Today is the day I leave for India!

I start my journey to India today. The team at my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, are working on a project with a really impressive business in Bangalore. But the first big moment of the trip actually came yesterday. 24 hours before takeoff I received a push notification from Delta that it was time to check in for my flight. I have traveled so much that the mere check-in notice doesn’t usually get me excited. But this one did. There is so much unknown ahead of me in the next 30 hours that I got a fun flock of butterflies flittering in my stomach. I love that feeling. It makes me feel both alive and buttery.

The first big question is, How will I tolerate 2-hour, 8.5-hour and 10-hour flights back to back to back?  I have a regular-person seat for both long flights. No first class or business class. No exit row. No incrementally-less-discomfortable seats. The second question obviously is, Do I have enough material to maintain over 20 hours of conversations with my seat mates? I am sure whoever sits next to me on the long flights is going to expect us to have an ultramarathon conversation, like at a no-sleep sleepover. And I don’t want to disappoint.

administration army banner border
I flagged today to fly to India on a day that India is flying a flag. 

Today’s Indiatinerary

I leave Milwaukee just before 1pm today and fly to Atlanta. I have a 2-hour layover in my other-home airport, and meet up with my fellow Weapon, Adam Emery. Adam, or Henry as we call him, is our Associate Creative Director, and has been a full-time employee of The Weaponry for a year. When you celebrate an anniversary as a full-time team member of The Weaponry, we like to offer a special project, like working with a celebrity athlete or something that allows you to fly to the other side of the planet. #benefits

From Atlanta, Henry and I have an 8+ hour flight to Paris. There, we will try to find an all-you-can-eat croissants buffet during our 3-hour layover. We will also meet up with the two clients who are traveling with us. I envision us filling our lengthy layover with sitcom-style airport hijinks, and general foreign country hilarity. After 3 hours of ooh la la-ing, we will jump on the final leg of the journey to India. Our 10 hour flight will take us to Bangalore, also known as Bengaluru, where we plan to watch Hulu with a guru.

people inside airport
This is exactly what I expect the airport to look like in Bangalore, except none of the signs will mention Helsinki.

If all goes according to plan, we will arrive in India just before midnight on Sunday night. Then Henry and I will catch a ride with a transportation service to our hotel in the city center, which is about 35 kilometers from the airport.

This will definitely be interesting adventure. I have watched a bunch of movies to prepare me for this experience. My Pre-India Film Festival included Gandhi, Eat. Pray. Love., Slumdog Millionaire, Lion and Hoosiers. I later realized that Hoosiers actually took place in Indiana. Oops. (or should I say Hoops?)

Thanks for following the journey. I also plan to post updates, pics, vids and stories on Instagram at @adamalbrecht if connectivity allows.

Let’s do this!

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There is an exciting new trip on my entrepreneurial journey.

My career in advertising has been an amazing adventure. The interesting experiences I’ve had at work could fill a book. Or at least a blog. I have never taken any of this for granted. And I always look forward to what each new project will bring.

Travel

One of the great benefits of my career is that I have done a lot of travel. I have spent more time in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago than I can count. I love each of those cities, and feel at home in all three. But these great American cities represent a small sliver of my business adventures.

My work travel has taken me to Alaska where I was awed by the Northern Lights. I have snowmobiled on glaciers and ATV’d on black sand beaches during the summer solstice in Iceland. I have worked with 100 men in pink bodysuits in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I spent a week in a camper in the Baja peninsula of Mexico while filming trophy trucks bombing across the desert. I have ridden a 1500 foot zipline in Whistler, British Columbia. I have flown to Quebec City on a private jet to ride a secret snowmobile on a 50 mile long private trail. And I was being paid to do it all.

My Entrepreneurial Journeys

When I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I wondered how long it would be until I added to noteworthy travel. Over the past couple of years I have certainly traveled a good bit. My journal says that work for The Weaponry has taken me to the following places:

  • Boston
  • San Francisco
  • Montreal
  • Cincinnati
  • Columbus
  • Atlanta
  • Miami
  • Las Vegas
  • Fort Myers
  • Minneapolis
  • Madison
  • Salt Lake City
  • Athens, GA
  • Albany, GA
  • Houston

Taking It To The Next Level

Today I am thrilled to share that I have some really exciting new travel coming up. This Saturday I am going to India! The Weaponry is filming a fascinating global business based in Bangalore, which for those of you who don’t know, is the Silicon Valley of India. Bangalore may be the largest city you’ve never heard of. At a population of 12 million people, it is 12 times larger than any city with 1 million people! (I did the math)

I have never been to India. So this is an exciting new experience for me. The travel itself will be an adventure. Total travel time each way will take 25 hours. I will be in India for just 75 hours, because I need to get home for my wedding anniversary. Which means that my ratio of traveling-time to being-there-time is nothing to envy.

