Everyone has an ideal career path. For some it includes a 9 to 5 job, with no late nights and no weekends. For others it means working from home in your Underoos. And for others the ideal career ends in early retirement. Which makes me want to throw up.
I hate the idea of early retirement. Yet people talk about it as if it was the Holy Grail. It is not. It is a way to escape an unfulfilling and unrewarding job.
The Better Alternative
You know what is better than early retirement? A really, really late retirement, because you love the work you do so much that you can’t imagine stopping. The Rolling Stones are older than dirt. But they still tour, still put on an amazing show, and still have fun doing it. But you don’t have to be a rockstar to love your job. I know accountants and receptionists, postal workers and even lawyers who deeply enjoy their work.
I have loved my entire career. In fact, by the end of my first week in advertising I was totally hooked. Every day brings me fun new puzzles to solve. Each job promotion has brought me new challenges, learnings and excitement. It doesn’t hurt that I also met my wife at work. #BenefitsHRdidNotTellMeAbout
When I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, the challenge of entrepreneurship and creating the perfect agency became an amazing and rewarding new adventure. Now I am constantly discovering other interesting career opportunities I hope I have a chance to pursuit before my ticker tuckers out.
Johnny Paycheck once famously sang, ‘Take This Job and Shove It!’ But I say take your early retirement and shove it. Instead, find work you’d rather not retire from. Do that and you are winning at life. And contributing and earning and learning and growing. And racing and pacing and plotting the course. #NameThatTune
The right work makes you feel strong, smart and productive. It makes you feel valuable and wanted. Most importantly, it makes you feel fulfilled.
Instead of escaping your career misery through the trap door of early retirement, make a change. Like Michael Jackson said. Do what you love, delegate or hire for the rest, and make money until you are too old to spend it all.
If you really want to retire early you haven’t found the right job. Find rewarding work and you will never want to give it up.
*If you know someone who needs to hear this message, please share it with them.
One of the unfortunate realities of life is that we don’t get to see the full impact of our actions during our lifetime. A life well lived not only creates a positive influence on friends, families and communities, but that influence can be felt for years if not generations after we are gone.
One year ago today on May 17, 2018, I published a blog post about the unexpected passing of my great friend and former client, Steven Schreibman. I had no idea when I wrote the post that it would become the most popular post I ever published (and far more popular than the posts I haven’t published).
If Steven were here today he would have said, ‘Oh Adam, the reason it was the most popular is because today you went from one reader to two!’ And we would have had a big, loud laugh about it. But Steven’s good natured math joke would not have been true. Last year my blog was read in 105 different countries by tens of thousands of people. Yet the post about Steven was still the most popular. In fact, the first 3 days after I published the SS post represent 3 of the 5 highest traffic days my blog has seen in the 3.5 years I’ve been writing. Which means Steven was responsible for generating Los Angeles, Atlanta and Boston levels of traffic.
The quantity and quality of the comments, texts, calls and emails I got about that post also surpassed all others. Because Steven had touched so many lives. What I shared in my post turned out to be not just my experience, but the universal experience of everyone who had the good fortune of crossing paths with Steven.
There is nothing more important than the positive impact we have on other people. This is true at work, at play, at home and around the world. Steven had a profound impact on everyone he encountered. He showed us that we all can in our own unique way. Thanks again Steven for all the laughs, the kindness and intelligence you shared with us. Thanks for your over-the-top delivery. And most of all, thank you for being you.
If you’d like to read or re-read the original Steven Schreibman post, here it is:
Your network is one of your most valuable assets. But how much work should you put into building and maintaining your network? It’s an even more important question to ask than how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck would. But I bet you don’t have a good answer to either question. And neither did I. Until now.
Recently I bought a couple of books by Gary Keller. In addition to being a best selling author, Keller is the co-founder of Keller Williams Realty. Which, my Spidey Sense tells me, is how the company got its first name.
