The best way to connect with your people this holiday season.

I am good at staying in touch with people. In fact, I make a sport of it. I like to see how many friends, family and professional connections I can interact with each year. Because like volcanoes, an active relationship is more interesting than a dormant one. And the recency of your last interaction has a major impact on both the real and perceived value of a relationship.

Social Media

Social media makes it easy to stay in touch. Likes, hearts and thumbs-up offer us a way to say, ‘I see you baby…’ But they are not really staying in touch. They are kind of like making eye contact and waving at a party. There is very little social investment, and little long-term value.

Next Level Interactions

As we barrel into Christmas and Hanukkah with our noses glowing, one of the greatest gifts we can give one another is the gift of human interactions. Making time for coffee meet-ups, lunches, dinners and drop-bys are great. But they are hard to do this time of year. Those in-person interactions are also limited by geography, and hard to scale (meaning hard to do in large numbers, not hard to put on a scale, or to remove the scales from the body).

My Secret Social Weapon

But there is one social interaction tool that I really love. It is great at keeping people in touch. It works regardless of geography. It is infinitely scaleable. And it is always at your fingertips.

The Group Text

I love staying connected with groups texts. If you don’t know what a group text is, it is a text interaction with a group of 3 or more people. The French call it a Mobile A Trois. And it is an easy way to create your own micro-social networking platform.

My Groups

I have created an eclectic variety of social groups via texts. For example:

  • I have a group text with my parents and my 3 sisters. It enables my original homies and I to reconnect quickly from anywhere. Our group text conversations are like our conversations at the dinner table in my childhood home in Norwich, Vermont. Only now we can’t see each other snarf.
  • I have a group text with my high school football teammates. This group text is a little like the banter on a bus ride home after a road win, sans mooning. This text group includes people in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, California, Colorado, Illinois and Wisconsin. But we can still huddle together anytime we text.
  • I have a group text with my neighbors from our Madison Hall subdivision in Atlanta. The interactions here are often about planning our next get-together, funny memories or pics from a past get-together, or theories about who called the police with a noise complaint (I always blame you Vickie).
  • I have a group text with the advertising creatives who I worked with at my first job out of college. These texts are so full of inside jokes that military communications seem less encrypted.

Creation

By creating a group text you can instantly reunite and rekindle a social group from the past. But you also have the power to create a totally new social group. You have the ability to huddle up a select group of people like a team, a club, a society or a telephonic gang. And that is a fun gift to give.

Text Me Maybe

We could all use more positive human connections. Especially this time of year. So between now and New Year’s Day I encourage you to create a new group text to help bring people together, or bring people back together again. Just remember, my mobile number is 614-256-2850.

Key Takeaway

It is important for us to invest in our relationships. Creating a group text is an easy way to stay in touch. But it also has the power to make other people feel special. Because being included in a group text means you are considered a member of a special group, team, family or community. It is easy to do. It’s fun. And there is someone in your network who needs it now more than you know.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. Or maybe text it to them to start you own group.

 

The most important business decision I have made this month.

Some businesses are slowing down for the holidays. But at The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, we are in overdrive. December has been our busiest month of our busiest year yet. And we see no slowdown in sight. Today is my 12th day working without a day off. I have the only house on my block without Christmas lights. And I couldn’t be happier.

Decision Making

This level of demand forces you to make a variety of logistical decisions in order to meet all of the needs. In this period of record demand we have had to make a lot of really important decisions.

Last Thursday we began an exciting project that had us shooting a series of videos across the state of Texas for 10-days. There were massive amounts of logistics to coordinate to pull it off. We would be working with 5 different powersports dealerships, 5 different charities, and we had nearly 100 different locations to scout and film. There would be daily travel as each of the locations were 1 to 4 hours away from each other. Because apparently everything is bigger in Texas (I am surprised they don’t talk about that more…).

The First Puzzle Piece

Planning this shoot was a puzzle. And just like solving a jigsaw puzzle, we had to start by finding our first corner piece. We had to find that important, non-barbecue-related factor that we must plan all of the other details around.

In this case the entire plan started with a 3-year old boy’s Christmas play. When we looked at the 10-day shoot, our creative director, Adam ‘Henry’ Emery and I had to determine how we would split our time on the shoot so neither of us had to be out of the office for 10 days. Henry said, ‘My son has a Christmas program on Tuesday evening, December 10th and I would hate to miss it.’ So we built the 10-day travel schedule, and all of our logistics around that.