Shots! Shots! Shots!

Last week I got shots for Typhoid Fever and Hepatitis A (which I thought is what Canadians call Hepatitis). I received Malaria medicine and anti-diarrheal medicine. This is the first time anti-diarrheal has appeared in this blog. You know you are embarking on an epic journey when you get counseled on Malaria and diarrhea strategies.

I also called Global Rescue to cover me while I am traveling. This membership-based organization is a life saver. Because if you become ill or injured when traveling internationally, they will come and get you, and bring you home to the hospital of your choice. Even better, Global Rescue was The Weaponry’s founding client, and we are thrilled to be members today.

ball ball shaped color earth
This is a globe. You can tell it’s not a picure of the Earth from outer space because it has words on it.

Key Takeaway

Once again, my entrepreneurial journey is presenting an opportunity to do, see and learn new things. Thanks to this business I launched, I am going to visit a new continent, a new country and a new culture on the other side of the world. From the beginning, I expected The Weaponry would enable me and my team members to do amazing things together. And it has. But this upcoming trip takes the proverbial cake.

*I will share updates throughout my experience. If you want to follow along, consider subscribing to this blog.

It’s time to tell the full truth about the business I made up.

Three years ago I started writing the story of a fictional advertising and idea agency. I dreamed up the details of the business and then wrote them down in a notebook. I would fire up my laptop, open a google doc, and fill it with vivid descriptions of this company that only I could see. In the same way that children have imaginary friends, I had an imaginary ad agency. I thought about that agency all the time. I was obsessed.

The more I thought about it, the more I wrote about it. And the more I wrote about it the more vivid this fictional business became to me. So I did something crazy. I started talking to other people about my imaginary agency. I described it as if were absolutely real. I told people what kind of services it offered, what kind of people worked there. I talked about its culture and why it was the perfect agency. I even gave it a name.

Then a funny thing happened. Other people began talking about this completely fictional agency like it was a real business. They started asking questions about it. Smart, talented,  sane people wanted to know if they could work there.

So I began talking to marketing professionals and business owners about my imaginary agency. Then something unbelievable happened. Someone asked if they could hire this imaginary agency to create some real advertising.

Suddenly, this agency that was completely made up had a real client, a real project to work on, and a real deadline. I quickly filled the imaginary roles within the agency with real people, who did the real work and delivered real ads to a real business for real money.

From that moment on, this fictional story of mine became non-fiction. People started referring to my imaginary agency by name. They called it The Weaponry. The United States Government started sending it mail. Businesses started sending it money. People started listing it as their employer, and banks started calling it to make sure it was ok to offer applicants mortgages. How crazy is that?

Key Takeaway 

If you want to create a real business you start by creating a fictional business. Imagine every detail. Write it all down. Paint a picture so vivid it feels absolutely real. Talk about it in such detail that others start to see it too. Give it a name. Others will start calling it by that name too. Talk about your fake business to real customers and clients. It will be weird and surreal. It will warp and bend your sense of reality for a while. But if you believe in it enough, others will too. Then suddenly, and undeniably it will all become completely real. I know it sounds crazy. But it’s true.  

Is there enough adventure in your career?

In 2006 I had a 365 day calendar. You know, the type of calendar that has 365 sheets that are stacked like a thick pad of post it notes. I don’t remember the theme of the calendar. In fact, I have forgotten 364 of the pages. But there is one page that I will never forget. At least until the Alzheimer’s kicks in.

My life in 2006

The date was Friday, July 21, 2006. I had been at my first job out of college for nearly 10 years. I had been married to my wife, Dawn, for nearly 4 years. We had owned our first home for 2 years. And our first child, our daughter Ava, was about to celebrate her first birthday by smashing a cupcake into her face.

That July morning I tore off the July 20th page on my calendar like it was yesterday’s news (because it was), and revealed the following message:

“I have always wanted an adventurous life. It took a long time to realize that I was the only one who could make an adventurous life happen to me.” -Richard Bach

The Quote

This quickly became one of my favorite quotes. It serves as a constant reminder to adventure. To try new things. To move beyond our comfort zones. To make our insurance premiums worth paying.

