The best $240 an employer ever spent on me.

The best $240 an employer ever spent on me.

My first job in advertising paid me $21,000 a year. I wasn’t sure how I was going to eat. But I was thrilled to be a professional copywriter. I was rolling in that thin dough for three months before I surged to $22,000. I was making it drizzle. Six months later I got another bump to $24,000. I bought a used Toyota 4-Runner with 175,000 miles on it.  Then, 18 months after I started my first job, my salary climbed to $30,000. Ever since then I have felt rich. Seriously.

However, none of those salary adjustments made me any more valuable to my employer.  They spent more money on me because I was good at my job. And because they underpaid for my value from the start.

The Best Investment

But as I look back at my career, there was one investment that an employer made in me that truly made me a more valuable asset to them. In April of 2000 Cramer Krasselt sent me to a seminar in Chicago on presenting creative.  It was led by Toni Louw.  It cost $240. And it made the agency more money than the salary they paid me.

At this one day seminar I learned how to see creative work from the client’s perspective. I learned about persuasion, about pre-selling and demonstration.  I learned about storytelling, about building a case and developing logical conclusions  I learned about showmanship and being a good host to clients. I learned about how to turn a passive audience into an actively engaged audience. I was hooked.  (I also learned that I could sew a rip in my pants, in a bathroom stall, in less than 5 minutes with the sewing kit I kept in my work bag.)

The timing could not have been better.  I had three years of experience. Which was enough time to know a few things and enough experience to recognize what I had previously been doing wrong. Yet I still had the majority of my career to get it right.  I soaked up the ideas and techniques like a Shop-Vac. Presenting was already one of my favorite parts of the job. But now I had a great base of theory and technique to build on.

When I got home I typed up everything I had learned, and added 2 scoops of my own personal style. Suddenly I had a game plan and a process for evaluating client-worthy creative ideas. I now knew how to present them in an effective and entertaining way. Altough the entertainment may be more Branson than Broadway.

Within two months I had the perfect opportunity to put my new skills to use. The Ski-Doo snowmobile account went up for review. Because of my passion for snowmobiling and enthusiasm for the opportunity, I was allowed to lead the creative charge for the pitch, despite the fact that I was only 26 years old.

I poured myself into the Ski-Doo pitch. Through a combination of my personal drive, my new learnings from the seminar and great teammates, we put on quite a show. Not only did we win the account, we proceeded to pitch and win the other Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) brands too. Those included Sea Doo, Evinrude and Johnson outboard motors, CanAm ATVs and the CanAm Spyder.

Pitching and business development became core strengths of mine.  And despite my early concerns, I continued to eat regularly.

Today I own my own ad agency called The Weaponry. As I think about investments to be made in my fast growing business I am reflecting on the ROI of that $240 that were invested in me.  It grew my skills and abilities. It help win new business and grow the agency substantially. It made the agency money, which made me a much more valuable resource.

It may be more fun to spend money on cappuccino machines, murals and foosball tables.  But if you want to invest your money and enjoy a huge return, invest in growing your people (this includes yourself). Make their strengths stronger. Make their breadth broader. Give them the tools to help them realize their potential.  Because money spent growing good employees will yield a greater return than any other investment you will ever make.

Advertisements

Why art school students fail to find jobs, and what to do about it.

Why art school students fail to find jobs, and what to do about it.

I love art schools. The creative vibe at these colleges makes me want to make something. I dig the students buzzing around campus, toting art projects with their backpacks crammed full of supplies. The experimental clothing that often adorns these boundary-explorers creates a feeling of Kindergarten 2.0. Or Kindergarten 20, since most of the students are in their 20s and still playing with glitter and glue.

Ahh, to be creating art again without clients or the budgetary limitations that kill your hopes and dreams…  I re-experience the excitement of art school every spring when I visit campuses for portfolio reviews and senior exhibits. Having spent 20 years in advertising, collaborating with art directors and designers, I know some of these students are going to experience amazing adventures, create rewarding work and make great money.

But in the next breath (and the next paragraph) I find these schools depressing. While all of these students are following their passion, many of them will never enjoy an art-fed income that will enable them to buy fancy peanut butter and gourmet ramen.

The 3 Types That Fail

The art school students that won’t make it professionally fall into 3 categories:

The Weirdo. This is the weird art kid that is so weird that even the art kids (who are tolerant and even inspired by the odd, unique and experimental) think is too weird. These students don’t have a natural place in business. So, unless they create their own jobs, they are out of luck. Sorry. (Consolation prize: If you would have followed any other educational adventure you were likely to have had the same result. So study what you love).