Prioritize

In our busiest month in agency history, the decision to build our travel around a child’s Christmas program was the single most important decision we made. With all of the challenges we faced, we started with the most important. We value our people above all else. We want them to prioritize the people and events they value most. And while we will have many more work obligations, there is only one Christmas play when you are 3-years old. And Mom’s and Dad’s should be there.

Key Takeaway

Put first things first. Prioritize family and friends whenever you can. Help your co-workers and clients do the same. When you develop organizations that support families, you also develop families that support your organization. And like Van Halen said, that is the best of both worlds.

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

 

 

Do you know your Social Value?

The true measure of your financial success is your net worth. I calculate my net worth regularly. I track it month over month. I set goals for growing it over the near, mid and long term. It’s a fun game to play. One that pays long term dividends. Literally.

However, your net worth, or financial assets, don’t represent your true value. Lately I have been thinking about another way to measure my worth that is even more meaningful. A way to not simply tally the money I have accumulated. But to measure the value I bring to other people. 

Social Value

Your Social Value is important for several reasons. At the end of your days the only thing that really matters is the impact you have had on other people. But offering a great deal of social value is also a leading indicator of your financial well-being. Because when you help others you are always helping yourself.  And if you are finding yourself poor and alone, chances are you are not offering much social value. And your situation is a result. 

To determine your social value ask yourself this simple question:

How valuable am I to the people I know?

Know Your Social Value

I have been asking myself this question a lot lately. Because I am evaluating how much I contribute to those around me. It is easy to focus on what you are receiving, or what you are accumulating. But I have a sneaking suspicion that when I get to the Peary Gates the entrance criteria might not be financial. Unless Heaven is more like Disney World than we realized.

Evaluate Yourself

There are many ways to add value to others. Here are some of them. Evaluate yourself on the following 20 areas.

  • Give yourself 3 points for each element that you give generously.
  • Give yourself a 1 if you give it occasionally.
  • Give yourself a zero if it is simply not something you offer others.

Here we go.

1. Smiles Do you give away a lot of smiles every day? Could you give more?  This small investment pays big dividends for others who need a smile the most.

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2. Help  Do you offer others help? When people need it do they turn to you? Or do they write you off as a dead end when they are in need?

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3. Entertainment:  Are you entertaining to be around? Do you do and say things that other find interesting, amusing or amazing? Will people put down their mobile device around you because you are likely to serve up something more compelling than a cat in  sweater or a football-to-the-groin video?

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4. Education: Do you teach people what you know? Do you have knowledge to share? 

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5. Wisdom: Do you have valuable experience to share? Have you made mistakes, overcome obstacles and come out smarter, and with better perspective that you are willing to talk about?

6. Encouragement When people are down do you help pick them back up?  When others face great challenges do you become a cheerleader?

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7. Positive Peer Pressure We talk a lot about peer pressure as being negative. But peer pressure comes in 2 flavors. Do you exert positive peer pressure to keep people between the ditches? To help force people to make positive choices or overcome bad habits?

8. Role Model  We all could use a positive role model to serve as an example of what is possible. Are you doing that for others? Or are you more Charles Barkley-ish

9. Humor Laughter is the best medicine. Are you serving up large doses of it, like doctors serve up opioids?

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10. Listening  At the end of the day, most people just want to be heard. Are you known as a listener? As someone others can talk to, even without offering brilliant advice? Often others are not looking for you to solve their problems. They just need to talk to someone who will listen as they try to work out their own challenges. #justnod

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11. Connections Do you have strong connections? Do you know other people with high Social Value scores? The more you know and can tap into, the more value you offer.

12. Action: Are you a person of action? Do you do? Do you throw water on a fire or do you tell someone else there is a fire? Do you help when you see it is needed? Or do you leave it to others?

13. Remembering Names: Do you make a point of remembering names? We’re not real friends until we remember each others’ names. Because you can’t properly greet, contact or introduce another person unless you know their name. And nothing in life is sweeter than the sound of your own name being positively called. Except maybe sweet tea. That stuff is super sweet.

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14. Showing Up: Do you show up when people are in need? When there is an event, activity or funeral do you make a point of being there whenever you can? 

15. Promises: Do you keep yours? Is your word good? Are you trustworthy? Can people count on you to come through when they need you?

