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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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 to make your business trips more personal.

I am not a control freak. I believe there is more than one way to skin a cat. Although most cats I have met strongly prefer not to be skinned at all. I like to hire good people and let them do their jobs. I am very comfortable delegating responsibility. With one notable exception.

Travel

When it comes to business travel I become a micromanager. You will never find me handing over my travel planning to an assistant or simply booking what everyone else is booking. Because when I travel for work I always have a hidden agenda… (cue the sinister music).

As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, my first priority on every business trip is to take care of business. I call this my Bachman-Turner Overdrive Philosophy.  I want to arrive with plenty of time to prepare for the meeting or the shoot, or whatever I’m travel to do. And I build in enough time for a travel backup plan in case anything goes wrong.

But once the work plan is set I always turn my attention to my hidden agenda. It’s not finding great restaurants or a fancy hotel or seeing a great show.

My People Plan 

When I travel for work I always think about the people I can see. Business trips offer us all a chance to keep in touch or reconnect with friends and family. I take advantage of this every chance I get. You should too.

The moment I know I need to travel I start working on my people plan. I study the location I am traveling. I look at a map to see who I know within a reasonable radius of my business.

Then I build my itinerary.

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This is my cousin Janelle. I saw her on a recent trip to Fort Myers. She saw me too. 

 

The 3 Parts To My People-Seeing Travel Plans.

Flight:  I look at flight options that will get me in early enough and allow me to leave late enough to see my people. Often I will take the last flight home on any given day to help open my schedule and improve my odds of connecting.

Lodging:  My lodging is always an important part of my plan. I book hotels that make it easy to see my people. This is either because the lodging is centrally located, or because it is in the middle of a pod of my peeps. However, sometimes the lodging is not a hotel at all. I stay with friends or family members whenever they offer to host me. This allows for the best people experience of all.

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I recently stayed with the DeMarinis Fam in Boca Raton. It was totes great. The photo was blurry. My memory is not.

 

Car  Unless I am staying in Manhattan or a similar car-unfriendly location I rent a  car from Hertz. That’s because Hertz has the best cars, the best service and the best loyalty  program. A rental car gives me the most flexibility to see my people. And it gives me the greatest people-seeing range. If I am ambitious, which I usually am, a rental car enables me see several people, over a large area, for a fixed price. This is a major advantage that rental cars have over a ride sharing service.

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I recently rented a convertible Mustang, which I drove 50 miles to see my college track coach, Mark Napier. 

 

 

A Recent Example

Last Thursday The Weaponry conducted an all-day branding workshop with a client in Minneapolis. I scheduled a flight that landed in Minneapolis at 5pm on Wednesday afternoon. I picked up my rental car, then Jeanne, our amazing account director and I picked up two of our clients and went to a really enjoyable dinner. (Side note: One of those clients was a friend before she was a client. And the last time I had seen her was on a people-seeing side trip in Atlanta earlier this year.)

Then I dropped off Jeanne and the clients at their hotels before heading to my sister Heather’s house for the night. There I got to see Heather, her husband John, my nephew Addison, and nieces Rebekkah and Rachael.

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Me and my nieces, making memories in the middle of a business trip.

Thursday was the branding workshop. It was great. Productive, insightful and fun.

Thursday evening I had dinner with Heather’s family at one of our favorite restaurants.

Then I met my friend Tom Burger for after-dinner lemonades. Tom and I were college roommates and track teammates at the University of Wisconsin. It was really great catching up on family, friends and careers.

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My college roommate Tom Burger and I got over-served on lemonade.

Friday morning was special.  I got up early and drove 70 miles west of Minneapolis to Hutchinson, Minnesota. I went to surprise my 98-year-old Grandma Albrecht. And boy was she surprised. Which made me think that surprises and 98-year-olds may not be a healthy mix.

It had been too long since I saw Grandma. It was a real gift to be able to spend a couple of hours alone with her.  This was all the more special because I lost my other grandmother, Grammy Sprau, two months ago at 100 years old.

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My 98 year Grandma, Judy Albrecht.  When I surprised her she was sitting at her kitchen table doing a crossword puzzle.

Then I drove back to Minneapolis and met my friend Mark Setterholm at his production company, Drive Thru.  Mark and I had worked together on a fun Ski-Doo project many  years ago and have kept in touch ever since. I got to see his latest office space, I reconnected with members of his team, and met new DriveThruvians. Mark and I had lunch, we updated each other on our latest work developments and talked about life in general. It was great.

Then I headed to the airport and home.

