A blog about one man's attempt at entrepreneurship, and all that he learns about business and himself along the way.
Author: Adam Albrecht
Adam Albrecht is the Founder and CEO of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. He believes the most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind. He also authors two blogs: The Perfect Agency Project and Dad Says Daughter Says, a Daddy-Daughter blog he co-writes with his 12 year old daughter Ava. Adam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When we were kids in school we took standardized tests to see how we stacked up against other kids our age. I remember taking some sort of Iowa basics test and some type of California standard test. Despite the fact that I never lived in either of those states. Then there were the PSATs, SATs, ACTs. I remember filling in all those little circles. And I remember thinking that number 2 pencils sounded like poop pencils.
I have not had my knowledge tested against others in my age group since high school. But I would love to be tested now. Because I do more than most of my contemporaries to gain knowledge and increase my intelligence every day.
Yesterday was a fairly typical day of self education.
I read chapters in multiple physical books. #letsgetphyscial
I listened to 1 hour of an audiobook while driving. (Indianapolis)
I listened to 2 podcasts totaling almost 2 hours while mowing the lawn and doing cardio work. (How I Built This and Bigger Pockets)
I read several articles in a magazine while waiting for a football scrimmage to start. (Fast Company)
I read a blog post on leadership.
I am constantly seeking new knowledge, insights and philosophies. As a result I add significant knowledge to my collection daily.
Test Me Bro
That’s why I would love to be tested again. I want to see how my knowledge stacks up against other men and women in their mid-forties. Because I think I would do very well compared to my peers. Many of whom stopped studying when their formal education ended.
Slowdown and Ramp Up
I admit that my deliberate education experienced a slowdown during my rip-roaring 20s, after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin. But I ramped up my self education in my early 30s. Today, I consider self education one of my core interests and hobbies.
Learn Something New Every Day
Without continuing adult education it’s a bad situation. #HallAndOates But if you are reading this post you are probably into self education too. If so, you are in the minority. We’ve all heard the saying, “You learn something new everyday.’ But the average adult learns by accident, or because of their lack of baseline knowledge. Not through deliberate self education.
Putting Education To Work
I study, absorb, read and learn like I did back in college. None if it is required. All of it is self directed. Because I want to know all I can. It gives me an advantage in life. I put my knowledge to good use for my business and my family. In fact, I am certain that I won’t experience sustained success as an entrepreneur if I don’t continuously educate myself.
You grow through education. It is how you become a smarter, stronger, more capable resource. It is how you make more money and make more of a difference in your community. Unless you are willing to accept continual mental decay you can’t coast the rest of the way to the grave. So once your educational requirements are met, make sure to stay ahead of the curve through your own elective learning.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share it with them.
I expected that starting my own advertising agency would be hard. I expected long days and late nights. I expected endless challenges. I expected to make mistakes. I expected to forgive myself for not knowing all the things a business owner really should know. I expected to learn and grow along the way. And I expected to use the word expected more than usual in this opening paragraph.
Hard Things Are The Best Things.
I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016. And all of the things I expected ahead of time have come true. I have no complaints. Because doing great things should be hard. I am not afraid of hard things. They make me feel alive. Where others get anxious, intimidated or nervous, I get excited. It’s a gift. Or maybe there is something wrong with me. Or both.
But more and more I am noticing something I didn’t anticipate during the pre-launch phase. I am surprised by the number of former coworkers, clients, friends and acquaintances that have come to me hoping, urging, expecting me to build something great that they could be part of too.
There are a significant number of very talented people who have gotten very close to The Weaponry, and put their names on our wait list, preparing for the next opening or opportunity to develop.
These are smart people with jobs, and freelancers. Recent graduates and pre-retirees. People who are burned out with their current situation, and fed up with their boss. People who want to feel like they are part of a winning and growing team. People who want a little more excitement in their workday. People who believe that The Weaponry offers the type of work experience they are hungry like the wolf for. And I would like to have all of them on our team.
So the pressure is on to grow this business. To find out just how many people we can accommodate. We need to see how much demand can we generate. While keeping this business as attractive at scale as it is in miniature, and in the collective minds of both our current team members and those who hope to join us next. That’s a good pressure. Like the pressure Queen and David Bowie were under.