The Nartist.  This student is simply not an artist.  They don’t have applicable art skills.  Often they are horrible at art but love it so much they are willing to pay for schooling that will help them learn theory, but not be able to apply it in a meaningful way. Natural selection prevents them from getting, or at least maintaining, a meaningful creative job.  It’s sad that their dreams die. But that means it is simply time for a new, more realistic dream. Note: this person exists in every field. There are Nastronauts, Nengineers, Noptometrists, Neducators and Nactors.

The Quitter.  This person has the skills, a passable personality and hides their weirdness well. They just don’t hold out long enough, search hard enough, network, follow-up, stand out from the crowd or demand their chance.  This represents the vast majority of students who won’t find a job.

 

I don’t get bummed by The Weirdo or Nartist. Those people were born to not work in art. I am bummed by The Quitter. The one who could have done more to make her dream a reality. The one who just needed more grit. The Quitter has real skills, even if they are still developing. I hate to see these colorful and interesting berries wither on the vine.  But The Quiter is not unique to art school. Every school develops talented and capable students who fail to find jobs in their chosen profession because they give up too soon.

3 Keys:

Action

If you want to find a great job, doing what you love, initiative is everything. You have to stick to it. You have to spot your opportunities and capitalize on them. You have to learn what works in your book. Keeping adding to it. Go well beyond your college art projects and create work that will help you land a job. Ask for informational interviews. Offer to prove your abilities for free.  Stand up and stand out.

Sell

Art students are often so concerned with not selling out, that they fail to sell themselves at all. Selling yourself is key to opening doors and creating opportunities to making a living off your creative skills. Ultimately, to make money in a creative profession you need to make things that sell.  Whether it’s your work itself that sells, or your work helps sell other products or services, no one avoids selling. Understand it. Get good at it.

Network

When I meet students, I usually offer them my business card and invite them to contact me if I can be of assistance. About 1% of the students follow-up.  Many of those who contact me have landed internships or jobs.  Last week I handed out about 25 business cards to students. I’ll be surprised if I hear from more than two of them. This is why people fail (or maybe it’s a sign that I’m actually a Wierdo Nartist).

The Bottom Line

You have to take action and be creative in the way you pursue a creative job. Do it. It’s worth it. I can’t think of a better way to earn money than being paid for your creativity. So let’s make sure that more art students who deserve jobs get jobs in art. These are not jobs to be shipped overseas or automated by robots. If you have some good job-finding advice, please add it to the comment section below.  But the responsibility is still on the student. Get out there and network, hustle and sell yourself.  It’s your future. Paint it. Sculpt it. Or Photoshop yourself into it.

What Groundhog Day teaches us about making things up.

What Groundhog Day teaches us about making things up.

There are two types of holidays: meaningful and made up. The meaningful days include The 4th of July, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and religious holidays. Made up holidays include Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day and February 29th. It seems February needed a little spicing up. Since today is Groundhog Day, let’s take a moment to reflect on its significance.

Hmmm. Like a groundhog on a cloudy day, I see nothing when I reflect. Because there is nothing to reflect on. There is no meteorological reason to focus on groundhogs. Forget the meteors, there are no logical reasons to focus on groundhogs.  Yet we do.

I’m not writing to pooh-pooh Groundhog Day.  Quite the opposite. I think it stands as an amazing symbol of creativity, and possibility, and making something out of nothing. If a nation of over 300 million people can recognize this fabricated rodent day, you can bring your vision to life too.

MLK Jr. Day, Small Business Saturday and Earth Day are all holidays that were born during my lifetime-ish.  These are all great ideas, made real by someone’s vision, imagination and effort. I’m not saying you need to make up a new holiday, but you could.

The important thing to recognize is that if you want something to exist that currently does not, you can make it happen. If you have an idea that is useful or fun or important I strongly encourage you to write it down, sketch it out and give it as much detail as you can. Then work hard to bring it to life. It could be a product, business, charity, service or event. Heck, it could be a home, a support group, a marketing campaign or a better groundhog trap.  All ideas come to life through the same simple process.

This time last year my advertising agency, The Weaponry, only existed in my head. A year later it is as real as it gets. Like IRS-real. In fact, we have already worked with 11 clients in 6 states and 2 countries.  If I can do this, you can do it.

So what is your Groundhog Day? I know you have something in your head that you wish was real. From now on, when you hear or read Groundhog Day I want this invented holiday to make you think of the things you want to create. Let it inspire your ideas that could have a bigger impact on life than a rodent in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania or Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. You can do it. I believe it beyond a seeing-your-own-shadow of a doubt.

Do you have a Think Well?

Do you have a Think Well?