Summary

In the past two months alone I have had three business trips just like this. All of them were greatly enhanced with friends and family time. By integrating my work and personal life I am able to get the most out of both.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram offer us a great way to stay in touch with our friends, family, and business associates. But it is not the same as seeing your people in real life. Take advantage of the opportunities to grow, maintain, rekindle or develop relationships while you are away from home. You’ll be glad you did. Life is short. And nothing matters more than our relationships.

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My college teammate Bryan Jones and I had breakfast recently on a business trip.  On Wisconsin!

A real entrepreneur’s reaction to my desire to start my own business.

In the late summer of 2015 I got together with my friend Jeff Hilimire for a little update on our lives and careers. Jeff and I had worked closely together for several years as part of the leadership team at Engauge, an advertising agency with offices in Atlanta, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Orlando.

Engauge was a pretty awesome agency, if I do type so myself. Publicis bought the business in the summer of 2013. Jeff left the company the next day to start his next business (his first startup, Spunlogic, was acquired as one of the three initial pillars of Engauge).

Jeff gave me a tour of his new mobile agency, Dragon Army. I met his team. Then Jeff and I sat outside on the company’s deck, and he gave me exciting updates on his business and his life.

Then Jeff asked how things were in my world. I had stayed on with the company we worked at after Publics acquired it two years earlier. I’m sure Jeff was expecting to hear how things were going at work. He was clearly surprised when I told him,

I am planning to start my own ad agency.

At the time I didn’t have a client. I didn’t have an employee. I didn’t have a name. I didn’t even have this blog. I didn’t have anything to make my claim credible, except my vision and a commitment to myself to make it come true.

I am sure Jeff, who has started multiple successful businesses, has heard a lot of big talk from nontrepreneurs like I was. It is really easy to talk about your plans. Everyone does it. It is so much harder to live into them.

Part way through the conversation Jeff checked my entrepreneurial seriousness. Not in a disbelieving way, exactly. Jeff is a very positive person who loves entrepreneurship (it’s one of his favorite ships). He would help anyone who was truly committed to starting their own business. But he seemed to want to know if this was for realsies, or if he should just smile and nod, but not invest any real time, energy or advice.

Jeff cut through the conversation with this simple question:

What is the percent chance you will actually start your own agency? Because the greatest tragedy would be that the next time we meet we have this same conversation. You’d be talking about wanting to start your own agency, but still hadn’t.  

It was a great question. My answer could forever be used against me in The District Court of Hot Air and Blown Smoke. But I was glad he asked.

My Response:

100%!

Jeff looked pleasantly surprised by my answer, but double checked like Aaron Rodgers, asking, “Really?”

I responded definitively, ‘Yes! I will fail at this before I do anything else!’

My mind was set. I had already burned my employment ships. I was going to allow myself no chance of retreat. The only way ahead was through my own business.

Fast Forward

I recently talked to Jeff about this conversation. I wanted to know what was going through his head on the other side of the table that day two years ago. It was a fun question to ask because The Weaponry is now a very real business, with real clients, real employees and a real office of our own, despite what you might read on our website.

This is what  Jeff said:

I talk to literally hundreds of people that want to start companies and never do. So on the one hand I thought there was a slim chance you’d actually do it. But on the other hand, I know you’re a competitor. And I was trying to tap into your sense of competitiveness. But when you said ‘100%!’ I thought, Heck Yeah*!  That’s what I want to hear! Now go do it!

*he didn’t actually say ‘heck’.

If you really want to accomplish anything you have to be 100% committed. Don’t give yourself another alternative. Burn your ships. Talk is cheap. There are thousands of people who are buried every day with their dreams still inside them.  Don’t let that happen to you.

 

What’s even better than saying ‘No!’

Ever since I started the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, the comment I hear most often is:

It must be nice to be in a position to say “No”.

As employees, most of us feel we don’t have the right to say things like:

  • No, I don’t want to work on that project.
  • No, I don’t want to work those hours.
  • No, I don’t want to work with that client.
  • No, I don’t want to go on that business trip to Newark, again.
  • No, I don’t want to partner with Stinky Frank the close-talker.

There are plenty of benefits to being an employee. But you have to do what the job requires.

However, now that I am a business owner, the ability to say ‘No’ never crosses my mind.  Sure, I’ve heard in-demand artists, actors and musicians talk about being able to say no to opportunities. I know doctors that no longer take new patients (and I kind of hate them for it).

I like having more control over the work my team does. But I approach the opportunity from the opposite direction.

Saying YES!

The best thing about owning your own business is being able to say ‘Yes!’  I like to help people as much as I can. So now I say Yes! more than Meg Ryan in the diner scene in When Harry Met Sally. (I’ll have what she’s having).

