologies that were invented to kill the Christmas card: Facebook and the iPhone. Facebook’s expansion beyond the college crowd that year meant that old people, like Gen Xers (and whoever was born before them) could suddenly be reunited, online, with people they hadn’t seen or heard from since high school. This was a crazy time. I was in my 30s, and I was suddenly reunited, online, with people I had completely forgotten even existed. Like my Grandparents.

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Leapfrogging The Polaroid

The newly invented iPhone was actually not a smart phone as initially reported. It was a wicked smart camera. It enabled us to instantly capture and view photographs without the help of a darkroom or a teenage Walgreens associate. Even better, these super cameras enabled us to instantly share pictures with our friends and family via text, email, and Facebook. Later we added Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn to the distribution list.

Dear Letter, I found someone new.

And about that thoughtful letter we used to write, summarizing the recent year. It has been castrated by technology. There is no power left in an end of year letter in an era when social media allows us to know what our elementary school friends had for dinner last night.

I am an active social media follower. So I know about that recent recital, the restaurant you went to last weekend and that tournament that your child’s team won. I already know about the 3rd person you are dating since the divorce. I know that the Christmas tree tipped over when you put that last ornament on it. (Wait, that was me. And who puts another ornament on a tree that has already tipped over?)

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Where do we go? (Oh oh, where we do we go now?)

Does this mean it is time to put the Christmas card to bed? No. Not necessarily. But it does mean that it is time for us to reinvent it. Maybe this means we get back to writing about our personal connection and the memories we share with each individual on our list, instead of mass mailing pics and updates that the recipient already knows.

Opportunity

This also presents a business opportunity to invent a more relevant holiday correspondence. Maybe a Mad Lib type technology that enables us to send personalized digital cards, highlighting the experiences we shared with each recipient. Maybe we use facial recognition software, time stamps and geo tags to effortlessly create cards that show our people when and where we interacted with them throughout the year. And maybe we video chat, or hologram ourselves to sing Christmas carols together on Christmas Eve-Eve.

Since 2007, my family has created a year-in-review video using the best of our digital photography to tell the story of all the things we did, places we went and people we saw. We set it to music, and shared with our friends and family on New Year’s Day, via Vimeo link. Technology makes this so easy that the hardest part is simply deciding which pics to cut out.

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The Grand Consolation

If receiving fewer cards each year saddens you, don’t let it. The traditional Christmas card era was a great one. We will always have those memories. But it is better to be in touch with our friends, family and professional network more often. It’s great to see photos of our siblings, cousins, childhood friends, former clients and coworkers on a regular basis. The real-time nature of social media allows us to celebrate the successes when they happen. And support each other as we go through tough times, instead of hearing about them months later.

Key Takeaway

Just like the newspaper and the horse and buggy, the Christmas card ain’t what it used to be. But these are better, more connected times. We have upgraded to more frequent exchanges of pictures and updates. Even better, technology now allows us to instantly respond to them with real, private conversation through social media apps, or that smart phone that makes it all possible. This is progress. This makes for a better world, year round. Which adds happiness into our lives every day. Not just at the holidays.

Note: The Albrechts are not pulling the plug on our Christmas cards yet. If you are still sending us one, you will still get one in return.