In The Millionaire Real Estate Investor Keller writes a lot about Your Work Network. He breaks this network down into 3 concentric circles:
Your Inner Circle,
Your Support Circle
Your Service Circle
The inner circle is comprised of your mentors, partners and consultants. The support circle is comprised of the core people you need to support and advise you on specific work transactions. The service circle consists of all the people that you may need to perform specialized tasks with a limited scope.
Your 3 Rings
Regardless of whether you are involved in real estate or a stay at home mom or dad, you have a network with a similar 3-ring structure. Which is not to be confused with the 3-ring circus, 3-ring binder or the 3-ring rule when answering a call after a first date.
Envisioning your network as concentric circles is useful, but not not mind blowing. However, I found Keller’s recommendation on how to maintain your network relationships thought provoking.
Maintaining Your Network
Keller writes that to maintain your work relationships you should:
Call Them Every Month
Mail Them Something of Interest Every Month
Meet With The Members of Your Inner Circle Every Month
This is a great rule of thumb. Most of us probably fall nowhere near this level of contact with our network. But we should. Calling is easy. If you broaden the term mailing to include email and texting you can certainly do a whole lot of #2 (#snickering). And meeting with the members of your inner circle once a month should be a no brainer, scarecrow.
You get out of your network what you put into it. Try Keller’s advice to stay connected to those in your network once a month. Start with your inner rings. We should all fully invest in our inner circle on a monthly basis. However, increasing your investment in your middle, or even your outer ring could pay huge dividends for you both personally and professionally. So as Rhianna said, work, work, work, work, work on putting more work into your network. And you are sure to draw more great things your way.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this idea, please share it with them.
I have had many great opportunities throughout my career. The kind of opportunities most people who work in advertising never get. I’ve never taken any of it for granted. But when I started my own advertising agency, I wondered if I would be able to create the same kind of opportunities for my own agency. Or if we would spend most of our time creating coupons for gerbil food and pro bono flyers for Book-A-Roo at my kid’s school.
Today I am thrilled to say The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, has worked with an American president (Jimmy Carter), an innovative sport aircraft brand (Icon Aircraft) and the people who rescue climbers on Mt. Everest (Global Rescue). We’ve worked with fun brands from Quebec (SeaDoo, BRP, Prevost & Volvo Bus) to California (Sunrun). And since 2016 we have worked with the international sporting goods powerhouse, Mizuno.
Mizuno is a Japanese sports equipment and sportswear company. It was founded in Osaka in 1906 by Rihachi Mizuno (who is on my all-name team, along with my college buddy, Azree Commander). Today, Mizuno is a major player in baseball, softball and volleyball around the world.
If you are a serious golfer you know that Mizuno makes the best irons in the business. Mizuno makes the best racing suit for competitive swimmers. They also make amazing running shoes. Including my favorites, the Wave Riders. I currently have them in Badger Red and Anatomy Gray. (Ok, maybe I just made up those color names.)
In the fall of 2018 The Weaponry began work on a really fun new project for Mizuno North America. Mizuno had already introduced their new Reach Beyond tagline internationally. But they wanted our help to determine how the theme should be adapted for the US Market.
Exploring Like Dora
We explored a broad range of options for Mizuno. We shared 7 different campaign angles. Each direction brought the brand message to life in its own unique way. In the creative process we always explore a wide variety of looks, language and tones. It’s a hallmark of The Weaponry Way. Which is why clients turn to us when they want a fresh new perspective and a variety of creative options.
There was one brand direction that Mizuno especially liked. It was not about winning and losing. Or being the best in the world. It was about the training you do to compete with yourself. We call it Beyond Training.
This commercial features Olympic swimmer Blake Pieroni. And a lot of bubbles.
Beyond Training is about putting in the work to set new personal records. It is about you reaching beyond your own previous bests. I think this is the greatest mission in life. And one of the greatest elements, if not the greatest element of sports.
We believe that Reaching Beyond is about continuously pushing yourself to see just how much you are capable of. I love that this idea accommodates for athletes at all stages of life. It allows us all to frame our best in whatever way is most relevant and most motivating today. As an athlete in my 40s I am encouraged to reach beyond the best I have done this year, or this decade. That idea is exciting to me, and keeps me pushing myself.
