Do you love your work as much as Jim Cantore loves thundersnow?

During the spring of my senior year of college I was approached by a major pharmaceutical company about an entry level sales position. They recruited college athletes, because they wanted competitive go-getters to go sell, sell, sell for them.

Wearing a suit I borrowed from my Wisconsin track teammate, Greg Gill, I did 2 rounds of interviews. The pay, bonus structure and the benefits all sounded amazing for a kid right out of school. But I had no passion for pharmaceutical sales. Or for wearing business suits. So I passed.

Advertising!

Instead, I looked for opportunities as a copywriter with an advertising agency. I got informational interviews at 2 agencies. I was then offered jobs by both companies. The pay was half what the pharmaceutical sales job would have paid. But the work excited me. So I jumped at the chance to join Cramer Krasselt, one of the country’s best advertising agencies, for $21,000 a year.

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Me and my man Lucian McAfee on a shoot at the Atlanta Braves’ spring training facility in Florida.

Just An Excitable Boy

I loved my low paying job, and it showed. I got my first raise 3 months later. I got another raise 6 months after that. And another raise 6 months after that. Then I got a promotion, and another raise. It was clear I was doing the work I was supposed to do.

 

Love Will Keep Us Together

The quick success and pay increases happened because I loved my work. I was all in on the work. Working hard as an advertising creative was extremely fulfilling. Many advertising creatives will say they didn’t choose the work, the work chose them. That’s exactly how I felt. Somehow the work didn’t feel like work. It felt like playing. And it still does today.

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Me and my fellow Weapon, Adam Emery are the bread in a Blake Pieroni sandwich. Blake is an Olympic Gold Medalist. Guess which sport…

Jim Cantore

I once saw a clip of Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel capturing the super-rare phenomenon of thundersnow on camera. According to a Royal Meteorological Society study (I read all of their stuff), this phenomenon occurs in only 0.07 percent of snowstorms in the United States. And only 6 occurrences are reported each year. In the video, Jim is about as excited about thundersnow as anyone could be about anything, ever.  Here is the clip:

Straight Outta The Upper Connecticut River Valley

Jim Cantore and I grew up in neighboring towns in Vermont. I am from Norwich. Jim grew up 5 miles south in White River Junction. I am super proud of the passion of my  fellow Green Mountain Boy. I wish everyone loved their work as much as Jim loves his.

Passion Powered

I recognize the excitement that Jim showed. Because I feel like that all the time. My enthusiasm for my work has made my entire career feel like, well, not work. My clients and coworkers can feel how much I enjoy the work I do. I think my enthusiasm makes me more enjoyable to work around. Granted, there may be a point of diminishing returns.

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That time me and Danica Patrick filled a Prevost motorhome with ping pong balls for work.

Entrepreneurship

When I first launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I knew it would be successful. Because I loved the work, and was willing to do all of the hard work necessary to make the business fly. As it turns out the work has been just as fun as I thought it would be. Solving problems is fun. Developing ideas is to help my clients thrive is extremely fun. And I never tire of the demands of business ownership.

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Gung-ho in gingham, with Jon Mathews.

Key Takeaway

If you haven’t found work you are passionate about yet, keep looking. Find that thing that makes you lose your mind, like Jim Cantore in thundersnow. Find something that make you pound the table like I pound the table when we have found another great idea that will help our clients win. Don’t settle for good pay, nice benefits and a safe existence. Energize yourself by doing something you really love every day.

Note: I first witnessed thundersnow while snowmobiling with my great friends Greg Gill and George Mort in Saint Germain, Wisconsin. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s like seeing lightning in a snow globe. It’s my favorite weather phenomenon.

The really easy way to pay people over the table.

Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business? I have. It’s easy to dream about the fun you would have being in charge. It’s fun to dream of a cool company name, the bazillion dollars you would make, and the crazy company benefits you would offer. #EveryoneGetsAPony

The Details

But on the other side of the dream are the details. It is the details of owning and running your own business that scare most people away. And the more people you have in your organization the more details there are to figure out. That’s why so many people decide to simply freelance, or become consulting cowboys and cowgirls, rather than deal with the complexities or paying other people.

