Our unconventional website, Part 2: 7 Reasons we don’t have a real website.

Establishing a new business was much simpler before Al Gore invented the interwebs. You just established your legal entity with your state. You received a tax ID number from the federal government. Then, you got yourself a phone number from Ma Bell and listed it in something our forefathers called The Yellow Pages. Then you sat back and let your customers’ fingers do the walking across their phones to your business. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

It’s A Different World

In 2016, when I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, things were very different. The Yellow Pages were effectively extinct. Because the Google and its band of digital buddies changed everything. Suddenly, you were expected to build a website that told the world everything it wanted to know about your business.

A High Degree Of Difficulty

For most new business creating a website is really hard. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the Bob Villa skills to build their own website. At least nothing that looks like a website you would want your business to live in. Of course you can hire someone else to design your website. But that can involve more expense than most bootstrapped startups can pay when they have no revenue.

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Apparently this guy really loves to drink D- rum.

Marching To An Offbeat Drummer

The Weaponry decided to do things differently. We created a fun and frivolous, if not totally fricken random website at The Weaponry.com. The first headline visitors read says, ‘Am I in the right place?’ And the first body copy on the site reads, ‘This is not a legit website’. At least visitors can’t say we didn’t warn them. The main image on our home page is of Laverne and Shirley from the sitcom Laverne & Shirley. I wrote in detail about the site in The story of our crazy website. Part 1: What is this?.

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Give them any rule they’ll break it.

More Thought Than You Think

While it appears that we were just trying to be funny when we created our website there was actually a lot of thought put into the decision to create such an unconventional site. And here’s the rationale.


The 7 Reason The Weaponry doesn’t have a real website.

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1. Our website is not our business.

I have met far too many entrepreneurs and non-trepreneurs who spent all of their critical, early effort thinking about their website. They spun their wheels and delayed the real work of establishing a new business until the website was complete. Which stole far too much of their valuable time when the business was still in its veal stage.

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see startups make. Instead of focussing on your website, focus on business development. Work on your network. Work on your processes and procedures. Work on your product or service. All of those things are far more valuable to your growth and long term viability than a website. Don’t fool yourself. A polished website is merely a placebo that makes you feel as if you have a real, viable business.

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2. All agency websites looked the same.

Agencies love to puff about how creative and different they are. But the sites all say the same thing, which betrays the statement. If you are really different, and think different, do different. Our illegitimate website is nothing if not different. It helps us stand out. Which is the first order of business in marketing.

3. We didn’t start out with creative work to show.

Advertising agencies deal in the currency of ideas and creativity. In the beginning we didn’t have ideas that were born and raised at The Weaponry to share. I didn’t want to feature work that wasn’t conceived, gestated and birthed at The Weaponry. But agency websites that don’t show creative work feel as if the are covering something up. So we decided to avoid creative work altogether by not revealing anything.

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Now we have creative work to show.
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Like this.
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And this.

4. Our website is meant for prospective employees. Not clients.

Websites, like any good piece of communication, should be crafted for a specific audience. The audience we most wanted to reach was prospective team members. We knew that creative thinkers would recognize what we were doing as very different. Which probably meant that the way we thought and operated was different. And that we are open to new and novel thinking. While I might not know much, I know, I know, I know this much is true.

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Our site is targeted towards people like Sarah Disanza, who hunted us down and demanded a job. So we gave her one.

5. The intrigue was too fun to let go.

When the first visitors found our fake site the fun began. People immediately wanted to know more. In fact, everyone told us that they read every single word on the site. We have now had that non-website for 3 years. And the stories just keep piling up. We could write a book on the stories we have heard, and the funny emails that have been forwarded to us. It has definitely created an inside/outside effect. All to the benefit of our insiders.

 

6. I didn’t want the business to grow faster than I grew as the leader of the business.

This is the most important reason we don’t have a real site. When I first launched The Weaponry I had a lot to learn. And I didn’t want the agency’s growth to outpace my own. It would likely lead to disaster. Unhappy clients, unhappy partners and unhappy employees.

I knew the business would grow. But I didn’t want the pressure of additional demand before we created the systems and processes to accommodate for it. So a magnetic website with great SEO and a sharply-honed paid search strategy, like we implement for our clients, would have actually worked against our long term plans.

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This guy has been growing like a weed wearing tweed.

7. My Own Rebelliousness

I simply like doing things differently. And I wanted to prove that even in the digital era you can grow a multi million dollar business without a website that shares a dot of data about you. Which is exactly what has happened.