We found that athletes are good at creating a relevant frame of reference for self improvement. This is true whether you are a world class swimmer at the top of your game, a 70-year old golfer who wants to be the very best they can be this year, or a 7th grade track athlete just getting started. The key is to continuously work to better yourself. And that is the spirit the Mizuno Reach Beyond brand campaign captures.
We have created a series of brand commercials that will run both online and on TV. We have also created a billboard campaign that we will roll out throughout this year.
We worked with Olympic gold medal swimmer Blake Pieroni in Atlanta. We filmed professional baseball player Austin Riley at the Atlanta Braves spring training facility in Orlando. We filmed runners Ali Ritter and Alexa Crow, on urban trails in Atlanta before dawn. And we shot golfers Jackson Kemper and Todd Ormsby at a driving range at night, in the rain. (Sorry guys.)
One of several commercials that are part of the Mizuno brand campaign. This one features pro baseball player Austin Riley.
To create this work we hired a phenomenal Milwaukee-based photographer, Lucian McAfee. He’s a great shooter. But more importantly, he is a really fun and nice guy. Fun fact, Lucian’s brother Jesse was a track teammate of mine at the University of Wisconsin. Go Badgers!
The Production Company
We worked with Proper Medium out of Atlanta for all of the video. We have worked with this team on great projects for UPS, Fifth Third Bank, and Global Rescue, and they always hit it out of the park. Unless we are shooting swimmers. In which case they hit it out of the pool. Proper Medium and Lucian are both really great at what they do. Plus they worked really well together. Like peas and carrots.
This spot tells you why should not reach your potential.
The Great Clients!
Big thanks to our clients Harper Cornell and Tomohiro Ota at Mizuno for leading this work and letting us collaborate with them. Thanks to Shelby Novak and to Clint Sammons at Mizuno for all your help pulling off the swimming and baseball shoots.
I am extremely thankful to The Weapons that worked on this project, including Adam Emery, Kevin Kayse, Jeanne Mayer, and Tony Sharpe. You guys crush things.
Self improvement is about reaching beyond your previous best. It’s what we should strive for ever day. Whether we are Olympians, office workers or stay at home Moms, we can all get better at what we do. Reaching beyond your previous best in any endeavor is more meaningful and more rewarding than winning. Because it is all about your journey and your personal performance. Reaching Beyond is what I am trying to do in my career and my athletics. I hope you are too. Because as Eminem said, ‘You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.’
Earlier this week I faced a problem. And the problem was on my face. On Sunday night I noticed that a blood vessel had burst in my left eye. It didn’t hurt me, but it hurt anyone who had to look at me. Unfortunately, my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, had a significant first meeting scheduled with a brand new client’s executive team.
If you haven’t already read that post, you may want to take a look at it before proceeding with chapter 2. Or you could be a rebel and read them in reverse order. You so crazy…
Here’s What Happened
In addition to writing the blog post, I called Calla Stanford, the Account Leader on the business. I told her about my eye. And then the plot thickened… It turns out that Calla was extremely sick and was about to go see her doctor. UFDA! (Ufda is not a text-cronym. It’s Norwegian for whatever you need it to mean.)
I sent a message to our client explaining that my eye had suddenly gone Red Rum, and that Calla was sick and would not be able to attend the meeting. I inquired about the possibility of moving the meeting. But I added that I was still willing to attend alone, and wear something that would protect their team from my evil eye. Like sunglasses, a grocery bag or a 1920’s dive helmet.
A few minutes later they called to tell me that they were looking for another meeting time. They called back again within the hour to say that it would be weeks before the same team could assemble. So they preferred to proceed with our original meeting time. And they were mentally preparing themselves for Eyemageddon.