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Look how serious this dude is about taking care of business!

I have seen far too many freelancers, consultants and business-of-one types become so fearful of hiring additional help that they hurt their own business and limit their own income. They never take advantage of opportunities for larger projects. And they never scale up. Because they don’t know how to handle employees, freelancers, contractors or outside vendors. And that’s a real shame.

The Weaponry

When I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I had a dream. #MLKJr I dreamed of growing The Weaponry into a large, amazing organization. Which meant that we needed to be able to easily add to our team. Luckily for us, there has never been a better time in history to launch a business. Because there are so many digital resources to enable you to easily do big businessy things as a small startup.

All Rights Reserved
Some of The Weapons.

Quickbooks

We use Quickbooks to run our accounting. It makes it hyper-easy to create and send estimates and invoices. It allows us to track our accounts payable and accounts receivable. We can see our profit and losses anytime. We link Quickbooks to our bank accounts and credit cards. And it makes it easy to track everything.

Paying People

One of the challenges a business owner must be able to handle is paying the people who perform work for the business. Some business owners decide to pay people under the table. This typically means you pay them in cash to avoid officially tracking the payment. Which means no one has to report the payments or the income to the IRS or state or local taxing agencies.

But this is not how real businesses operate. If you want to have a legitimate business, which you should, you pay people real wages, report the payments and income legitimately, and pay the appropriate taxes and withholdings. (Cue the national anthem and soaring eagle.)

Gusto

Making all of your payments legally and correctly is actually really easy. We use a great payment app called Gusto. Every time we hire an employee, freelancer, contractor or vendor, we set them up on Gusto.

gusto logo

Here’s how it works:

  • Individuals enter their social security numbers.
  • Businesses enter their tax ID numbers.
  • Everyone enters their address.
  • Everyone enters a bank account where they want their payment directly deposited.
  • Everybody Wang Chungs tonight.

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Trust The Process

We then process all of our payments through Gusto. And it works like magic. Based on factors like location and type of work performed (employee vs contractor vs vendor), it knows what type of payment needs to be made. I think it even knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.

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Gusto automatically figures out taxes, social security, unemployment insurance, workers comp details and the types of things that would otherwise keep you awake at night wondering why you decided to start your own business.

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Dream Team

Together, Gusto and Quickbooks, along with our accountant, Sally Bretsch, make our accounting one of the least stressful parts of owning my business. We have an easy-to- follow system for onboarding employees, contractors, clients and vendors. We get people set up quickly and we pay them on time. All of the difficult calculations happen automatically. And we spend more time doing the important work that helps us grow our business and keep our clients happy, like Pharrell Williams.

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The Price Is Right

The fee structure is simple. You pay a small monthly fee. And then you pay a small, increment cost per-person-you-pay-through-the-system each month. It is highly affordable and totally worth the sanity it preserves.

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A Great Time To Sign Up

Recently, my friend Dr. Theresa Pride, who owns a great business in Atlanta called Pride Physique Pilates and Physical Therapy told me she was going to switch to Gusto based on my recommendation. She asked me if there was a referral code she could enter to make sure Gusto knew I sent her. I looked in my email and sure enough, right now Gusto offers a referral bonus to both the referrer and the referree (that could be you you).

Here’s the information:

  1. Use the referral link: https://gusto.com/e/adam1529 by January 31, 2020 to sign up.
  2. My email associated with the account is still my startup-stage email: adamralbrecht@gmail.com (not my I-started-up email which is adam@theweaponry.com)
  3. When you run your first paid payroll, you’ll get a $200 Amazon gift card. And I will get a $200 Amazon gift card, too.

 Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to start a business. Don’t be afraid to hire contractors, employees or vendors. Gusto makes it easy to pay everyone you work with over the table, tax compliant, like a real, legitimate business. And because you don’t have to worry that you are paying people the right way you’ll have more time to think about the real business of your business. Which is what you have dreamed about from the beginning.

*If you know someone who owns, or would like to own their own business, please consider sharing this with them. #ThatsALotOfOwnsInOneSentence

The business lesson I didn’t know my 7th grade teacher taught me.