What is even better is that smart businesses trust us to design and build their websites, despite the fact that we don’t have one ourselves. That will provide a great hook when I finally write the book about my experience. #MarketingBakedInFromTheStart

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Find great people and start doing great things. That’s how you grow a business without a website.

Key Takeaway

There are no absolutes in business. There are multiple ways to do everything. If everyone else is zigging then you should zag. Or zog or zeg. Because breaking the rules always gets you noticed. And getting noticed is the first step to making a sale. So learn all the rules. Then decide which ones are worth breaking. Then break away. It may just provide the break you’ve been looking for.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

The story of our crazy website. Part 1: What is this?

There is a large sign on the wall in my office that features a quote from General Douglas MacArthur. It says, ‘You are remembered for the rules you break.’ That quote really resonates with me. Obviously. It is printed on the wall of my office.

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Never forget.

I have always liked it when people break rules unapologetically. I like a rebel who insists on doing things his or her own way. They always make me wonder why more people don’t ignore the rules. Then I call up Colin Kaepernick. And he reminds me why.

The Exceptional Exceptions

I love the exceptions to the rule. Like short basketball players, doctors with clear signatures and Amish electricians. They inspire me with their unwillingness to be governed my the laws of the masses.

You Don’t Have To Do Anything

When I launched my advertising and idea agency everyone said you have to have a website. But I don’t put any stock in conventional thinking. In fact, just because everyone expected me to have a website made me not want to have a website. #RebelWithoutAurl

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But there was more to it than that.

It isn’t as if I never wanted a website or never expected to have one. In fact, an important factor in deciding on the name The Weaponry was that TheWeaponry.com domain name was surprisingly available. Kinda like I was surprisingly available when I met my wife, Dawn. #youarewelcomebabe

GoDaddy Go!

When I secured theweaponry.com from GoDaddy for about $12, I had what I needed to launch our agency’s ‘@theweaponry.com’ email address. And that’s all I really wanted to do with it in the first year or so. However, I knew that people would naturally look at TheWeaponry.com to find out more information about us. So instead of leaving our little corner of cyberspace naked, I decided to have a little fun.

I Wanna Mock!

I created what is essentially a mock-website for The Weaponry. I put slightly more thought into the mock site than it may appear. In fact, before I created theweaponry.com I laid out 5 basic requirements of the site. I wanted it to:

  1. Appear as if it was plausibly a website for The Weaponry.
  2. Not offer a single bit of information about The Weaponry.
  3. Make visitors laugh.
  4. Make visitors visit every page and read every word.
  5. Offer a sense of our brand, even without any real information about us.

First Break All The Rules

At the risk of stating the obvious, we have taken a non-traditional approach to creating our business website. In fact, I frequently read lists of things you must or must not do when designing and developing your company website. And we are cleanly on the wrong side of every single point.

What You See

If you have not yet visited theweaponry.com, it features the words The Weaponry at the top of the page. Which makes it seem legit. However, the first words of body copy on the site are ‘This is not a legit website.’ It just devolves from there.

The home page features Laverne and Shirley from the classic television sitcom Laverne and Shirley.  The Our Philosophy page simply features the lyrics to the Laverne and Shirley theme song.

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More Than Meets The Eye

We admittedly send site visitors on what appears to be a wild goose chase. (What fun is there in chasing a tame goose?) But there is a method to the madness. What we are actually doing is entertaining and intriguing visitors. We are revealing an important insight about our agency. And we are demonstrating that we know how to shepherd a visitor through a website, all the way to the Contact Us. And many do.

Recruitment Tool

This faux website does a great job of attracting the type of employees we want to attract. Every week, creative thinkers, rebels, innovators and people who like to laugh share how much they love the silliness that is our website. As a result we have become an attractive option for those we are trying to recruit.

Key Takeaway

There are no hard and fast rules. Do things your way. Don’t be afraid to zig when others zag. Especially if zigging leaves you in an open space, away from the crowd. Because putting more space on the perceptual map between you and your competition is exactly what marketing and innovation are supposed to do. So do things differently than your competition. Take chances. If you simply do what everyone else does you won’t be remembered. General Douglas MacArthur taught me that.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message please share it with them.

#If you haven’t checked out our silly little website yet click here. (This link may or may not take you to our website…)

When you have a great idea avoid sharing it in a bad way.

I love ideas. In fact, I love them so much that I create new ideas for a living. And I can’t think of a better job. As a professional creative thinker my ideas help sell products and services. My ideas help name products, build brands and solve problems of all sizes and shapes, except hyperboloids.