Let’s Do This
I prepared to handle the meeting solo. Meanwhile, helpful friends, family and blog readers were offering great advice. Many people encouraged me to proceed as if there were no problem. Others said call the client to explain the situation and ask them how they want to proceed. Which, of course, is what I did.
However, the most popular advice I received was to proceed with the meeting as planned, but rock an eyepatch to cover up the offending eye. Several people encouraged me to take it one step further and brand the eyepatch with The Weaponry logo. Surprisingly, no one encouraged me to guzzle Visine.
Looking For An Eyepatch
As I was getting ready for work on the morning of the meeting, I asked my wife where we might have an eye patch. She told me to check our 8-year old son Magnus’ room. I went to his room, opened the drawer in his night stand, and within 5 seconds found an eyepatch! Yay! But a minute later, when I tried to put it on, I realized the elastic band was way too small to circumnavigate my head. Boo!
So I went back to the same drawer in Magnus’ room to see if there was any chance that there was another eyepatch that fit a more mature cranium. Sure enough, within 10 seconds of searching I found another eyepatch! And this one was big enough to fit Jack Sparrow’s head after a full day of compliments.
I went to the meeting, solo, as planned. And it was great. I had properly warned them about my issue. I had given them the ability to choose how they wanted to proceed. So there was no surprise. And no disappointment. (That I know of.)
The issue created a great topic of conversation at both the beginning and the end of the meeting. But the eye was a non-issue in between. Instead, we focused on the business at hand. I also positioned myself at the front, on the left side of the room. This meant that the team primarily saw Righty Winksalot, (my nickname for my good eye).
After we wrapped up the business end of the meeting we all gathered for a photo. I always enjoy a good group photo op. But under normal circumstances I would not have taken a pic after a kickoff meeting. But then again, this wasn’t a normal circumstance.
Ask and Ye Shall Receive. I received a lot of good, supportive and humorous feedback from my people that helped me make my decision. Thank you all.
Honesty is the best policy. I shared my challenge with the new client and let them decide how they wanted to proceed. And they said Let’s Roll! So we rolled.
Everyone loves an eyepatch. The amount of love shown for the eyepatch was a significant surprise. Then again, eyepatches are intriguing. Like a good ad, the eyepatch makes you stand out from the crowd, and makes people want to know more.
Things go wrong all the time. You will never be able to avoid all problems. Learning how to deal with whatever comes your way is one of the most valuable skills you will ever develop.
*If you know someone with a bad eye, a nasty rash or simple chronic halitosis, who you think could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
**For those of you paying close attention to the details, the photo used as the featured image for this post was taken as a selfie, using Instagram. Instagram doesn’t un-reverse a reversed image. Therefore it looks like it was my right eye. But it is my left.
When I set out to launch my own business I had no idea what I was doing. So I talked to a lot of successful entrepreneurs. I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to launch and run a company. I was looking for the standard tips and tricks. What I quickly discovered was that there are no standard anythings. Everyone I talked to had their own recipe for success. Or what I call a successipe. Which is a mashup of success and recipe. Admittedly, successipe works better as a spoken word than as a written word. But I have no editor deleting this. So it stays.
Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
When you are learning a new skill or craft, is is a great idea to talk to people who have already done what you are attempting to do. Ask questions. Listen. Observe. Borrow or steal proven plays from someone else’s playbook. It’s how we capitalize on other people’s experiences and mistakes. Which allows you to grow faster than bumbling and fumbling alone. #peeweeherman
A Memorable Encounter
As I prepared to launch my own advertising agency I met with a very successful entrepreneur. I was extremely excited to learn from him, because I greatly admired him as both a friend and a businessman. Over the course of our conversation I remember 3 pieces of good advice he gave me:
Do NOT name your company The Weaponry.
Perfect your elevator pitch.
Focus on your Pro Forma.
This was a trifecta of good advice. All 3 points were grounded in decades of experience. But none of this advice fit with my world view. Or my approach to business. Or my appetite for risk. So I didn’t take any of it.
