Are you prepared to think quickly in an emergency?

On Sunday afternoon my wife and I went on a rare date to the grocery store. It must have been a thing that day because we ran into our friends Tricia and Dan Kane who were also on a grocery date. The four of us talked for a few minutes until we were interrupted by some grocery store drama.

The Incident

Another couple, apparently on their own grocery store date, was walking down the aisle, when one of them knocked a large bottle of cooking oil off of the shelf and onto the floor. True to its name, the shatterproof bottle did not shatter. But when the bottle hit the floor (let the bottle hit the floor), the flip cap lid flipped open.

Suddenly, cooking oil, in all of its golden glory, glugged onto the floor in the grocery store’s busiest intersection. It was like the grocery store equivalent of the Deepwater Horizon well spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

A crowd of Sunday shoppers stopped to watch the drama unfold.

As the oil continued to pulse out of the bottle, the corn oil slick grew larger and larger. You could practically hear Florence Henderson’s heart breaking over this loss of perfectly good Wesson. Would it ever stop?

Paralyzed

The couple that caused the oilcident stood motionless over the oozing mess. Then the man said, ‘We need to tell them there has been a spill.’  Then he repeated with more concern and more volume, ‘We need to tell them there has been a spill!’ As the corn oil continued to flow like midwestern lava across the grocery store floor.

After the man shouted the second time that a report had to be made, I realized he was not in a state of mind to be able to put an end to this crisis. Visions of the Exxon Valdez disaster filled my head. I thought, not on my watch…

Taking Action

I was standing 20 feet away from the epicenter of the oil spill when I lightly sprang into action. Where others may have fled from the disaster, thinking only of their own safety and cleanliness, I walked toward the expanding oil spill. I was running on instinct and adrenaline. When I reached ground zero, I reached down, grabbed the bottle, and set it upright.

Suddenly, the oil stopped spilling. The disaster was contained. And shoppers resumed shopping. It was the simplest and most effective thing anyone could have done to mitigate the issue. A toddler could have recognized the solution and had the mental capacity to upright that fallen bottle to stop the flow of corn oil.

Yet the adult male at the center of the crisis could only think that someone needed to be told there was a problem. While the woman stared, motionless, unable to process her next move.

Responsibility

When you see a problem, or create a problem, don’t just pass it along to someone else. Act to solve it. Work to reduce it. Do what you can to prevent it from getting worse. To watch a preventable problem spread without lifting a finger to stop it is irresponsible. Don’t simply announce that there is a fire. Throw some water on it.

Take responsibility for the problems you face. Imagine you are the only one who can address them. Then do so. Develop a bias towards decision making and action. Those biases get things done. They solve problems. And they make you a more valuable employee, friend and neighbor.

Key Takeaway

When things go wrong, don’t just report the problem. Be part of the solution. Diagnose quickly. Think quickly. Act quickly. Focus on what you can do. Then do it without delay. It will help prevent a small mishap from becoming a massive problem.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

Sometimes the universe hijacks your life for a reason.

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. As frustrating as that may seem, sometimes we just need to go with the flow and see where it takes us. I was reminded of this lesson on an ordinary Saturday last winter. Here’s the story.

The Plan

On January 19th, 2019, my family and I had our day all planned out. We were craving some Swedish meatballs and snap-together furniture. So we decided to check out the new IKEA in Milwaukee. We would do some shopping and eat lunch at the big blue and yellow box. Afterward we would head to my daughter’s basketball tournament in nearby Oak Creek, Wisconsin and watch 3 basketball games for just 3$ per person!

Tossing Wrenches Into Plans

Right out of the gate our plan started to fall apart. First, we got bit by a serious overnight snowfall. I had to pull out our snow blower and clear the driveway before we could get our car out.

Then, as we got into the car, my kids started arguing over who was sitting in which seat. For context, there were 5 seat options for 3 kids. If we had been playing musical chairs no one would have ever been eliminated with our bountiful collection of automotive seating options. And there was no backseat middle hump to avoid like when I was a kid. Yet, they argued.

In a moment of parental frustration, I told everyone to go back inside. There would be no saucy meatballs, no lingonberries and no Swedish Fish for the Albrecht family today. We were not going out for lunch, shopping or to a basketball tournament acting like this. #MeanDad

Compromising

An hour or so later, with our plans for the day blown, we decided that we would take my daughter to the basketball tournament, but we wouldn’t stay to watch it. Instead, the rest of the family would go to Ikea.