In 7th grade I had a social studies teacher named Mr. Wilson. I think his first name was Roger. Although Brian, Russell and Annandnancy all sound right as prefixes to Wilson. So it may have been one of those.

I remember Mr. Wilson as a portly, middle aged white man. But it wouldn’t surprise me if I discovered that he was the same age I am now. Because when you are 12 years old you think all adults are old.

Like most teachers, Mr. Wilson had go-to phrases that enabled us to do some hilarious impressions of him when he wasn’t around. We did hilarious impressions of all of our teachers. It’s probably why I never wanted to be a teacher.

The Sound Bite

Several times in every class, while we were supposed to be working on our assignments Mr. Wilson would bellow out,  ‘T-O-T.!’  He was not announcing his craving for tater tots (at least I don’t think so). It was an acronym for Time On Task. When my friend Marcus Chioffi (rhymes with coffee) and I would hear T.O.T. we would snicker at how much Mr. Wilson sounded like our impression of Mr. Wilson.

Fast Forward 3 Decades.

Today I own my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. And I find myself thinking about T.O.T. a lot. As I reflect on what has worked for me throughout my career and my entrepreneurial journey, I keep coming back to T.O.T.

Time To Make It Real

We all have dreams, goals and wishes. But we tend to spend far too little time working on them to force them into reality. The amount of time you actually spend working on a task is the key determinant of success in that area. There simply is no substitute for the focused work. It is why Time On Task is the key to progress.

Key Takeaway

If you want to be an entrepreneur, or achieve any lofty goal, you have to spend Time On Task. Focus your time. Block your time. Invest your time. Block out distractions. And do the work. It’s the only way to make great things happen. Just like Mr. Wilson said.

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

The kind of payment you should expect to receive as a speaker.

Throughout my career I have done a lot of public speaking. I frequently get requests to do presentations to businesses and professional organizations. I guest lecture a few times each year to college classes. I really enjoy being able to offer value by sharing what I know. In fact, I have a blog dedicated to sharing my learnings. And you are reading it right now. #meta.
I never want people to walk away from one of my talks thinking it was just ok. That’s why I think about offering value in my talks through the 3 Es.

My 3 Es of Public Speaking

  1. Education I try to teach people something they didn’t know. It could be information they didn’t have. Or a new perspective or philosophy that makes them think in a new way.
  2. Energy I always try to offer energy. It’s much easier for an audience to pay attention and learn something when they are awake. So I make it awfully hard to sleep during one of my talks.
  3. Entertainment I try to make my talk interesting. I use humor and storytelling. And I use liberal amounts of Surprisium. Which is the element of surprise. (I discovered that in my high school chemistry class.)

Chickety Check Yourself

When preparing to give a talk I always check to make sure I have all 3 Es in my presentation. It’s how I ensure that I am offering value. Because when I offer real value to others I know I will receive real value in return.

The Payment For A 3-E Talk

If you are wondering what kind of payment you should expect to receive for your public speaking, here is the payment I recently received for a guest lecture I gave to 35 students in Erin Napier’s integrated marketing communications class at Marquette University.

‘I had to email you to send a massive “thank you” for the presentation you gave to my advertising class, it was absolutely killer and it will leave a lasting impact on how I go about my future. Between you and me that was the most engaged I was in this class all year! (You are the type of guy Id love to sit down and have a conversation about life with)
From the moment you entered the room I noticed I had a lot of the same personality traits you shared with us and I am now, so excited to see what I can do with them. You showed me how to use the talents I was born with and use it to my advantage.
The way you asked us a little about ourselves was amazing because it shows that you are interested in what we have to say. Who doesn’t love talking about themselves?!
I learned so much in the short time you spent with us and from the bottom of my heart I really appreciate it and I wish you the best of luck with everything in your life and hopefully someday we cross paths again.’
‘Just wanted to say the presentation was great and one of the most interesting I’ve seen in my time at Marquette. On another note, i have a start up I’ve been working on with a buddy of mine and was curious if you’d be willing to connect one day and give some thoughts/ feedback. Either way, you crushed it tonight and hope we can connect in the future.’