IMG_2061
I keep this little square as a constant reminder to adventure.

We should adventure on our weekends, on our vacations and holidays. But we should also adventure at home on Wednesday nights. We should adventure in our reading and eating and driving. We should try new things, and semi-dangerous or even full-strength dangerous things on a regular basis. We should do the things Rupert Holmes sings about in The Pina Colada song (I know it’s called Escape, but who really calls it that? His lawyer?).

My Career

Shortly after reading this quote I turned my career into a legitimate adventure. After 10 years at my first job I moved on to my second job. I also moved to a new state, and took on 3 successively larger positions over the next 4 years. 7 years later, Engauge, the ad agency I worked for, was bought by Publicis Groupe, and I moved to Atlanta in a new role in a new company. Then, in 2015 I began planning to start my own business. Because that seemed like the natural next step.

Entrepreneurship

There is no career adventure like owning your own business. In April of 2016 I launched the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. And it has been the most exciting chapter of my career. As an entrepreneur, you learn like a college student on a daily basis. Which means that you are constantly growing and pushing yourself into unfamiliar situations.

It is in the pushing and growing and unfamiliar that the adventure happens. Threats and opportunities and excitement now surround me every day. And I love it. It is better than a television show, movie, or book. Because it is happening to me. I am not feeling someone else’s drama. It is very much my own.

Key Takeaway

Before you know it we will all be dead. So while we are here, create your own adventure.    Take that new job. Make that move. Go on that trip. Change careers completely, or get more schooling if you need to do what you really want to do. Start your own business or consult of side hustle or whatever it takes to add more venturing to your life. Give the person who delivers your eulogy something to write about. Give the rest of us great stories to read about.

Remember, no one makes it out of here alive. So there is no use in playing it safe. But as Richard Bach told me in 2006, no one else can give you an adventurous life. You have to make it yourself.

Why you should think more like a crack dealer.

I have never done any drugs and I never plan to. When I was a kid Nancy Reagan told me to just say no to drugs. And I listened. Then Whitney Houston told me that crack is whack. But I’m not sure she was even listening to herself. Although I don’t blame her. There are a lot of people who can’t seem to get enough crack. In fact, saying that something ‘is like crack’ is the ultimate customer experience compliment.

Getting Customers Hooked.

If you have a great product or service that you think people will love, think like a crack dealer. The crack dealer does not try to sell potential customers on the various product benefits of crack. They do not share testimonials, or research findings. Or charts and graphs. They don’t print up brochures highlighting the various features of their products, or images of happy users.

The crack dealer knows they have a hit (pun intended). So they give away the crack for free. Then they let the crack experience sell itself. And customers come running back for more. That is, until they come shuffling back for more, shaking like a Parkinson’s Disease victim.

Sample As Sales Tool

Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have found that when we give our strategic thinking, our creative ideas and our enthusiasm away for free, the recipient very often comes back for more. I want our initial free meetings to feel like test drives of a real engagement. This approach has been a key driver of our growth and success. In fact I wrote about it here in Give it away, Give it away now!

Key Takeaway

If you want to start selling a product or service that you know is great, or you have a great offering that you are not selling enough of, try acting like a crack dealer. Give your crack away for free. Let your ideal customers experience your crack first hand. Let them feel what they are missing. Get them addicted to your crack over a short time period, or in a small quantity. Then capitalize on the addiction over the long-term. But never lower the quality of the product or service.

If the free sample doesn’t get customers hooked, your crack needs work. In which case you should keep refining and improving your crack until it is fully addictive. Focus on the lifetime value of a new customer, and the free samples will feel like a tiny price to pay for future sales.

*Don’t ever really do crack. Or sell crack. Don’t step on a crack. Don’t break your Mama’s back. And don’t show your crack. Not even if you are a plumber.

Great advice I didn’t take, but maybe you should.

In the first half of 2013 I was in New York City every week. I was the Chief Creative Officer of a 275 person ad agency called Engauge. And we were in the process of selling the agency. A four person leadership team from Engauge shared our story, our work and our finances with 15 potential suitors, ranging from Conde Nast to the Paris-based advertising agency holding company, Publicis, who eventually purchased the agency. However, Conde Nast provided the greatest challenge in the process, because the room that we presented in was plastered with oversized prints of topless women. Which lead to my short-term bout with Attention Deficit Disorder.