I love the name The Weaponry. I love that it sounds strong and provocative. I love that it elicits questions. If you want a great conversation starter tell people you work at The Weaponry. When people ask about our name, and people always ask, I have a great answer that always wins people over. I’ve written about our name in the post: What In The World Does The Weaponry Do?.
I am not trying to play it safe, or avoid a raised eyebrow. In fact, I like a good raised eyebrow. I’ve been getting them my whole life. Today, 3 years into my entrepreneurial journey, I can tell you that The Weaponry’s name has been a powerful weapon for our business.
The Elevator Pitch
I hate the term elevator pitch. I have never once found myself on an elevator with a couple of floors to pitch for my one and only chance to woo a client. It’s a bullshit term that assumes we have one specific offering for our customers. That is not how The Weaponry rolls. And I knew that from the very start.
My sales pitch is not a sales pitch. It is a conversation. It focuses on unmet needs. If you don’t have any unmet needs my elevator pitch is not going to work anyway. And if a potential client ever tells me I have :30 seconds to sell myself or she will bang a gong (#PowerStation), I know we are probably not right for each other. I have written about my disdain for such nonsense in This is where I encourage you to pitch your elevator pitch.
The Pro Forma
Pro forma refers to a method of calculating projected financial results using certain presumptions and projections. It’s a very finance-centric approach that simply isn’t how I process the world. In fact, in these early years of rapid growth creating a pro forma feels like fiction writing.
In our first year, The Weaponry started with no clients. So our projections would have been $0 in revenue. Then, we started acquiring clients, but we had no retainers or contracts guaranteeing how much the clients would ultimately spend. So what could I project? Totally made up numbers? In years 2 and 3 The Weaponry doubled in business. I could neither predict nor plan on that type of growth either. What to do?
The Kite Flying Method
What I use instead of a pro forma is what I call the Kite Flying Method. When you fly a kite, your goal is to get the kite as high in the sky as possible. This is a matter of wind and string. To fly the kite higher and higher you let out string, little by little, based on what your wind will keep aloft. You can’t plan your kite height ahead of time. You have to react to the conditions, in the moment, based on the wind you have to work with.
To do this right I always play it conservatively. I let out less string than the wind would support. This keeps tension on the string and keeps the kite in the air. You also have to know the difference between sustained wind and a short term gust.
All of this is to say that we invest only what our revenue allows. When revenue increases, we can spend more. We have a wish list of positions we would like to hire and resources we would like to have. But we only hire or buy what we can clearly cover today. I have also written about this in a post called If you want to be an entrepreneur start by flying a kite.
There are a broad range of ways to be successful. Don’t let anyone make you think there is only one approach. You have to find what works for you, and your unique set of beliefs. It is great to have a Mastermind Group to turn to. It is wonderful to study others who have done or are doing what you aspire to do. But you don’t have to emulate them. In fact, you can do just the opposite if it feels right to you. Study, learn and listen. Incorporate the things you like. Or invent your own approach. There is no right way. Be your own boss. Be true to yourself. And do it your way.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
I always wanted to start my own advertising agency. So on April 12th, 2016 I went online and officially registered The Weaponry LLC. I then marched over to another website where I got a federal tax ID number. I surfed over to a Capital One’s website, where I applied for a Visa Spark Card, because my friend Dan Richards recommended that credit card for business. Finally, I headed to the bank to set up a business checking and savings account for The Weaponry. And just like that, I had birthed a business.
The Hard Part
Setting up a business is easy. Any teenager can do it. The hard part is building a machine that will feed, clothe and shelter you and your family. It’s even harder to feed, clothe and shelter additional employees and their dependents. That’s why I am so proud The Weaponry is celebrating its 3rd birthday! We have doubled our business in the past year. And thankfully, I am not naked, starving or homeless.
The 3rd birthday is a fun milestone to reach. Just as each wedding anniversary is represented by a different gift (Honey I got you a new sponge!), each business birthday represents something unique. The first birthday is the ‘We’re really doing this!’ birthday. The second is the ‘We’re still alive!’ birthday. And the third is the ‘Now we’re rolling!’ birthday.