Seek A Professional Opinion

In the same way a medical doctor is sought out to offer medical advice, businesses seek me out for creative advice. And I have written some pretty funky, yet effective prescriptions. Like filling a Prevost bus full of ping pong balls with Danica Patrick for Nationwide Insurance. And claiming that a Ski-Doo MX-Z snowmobile is so responsive it knows which butt cheek you’re flexing. And dressing 100 Argentinian men in pink bodysuits for Snickers.

Things I Hate

As much as I love a great idea I hate it when non-professional creatives share their ideas. You’re probably thinking that I am a typical creative A-hole who thinks no one else could possibly have a good idea. (See ‘The No A-holes Rule”). But, Au contraire, mon frère!

Where Great Ideas Come From

I know with 100% certainty that great ideas can, and do come from anywhere. And anyone. There is no monopoly on creativity in a creative department. No, what I abhor about non-creatives sharing their ideas is the way they typically do it.

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Just keep thinking. Just keep thinking.

You’re Doing It Wrong!

I know that probably sounds like I am judging people on their idea sharing etiquette. Or shaming people for the poor idea sharing technique. But that’s not what I am getting at.

What profoundly bothers me when non-professionals share their ideas is how they often discount the idea before they even unwrap it. Nothing takes the punch out of a great idea like introducing it with one of the following phrases:

  • ‘This is probably stupid but…’
  • ‘I’m not creative at all but…’
  • ‘Feel free to shoot this down…’
  • “I’m not the creative person here…’
  • “Here comes a bad client idea…’
  • “Ok, bad account person idea…’
  • ‘What if… no, never mind, bad idea.”

Share Without Apology

These type of apologetic disclaimers are poison to the creative process. Just as improv works on the ‘Yes-And’ Rule, meaning that every idea shared is embraced and built upon, a strong creative development process requires us to embrace fully-baked, half-baked and raw idea as they are presented. Because there is something to build on within every idea.

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Sharing your idea can impact others in profound ways. 

Connect The Dots

Creativity is about connecting disparate elements. So we should all throw our unique thoughts and ideas on the table. Not just the professional creatives and strategists. Clients, account people, media, technologist, sales, engineering and accounting can all add a very valuable perspective. Spouses and children who know the problem to be solved can too.

Loud and Proud

We all need to contribute our ideas without apologizing. Because when you eliminate the disclaimers, and stop unselling your work before you share it, you’ll get a much better reaction. Which makes everyone more comfortable exploring and sharing their ideas in the future.

Key Takeaway

Great ideas can come from everywhere. There is no monopoly on creativity in creative departments and creative businesses. Which means that no one should ever apologize for having a good thought. The best idea wins. It’s that simple. So share your thinking without discounting it. Encourage others to do the same. And let’s recognize and value all the disparate thoughts that helped us build to the best final idea. When you do that you create an environment that generates more great ideas. I should know. I am a professional.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

17 inspirational quotes on the power of your imagination.

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.

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Devil’s Lake
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Doing what they are posed to do.
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Somewhere between the cream puffs and the fried olives at the Wisconsin State Fair.

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.

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I love the way a good quote can sum up important, yet complex thoughts in a simple, memorable way.
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This is me in a nutshell. Only without the nutshell.
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Less about imagination. More about acting. Or is it smallness? Or getting wasted?
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Call the patent office, because I just invented the future!
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I see what you did there Grant!
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How the ninja turtle saved an angel from a rock.
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This is why so many Moms choose to be Jif.
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More windshield. Less rear view mirror.
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This quote came from someone in a long line of anonymous people.
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He said but.
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This is why Fletch put the bill on the Underhill’s account. #FletchLines
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I think this means Shakespeare wishes that you buy your dish soap at Costco.
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Imagine all the people.
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Satchel thought like Hugh Hefner.
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Apparently I made up my mind to crop this photo too tight.
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Isn’t it ironic how much of Unknown’s work is totally known?
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This was said right before Lewis & Clark stuffed Marcel in a locker.

Key Takeaway

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.

Why I now have a curiosity curfew.

I am a self-proclaimed Early Owl. This rare avian species is a cross between an Early Bird and a Night Owl. Which means I love to go to bed late AND get up early. It’s how I am squeeing* as much as I can out of life. (*Squeeing is just squeezing without the required Zzz’s).