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16. Influence: Do you have influence on people, situations and decisions? People who have influence over decisions, other people, and outcomes are valuable to know. Just ask any politician, lobbyist or mobster.

17. Positivity: Do you bring a positive outlook with you? Do you help encourage positivity in others? Seeing things in a positive light and expecting positive results helps you shape the world positively. I am positive about this.

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18. Inclusive: Do you include others? Do you look for ways to bring more people into the fold? Do you make people feel like part of a group, activity or movement? #notbowelmovement 

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19. Introductory: Do you introduce people to each other? Do you help increase connections, create larger, more powerful social groups? Do you see that as part of your responsibility, or do you let others fend for themselves?

20. Initiating: Do you initiate social interactions? Do you call, email or text first? Do you organize events, coffees, beers, lunches, or hangouts? In all social interactions someone needs to make the first move. If you aren’t doing your fair share the relationship will start to feel one sided. Which is simply a less valuable relationship.

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Tally Your Score

  • If you got a 60 you are amazingly valuable to know.
  • If you got a 0 you are worthless to others, like a social Ebenezer Scrooge.
  • If you are closer to 60 than 0 you are doing pretty good.
  • If you are closer to 0 than 60 you have a lot of room for improvement. But you can do it. I know you can.

Key Takeaway

If you are interested in self improvement start with increasing your Social Value. It will have the greatest positive impact on others. And when you positively impact others it will lead to more positive outcomes for you. Offering strong Social Value means that people will be drawn to you, seek you out, and think of you when they are in need. Which means that your Social Value makes you more popular and move valuable than your net worth ever could.

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

Want amazing success? Do what long jumpers do.

The long jump is one of my favorite track and field events. Not only is it one of the most entertaining, aside from the 100-meter dash, it is the easiest for a non-participant to relate to.

Real Life Applications

Long jumping may also be one of the most useful skills in track and field. Imagine you are visiting Hawaii on vacation and a crack in the Earth opens up between you and your coconut drink. It would be really useful to be able to jump over the fissure and save your drink. I think that happened to Carl Lewis once.

My Rockstar Jumpers

I was lucky to be a part of the track and field team at the University of Wisconsin. And I had some teammates who were really good at the long jump. Here is a list of the notable Badger long jump marks when I was in school.

  • Sonya Jenson: 19 feet 11 inches
  • Heather Hyland: 20 feet 5 inches
  • Jeremy Fischer: 24 feet 8 inches
  • Maxwell Seales: 25 feet 2 inches
  • Reggie Torian: 26 feet 2 inches.

To fully appreciate how good these marks are simply go out in your yard and see how far you can long jump today.

There are 4 things to love about the long jump.

1. The crowd clap.  The crowd watching a meet will often start clapping in unison to motive a jumper. The claps get faster and faster as they speed down the runway. I wish someone did this for me at work as I filled out my time sheets.

2. The run: It is fun watching a jumper accelerate towards the takeoff board. It’s kind of like the countdown for a rocket launch.

3. The jump itself: There is something primal and childlike about watching a human fly through the air self-propelled. It is pure fun. It reminds me of my adventures as a kid, jumping over creeks and jumping into piles of hay, hay, hay, like Fat Albert.

4. The landing (or what I would have called the sanding): What goes up must come down. Watching the jumper hit the ground again, usually in a spray of sand, is good dirty fun.

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Will Claye is one of the best long jumpers and triple jumpers on the planet. He is coached by my college teammate at the University of Wisconsin, and very close friend, Jeremy ‘Shakes’ Fischer.

The Part Most People Overlook.

My favorite part of the long jump actually happens before any of that. It happens as a part of the competition day preparation that most people pay no attention to at all.

A long  jumper doesn’t just show up at the track, walk onto the runway, and start jumping. Instead, they have to find their starting point. To do that they have to start at the end. They go to the takeoff board, and then work their way back from there to determine where they should actually begin their approach.

Finding The First Step

Some jumpers will stand on the takeoff board itself, with their back to the sandpit, and then run down the track, away from the takeoff point, counting their steps, to find their starting point.

Other jumpers use a tape measure. They set the end of the tape at the takeoff board and unreel it until they get to their preordained measurement. Then they mark that point on the runway as their starting point.

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Former Badger jumper, Jeremy ‘Shakes’ Fischer now teaches athletes to jump at an Olympic level.