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  1. I  get to say Yes! to obscure requests.
  2. I get to say Yes! to small projects.
  3. I get to say Yes! to huge projects.
  4. I get to say Yes! to ultra-fast turnaround projects.
  5. I get to say Yes! to demanding celebrities who have unique pet projects.
  6. I get to say Yes! to startups who don’t yet have the money our work is truly worth.
  7. I get to say Yes! to novel partnerships with other agencies and organizations so that we can both take on bigger challenges together.
  8. I get to say Yes! to clients who have never worked with a team like The Weaponry and have no idea how to get started.
  9. I get to say Yes! when The Weaponry is the mistress agency that gets involved when the client’s lead agency can’t or won’t do what they need.
  10. I get to say yes to projects that are less that $2 million, less that $200,000, less than $20,000 and less than $2000.

Saying Yes! makes me happy. It makes me feel empowered to help. It allows me to work with the people I want to work with, and make decisions that are not driven first and foremost by the income I receive today.  It allows me to think about long-term benefits. It allows me to find creative ways to get important work made. It forces me to think creatively. Which is what people come to The Weaponry for in the first place.

If you are looking for more happiness, find more ways to say yes. Help more. Enable more. Get creative more. The world looks better when you are looking for possibilities.

Thanks for reading. If you found any value in this post please consider subscribing to this blog.

A word that has no place in the marketplace.

Words make me laugh.  Double entendres are one of my favorite things on Earth. I love innuendo and the word play that Shakespeare thought was funny. I analyze the meaning of words like a lawyer. A really fun, 10-year-old lawyer. Last night my family and I watched a special on TV about the Voyager 1 & Voyager 2 spacecrafts.  Every time they mentioned Uranus, me and my boys (10 & 7) giggled like elementary school kids. Come on, how do you keep it together when the narrator says, ‘Scientists from around the world were on the edge of their seats, waiting to get their first good look at Uranus.’?

Marketing Speak

Here on Earth, I work in the marketing universe.  The language used in this space is hilarious. I am sensitive to all the silly words used every day in marketing that really make no sense.  They simply give us a fancy way to talk that makes us sound crafty and inventitive.

Professional marketers talk about things like ‘solutions’. Which is a ridiculous marketing term. Because everything you pay money for is a solution to something. Food is a solution to hunger. A house is a solution to homelessness. A bathrobe is a solution to nakedness.

The word we don’t need.

But the funny word that makes me laugh today is ‘marketplace’.  Sales and marketing people talk this up like it is a magical environment, like Alice’s Wonderland. Or Oz. Or Narnia. Or Vegas.

But the ‘marketplace’ is a fancy-sounding word that simply means reality.

‘We are performing well in the marketplace’ means ‘We are performing well.’

‘The product has not caught on in the marketplace’ means ‘The product has not caught on.’

‘I bought some fish in the marketplace’ means you bought some fish in the marketplace. Ok, this use is legit. But this is never what marketers mean.

I propose that we stop adding ‘in the marketplace’ to our language. It’s a verbositization that we could all do without. If you ever find a way to buy and sell things outside the marketplace (world of trade), let me know.  Because you, my friend, have done the impossible.

9 killer books that will motivate you to be an entrepreneur.

I always wanted to start my own business. It is a really easy thing to want.  It’s much harder to make it a reality. The single greatest challenge is getting yourself mentally prepared to make the leap from a comfortable salaried job to an only-eat-if-you-find-a-customer reality.  It’s a bit like getting yourself ready to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. It takes mental preparation. It requires you to amass enough confidence in your plan that you believe you can fling yourself out of the plane, and not splatter on the deck below.

How I did it.

To get myself mentally prepared to open my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I put myself through a self-devised entrepreneurial boot camp. A critical part of my preparation was reading. This reading was really more like serious studying. The books I read provided the inspiration, tools and examples I needed to believe I could generate enough interest in my business to keep me and my family of five fed, clothed and sheltered long enough to fend off family services until my youngest child turned eighteen (and he was only five at the time).

It seems to be working.  I’m well into the second year of my entrepreneurial adventure and we continue to pick up momentum. We are all eating.  Everyone has clothes. We are paying two mortgages. I’m having fun. And I couldn’t be happier. I feel like I was well prepared for the challenge.

That’s why I’m sharing the books I read in hopes that they will provide you with the same entrepreneurial foundation, confidence and motivation to make your own leap.

The books I read, in order.

  1. Rich Dad. Poor Dad.  Robert Kiyosaki51pG7v9PJQL

I had known about this book for a long time. But I thought it seemed hokey. Like attending a get-rich-quick seminar. But finally I bought a used copy and devoured it. My preconceptions were wrong.