When you start something new, anything new, you are creating new hope. Hope for a better job, a better experience, a better resource, and ultimately better products and services. All of which ladder up to hope for a better life. If you can make that happen you have done something really special. That’s exactly why I started the The Perfect Agency Project in the first place.
In a normal year my family and I would be heading to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina this week. Unfortunately, our family’s August vacation tradition looks like it has come to an end. Because our kids’ sports obligations have locked us at home for the month of August for the next 9 years. Boo.
Exploring Our Backyard
But when life gives you lemons you have to squeeze them for all they’re worth. That’s why we have been using our weekends to explore interesting attractions closer to home. In the past couple of weeks we have been to the Milwaukee Air and Water Show, The Milwaukee Zoo, The Wisconsin State Fair, The Chazen Art Museum and more state parks than you can shake a state park pass at.
The House On The Rock
This weekend we hit one of the most mysterious of midwestern attractions. The House On The Rock. I had heard about this place since I was a small child but really didn’t know what it was, other than the obvious information I gleaned from the name itself. Because I am smart like that.
Imagination At Work
The House On The Rock turned out to be extremely interesting, fun and weird. As the name implies, there is a house built on a rock. But there is a whole lot of interesting stuff housed adjacent to the rock that is hard to wrap your head around, or put into words. So I won’t attempt it here. Suffice it to say The House On The Rock is the product of an active imagination.
Meeting My Quota of Quotes
One of my favorite spaces at THOTR was a room full of inspirational quotes focused mostly on the power of imagination. As an advertising creative I have spent my entire career mining my own imagination. As an entrepreneur I have seen how an entire business can spring from the blueprints of our imagination. So I am sharing some of the quotes I found here. I hope there is something that resonates with you.
Your imagination is your most valuable asset. It can help you create wealth, happiness and comfort. It can get you into the places you want to be in. And out of the places you want out of. Use it. Protect it. Value it. Build your life on it. Like a house on a rock.
*If you know someone who could use some inspirational quotes (#everyone) please share it with them.
I am into simple pleasures. As an entrepreneur, one of those simple pleasures is taking checks to the bank and depositing them in person, old school style. I have been doing this since I first launched my business in 2016. It is one of my favorite parts of business ownerships. I find it extremely rewarding. Like a fisherman bringing home his daily catch. Like a farmer hauling the harvest to town. Or a gold prospector showing off his nuggets. #snickering
My Last Bank Run
Friday afternoon I made a run to the bank to deposit some checks I received last week. But what started as a routine trip to the bank became a trip down memory lane. Because as I entered the bank I was hit by the memory of depositing the very first check my business ever received.
You Never Forget Your First
I dreamed of starting my own advertising agency since I first started my career as a young copywriter. Finally, in 2015 I decided to take the proverbial plunge. (Which makes me a proverbial plunger.) From the time I committed to launching my own agency until I legally established The Weaponry LLC and left my job was 7 months. Just 1 month after I launched The Weaponry I received a check for $46,444 made out to The Weaponry LLC. I was amazed. I kept thinking that 1 month earlier The Weaponry didn’t even exist. Now it was about to have $46,000 in the bank.
Show And Tell
I remember going to my bank in Atlanta to deposit the check like it was yesterday. The woman who helped me set up The Weaponry’s business banking accounts just weeks earlier happened to be working that day. I hurried over to her like a proud kid coming home with a great report card and said, ‘Look what I have!’
I showed her the check for $46,000 and her eyes got really big. She said, ‘Wow! That was fast! How do I get in on this business?’
3 Years Later
Fast forward 3 years to last Friday. I walked into another branch of that same bank in Milwaukee. I was thinking about that momentous first check as I approached the counter where I sign my checks before I deposit them. As I pulled out the checks to give them my John ‘Don’t-Call-Me-Herbie’ Hancock, I saw something remarkable on the checks. And it wasn’t the dollar value.
What I noticed was that 2 of the 3 checks I was depositing had logos printed on them that The Weaponry designed. Now we were not just getting paid with checks. Our work was literally on the checks, and on the envelopes in which the checks were mailed.
When I first envisioned The Weaponry I imagined the agency impacting every touchpoint of the brands we worked with. But I hadn’t imagined getting paid for our efforts with checks that had logos on them the we had designed.