Know Where You Want To End

There is magic in that process that everyone can benefit from. Because the long jumper starts at the end of the run, the most critical point in the process, and then figures out, to the inch, where they need to start to hit that point perfectly. In long jumping, if you step past the board your jump is no good. And every millimeter you are short of the board doesn’t count towards your jump. (Notice how I mixed English and metric measurement systems? That because I am bi-numeric. Which is like being bi-lingual, but not with linguals).

My Entrepreneurial Leap

Before I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I did the same thing long jumpers do. I put myself at the launch, imagining in great detail what my flight would look like once I finally jumped. Then I determined all the of the steps I would need to take in order to launch myself properly.

I figured out how much time it would take me to create everything I needed to create. I put a mark down. Then I started running, accelerating towards the launch point the whole time.

Purposeful Steps

All of my steps have been purposeful to get me the results I am after. It took me 8 months of planning from the time I decided to launch The Weaponry until I was open for business. 3 years later, The Weaponry is a multi-million dollar business and climbing rapidly. Just like I planned.

Key Takeaway

To achieve great things, start with the end in mind. Then work backwards from there. Because when you know your direction, your steps, and your takeoff point, you’ll go as far as you can possibly go. It’s all in the preparation. So put yourself in the best position to succeed. Start today by focusing on the end first. I’ll be clapping for you the whole way.

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

Sometimes the good times are hard.

This is a very good time for me and my business. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, is flush with opportunity. The demand for our work is high. The projects we are working on are exciting and rewarding. We met our revenue goal for the year on December 3rd. And we just issued our team new Fight With Your Brain t-shirts. It feels like we are rolling like Tina Turner. Or John Fogerty.

On The Other Hand

However, good times in business can be really hard. The demands are high. Timelines are short. Bandwidths are narrow. Margins for error are nonexistent. During really good times you aren’t just doing your job. You are also juggling, horse trading and plate spinning.

I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane.

Our December is full of airports, hotel rooms and film shoots. I will be working straight through the weekend. The demand for my team’s skillz, experience and thinking will pack all but the untouchable holidays this December.

It is exactly what I have always wanted.

But it is also hard.

Key Takeaway

It is not just the bad times that are challenging. When you are trying to do something difficult the success often hurts. Which is why so many entrepreneurs settle for more leisurely lifestyle businesses. Where they are not constantly pushing and confronting the pain of growth and greatness.

That Ain’t Me.

I want growth and greatness. And challenge. I want to evolve The Weaponry into a better, bigger, stronger, faster machine. I want to scale and improve as we go. So we can become the perfect agency for clients, employees and partners. I’ve never been afraid of pain or discomfort. So I charge into the day excited for whatever comes my way. I hope the day is ready for me.

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

This is what a smart startup looks like.

Entrepreneurship is full of difficult decisions. Especially in the beginning. In fact, the decisions you make about expenditures early on determine whether your organization lives or dies. It sound dramatic. Like a commercial for the business board game Go! Gordon Gekko Go! But it’s the truth.

I have always been financially conservative. I believe leadership’s #1 responsibility is to keep the business alive forever. That’s why I have hired slowly, expanded slowly and invested slowly.

At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, we have bootstrapped everything. Which means that we have paid for everything ourselves. No outside investors. No loans. No crowdfunding. No Ponzi scheme.

We started with the free version of every app and software until we knew it was worthwhile to upgrade. We made our first 3 desks out of countertops and legs we purchased at a used office furniture store. And we commuted to work uphill both ways.

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Yep, I made that desk out of found parts. And it works as well as the most expensive desk you can buy.

 Office Space

When I first launched The Weaponry I waited a year and a half until I decided we could afford an office. In hindsight I feel like I nailed that decision. Because we didn’t over commit in the early months when we were most fragile. We didn’t assume that our rate of growth was predictable or sustainable.

Cautionary Tale

I recently heard about another agency that launched the same time as The Weaponry. It just shuttered one of their 2 offices and laid off all but 1 employee in the other. (By shuttered I mean that they closed it, not that they added fancy, yet extraneous exterior window treatments).

The agency had invested and expanded aggressively. Too aggressively to sustain. Watching them establish beautiful offices with enviable appointments made me jealous. But it also made me concerned for them. Because those investments made them vulnerable. And of all the abilities your business can have, vulnerability is among the least appealing.

Doing It Right

Last month I saw an office that I absolutely loved. It was the office of an early stage human resources company. It had 4 desks in a space half the size of my bedroom. The density of  humanity in that office equated to a very dense return on the investment in the space.