It was amazingly insightful. It helped me recongize the difference between assets and liabilities. It shined a spotlight on the perils of working for someone else. And the advantages of owning your own business.  It made me see my skills as an asset that could create a business asset that could translate to significant wealth.  It was a great motivating first read. I’m now reading it to my children as a bedtime story. Seriously.

2. Call Me Ted. Ted Turner 518OfUMIYEL

I bought this as an audio book for $1. Ted Turner is ballsy, brash and innovative.  This book gave me a vision of how someone else had built their personal brand, recognized opportunities, taken progressively larger and larger chances, got creative with financing, changed the world and made a billion dollars along the way. It showed me that action is the simple differentiator between doers and dreamers. He also talks candidly about his shortcomings and failures in a way that make you feel like you don’t have to be perfect to be highly successful. Which is good, because I don’t want to give up my own personal shortcomings I’ve fought so hard to keep.

3. The Alchemist  Paulo Coelho41f1zMJb9WL

I read an article about Pharrell Williams a couple of years ago in Fast Company where he said this book was like his Bible. I bought it, used. I was really wowed by it. This book helped me think about my personal legend, and made me start paying attention to all the signs the universe was sending me, encouraging me to follow my own path. This was timely because the universe started putting up neon signs all over the place. Like Reno. I am sure there are signs the universe is giving you right now that you don’t recognize. This book will help.

4. Think and Grow Rich. Napoleon Hill

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Many of the books I’ve read reference this book and its power. So I picked it up and loved it. At the encouragement of Andrew Carnegie, Hill studies rich people and finds their commonalities. He then serves up his learnings to the reader in an easily digestible way.

This is a great book for the start of your journey.  Everyone should read it.  It is really about the power of positive thinking. It’s about having a clear vision of your goals. The book encourages you to think about the finishline from the start.  I revisit this book often.

5. The Little Red Book of Selling  Jeffrey Gitomer91-1qV3oRfL

I picked this great little hardcover book up for $1 at a library book sale.  It is packed with great little bites of advice, info and techniques on selling.  If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be able to sell.  Having lots of knowledge in sales makes you feel like your parachute is going to open when you jump.

The two key take aways from this book were, 1. People hate to be sold. But they love to buy. 2. Don’t sell to people. Build relationships.  These were great insights because they play to my natural tendencies. I prefer to make friends and talk to them about what I am doing. Then, if they come to the conclusion that what I’m doing could be helpful for them we both win.

6. The Little Black Book of Connections  Jeffrey Gitomer41nTexTO9fL

I checked this audio book out at the library.  It is a great companion piece to the Little Red Book of Selling. It teaches lessons about the importance of your personal network.  But the most important new lesson I got out of this book was, ‘It’s not who you know. It’s who knows you.‘  It shares great insights and advice around this particular statement that have helped me gain traction. The book helps you think about growing a network that develops inbound introductions and requests. Being sought after makes the entrepreneurial experience much easier.

7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Stephen R Covey51S1IFlzLcL

I bought this book on Amazon. Full price. Everyone should read this book. It offers great advice on how to become a better, more effective human. I loved the way it highlighted the things that successful people do regularly, and how to continuously improve yourself to become more effective. One of my favorite lessons is about The Win-Win. Highly effective people seek outcomes that benefit everyone. That has become core to my operating style.

8. The Science of Getting Rich. Wallace Wattles51Zy-xiGuUL

This was a happy little accident. This short, pamphlet-like book came up as a ‘You may also like…’ when I was ordering another book. I am really glad I read it.  I had previously read Wattles, The Science of Being Great, and thought it was surprisingly great. TSOGR shared a lot of similar thoughts as Think and Grow Rich, although it was a quicker and easier read. It taught me that earning money is a really important desire that turns the wheels of the economy. 

9. The E-Myth  Michael Gerber51MPu8oSjcL

This book helped me synthesize all of my thoughts and put them into an actionable plan.  The E-myth is the Entrepreneurial Myth.  It focuses on why most small businesses fail, and what to do to prevent that. It helps you think about systems and processes and structure and scalability. It encourages you to think about your business like a franchise model that could be repeated, even if you don’t ever plan to franchise. This was great advice for me.  It made me feel like my parachute was packed with checks and balances to ensure it will perform correctly when I need it to.

Conclusion

If you want to get yourself in the right mindset to start your own business, buy a business or start a side hustle, read these books yourself.  At a minimum you will end up smarter with new ideas. Perhaps you will finally act on that business you’ve been dreaming about, build an empire, make a billion dollars and change the world.  If that happens, write your own book. I’d love to read it.

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If you have books that helped you get mentally prepared to start your own business please share in the comments section.