Indeed, The Weaponry is rolling. This past year has been exciting for our team.
A Few Highlights:
We hired more full-time and part-time staff.
We renewed our lease on our first office in Milwaukee.
We opened a new office in Columbus, Ohio.
We worked with President Jimmy Carter.
We worked with Olympic Gold Medalists Jennie Finch and Blake Pieroni.
Members of our team experienced work traveled to Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington DC, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, California, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
We had our first International shoot, on the other side of the world, in India.
A fun experience was had by all.
In the last 12 months we have worked with 23 Clients! Who works with 23 clients? I guess The Weaponry does.
Our broad and diverse client roster reminds me of one of my favorite things about being a business owner: I get to say yes to anything I am interested in doing. As result we have a fun mix of large, medium and small clients. Just as crop rotation keeps farm fields producing at their best, the variety of industries we play in keeps our team fresh and stimulated with a constant stream of new and varied challenges.
10 Lessons From My 3rd Year of entrepreneurship.
As I reflect on this past year I have gathered a few key lessons I’ve learned. Here they are in a particular order.
People make all the difference. A business is nothing but a collection of people running plays together. So find great people to run great plays and you are likely to experience great success.
Slow and steady wins the race. At The Weaponry we are trying to build a business that lasts forever. You make different decisions when your goal is to survive eternally instead of generating hockey stick growth or making a quick sale.
Do the important but not urgent work. Maintain your human relationships and invest time and energy in them. This will pay you back in a wide variety of rewarding ways.
Diversify your clients. With so many different clients we are well-balanced financially. All of our clients are important to us. None of them are critical to our survival.
Nothing is sure. We signed a large monthly retainer with a new client last summer, only to deal with a major reorganization within their business that changed everything one month later. I received a ‘This is your official notice that we are activating our right to cancel this agreement!’ from someone I didn’t know. Those things can happen at anytime.
You never know when you are going to get the next opportunity of a lifetime. I got a random but welcomed call one day from my good friend Dennis Giglio at Fifth Third Bank, telling me that he had a project he wanted us to work on, and that there was a good chance we would have to go to India to shoot part of it. He was right. And it was amazing. Thank you Fifth Third and SLK Global friends for the opportunity!
Set Your Sights High. The Weaponry has Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, and they force us to grow. I share our goals with our team in every agency-wide meeting. And despite the largeness of the goals, or perhaps because of them, I can always see the team focus, and lean in when we restate them. Everyone knows what we are after. We all know that we have a lot of work to do to close the gap between where we are today and our idealized, fully formed version of ourselves. And we are willing to do the work to get there.
Use A System For Growth. We use the EOS System from the book Traction by Gino Wickman. It makes a huge difference. If you are struggling to make satisfying progress with either a startup or a fully formed business, pick up this book and start the EOS Process. Setting quarterly rocks helps a business focus on continually moving the business forward. (This has been an unpaid endorsement of the book Traction. You can find it by clicking here.)
Make Cash Flow plans This past year The Weaponry was owed a lot of money. For several months we carried an accounts receivable balance of over $700,000. Which meant that we had performed that much work, had paid what it cost us to create the work, but were not yet paid by our clients. You have to have a plan for such times. Because a business that runs out of cash is like a car that runs out of gas, or a human that runs out of blood.
Develop Great Partners Over the past year other businesses that we partner with on projects have brought great new clients to us. This is a total game changer. Because it is like having an additional business development team, or multiple business development teams bringing you opportunities. Sometimes it comes in the form of a collaboration. But other times the work comes simply as a trusted referral. And it works like compounded interest. Which is why you should compound your interest in great partners.
The Weaponry continues to grow. I am learning and growing just as much as the business. I have not done any of this alone. My fellow Weapons have been key to our success. As has the growing list of great clients we are lucky to work with. Thank you for following the story or being part of the story as it unfolds. It’s been an exciting adventure. I look forward to what the next year brings!
*If you know anyone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.