‘Thanks for speaking tonight. Your talk made me want to quit my day job.’

‘Hey Adam, I am NAME CHANGED TO PROTECT THE LACK OF PROOFREADING, I am in Erin Napier’s advertising class that you spoke to last night.m (if you need a reminder of how I am, I was the NICKNAME I GAVE THE STUDENT IN CLASS). I really enjoyed your talk and I related to your engery and passion for the topic so I wanted to reach out and connect. Thanks’

‘Hi Adam. I enjoyed your presentation during my advertising class last Tuesday. You had mentioned to connect on LinkedIn if I was possibly interested in future opportunities. Thanks for volunteering your time and sharing your insight.’

‘This was the first time all semester I paid attention to a guest speaker. That was awesome.’

‘Hey Adam! I am the perfectionist from Pewaukee! (From Erin’s Advertising class.)
I wanted to thank you again for an awesome presentation last night. You have an amazing zeal for life which is not only refreshing to see, but inspirational as well.’

Adam: Again, thank you for your wonderful presentation last night. As usual, my students were mesmerized. You represent real world perspective which is difficult at times to bring into the classroom. I also appreciate that you provided some perspective on the DNC project.

It was also delightful to have Sara attend. She is a great example for my athletes in the room in how balancing their time between academics and preparing for post college starts now. Please feel free to bring members of your team again.
Erin

Key Takeaway

When you speak, expect to give. Provide value by educating and entertaining. Do it with energy. And when you do your job well you should expect to get paid with wonderful feedback from your audience. That positive feedback alone makes it all worthwhile.

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

Have you found your chain of knowledge?

When I was a kid I knew about college. My parents both went to the University of Minnesota (and I still turned out okay). Dartmouth College was across the street from my high school in Hanover, New Hampshire. Everyone from Hanover High School seemed to go to college. There was never a question of whether or not I would go to college. It was just a matter of where. And whether or not I would get kicked out.

UW-Madison

After high school I went to the University of Wisconsin. I earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and psychology. Following college I had many friends who did even more schooling. They got master’s degrees, went to law school or medical school.

I did none of those things. Instead I began to self-educate. I began reading books, not just for entertainment, but for knowledge. I subscribed to various magazines and devoured them monthly. Eventually I learned that devouring reading materials does not mean that you actually eat them. Once I discovered that I began enjoying reading materials significantly more.

There’s Something Happening Here

I started noticing an interesting phenomenon. When I read a book, article or blog that I found valuable there would be a reference to another book, article, blog, vlog or podcast. I would add that new reference to my list of materials to explore. Then, not only would I find great value in that material, I would find another reference to other worthwhile material to explore.

One Thing Leads To Another.

I began compiling a rich list of books, authors, blogs and podcasts that continuously linked me to even more valuable new material. Like the required set of coursework you must take to earn a college degree, my self-directed readings began creating a unique and valuable path forward. Like my own yellow brick road.

Chains and Change

As I followed this chain of knowledge it changed my life in profound ways. I didn’t know it at the time, but my chain of knowledge created my coursework for entrepreneurship. Some of it was inspirational. Some of it was instructional. But each link added profound value.

Boarding The Entrepreneurship

In 2015 I began planning the launch of my own advertising agency. My readings and self education prepared me well for the process. I didn’t need an MBA. Or a business coach. I just needed my own self-directed chain of knowledge. And action.

The Weaponry

In the spring of 2016 I launched my own business called The Weaponry. At the same time, I launched this blog to help others build their chain of knowledge.

I have discovered that to accomplish great and difficult feats you don’t have to go back to school, like Rodney Dangerfield or Billy Madison. You simply have to keep adding links to your own chain.

Here are some sources that have provided strong links in my chain of knowledge. 