LGA

One evening after one of our many meetings with potential investors on Wall Street, Engauge President Jeff Hilimire and I headed to the Laguardia airport for our flight home. But first we stopped and grabbed burgers at a barely-open Five Guys at the airport. It was in that small, yet-highly caloric moment, that we proceeded to have one of the most important conversations of my entrepreneurial journey.

Going through an exit (sale) process like we were going through, you are forced to think about the next chapter of your career. Because depending on who purchases your business, some unknown combination of the leadership team will no longer be needed in the new organization. Some of us were on the business equivalent of a Kamikaze mission. Or maybe it was the business equivalent to Russian Roulette. Or maybe I am just being dramatic with an international flair. Either way, Jeff and I each discussed our future in a very open Komono way (I can’t stop).

The Only Job For Jeff.

Jeff told me, ‘There is only one title I ever want again.’

I was curious what that was, so of course I asked, ‘What’s that?’

He said, ‘Founder.’

As a successful entrepreneur, his only interest was in starting businesses and in being an entrepreneur. He found no appeal in helping the company who bought the company that bought the company that he started.

But what about me?

I also had a great desire to start my own business. But unlike Jeff, I didn’t have experience starting my own agency from dust and growing it into a thriving success. So in between bites of my oversized Adam Albrecht Burger from Five Guys, I asked Jeff for advice on how I should get started on my entrepreneurial journey.

Jeff said, ‘The first thing you need to decide is where you want to start your business. Find a job in that market, move there, and spend two years developing your network there, while working for someone else.’ He said that after two years of serious networking, you should have the base you need to go out on your own, and start your own agency.

What I Did

This was really good advice. But I didn’t take it. Instead, I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016 in Atlanta. But then, for family reasons, decided to relocate my family to Milwaukee. And of course, the business had to move too. Which means that I did the opposite of what Jeff suggested. I started a business, and then moved it to a new city, where I hadn’t warmed up my network at all.

From the beginning, my strategy was different. My network is very broad, with strong and valued friends and connections across North America. So I was determined to develop The Weaponry to be geographically agnostic. Technology has enabled us to live into my vision, and serve clients across the United States and Canada.

2 Years Later

This week marks the 2-year anniversary of our move to Milwaukee. So I couldn’t help but reflect on Jeff’s advice. The Weaponry is thriving, with great clients from coast to coast. But there is something special happening now. There is an interesting momentum building. We are being talked about when we aren’t around. We are contacted more than ever. People are stopping by, and inquiring about us, and wanting to talk to us, and get to know us at a distinctly different pace today.

I believe this is 2-year momentum. We are building on the 2-year base that Jeff originally recommended. It is an incredibly exciting time for us. And we no longer feel like a start-up. We feel like a confident collection of Weapons that know exactly how to handle whatever our clients need. Kind of like the A-Team, without Mr. T (aka B.A. Baracus, aka Mr. I Pity The Fool).

Key Takeaway

There is no one right way to go about launching a business. The key is to get moving. If you have been considering starting your own business, or making another significant change in your life, I encourage you to set your 2-year timer now, and start the process today.  Two years will give you plenty of time to go from that first step, to a confident swagger. Be persistent, be patient, and let’s talk about this again in two years.

My reflections on an interesting week from the weekend.

This past week was intense, and dense, and interesting. Like the way a good nutrition bar crams a random mix of natural ingredients into a an unnatural rectangle. From Monday morning, through the very end of the day on Friday, I binge-experienced new opportunities, new relationships, intense strategic sessions, and interesting creative explorations that suck you in like a black hole. Or maybe a Dyson vacuum. I forget which one is stronger.

This week I had video conferences with clients, or potential clients in Washington D.C., New York City, Atlanta, San Francisco, Denver, Portland and Minneapolis. I worked on plans for upcoming shoots in Houston, Cincinnati, Atlanta and India. We finalized contracts with 3 new clients. And we added new members to our team.

When I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I had a vision of creating the perfect agency, the perfect place to work, and the perfect partner for clients. While we are not perfect, we are on the right path, and we are getting closer. The question is how close to perfection can we actually get. The other question, of course, is who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop?

On Friday afternoon, I locked up The Weaponry, walked to my car, and drove the 17 miles to my home in Mequon, Wisconsin. I parked my car in my driveway (not Harvard Yard). I sat there for a minute and reflected on my week with pride, gratefulness and satisfaction. I soaked up the wins of the week. I thought about all the new doors that are  opening. I wasn’t Thanking God it was Friday. I was thanking God for the entire week. And for my wife, daughter and two sons that I would now get to spend the weekend with.