We drove slowly over the 25 miles of snow covered highway to the school where her games would be held. We dropped my daughter off in front of the school, and I cooly told her good luck. But before pulling alway, my wife couldn’t bare to have her baby girl feel athletically abandoned. Because Dawn is nicer than I am.

So we changed our changed plans, again. We parked and went into the school to watch her play her first of 3 games. Following the first game, Dawn and I decided to drive to the IKEA with our two sons.

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Yikeskea!

At IKEA we got seriously turned around a few times. I think we were visiting before they had put up all their wayfinding signage. Then again, IKEA is Swedish for the devil’s maze. So we were doomed either way. Eventually, with an employee escort, we found the restaurant, which was tucked at the far back of the store. The whole Ikea experience took far longer than expected.

As we approached the checkout lines to purchase some souvenir frozen meatballs, a crush of shoppers appeared out of nowhere and jumped in line in front of us. It was like an episode of Punk’d. And I was ready to pop Ashton Kutcher in the beak.

The Shortest Long Line

We picked what looked like the shortest line, but it wasn’t moving. At all. So we left the line and moved to another line, which moved faster. That is until the people right in front of us got to the cashier with what looked like hundreds of pieces of shelving. Their checkout process took forever. Like forever-ever.

Frustrated and late for Ava’s next game, I put our merchandise on the conveyor belt and asked Dawn, my wife, to pay for it. I was going to get the car, and pick up Dawn and my 2 sons by the front door.

I started off in a rush. But I only got 10 feet beyond the end of the checkout stations when I heard someone yell, ‘Adam Albrecht!’

Surprise!

I turned to see who was calling my name. And standing just a few feet away was Terry Schmitt, my college roommate from my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I hadn’t seen Terry in 25 years! Terry doesn’t live in Milwaukee. He lives in his hometown of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, near Green Bay, which is 2 hours away from the Swedish Meatball Palace we were standing in. He had driven down to Milwaukee for a spur of the moment shelf project purchase.

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Me and my original roomie, Terry, whom I hadn’t seen in a quarter century.

What Are The Chances?

Somehow, with my totally fouled up day, and his random Ikea road trip, we ended up in exactly the same place at the exact same time. Each one of my delays throughout the day helped make this happen – his random run to Milwaukee to avoid a significant shipping charge, the snowstorm, my kids arguing about the seats they were sitting in, the line that built while I picked up the meatballs, the extreme shelfers in front of us in line, and my decision to run ahead to get the car and meet my family at the front door. All of the unfortunate events, turned into good fortune when I got to see Terry in real life for the first time in 25 years.

The Alchemist

In 2015 I read the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It taught me that the universe conspires to give us what we want in life. It taught me to listen and watch for the signals and messages that the universe sends me.

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The universe wants you to read this book. And no, it is not about a chemist named Al.

Prepare Yourself

Because I read The Alchemist, I was ready the day in August of 2015 when 2 former clients called me and asked me if I would consider starting my own advertising agency. Just months later The Weaponry was open for business.

And on a snowy day in the winter of 2019 the universe conspired, through a seemingly random collection of signals, to reunite me with my college roommate, Terry Schmidt. And I was suddenly thankful for all those little things that had gone wrong throughout the day.

Key Takeaway

There are forces at work that are far beyond our control and our comprehension. Whether you are suddenly put in just the right place at the right time, or oblivious to how a delay or a mistake kept you out of other trouble, there are forces that contribute mightily to the course and story of our lives. Maybe it’s magic. Maybe it’s God (of course it is), and maybe it’s fate. But it helps create your adventure. And sometimes, like a lazy tube ride down a river, you just need to relax and enjoy the ride.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

Fun Extra:  Terry said that he saw my wife Dawn first. He had never met her before, but he had seen her in my social media posts. So when he recognized her at the cash register he immediately began looking for me. Which means a small thanks for this Swedish reunion also goes to Mark Zuckerberg.

The best 5-word compliment your content, service or relationship could ever receive.

I started writing The Perfect Agency Project blog in 2015 as I was preparing to launch by own advertising agency called The Weaponry. After 2 decades as a salaried employee, I wanted to document and share my experience as I attempted to transition to a self reliant entrepreneur. I wasn’t sure if I was writing a how-to story, or a how-not-to story. But I figured it could provide value either way.