These brands were not tiny startups either. One of the checks came from a client of ours who is celebrating their 125th year in business. The other was from a brand owned by one of the best known companies in the world.
I took my time signing the checks as I soaked in the moment. Then I walked up to the teller with a smile even wider than usual. Knowing that The Weaponry is not just making money. We are making an impact on our clients’ businesses.
Entrepreneurship, like life, is an exciting journey. It is easy to lose sight of just how much progress you have made along the way. That’s why it is important to recognize those telltale signs that you are growing, building and improving. Keep your eyes open for your own important, yet often subtle signs of progress. They indicate that You have outgrown the You of yesterday. In the end that is all we can really hope for.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
Last Friday evening the commute from my office to my home was 7 hours-long. Not 7 minutes. 7 hours. While that may not be surprising in cities like Atlanta and Los Angeles, it is outside the normal range most other places.
I left the office at 5pm and didn’t pull into my driveway until just after 11pm. You math wizards are probable thinking, ‘Bro, that is 6 hours!’ (Actually, I hope all of you are thinking that.) But it was 7 hours. Because I crossed a time zone in the middle of the drive.
This reason the commute took 7 hours was not because of construction, an accident, weather or car problems. It was because I drove home from my office in Columbus, Ohio to my home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Home Office Strategy
When I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I adopted a home office strategy. Which meant that I wanted to have an office every place I’ve had a home. The strategy allows me to regularly travel to the places I feel most at home. It means I can continue to spend time with the close friends I’ve accumulated across the country. It also means that I can hire former teammates again. And become a great local resources for my former clients. (That is if I am not adding them to my team too…) #foreshadowing
The Weaponry C-Bus
The Weaponry has had an office in Columbus since March of 2019. We have a full-time creative team in that office. We are planning on adding more team members in Columbus by the end of the year as we continue to expand our presence in the Buckeye State.
Last week in Columbus I met with people I am recruiting. I met with potential collaborators and potential clients. I introduced a couple of exciting brand-building side projects to my team, in which The Weaponry itself could be developing its own brands. We also edited 7 new videos and commercials for one of our best clients.
As I wrapped up my work day on Friday and prepared to head home to Milwaukee I did 2 things I don’t usually do. First, at 4:30pm ET I called the local Donatos Pizza in Grandview, and ordered 2 large pepperoni pizzas. If you haven’t had a Donatos thin crust pepperoni pizza, with at least 100 slices of pepperoni on each large pizza, you are missing out. It is in an elite class with In-N-Out Burgers and Chick Fil-A nuggets as an elevated version of a classic American staple.
However, the pizzas were not for me. They were for my wife and kids in Milwaukee who needed a Donatos fix. (They also asked for bread from the Beehive Bakery in Powell, and the store-made tortilla chips from the Whole Foods in Dublin, which we have not found at a Whole Foods anywhere else in the country.)
Calling All Callers
The second unusual thing I did was share a message on Instagram requesting people to call me. The message looked somewhat exactly like this:
When I drive alone I love to catch up with people on the phone. This trip turned into a catch-up fest. On my drive I caught up with friends and family in:
New York City
Strengthen Your Bonds Like Barry
Keeping in contact with your people is really important. It’s how you invest in your relationships and continue to grow them. Unfortunately, most people spend very little time calling, texting or meeting up with people they haven’t seen in a long time. Those are exactly the people I love to reach out to most. Because the more recent your social interactions, the stronger your social bonds. (Bonds. Social Bonds.)
The Last Leg of The Journey
As I neared the end of my commute I drove through Milwaukee. It was 11pm CT on a beautiful summer night as I rolled through Brew City. If you’ve never been to Milwaukee, it is as a nice of a place to be during the summer as anywhere in America. I had my window down, my sunroof open (despite the lack of sun) and my music up as I hit my last 15 miles.
It was then that I was greeted by 2 fun surprises in downtown Milwaukee. I saw 2 billboards The Weaponry created for the UW Credit Union. They stood tall and clear and bright against the Milwaukee night. They were created to promote the expansion of the UW Credit Union footprint in Milwaukee.
