3 ways that you can work like Google.

Have you heard of the Google? If your answer is yes, then you know that they are one of the smartest, most progressive companies on Google Earth. If you’ve never heard of them I strongly encourage you to google them. I’ll wait while you do.

I’ve been so impressed by this organization that I’ve recently read several books written by a gaggle of Googlers. Including How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. These cats who run Google have some pretty good ideas. So I’ve stolen them. (Actually, I think they wanted me to steal them. Because they wrote a book about them. Which makes them open-source ideas, right?)

 

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How Google Works is about how Google works. And don’t be confused by the design. The book title is not Goc.

3 Ideas I stole from Google

1. Hire Smart Creatives:

Smart Creatives are people with smart, curious minds.  They are dreamers and doers. They are self-propelled. They are constantly coming up with great ideas and acting on them, with or without you. They have lots of interests. And they are hard to find.

When you find a Smart Creative, grab him or her by the intellect, and don’t let go. At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry this is exactly who we hire. I’m proud to say we are dense with these types.  But Smart Creatives are not just found in creative fields. They are in every industry and every category. Find them and they will transform your organization.

2. Keep your people crowded:

Most companies give their people too much space. Business space is like personal space, but at work. We mistakenly think the more business space you have the better. Organizations reward employees with more space as they become more valuable. Because the bigger the office the better, right? Google says no.

When you give your people lots of space the only time they interact with each other is in meetings and in the hallway. Google recommends keeping people close to each other so that interacting and sharing ideas is the norm, not the exception. At The Weaponry we are crowding our people together. It helps us rapidly share and build ideas. It helps build culture and camaraderie. It’s also great for sing-alongs. And I love a good sing-along.

3. Spend 80% of your time on 80% of your revenue:

Google stole this mantra from a guy named Bill Gates. The founder of Microsoft obviously knows something about macro-thinking. After all, he is the richest man in the Seattle metro area. The reason to use this 80-80 rule is that it is easy to get distracted by new ventures, experiments and pet projects.

New things are always fun and exciting. But you have to stay focused on the work that  keeps the wi-fi on. This has been especially valuable advice to The Weaponry lately. We have recently moved into new office space. And it is really easy to find cool projects to work on in the new space. But we have reminded ourselves to budget the time we spend on the space according to the 80-80 rule.

How you work

There are a lot of other great ideas in How Google Works.  But I’d like to hear from you. What is one thing that you do in your organization that you know contributes to your success?

*If you are in the market for more semi-stolen ideas please consider subscribing to this blog.

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How to make an office feel like your home.

In the summer of 2015 I began the perfect agency project in my home office in Atlanta. It wasn’t just this blog. It was an entrepreneurial project to create the perfect ad agency. I was a man on a mission. I wrote down my goals. I mapped out the people, processes, and purchases needed. I declared the agency’s core values and pillars for success. I could see it all. I even envisioned the first company picnic, and how lame it was going to be when we played tug-of-war with just 2 or 3 people.

In mid 2016 the agency opened for business.

One of the most profound and important steps in the process was naming the agency. There was something about going from building “an advertising agency” to creating The Weaponry that transformed the dream from ethereal to concrete.

The first year was a great success, as measured by the original vision. We had even moved the headquarters to Milwaukee, which was part of the larger plan. In July of 2017 we decided it was time to move the agency operations from a home office to a real office downtown (things will be great when you’re downtown). I began a search for space and wrote about my experience in a 3-part series that you can now binge read anytime. See Looking for office space: A Startup Story,  Looking For Office Space 2: The Messy Middle, & Looking for office space: We have an office!

Moving in.

November 1st we got the keys to our new space in Milwaukee’s modern North End. The team is thrilled to have an office of our own. But just like when you buy a house, the empty space we inherited didn’t immediately feel like us. It wasn’t bad. It was just, neutral. And we are decidedly not neutral. So, just like at the beginning of the project, our team had to apply our vision for the agency in order to transform the space into The Weaponry.

We started with some basics. We added wi-fi and computers, desks and chairs. We were operational and our most basic needs were met within the first week. But the space wasn’t ours yet. Like ranchers brand their livestock, we needed to brand our new space. We needed to give the office a name. And personality. So we looked for ways to make our mark.