Entrepreneurship

Along the way I have learned a lot about being an entrepreneur. Including how to spell it. I learned that the word in german is unternehmer. Which I think is hilarious. Because it can be literally translated as undertaker. So you should be careful before signing up for that Unternehmer Conference in Stuttgart.

Content Creation

I have also learned a great deal about blogging. And content creation in general. Although I’ve never liked the term ‘content’. Content sounds like ‘stuff’. And no one should just be creating stuff. But alas, the masses have spoken, and they have adopted content, like they adopted VHS over Betamax.

Positive Feedback

When I began sharing my blog posts with friends and family I began getting positive feedback. It was nice to hear those close to me say that they thought a post was good, or funny or interesting.

I shared my posts more broadly on social media, and I started hearing people I didn’t even know say that they learned something. Or were inspired to act by something they read on my blog. I appreciated the feedback and was happy to know others were gaining some value from my writings.

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New Feedback

But lately I have heard something different from readers of my blog. It’s not that my posts are interesting, funny or inspiring. It’s not that they are insightful or informative. The new comment that I have heard lately is short and sweet. Just 5-words in total. But those words are extremely meaningful to me.

The 5 Words

The 5 words that I have been hearing people say a lot about my blog lately are:

‘I look forward to it.’

The Reward

I don’t need a million readers. I’m not trying to win any awards. I am not trying to quit my job and become a full time blogger. Although as an entrepreneur I think it would be funny to have to resign to myself. (It’s not you, it’s me. Just kidding, it’s you!) I don’t need to make a dime off of my blog. Because knowing that there are people who look forward to my next post is the greatest reward I can imagine.

These 2 readers, and that’s all I need.

I don’t need any other validation that what I am writing and sharing is worthwhile than knowing that there are readers who look forward to each new post. It tells me that the posts add value. I’m not sure if it is entertainment, education or inspiration that readers look forward to. Or if my blog simply provides a rich habitat for typo hunters. Maybe it is a combination of factors. I am grateful regardless.

Developing A Brand

When people look forward to the content you serve up it means you have delivered consistently. Which translates to a brand with value. Even on a very small scale, that is very rewarding.

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Have you tried Blog n’ Coffee?

Sunday Coffee

Over the past 2 weeks I have had multiple people tell me that they look forward to The Perfect Agency Project Sunday morning post. They have told me that reading the post has become part of their Sunday morning coffee routine. I had no idea that anyone picked up on the fact that I always post on Sunday morning by 8am CT, before I rush off to church. And I couldn’t be more touched. At least not without having to press charges.

Key Takeaway

When others look forward to your content, programming, services or products you are doing it right. Because we only look forward to such things when they are good. When they offer value. And when they are enjoyable. The same holds true in our relationships. When others look forward to what you offer you are on the right track. So dig in and keep it coming. More good things will surely come your way.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

The surprising question I was asked while guest lecturing.

I guest lecture to college students several times each year. Guest lecturing is like a box of chocolates. Because you never know which students will be surprisingly delightful and which will be totally nutty. Last week I spoke to Erin Napier’s marketing campaigns class at Marquette University (which I secretly call a Marquetteing campaigns class, because it’s kinda funny).

Good Evening

There were 36 students in the class. It started at 5:30pm. Which, in case you don’t remember, is not when college students are at their energetic or attentive peak. I decided to bring some extra energy to make sure no one fell asleep (and no one fell asleep).

Sharing Is Caring

I spoke to the class about advertising, my career journey, the creative process and networking. I talked about starting my own business. And about the value of sitting in the front row. When I was done I opened the floor for questions. Not literally, of course.

A Trick Of The Trade

The students asked many good questions. Although I give myself partial credit for the quantity. Because after the first 2 questions I told the the class that I always remember the people who ask questions. If we stopped right then, 2 out of the 36 of them had made a positive impression on me. After my commentary the questions came fast and furious. Like Ludacris.

The Questions

The students peppered me with the follow queries:

  • Where do your best ideas come from?
  • What do you do when you are stuck creatively?
  • What was your favorite project ever?
  • What is your dream project?
  • What has been the greatest challenge of your career?