Billboard Thing #1
Billboard Thing #2
Having these new billboards greet me after 6.5 hours of driving was a treat. Seeing your work in place, grabbing attention and offering a smile is always fun. But at that hour of night, at that point in my drive, they felt like a couple of juicy red cherries on top of a juicy red day.
We only get one shot at life. So be greedy. Design a life that lets you combine all of your favorite things. Find work you enjoy. Spend time with the people you enjoy. Live in and frequently visit the places you enjoy most. Keep your relationships active. And live like you are on one epic roadtrip. Because you are.
If you want to be successful in life it is important to surround yourself with other successful people. People who work hard, hold themselves to high standards and are continuously learning and growing. People like my friend Joe Chapman.
Joe is the Founder of Chapman Basketball Academy. CBA is a training academy in Milwaukee and Chicago for athletes of all ages and abilities who are dedicated to improving their basketball skills. Which makes Joe Chapman the poster boy for turning your passion into your profession.
The $2 Million Shot
I knew from the first time I saw Joe in action that he really knew how to coach basketball. Tonight, people across America will see. Because as a side project Joe decided to coach his fellow Marquette University alum in The Basketball Tournament. TBT is a prestigious, 64-team basketball tournament with an eye-popping $2-million, winner-take-all prize. It works just like March Madness, only the players are no longer in college. And there is no March.
Tonight Joe will be coaching his team in the championship game in Chicago for a chance at the $2 million prize. You can catch the game on ESPN at 9pm ET. You can catch my Joe Chapman story below.
Starting My Own Business
I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry in 2016 in Atlanta. A couple of former clients approached me about starting my own business. I jumped at the chance like Carl Lewis. About that same time in Milwaukee, Joe Chapman was also becoming an accidental entrepreneur.
The Cliff Notes On Joe Chapman
Joe grew up on the south side of Chicago and took to basketball at an early age. While he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he had something even more valuable. He had natural talent and a strong drive to continuously improve himself. Joe soaked up the lessons from his youth and high school coaches. He learned that basketball is a team game, and experienced great team success, winning an Illinois State Championship at Bloom High School.
Joe also experienced great individual success, and was named a McDonald’s All-American his senior year. He went on to play college basketball for Marquette University where he was part of the storied Tom Crean-coached team that reached the Final Four in 2003. That team included a bumper crop of basketball standouts including Dwayne Wade, Steve Novak and Travis Diener.
After graduating from Marquette with a degree in Communications & Media, Chapman played professional basketball overseas for 11 years. As a result, he accumulated basketball coaching techniques from all over the world. Which turned Joe into a walking encyclopedia of basketball knowledge. (For the younger readers, an encyclopedia is like Wikipedia in book form). Perhaps even more valuable, the language barrier he faced with many of his overseas teammates forced Joe to become fluent in universal, non-verbal forms of communication, feedback and motivation.
In 2016 while back in Milwaukee during his summer offseason, Joe was approached by fellow Marquette alum, Kim Marotta and fellow Marquette basketball alum, Corey Wolf, about putting his library of basketball coaching knowledge to use coaching some very talented high schoolers in Mequon, Wisconsin. What started as private lessons soon expanded to group lessons packed with aspiring young basketball players.
The demand for Joe’s time and expertise was so great that he was forced to make a difficult decision: go back to Europe in the fall for the next basketball season as planned, or fully commit to coaching and training the next generation of basketball stars. After much deliberation with his wife Carolyn, Joe decided to transition from playing basketball professionally to coaching, teaching and inspiring others through the game of basketball.
CBA Is Born
Joe soon had a name for his new adventure. Chapman Basketball Academy. And it was successful from the very start. CBA attracted high profile high school basketball players in Wisconsin who wanted to take their game to the next level.
Joe’s ability to develop basketball players began attracting a younger and broader audience. CBA began rapidly expanding through word of mouth, and the sound of dribbling throughout gyms on Milwaukee’s North Shore.
CBA meets The Weaponry
Joe and I crossed paths when he was approached about coaching the Homestead Basketball Club’s 6th grade girls basketball team. My family and I had recently moved to Mequon Wisconsin, and my daughter Ava was on that team.
I quickly saw just how talented Joe was. But as I got more exposure to CBA I couldn’t help but notice areas where my team at The Weaponry could help Joe polish and promote his business.