Front Door

Our front door was just naked glass. There was nothing on it to tell people who we were or where they were. This had to change. So we contacted a very talent freehand sign painter. We really loved her style. Apparently so does everyone else. Because she told us in November that she was booked until late January or early February. Since we signed a 13-month lease we couldn’t afford to go sign-less for the first 3 or 4 months.

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Our front door is no longer naked. 

We looked into signage that we could have in place quickly.  We found a good sign company that could make what we wanted, and have it installed within 3 days. Which was great.  But then we ran into another challenge. To install the wall graphics we wanted we had to wait a month after we painted so that the gas could escape from the new paint on the walls. I snickered at the idea of having gassy walls.

So we began painting immediately. Or I should say K-Lil, our super talented Associate Creative Director started painting. She picked the perfect colors and started bringing The Weaponry to life as a real place.

 

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Do you think the logo is too small?  

Last Friday, the paint had properly aged and we had the sign people come and make their magic. And magic it was.  They put up our first three branding marks. And suddenly the space feels like The Weaponry. Our front door declares that you have arrived at The Weaponry. When you enter our space you are greeted by a 90-inch wide reminder of where you are. And we have started putting small thinking reminders around the space.

 

We have much more to add. But the office is developing a great feel. We’re thrilled to call this place our home. And we’d be happy to have you come see it for yourself.

Here are a few videos of the installation.  If you want to see and hear more about our journey please subscribe to this blog.

 

Why I hate networking, and what I do instead.

Since I was in college I have heard career-minded folk talk about the importance of networking. Which begs the question, What the fruit is networking? Because before college I didn’t network, and I seem to have gotten along just fine.

But starting my freshman year in college, professors, advisors and guest speakers talked about networking as if it twas the key to success beyond college (twas is a word you can only use in December). Then I started my career in advertising and I heard the same thing. Business books and career coaches strongly encourage you to network. I have even attended a few functions called networking events. Oy. 

So what the funk does it means to network? 

Oh looky here! I found a definition.

Network (verb): interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.

Ahh. When you put it that way, I understand what you mean. And it kinda makes me want to barf.  ‘Interacting with people‘, ‘exchanging information’ and ‘developing contacts’ is something that can be done by a machine. Or a criminal.

What I do.

While other people network, I am still doing what I did before college. Before I was told that networking was the key to advancing my career. Before I was told networking was crucial to successful entrepreneurship.

No. I don’t network.

I befriend.

What does that mean?  Well, I just happen to have the definition for you right here:

Befriend (verb): act as a friend to someone by offering help or support.
This is what I do. I learned how to do this when I was in pre-school and it has served me well my entire life.  Notice the keys to befriending? You act as a friend. You offer help and support. This is the good stuff. This is what other people really want.  This is how you improve life on the big blue marble.

When you dive into the synonyms of befriending you develop an even richer picture:
  • make friends with
  • make a friend of
  • look after
  • keep an eye on
  • be of service to
  • lend a helping hand to
  • help
  • protect
  • side with
  • stand by
  • encourage

The Take Away

The world would be a better place if we stopped trying to network, and we just tried to make friends. So I encourage you to develop real relationships. Because when you make people the most important thing in your life, everything else magically falls into place.  Our relationships, and the positive impact we have on one another, are the only things that really matter. It is true at home. It is true in pre-school. It is true in college. And it is true in business. So if you really want to be a great success, be a great friend. If there is any way I can help, please let me know.

How much sexual activity is appropriate at work?

These are strange and unsettling times. Since news first broke of Harvey Weinstein doing Harvey Weinsteinian things we have seen a daily parade of disgraced public figures who can’t seem to keep their privates private. Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose… The list, unfortunately goes on and on.

I’ve seen more #metoos than I can stomach. In this current climate Donald Trump would never have been elected president. The Billy Bush audio tape, and the way he bragged about treating women would have received a much different reception a year later, thanks to our new cultural enlightenment. We have experienced a national shift on sexual harassment and abuse. And it’s long overdue.