The Surprise

But there was one very simple question that truly surprised me.  Julian Wright, a freshman on the Marquette track & field team asked:

Why did you want to talk to this class tonight?  -Julian ‘Lefty’ Wright

My Response:

I wanted to share my knowledge with you. I have learned so much from experienced professionals who volunteered their time that I wanted to pay if forward, or backwards, or however you like to think about it. And I hope someday you give your time to share what you have learned with the next generation.

But I also wanted to make a positive impression on you, so that when you are looking for internships or jobs after college, you think of Adam Albrecht or The Weaponry first. I am always looking for rockstars. And I want the next generation of rockstars to be looking for me.

Key Takeaway

Share what you know. Add to the body of knowledge of students and others who are hungry to learn. The greatest impact you will ever have on Earth is the impact you make on other people. Pass along your knowledge, experience and observations. And in the process you will collect even more. Better still, teaching expands your exposure to talented people. It grows your network, and increases the number of opportunities that come your way.

Speaking Of Which…

This afternoon I will be speaking at an event about marketing through storytelling, hosted by the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce. I am excited to learn from the other 2 speakers at the event, Tim Dyer and Richie Burke.  Here is an overview:

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? USING STORYTELLING TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM CST
The Venue at Milwaukee Brewing Co
1130 N. 9th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Behind every business is a great story. As new platforms for content marketing continue to grow, there’s never been more opportunity to use storytelling to strengthen your brand and find strategic ways to reach new audiences.

You can find more details, and register for the event here.

 

 

 

The poem that brought my Grandfather to tears.

My Grampy, Kenneth Adam Sprau was born in 1916 in Meservey, Iowa. Meservey was a small farm town that mostly consisted of the 12 Sprau children in Grampy’s family, and sounded like someone was trying to say Missouri after too much Wild Turkey.

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Grampy served in the Navy in the Pacific fleet during World War II. He came home (Thank God), married my Grammy, and they raised 9 kids in Southern, Minnesota. They also raised beef cattle, hogs, corn and soybean. He farmed well into his 80s when they finally decided to retire and move to town.

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Over the course of Grampy’s life he saw the world transform in unfathomable ways. When I once commented on all of the change he and my other grandparents had witnessed he said to me, ‘Adam, you could never understand what it was like to be us. We went from horse and buggy to putting a man on the moon.’ Grampy was my witness to the greatest century of change in human history. He also taught me 98% of the swear words I know today.

The Library

Grampy was a library of interesting sayings, songs, jokes and poems. Some of it was purely silly. (I’ve got a dog his name is Rover. He is nothing but a pup. He will stand up on his hind legs. If you hold his front legs up.) And some of it was serious and profound.

The Poem

At a family gathering in Dublin, Ohio, when Grampy was much closer to the end of his 92 years than the beginning, my uncle Jon Sprau asked Grampy to share ‘the poem about the 2 Ships’. I had never heard the 2 Ships poem. And I bet Grampy hadn’t recited the poem in the past couple of decades. But Grampy immediately accessed 2 Ships in the jukebox in his head and performed it for our family.

Here is the poem:


Tis The Set Of The Sail — Or — One Ship Sails East

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

But to every mind there openeth,

A way, and way, and away,

A high soul climbs the highway,

And the low soul gropes the low,

And in between on the misty flats,

The rest drift to and fro.

But to every man there openeth,

A high way and a low,

And every mind decideth,

The way his soul shall go.

One ship sails East,

And another West,

By the self-same winds that blow,

‘Tis the set of the sails

And not the gales,

That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea

Are the waves of time,

As we journey along through life,

‘Tis the set of the soul,

That determines the goal,

And not the calm or the strife.


Grampy and Grammy

The Response

Hearing this poem was one of the most profound moments of my life. Not just because the poem itself is profound, and inspiring. But after Grampy recited the following passage, he broke down in tears:

One ship sails East,

And another West,

By the self-same winds that blow,

‘Tis the set of the sails

And not the gales,

That tells the way we go.

The Life Lesson.

When a man who has experienced more than 8-decades of life on a farm, witnessed the greatest evolution in human history, enjoyed more than 60-years of marriage and participated in a worldwide war breaks down while reciting these words, you know these words are important. It was the first and only time in my life I ever saw Grampy cry. And I still think about that moment and that message when making important life decisions.