The most valuable asset on the planet is a new idea. The surprising new solutions to old problems. The reinventions that change our lives and disrupt the way business is done. Ideas make money. And save money. They create competitive advantages, differentiation and wide motes out of model-thin air.

So why is it that a small handful of organizations seem to have a monopoly on great ideas? Nike, Google, Apple and Facebook all seem to pump out new ideas like Kardashians pump out selfies. While other organizations are simply one-hit-wonders, too busy dancing the Macarena with Rico Suave and Mickey to have another 99 Red ideas.

At The Perfect Agency Project we think the problem is simple. To generate great ideas you need two things.

  1. Time to think.
  2. A place to think.

I won’t get into the time issue here. Time is the most precious and most wasted commodity on Earth. Wait, I just got into the time issue.  Backing out now. Beep. Beep. Beep.

To make sure you are creating the best ideas possible you need to have a great place to think. I call this a Think Well, because:

  1. You think well in that space.
  2. When you find your place, ideas flow like water from a well.
  3. It sounds like Inkwell.
  4. I like a good triple entendre.

Does your office have a space people can escape to, that is quiet and relaxing?  Where people can think uninterrupted for a long stretch? Sure, senior executives usually have offices where they can close the door, put their feet up and imagine things like John Lennon did.  But what about the rest of the team?  Maybe you have a Think Well at home. If so, work there more often.

The downside to the open concept work environment, which eliminate offices, is that you decimate the natural thinking habitat. Which threatens the thinking population. Despite their popularity and low-cost per square foot, cubicle farms are not good at growing ideas.

There is a simple way to discover if your office has Think Wells: ask your employees. ( I thought of that in my Think Well). If they say they have such a place, encourage them to spend more time there.  If they don’t have one, send them on a mission to find one. If they can’t find a Think Well, you need to create one.

I’m a big fan of the quiet section of the library.  I’ve always gotten a lot of work done there. The no-talking mandate simply means I start talking to myself, in my head. Which is exactly what thinking is. That’s why every organization should have a quiet, comfortable space where you can go to let your mind jog. Innovative thinking requires pumping the thoughts and ideas from deep in your mind, into your conscious brain, where you can process them, and translate them into physical form.

As Napoleon Hill wrote in Think and Grow Rich:

“More gold had been mined from the mind of men than the earth itself”

So find your personal Think Well. Create a space for others. Then enjoy the ideas and the value they produce. Oh, if you know anyone from Baha Men, please forward them this post. I’m dying to finally know who let the dogs out, and if they ever came back.

 

How to make your dreams come true in 3 easy steps.

How to make your dreams come true in 3 easy steps.

Do you have dreams?  I do. I dream all the time. You could say I’m dreamy. And I wish more people did. But I also know how to bring my dreams to life. I don’t just blow out birthday candles or wish upon stars or listen to Hall & Oates. While all of those activities may help, I use a simple technique that has proven effective thousands of times.

You may ask yourself why a guy who works in Advertising! would know how to make dreams come true. Well, my job as a creative is to dream of new things and then bring them to life. My proven Adam Albrecht Approach To Creating Things (I just made that up) follows a simple 3 step process. And this process applies to anything you want to create. A commercial. A home. A business. An invention. A baby. Or even a commercial about a home business that invents babies.

Today, the Perfect Agency Project hopes to make the world a better place and help make more of your dreams come true by sharing our process. So without further ado, here is how you can create anything you want through Adam Albrecht’s 3 Steps of Non-Religious Creation (I just rebranded it).

Step 1.  Envision The Dream.  

This is as simple as it sounds. This step is about letting your brain run and play. It is about building castles in your head. It is dreaming up the perfect cookie or car wash or app. Picture your ideal fill-in-the-blank. Create a clear image in your head first. Get it in HD if it is available in your area. The more detail the better. This should be fun. And remember not to dream too small.

Step 2.  Write it down.

This too is about as simple as it sounds. However, 99.9969% of dreams/ideas/visions never happen because they don’t make it to this step. They never get written down. They never get described. The never take any form in the physical world.

Simply talking about your dream doesn’t cut it. Talking is like dreaming aloud. So that still falls under Step 1. To make your dreams come true they have to make it to paper or pixels (this will now be known as The Paper or Pixel Principle). Writing the idea down creates the recipe, the blueprint, the formula, the instructions, the map. You get it.

I have notebooks throughout my home that are filled with dreams. I am certain that these notebooks are the most valuable items I own. Because in them are the descriptions, plans and sketches of great things just waiting for step 3!

But before we move on it is important to note that the more time your spend acting in step 2  the easier the final step is. In step 2 you can start small with a few notes and descriptions. But come back early and often to flesh out your idea (please don’t flush it out).