The Weinstein Company And Lexus Present Lexus Short Films - Red Carpet
Harvey Weinstein: Trendsetter

Sinking Lauer

Yesterday brought new news about Matt Lauer. At first when we heard that he had been fired from his job as anchor of NBC’s Today, many thought this was a rush to judgement. An overreaction. But as the day progressed we learned more and more about the behavior that led to Lauer’s firing. It was not good. And it was not a simple lapse in judgment. What we saw by the end of the day was a clear picture of who Matt Lauer really is when the camera is not rolling.

But what really struck me was the headline that accompanied the news of Matt Lauer’s firing. It said he was fired for ‘Inappropriate Sexual Activities In The Work Place’.  Which begs the question:

How much sexual activity is appropriate in the work place?

Are we really talking about a grey area here?  Is this a judgement call?  Is this a I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it thing?

The answer depends on what kind of work you do. If you work in the sex industry,  sexual activity at work is not only appropriate, it is necessary.  And if you like to mix your sexual activity with work, this is definitely the industry for you.

But if you work in ANY other industry there should be no sexual activity at work.

Does this sound way too extreme to you?  Or does it sound like I am declaring the obvious? The fact that people fall into such different camps on this subject is part of the problem. Perhaps you think we should allow a little leeway, because there could be legitimate attraction in the workplace.

I know something about that too.

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Louis C.K. thought that it was ok to pull out his little microphone as long as he asked permission first.

 

I met my wife at work.

My now-wife Dawn and I were both in our 20s and worked at a large advertising agency when we first met. This is the kind of setting that movies and tv shows use for steamy and/or tawdry workplace antics. And I can say with great confidence that I partook in none of that (did I really just use the word partook?).

I respected my workplace, and the woman I have now been married to for 15 years enough to not engage in any sexually laden language or sexual advances at work. Instead we spent time talking and getting to know each other. Like normal, well-balanced humans do. In fact, yesterday, when discussing this topic, my wife said:

Your activities were so appropriate I didn’t even know you liked me.

There had been no romantic or sexual activity. No innuendo. There was no groping or grabbing or exposing. Instead our G-rated work interactions included throwing a frisbee together at the company picnic. That really got the office buzzing.

Conclusion

Let’s eliminate sexual activity at work (except for sex industry workers). Everyone else keep your hands to yourself. Keep your clothes on, fully buttoned and zipped. Don’t rub, cup or squeeze anything.  Don’t whip anything out. Don’t ask for permission to fiddle with yourself. Don’t host or attend work meetings in a hotel room.

Guys, treat your female coworkers with the respect you would give your mother, sister, wife or daughter. Women, demand the same of your male coworkers. If you can’t control your sexual urges at work, get yourself some professional help. That is not normal. And today it will no longer be tolerated. Just ask Matt Lauer.

*If you would like to see what I write about when people are behaving at work please scroll down to see other posts. If you like what you read, consider subscribing. If you don’t like what you read, let’s just be friends.

**To see what my 12-year old daughter Ava and I wrote about Matt Lauer in our Daddy-Daughter blog, Dad Says Daughter Says, click here.

How to learn exciting new skills like Wilbur Wright.

We experience life in three modes.

  1. Growth Mode.
  2. Maintenance Mode.
  3. Atrophy Mode.

These modes are not sequential. You can shift from one mode to another in any order you choose. Read a book and you are in Growth Mode. Do some drugs and you are in atrophy mode. Brush your teeth and you are in Maintenance Mode. (Listen to some 80s English electronic music and you are in Depeche Mode.)

Right now I am spending as much time as I can in Growth Mode. I am reading for learning. I’m working out regularly. And I have started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, which pushes me to grow every day.

Growing By Learning From Others.

To push myself for more growth, I am soaking up as much as I can about inventors and pioneers. Recently I’ve studied Walt Disney, Lewis and Clark, the team at Pixar, and Ernest Shackleton. Right now I am studying Orville and Wilbur Wright. Notice I say that I am studying them. Not reading about them. You can read simply to be entertained. Or to kill time. I’m studying because I am trying to learn and grow.