Key Takeaway 

Tis the set of the sails, and not the gales, that tells the way we go.

*Check out the background image on the featured picture for this post.

The surefire way to increase your wealth.

I own a lot of books with the word ‘rich’ in the title. Among them you’ll find Think And Grow Rich, Rich Dad Poor DadThe Science of Getting Rich, The Richest Man In Town, and  Rich Like Them. In fact, I have bought so many books with the word ‘rich’ in the title that the Amazon recommendation engine now suggest books like The Adventures of Richie Rich, Rich Desserts, and The Many Impressions Of Rich Little.

The Real Lessons

I like these books because they are about success. They help you think and act in ways that help you accomplish great things. And those great things often attract money like magnets. Or magnates.

I consider the tips, tricks and examples in these books to be important reminders rather than great aha’s. Although there are certainly plenty of both in my library of riches.

The One Thing To Remember

But if you want to know the most important point of all about getting rich it is summarized in the following line:

‘It is the value you bring to a company, an organization, indeed the universe, that ultimately determines your level of wealth.’ -From The Richest Man In Town by W. Randall Jones

Key Takeaway

If you want to earn more money, add more value. If you want more social capital, add more value. If you want more political capital, add more value. Your success is directly related to your contribution. So if you want more, contribute more.

If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.   

3.5 years after The Weaponry launched we finally have a real website.

When I first started telling people that I was launching my own business they asked, ‘Is your website up yet?’ I quickly realized that many people consider having a business website actually having a business. I also realized that startups that begin with a website, rather than a business development plan, struggle like Muggles at Hogwarts.

Creating A Business

Instead of focusing on building a website, we focused on building a business. We were creating an advertising and idea agency. And we named it The Weaponry. We started by meeting with marketers, asking about their unmet needs, and then creating services to meet those needs. #WeAllHaveNeeds

Building the Machine

We focused on finding great people to work on our team. We developed repeatable processes and procedures that enabled us to deliver great results. We developed the machinery that enabled us to find new clients. We implemented customer service standards that kept those clients coming back. And we honed our accounting operation to make sure that cash flowed through the business to keep the organization healthy and its people paid.

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Some of The Weapons.

Shiny Happy People

As a result, we developed a strong foundation of happy customers. We developed a strong group of business partners and collaborators who loved working with us. And that created a problem.

Losing Out On Brand Champions

We were developing brand champions who didn’t have an easy way to champion us. Because clients who loved working with us, and partners who loved working alongside us would want to recommend us to others. But the only website they could reference to promote us was a joke website we created that featured Laverne and Shirley from the TV show by the same name.

The NonWebsite

I loved not having a real website. It was rebellious and provocative. I loved that we built a multi-million dollar business without a website, by focusing on old fashion business development and maintenance.

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One of The Weaponry’s rockstar clients, Nicole Hallada of AEM.

But I hated the fact that people who loved The Weaponry didn’t have an easy way to promote, endorse or recommend us. In fact, we made our biggest fans look looney when they did tell others about us and had to note that we didn’t have a website, or at least a real website.

I’m Gonna Make A Change, For Once In My Life.

The realization that we were not helping those who were trying to help us was the reason we decided to create a real website for The Weaponry.

TheWeaponry.com

Today, I am excited to announce that TheWeaponry.com is a totally legit website.

  • You can now find out why our name is The Weaponry.
  • You can learn about our 3 Pillars of Success.
  • You can check out the What We Do section to see if it is what you are looking for.
  • You can see photos of our offices.
  • You can find out who we work with, and where those clients are.
  • You can see work.
  • You can see our team members, and you can read their not-too-serious bios.
  • You can submit request for information or more conversation.
  • You can find our contact info, office locations and ways to socialize with us.
  • You can tell us if you like Pina Coladas.

I invite you to check out the site at theweaponry.com and see it all for yourself. And if you look hard enough you still may find Laverne & Shirley.

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Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to do things your own way. But recognize when it limits your growth.  This is true in your personal life, and in business. If you want to launch your own startup remember that building a business is more important than building a website. But once you have fans you should make it easy for them to evangelize for you. Can I get an Amen?

There was a lot of thought that went into our decision to not have a real website. I wrote about that thought in these posts:

The story of our crazy website. Part 1: What is this?

Our unconventional website, Part 2: 7 Reasons we don’t have a real website.