Night School

I don’t sleep nearly as much as I should. But I recognize the value of good sleep. Whenever I force myself to get a little more of that night magic I feel even better. Lately, I’ve been going back to school on the power of sleep. My coursework includes the writings by born-again sleep evangelist, Ariana Huffington, including her books Thrive and The Sleep Revolution.

I have learned that only 27 percent of American grown-folk get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night during the week. Only 10 percent prioritize sleep over other daily activities. And I want to be in that number, when the saints come marching in.

Your Best Bet Is A Better Bedtime

The key to getting more sleep is going to bed earlier. In fact, going to bed early is the adult version of sleeping in. Historically I have had serious trouble with this. And I have identified the main cause.

My late nights are not a result of drugs or alcohol. I never found the on-ramp to either of those hobbies (although they look fun). I don’t stay up late playing video games or studying pornography (although they both look fun too). I don’t guzzle coffee or energy drinks. Unless you consider chocolate milk an energy drink. I just call it delicious.

My Problem

My sleep problem is a result of a chronically curious brain. At night, when my wife and three children are in bed, my curiosity and I are ready to party.  I love to read. I gobble up books, magazines, and online articles like a turkey. My curiosity helps me chew through online videos, social media posts, and Netflix programing like a starving goat. My curiosity will devour everything and anything. The whole world is interesting to me. Which makes my curiosity the #1 enemy of my sleep.

If my curiosity is allowed to run feral, it will sprint past midnight, and well into the early morning hours. But my alarm is always set for 6am, whether I go to bed at 10pm (never) or 2am. I typically get under 6 hours of sleep. But I am working hard to up that to 7 hours.

The New Plan

I have come up with an idea to help me sleep more. It is borrowed from an idea that has been around since the invention of the teenager. I have implemented a self-imposed Curiosity Curfew. As of 11pm on weeknights, I have to put the books, magazines and iPhone down. I turn my TV/Netflix/Internetting device off. If I have work to do I can still do it. But no more exploring the world. It is the best thing I can think of to get my head to bed earlier.

Key Takeaway

Sleep is important. It’s how you refresh, recharge, rebound, reenergize and regenerate. If you are going to bed too late, identify the cause, and implement a curfew on the offender. It will help you increase your overall sleep. And getting enough sleep is both a health and quality of life issue. As good as you may think you are with little sleep, you are always better with more.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. 

How to collect more points for creative thinking.

Creative thinking requires you to fill your head with interesting stimuli. This takes effort. Because life’s most interesting elements don’t just show up on your doorstep like Ed McMahon, with a giant check, balloons and a camera crew. That’s why I make a regular point of visiting museums.

Long before social media and hipster shopping sites made curation seem like a cool new idea, museums around the world began curating facts, images, stories, ideas and experiences. Museum-style binge-learning helps you stretch your mind in unexpected directions. This is good for everyone. But essential for professional creative thinkers, like me.

My Kind of Museums, Chicago Has.

Over the past 2 days I have visited some of the greatest museums in the world. The Field Museum of Natural History, The Museum of Science and Industry, and the Shedd Aquarium, all in Chicago.

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My family and I hit the museums hard in Chicago this weekend. Not to mention the pizza, hot dogs and donuts.

I visit the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry at least once a year. But there is so much to see that I always find new things to tickle my brain. Here are a smattering of things that caught my attention this weekend.

9 Things That Stretched My Brain

1. Sea Dragons

These beautiful little dragons don’t breathe fire. But they do look like bigger, more elegant versions of sea horses. What really fascinated me were the almost invisible fins near their bums, and behind their heads, that provide propulsion and change of direction. The Mother of Sea Dragons should be very proud of her intriguing little offspring.

2. The Helicoprion

Check out that lower jaw!  That thing is ridiculous! It is like a weaponized dip-lip. Wait a minute, maybe these sharks chewed tobacco, got mouth cancer and that’s why they went extinct.  #truthsleuth

3. Vertical Farms

I learned how vertical farms in sky scrapers could help us feed urban populations, close to home, year round, without weather reliance or threats of drought. I also like the idea of growing popcorn at high enough elevations that it pops itself.

4. Our Proximity to Space

The quote above is a novel thought to me. Evel Knievel and Bo and Luke Duke were more like astronauts than I ever knew. In fact, we are often closer to outer space than we are to neighboring states. It makes me want to stop by to borrow a cup of space sugar.

5. Zheng He’s Treasure Ship

Holy Ship! Check out this beautiful Chinese vessel! I had a hard time wrapping my head around how big the actual ship was, based on how long ago it was built. Read the story below for more. 