The Wright Brothers

For those of you who aren’t up to date on your turn-of-the-last-century trivia, Orville and Wilbur Wright, from Dayton, Ohio, invented the airplane. Which changed the world forever. In fact, if it weren’t for them you wouldn’t be able to complain about the lack of leg room or that spotty in-flight wi-fi as you cross the entire country in just 6 hours.

One of the things that stood out to me about the Wrights was their highly pragmatic approach to their own growth and learning. Today, you and I can use their approach to develop our own breakthroughs, both personally and professionally.

The Wright Stuff

To learn and grow like the Wright Brothers read the following excerpt from a talk Double Dubs (my nickname for Wilbur Wright) gave to a group of engineers in Chicago:

Now, there are two ways of learning to ride a fractious horse: One is to get on him and learn by actual practice how each motion and trick may be best met; the other is to sit on a fence and watch the beast a while, and then retire to the house and at leisure figure out the best way of overcoming his jumps and kicks.

The latter system is the safest, but the former, on the whole, turns out the larger proportion of good riders. It is very much the same in learning to ride a flying machine; if you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial.   -Wilbur Wright  1901

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Orville and Wilbur Wright were no couch potatoes. They were the worlds first airplane potatoes.

Applying Wilbur’s Approach

The same holds true for you my friend. You can study that challenge in front of you from the comfort of your couch. You can read about it, talk about it and watch other people do it. But if you really want to learn how to do it yourself, you have to climb aboard your own flying machine and learn the tricks yourself, through trial and error.

That’s how I started The Weaponry. I read and studied and tried to prepare ahead of time. But eventually I had to jump in the cockpit, pull back on the wheel and start messing with the controls. I’m learning by doing. And I’m learning faster than I ever could from a book or a class.

Your Growth

The same approach holds true for learning anything. You learn how to kayak, juggle, write code, start a non-profit, lead, cook, invest and speed-eat hot dogs by doing.  Experience is the greatest teacher. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes help you course-correct and keep you moving forward.

 Conclusion

Don’t settle for Maintenance Mode. Avoid Atrophy Mode at all costs. And keep growing. Not by watching or reading. But by doing. Get off the fence and climb aboard your own horse, bicycle or flying machine today. Then just keep at it until you get it Wright.

*If you got anything out of this post consider subscribing to receive future posts via email. I’ll try to write something smart or funny to make it worth your while. Heck, I’ll even spring for the email postage.

Are you as thankful as a farmer?

When I started my career in advertising my very first account was Case IH farm equipment. Case IH makes the red tractors, combines and implements that dot the American countryside. I was hired to work on the account because I have a farming background. In my job interview I shocked the ad agency leaders with my knowledge of PTOs, disk harrows and 12-row heads. I know these things because I come from a long line of farmers. My mom is one of nine farm kids. My dad is one of twelve.

As part of that first job I did a lot of research, talking to farmers about their wants and needs. In one of those conversations a farmer shared a quote with me that I will never forget. He said,

You will never find a farmer in Vegas. Because we are gambling out here every day.

A Farmer’s Reality

Farmers are gamblers who bet on themselves. They are the ultimate entrepreneurs.  They eat and breathe their work. Literally. They work from sun-up until sun-down. They reap what they sow. But to farmers, these are not clichés. These are the facts of life.

But here is the scariest reality of farming:  A farmer can work tirelessly every day, follow the best formula for success, never make the same mistake twice, and still go bust.

This is because a farmer does not control his or her own fate. They are at the complete mercy of Mother Nature. And Mother Nature doesn’t play fair. She doesn’t care how hard you work. Or that you’ve invested every dime you have into this year’s crop. And no one is immune to the whims of Mother Nature (except maybe the people who live in San Diego).

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Me and my kids visiting my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Karen’s dairy farm.

So the farmer can do everything in his or her power to grow a bumper crop, and then there is no rain. Or too much rain. Or a killing frost. Or flattening wind. Or hail. Or an eff-ing  grasshopper plague.

So this time of year, when the frost is on the pumpkin and the hay is in the barn, farmers are more thankful than you could ever imagine. While all Americans are thankful today, they are not as thankful as farmers.

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My Uncle Jerry’s farm, ready for the fall harvest.