For example, if you’re making a recipe write down the ingredients and the place you plan to go shopping. If you’re building your dream home, sketch out a crude representation (not in oil). Write down the specialist you’ll need to help you. Write down the materials. And the resources you need to find in order to fill in the gaps in your knowledge or abilities. If you need help financing your dream this step is critical. Because it makes the dream real enough for others to see. This is the plan that others can support too.  Which is what makes KickStarter work.

Step 3.  Make it real.

Despite what you may think, this step is also easy when you follow the process. That is because your dream has already been created, twice.  First, in your head when you created your vision. Then when you wrote it down and created the recipe. Now you simply start cooking. Or moving. Or building. You should see the steps and functions required to make progress from step 2.  If not, bounce back to step 2 for a moment to write it out.

Keep moving. Dreams are like sharks: if they stop moving humans will make up sayings about them both. As long as you are working on one of the 3 steps you are making progress. Although the goal must always be to move forward to the next step in order to complete the process.

So there you have it.  Whether your dream is to build a great BLT, create a hilarious video or put a human on Mars the steps are the same. See it. Write it down. Make it for realsies. So get started today. Keep Moving. Create something great. And then send me a note to tell me all about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I am making the nap my secret business weapon.

How I am making the nap my secret business weapon.

Remember Kindergarten?  I do. It was great. Blocks, snacks, learning to read and being the cutest kids in the school. It was a sweet gig for a 5-year old. And, of course, there were the naps. I remember curling up on my squishy little quadrifold mat. Speckled blue on one side. Flecked red on the other. I zonked and drooled for a few minutes every day. And I always came out of the nap better than I went into it.

For most of us Kindergarten was the last time in our lives we were encouraged, if not forced to take a nap. Now, I want to bring the nap back. But this time for creative professionals. I can’t think of anything that would help my mind perform at its best and  make my days more enjoyable than a regular nap-cation. Even at the office.

Too often we push ourselves until we run out of gas. And you are simply not at your best when you are running on fumes. Call me crazy, but I don’t think we should pay great people with great minds great money and have them operate on low batteries. (Yes I mixed fuel and batteries. I’m a hybrid.) 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers. Which means they sleep in short siestas throughout the day. But somehow we’ve rejected what the rest of our hairy relatives have heartily embraced.

Napping isn’t just important for creative professionals. In various other lines of work the nap is a must. If you drive an 18-wheeler I want you to stop and nap whenever you need to so that you don’t get your Peterbilt in my chocolate. Doctors, if you’re on for a 24-hour shift, wait, scratch that. ANYTIME you need to make sure you are at your best, you take yourself a nap. I’ll even write you a prescription.

Cultures in other parts of the world highly value the workplace nap. In China you’ll find entire teams facedown at their desk over the lunch hour. I love this! And not just because I would take and post hilarious sleeper pics on Instagram every day. In Spain they siesta. Italy has they rock the riposo. And other countries from the Philippines to Nigeria say don’t worry, be nappy.

My friend and former officemate Vince DeMarinis used to announce every day at 3pm, ‘Welcome to the worst hour of the day!’  But with a well timed nap we could be as great at 3pm as we were first thing in the morning. My Grandfathers were both farmers. And you know what they did between the morning and evening chores to prepare for operating heavy and spinny and choppy farm equipment?  They fed their nap-petites on the couch for a few minutes every day. And their cattle and appendages were better off for it.

So I want to apply the same principle to The Perfect Agency Project. When me and my team are worn down from a long day slinging the pickaxe in the Idea Mine, I don’t want the team to simply push through with caffeine. Or 5-Hour Energy. Or Red Bull. Or Crack. What a fatigued mind really needs is a nap. A nap powers us up like our iPhones plugged into the wall. Only without the electricity and charging cords in our orifices.

I’m not proposing long naps where you shut your doors for a few hours and change into your footy pajamas. A quick cat nap will do the trick. A study by the research journal Sleep found that 10 minute naps were optimal in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. Another study of theirs showed that almost no one reads the research journal Sleep.

NASA performed some rocket science on sleepy military pilots and astronauts. They found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%. It even made Tang taste tangier. Since most of the ideators and pencil pilots I work with spend a lot of time with their heads in the clouds I find these results highly relevant.

I am planning out a napping policy and facility now. We may have mats, build bunk beds or hang hammocks. But the nap will be used. It will be sacred. It will help us develop better ideas faster. And it will help us be more productive. I firmly believe it will give us a competitive advantage in ideation. I encourage you to consider incorporating naps into your routine as well. And when you do, let me know. I’d be happy to come take some pictures of your team hard at sleep.