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This is where my friend Amy Fallucca grew her human resources business, Bravent, into a thriving organization before moving it into a large fancy-pants space.

 

Idea of the Day

Calculate how much revenue you earn per square foot of office space. It is a much better way to think about your space than cost per square foot.

Key Takeaway

When considering office space for a small or new business think of the Tiny House movement. Consider the minimum space you need, not the max you can afford. Put the rest of the money you save in the bank as an insurance policy for future downturns and slow periods. Because they are likely to come. And you will be prepared when they do.

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

Where were you Saturday night?

Where were you last night? Were you at home with family or friends?  Were you decorating for Christmas? Watching a holiday movie? Watching football? Or maybe watching a holiday movie about decorating Christmas footballs?

Chances are that whatever you were doing it wasn’t very stressful. Because as Saturdays go, the Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend is about as relaxing and as far from work as most people get.

Working For the Weekend

Last night I was at work.

Not working from home. Not catching up on emails or sending witty-but-heartfelt holiday notes to clients. I was in the office, downtown Milwaukee, taking care of real business issues.

Why WiFi? Why?

Last Tuesday afternoon the wi-fi at the Milwaukee office of The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I launched in 2016, was not properly wi-ing or fi-ing. It made for a frustrating afternoon. Wednesday morning was no better. So I called our internet provider and spent an hour and a half trying to get things fixed. But no dice. And no wi-fi.

The Repair

They internet company (what our forefathers and foremothers used to call the cable company, or the phone company) couldn’t get anyone over to fix our issue last Wednesday. But they could get someone over on Thursday afternoon, right during my Thanksgiving meal. I had to turn that time slot down or I may have been the turkey on the table at the Thanksgiving feast at my house.

I asked what the earliest available appointment was on Monday. They told me they didn’t have a business appointment opening until Thursday, December 5th!

The Internet Era

That just wouldn’t work. We are an incredibly busy business and need to be fully operational Monday morning. In the 2000s, internet access is as core to an advertising agency’s operations as Martinis were in the 1960s, marijuana in the 1970s, cocaine in the 1980s, Prozac and flannel in the 1990s, and coffee in the 2000s.

I asked the internet company’s scheduler, ‘Do you have any openings over the weekend?’ He replied that they had options on Saturday. Because nobody is actually working on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. I was scheduled to be out of town on Saturday, so I asked for the latest possible appointment. Which was actually later than I expected.

Driving back through the woods and over the river.

I rearranged my plans to drive home 3 hours from visiting family in Central Wisconsin. It snowed, sleeted or rained the whole way. I got home and dropped off my family. The Wisconsin vs Minnesota football game was on TV, but I had to DVR it, and avoid social media and texts to avoid spoiling the result. I then drove 30 minutes to the office, by myself, through cold, blowing sheets of rain, on a Saturday night, during a holiday weekend.

And I couldn’t have been happier.

Living The Entrepreneurial Dream

When I became an entrepreneur I signed up to do the hard things. I declared that I would take on anything and everything that needed to be done to make my business work. I had always dreamed of creating my own ad agency. I would work nights, weekends, holidays, or on my birthday to make the business successful.

I Gotta Go

I had to go in on Saturday night. We have 18 clients counting on us to deliver. We have loads of work to create. We have major projects due in December. We have new businesses requesting proposals. The demand for our thinking is high. Like a lumberjack must have a hearty breakfast, we must have robust internet access!

Rick

I met Rick, the Internet Magic Man, in the dark, rainy parking lot in front of my building. We went up to the office together. We were the only humans in the whole building. He got to work on our internet issue. I sat down at my desk and got busy with work due this week.

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Me and Rick, making things right on Saturday night!

Rick Rolling

Within an hour Rick had the problem diagnosed, installed a replacement doohickey (we needed a new modem), and the wi-fi came flooding through my computer. You could practically hear the business roar back to life. All was right with the world. This business that I am responsible for once again had all it needed to make magic happen. And I had another example of the things you have to be prepared to do when you are an entrepreneur.

Key Takeaway

There is nothing better than living into your own dreams. The demands, the time commitment, the menial jobs, and the hoops you jump through are all worth it when you know you are doing what you always wanted to do. When you are living into your vision for your own life a holiday weekend trip into the office is a small price to pay. Because there are things worse than sacrifice. Like not having anything worth sacrificing for.

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