 

6. The Rate of Extinction

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This is a frightening number. Although it also makes me wonder how many species are created every day. Oh, and when the asteroid that killed the dinos hit, it also wiped out half of the other species on Earth. #NeverForget

7. The Tiger River Stingray

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I was fascinated by the pattern on these rays. It made me wonder which came first, the tiger or the tiger ray? This species should get its own breakfast cereal. Tony-Ray, The Tiger River Ray, would make a Grrrrrrreat spokesperson.

8. How Sue Got Its name

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Sue, The T-Rex, is the most famous dinosaur in the world. Ok, maybe it is just the most famous dinosaur in my world. But I never knew why it was named Sue. It was actually discovered by Sue Hendrickson, an explorer and fossil collector in South Dakota. And hence the name. Although scientist don’t know if it was a male or female. (Don’t you just look at it’s private fossils?)

9. How They Got The Boeing 727 to The Museum

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I have been on this airplane at the MSI many times. But I never thought about how it arrived at its current location. There is a fun video that plays nearby that tells the story. Highlights: It was flown to an airport on the lakeshore. It was loaded onto a barge, and then driven/pulled across the beach, down the street and into the parking lot. Then, one of the museums massive columns had to be removed to bring it into the building. When it was finally in place there was a huge celebration with tiny little bags of peanuts.

Key Takeaway

If you want to think in new and more interesting ways, you have to continue to feed your brain new and more interesting food. There is no better way to expand your thinking than exploring a museum. I encourage you to find one near you with a reciprocal membership that offers access to museums in other cities. That way you can see great museums whenever you travel. Or better yet, you’ll have great new reasons to travel.

Bonus Points: Can anyone name the art museum in the featured image at the top of this post? Leave your guesses in the comment section!

Why the right-brain vs left-brain talk makes me want to scream.

When I was a child I was fascinated to learn that the brain is not one solid organ. The brain is actually divided, down the middle, into two hemispheres un-creatively known as the right brain and left brain. The brainispheres have different job assignments. Essentially they work like a great team, dividing the responsibilities of braining for humans into separate but equal parts. Which means your brain works like Siegfried and Roy, Abbott and Costello or Dumb & Dumber.

Choosing Sides

People often talk about being either right-brained or left-brained. If you have not heard such talk, it goes like this: The right side of the brain is thought to control your creative and artistic thinking. While your left brain controls your logic and rational behavior. As with politics, when it comes to braining, people often identify with one side or the other.

I have spent my entire career as a professional creative thinker. I started out as a Copywriter and progressed to the title of Chief Creative Officer. Every title I had for 20 years had either the word writer or creative in it. So it’s natural to sort me into the right-brained team. People do it all the time. In conversations I hear people say ‘You right-brained types…’ or ‘Us right-brained types…’

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Lookie there! Your brain has a coin slot too.

However…

I have never thought of myself as being right-brained. Not once. Ever. I have never thought of myself as being primarily a creative thinker. It’s not that I don’t think creatively. I know I do. But I also use careful analysis and logic every day. I love the scientific method and the absoluteness of math. I enjoy calculating my taxes. But I don’t enjoy stereotypes. Except for Bose. Those guys make great types of stereos.

Business Thinking

The latest role in my career has been as an Entrepreneur. As the Founder & CEO of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry, I am required to use all of my brain at work. While our service offering is unquestionably creative, everything else about the business is decidedly based in the left brain. I have to think about our accounting, finances, benefits, and human resources. I have to establish processes for project management, account management, and invoicing.

There is not an element of business that I don’t I feel comfortable with. I understand, appreciate and enjoy all of the thinking that goes into starting and running a business. I see it all as a big system of constants and variables. Some disciplines require more creative thinking. Others require very practical analysis. I am thankful that my brains get along like Bert and Ernie. Their daily cooperation helps me function as one whole person.

Unlabeling

It is limiting, if not damaging to label people, including yourself, as right-brained or left- brained. According to Dr. Daniel G. Amen in his book Making A Good Brain Great, it is a myth that we only use 10% of our brain. Our entire brain is on and working our entire lives, even when we sleep. If you were born with, and still have, both hemispheres of your brain, use them. Some skills and processes may come more naturally. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t work to develop the others.

Key Takeaway

The danger in the right-brain, left-brain labels is that you will start to believe that you can’t do things. Then you won’t take on tasks or challenges, because you have told yourself you are no good at them. But you can be. You just have to make sure you are not limiting your thinking.