Coaching The Coach
Following HBC and AAU team practices, after CBA training sessions and while traveling for tournaments, Joe and I spent a lot of time talking about how we could better market Chapman Basketball Academy. I found that Joe was as coachable and open to learning as any client I have ever worked with. Which I expect is the reason he soaked up so much basketball knowledge in Europe, South America and Asia.
Working with Joe and his wife Carolyn, The Weaponry did a complete rebranding of the Chapman Basketball Academy. We created foundational elements like new logos, and tight brand standards. Knowing that business cards should be a critical part of CBA marketing, we created a series of 10 different business card designs, each intended to start a different conversation with coaches, athletes and parents.
We created portable standup banners that Joe could set up at any gym CBA coached at to instantly brand the space as Chapman Basketball Academy. We created logo and gear designs for the stable of AAU teams under the CBA banner. We explored advertising and sponsorship opportunities. As well as unique collaborations and co-branded experiences with other high profile coaches and athletes.
Joining The Board
A year ago Joe invited me to join the CBA board of directors, and I gladly accepted. I am proud to help him achieve his lofty vision through both marketing efforts, and as a close and trusted advisor.
Watching The Coach In Action
I typically get to watch Joe coaching a couple of times each week. It is fun to watch him work with the youth of Milwaukee, including my daughter Ava and son Magnus. But tonight it will be exciting to watch Joe coaching on national TV, with my kids on the couch next to me.
I hope we get to see Joe and his Golden Eagles team grab the $2-million prize tonight. But Joe has already won. By making it to the TBT championship game he has taught all the boys and girls Joe coaches across Wisconsin and Chicago that the techniques, teamwork and attitude that he emphasizes every day works at every level. And not just in basketball. But in everything you do in life.
Good Luck Joe! We’ll be cheering for you from Milwaukee!
I love complimenting others. It is one of my favorite things to do. I love recognizing a job well done. I like pointing out strengths. I love celebrating significant accomplishments. And I like telling people they look nice. I am like the Franks RedHot Lady. I put compliments on everything.
Go Big & Go Small
I compliment the big obvious performances. But I really like to highlight the small things that would typically fly under the radar. I love to show people that I noticed the details, the extra effort and the small sacrifices that were not likely to draw much attention.
Thinking Of Going Pro
If I could be a professional complementer I would. It’s one of the few professions that I would enjoy even more than my current role as an entrepreneur. It feels good to offer compliments. It calls more attention to the good things in life. Which in turn helps create a more positive world. Because complimenting is like carrying around a giant highlighter and marking a bright yellow swipe of sunshine on all the good things you find.
If I could change one thing.
As much as I love to give a compliment it often generates one of my greatest pet peeves. I really dislike it when people don’t know how to receive a compliment. You may think that denying a compliment makes you appear humble or modest. But it doesn’t. Because when you deny a compliment you are telling the complimenter that they are wrong. Which is rude. Unintentionally rude. But rude nonetheless. #3wordsin1
The Rudeness of Rejection
When you reject a compliment from someone you are telling them that they:
Have bad taste.
Don’t know what they are talking about.
Are too easily impressed.
Don’t know as much as you do.
Do This Instead
Even if you don’t feel worthy of praise you should gracefully accept it. There are many ways to properly accept a compliment. Here are just a few examples:
18 Acceptable Responses To A Compliment
Thank you. (this one works really well)
I appreciate that.
Thanks for noticing.
That is nice to hear.
You made my day.
You are so sweet (works better for ladies)
I’m just doing my job.
I’m thrilled you think so.
You would know.
That means a lot coming from you.
Do you really think so? (this allows them to heap more praise and offer more details)
I got lucky.
I am humbled.
It was a team effort.
That saying about blind squirrels.
Can you follow me around everyday?
Tell me more.
Can you write my Tinder profile? (I don’t know if there is such a thing.)
If you want to live in a world with more praise than criticism you have to learn how to accept a compliment. Because if you can’t take a compliment eventually there will be no compliments to deny. Don’t let that happen. Let’s encourage others to recognize the good they see.
Accept compliments with gratitude. Remember them. Write them down. And read them again whenever you need a confidence boost.
Remember, praise is one of the most meaningful gifts we can offer one another. So if you want to see more praise in circulation, make sure not to deny it when it comes your way.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story please share it with them.