Books

  • Rich Dad. Poor Dad.
  • The Alchemist
  • Think And Grow Rich.
  • The E-Myth
  • Traction
  • TheCash Flow Quadrant
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  • Everything by John C. Maxwell
  • Everything by Jim Collins
  • Everything by Daniel Pink 
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  • Talent Is Overrated
  • Delivering Happiness
  • Call Me Ted
  • Pour Your Heart Into it
  • The One Thing

Podcasts

  • How I Built This
  • Bigger Pockets
  • Side Hustle School 
  • Open For Business
  • Startup

Magazines

  • Inc.
  • Fast Company

Key Takeaway

To become the best You that you can be build your own chain of knowledge. Direct your own education. Add to it every day. It will empower you to do great things. Things that you alone are uniquely qualified to do. And please share what you discover with others. Because like Billy Madison, I still have a lot left to learn.

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

My daughter thinks I am lucky to have such a cool job. But she is wrong.

Yesterday my daughter Ava had a basketball tournament 90 minutes from home. Ava and I enjoyed some daddy-daughter time as we drove to and from the tournament together. We always talk a lot on our drives. Our conversation yesterday included such random topics as:

  • Top 3 cities in the US you would want to live in someday
  • How to become a songwriter
  • How old you have to be to join the CIA
  • Elbows to the throat
  • Billy Eilish
  • Basketball moves that work
  • How Silicon Valley became a thing
  • Hair tossing and checking my nails
  • Honors Geometry terms (we studied for her quiz together)
  • How the championship medals they won glow in the dark
  • What is the 3rd Jonas Brother’s name (It’s Kevin)

Entrepreneurship

We also talked about my work. When I started The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, I also started this blog to share what I learned on my entrepreneurial journey. This is the 382nd post. So I must be learning something. But I don’t just blog about what I am learning. I try to teach my children as much as they can absorb. And maybe just a little more.

Recent Updates

I told Ava about some of the projects I am working on. I told her about work travel that I have coming up to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and potentially Orlando. I gave her an update on some of the things I just did on trips to Dallas and San Antonio.

Then she said something that really struck me. She said,

‘Dad, you are so lucky. You have the coolest job.’ -Ava Albrecht (14)

I smiled, and told Ava that my entire advertising career has been filled with cool opportunities and experiences. But the thing worth noting now is that I created my own job. I started my own business. All of the cool things I get to do now were not offered to me by an employer. I didn’t find this job like you find a 4-leaf clover. I created the opportunity to do cool things myself.

How Long Does It Take?

I knew that when I launched my own business I would be walking away from a number of amazing opportunities to do fun and interesting work. I wondered how long it would take before I got to do those same kinds of projects for The Weaponry.

It didn’t take long. Today I get to work on rewarding projects for many of my clients. I get to travel all over the country. I get to work with interesting and well known people. And so do my teammates.

Go Luck Yourself

Ava was right, I do have a cool job. But I am not lucky to have this job. I made this job. I knew the kind of work I wanted to do. And I created a job where I would get to do it. I told Ava that I want to make sure she knows that she has the ability to create her own dream job. And I want you to know that you do too.

Key Takeaway

The best way to land your dream job is to create it yourself. Know what you want. And realize you have the potential to make it happen. Today, I am busy creating my dream job. I am certainly not done yet. And neither are you.

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

I fancy myself a badass. And you should too.

I fancy myself a badass. A bull rider. A street fighter. A come-back-here-and-I’ll-bite-your-kneecaps-off type. A finger-waving, head-shaking Hulkimaniac who won’t stay on the mat, even when the rest of the world is saying, ‘Stay on the mat!’ (I was also an impressionable boy in the 1980’s).

The Truth

Am I really a badass? I don’t know.  And I don’t care.

The Value

This self concept, false or real, has helped me more than anything in my personal weaponry. It helps when I have to work long, sleep little, stand my ground, or attack. It prevents me from being intimidated, or from feeling that I am ever not good enough.

I Use My Inside Voice.

It is important to note that I would never tell anyone but myself that I am a badass. It’s like telling people you are cool. The moment you do, you are decidedly uncool. Which perhaps means that when you call yourself a badass, people think of you as a good ass, (which is interesting reverse psychology).

I am simply sharing my mindset here. Because it might help you the way it helps me.

Key Takeaway

Think of yourself as a badass. It helps you do hard things.


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

**I had a really hard time finding a picture of myself where I am not smiling. Which perhaps means that I am a very smiley badass, if there is such a thing. Which there probably isn’t. #selfperceptioniseverything