Idea Farming

The moment I started planning to launch my advertising agency, I felt like I was getting back to my farming roots. Because I was betting everything on my ability to grow my own crops. But instead of producing corn, soybeans and milk, I would be growing creative ideas. And the hard thing about growing creative ideas is that you can’t buy the seeds from Monsanto.

Today, I am experiencing farmer-strength thankfulness. The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency that I started in 2016, has transformed from a dream with a plan to a physical business with walls, doors and desks. We have world-class employees. We have great clients. And we are cranking out ideas like Iowa cranks out corn.

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My boys and my Uncle Jon, keeping things under control at my Uncle Randy’s farm.

6 things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

  1. Today I’m thankful for my wife Dawn, who has demonstrated unwavering faith in my ability to feed, clothe and shelter our family.
  2. I’m thankful for my kids who share my love for ideas, adventure and creation.
  3. I’m thankful for my team of smart, self-driven creatives who produce valuable ideas every day.
  4. I’m thankful to my clients who have trusted The Weaponry to help them create the strategies and ideas they need to grow and thrive.
  5. I’m thankful for all of my friends. For handshakes and hugs. I’m thankful for those who will take my phone calls and reply to my texts. For the friends who have joined me this year for chocolate milk or a meal. And to those friends who like, comment or share something I post on social media.
  6. And on this day that we give thanks for the harvest I am especially thankful for my large farm family of Albrechts and Spraus. Our rich farming lineage has provided us all with a tremendous work ethic, a strong self-reliance, and a great appreciation for all that we have. Today we are working hard to pass the character traits that grow strong on farms on to our children. So that even though our offspring may never live on a farm, they will benefit from our family roots that reach deep into the rich black soil of Minnesota.

Summary

As you enjoy your Thanksgiving feast with friends and family take time to count your own blessings. As you pass the plates around the table remember where the food came from. And please say a little thank you for the farmer. Because surely they are saying thank you for you.

*If you decide to subscibe to this blog I woud be extremely thankful too.

Are you really playing catch or are you just throwing?

People regularly ask me if I am a full-time blogger. This always makes me laugh. I assume that would mean that I blog 24-hours a day. Which would make it really hard to shower. Or trim my fingernails. I actually have several other responsibilities. I am the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. And when I am not blogging or foundering I spend my time husbanding and fathering.

Fathering

I got my fist job as a father in 2005. Since then I have tripled my responsibilities. My youngest son is a 7-year old viking named Magnus who inherited my love for football.  In fact we toss a football around every morning while waiting for the school bus.

Yesterday Magnus must have eaten his Wheaties (which is a reference that you’ll only understand if you were born before 1980). Because every time Magnus tossed the ball he threw it way over my head. So I jogged to pick up the ball, and tossed it back. But after several of these Wheaties-fueled throws I stopped and asked Magnus,

‘Are we playing catch, or are you just playing throw?’

 

 

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Magnus always wants me to go long.

As I asked the question I recognized that Magnus’ approach was emblematic of a common problem that occurs every day in communications. Both personal and professional.

Tossing Marketing Messages

In the most basic form, marketing communications are a simple game of catch. The game starts with a marketer throwing a message to a prospective buyer. The prospective buyer catches the message and throws his or her message back. That message could be, I’m interested, I’m not interested, I’m confused, or Tell me more. As long as you are communicating there is an opportunity to get to a mutually beneficial transaction.

But far too often marketers throw their messages the way Magnus threw the football. Hard. Fast. High. Marketers are focused on their own perspective. In their eagerness to drive results (ROI) they shout what they think is important. They don’t think enough about the person at the other end of the message. Thus, their message sails way over the head of the intended recipient. And there is no reply at all.

Before you throw your next message: 

  1. Know who you are throwing to.
  2. Understand how they like to catch.
  3. Account for the distance.
  4. Throw something catchable.
  5. Observe what happens when you throw your message, and recalibrate accordingly.
  6. Prepare to receive the message that gets tossed back to you.

Remember, communication is a two-way interaction. Account for your audience in everything you do. Make it an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. When you do you’ll be surprised how many people will happily play catch with you.

If you found anything I threw your way useful, or think I am off target, please share a comment or subsrcibe to this blog so we can keep playing catch.