Are you spending your time with the right people? 

Who are you spending your time with?

This is one of the most important questions you you can ask yourself. It is right up there with, Am I eating well? Am I exercising enough? And, Am I getting enough sleep? The question is important because whether you like it or not, you are becoming more like the people you spend your time with.

Take a moment to think about those people you spend your time with, either by choice, by default.

Pausing For thought…Playing that song from Jeopardy in my head…Which I always thought sounded like ‘I’m a little teacup.’…

The Human Conveyor Belts 

The people you spend your time with are like conveyor belts, taking you where they are going. That’s why it is critical that you carefully choose who you are spending your time with. Don’t settle for people who are simply nearby. Or convenient. Or who want to spend time with you. Make sure that they are people who will help carry you where you want to go.

My Journey (will always feature Steve Perry)

When I started my entrepreneurial journey I began spending a lot of time with other entrepreneurs. These were people who truly believed that they could make something out of nothing. Which made me believe I could alchemize my own success.

Their tolerance for risk made me more risk tolerant. Their boldness made me bolder. I quickly found myself thinking and acting like an entrepreneur. And before I knew it, I had established The Weaponry LLC. I had clients and revenue and employees and t-shirts. I also had other people wanting to know how I did it. And I have been sharing what I know ever since.

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Dan Nowak, Darren Fisher and Jordan Meyer are all great entrepreneurs who I spend a lot of time with. They try to teach me things,  like how real entrepreneurs pose for photos.

Heat Seeker

Seek out the people you want to be more like. The people who are headed where you want to go. People who are thinking and acting the way you want to think and act. Avoid the blamers and excuse makers. Ditch the complainers and the complacents. Attitudes are highly contagious. Make sure you are catching yours from the right people.

Key Takeaway

Become a better you by spending time with better people. Surround yourself with positive, can-do, will-do types. They will pull you forward. They will force you to grow to keep up. Then, as you grow, find more people who are even further ahead. Positive influence is a super fuel. Take all you can get. And share it with everyone you can.

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

Are you settling for the opportunities that come your way?

Over the past couple of weeks I have had several conversations with unhappy campers. Ok, so they weren’t really campers. They were entrepreneurs who were dissatisfied with the opportunities coming their way. As a result, they were not working with the types of clients or customers they wanted to work with. And they were not generating the level of revenue they expected.

The Cause

As I talked to these entrepreneurs about their challenges a common theme emerged. Each of the unhappy non-camping business owners told me that they were not actively marketing themselves. (Audible Gasp!) They said they are generating their leads from word of mouth alone. (Even Audibler Gasp!)

Out of Control

Generating business via word of mouth alone is a mistake. It means that you are not determining the types of clients you work with. Instead, the quantity and quality of clients approaching you are limiting your business. Which means you are not in control of your brand, or your growth. Janet Jackson would be disappointed.

Being Lazy Is Crazy

If you are not actively marketing and promoting yourself you are settling for whatever comes your way. Which is like going to a singles bar, and waiting for people to come talk to you. That is a lazy approach. And not likely to lead to your happily-ever-after ending.

Don’t Float. Drive Your Own Boat

I have been to singles bars, back before I was double. And the ladies who would come talk to me were not the same ones I would choose to talk to myself. They were the most aggressive ladies. Not the most attractive, smartest, nicest or most dentally impressive.

But I was not about to settle for less. I had a clear vision of what I wanted. And when I first saw my wife I was quickly in hot pursuit, like Sheriff Rosco P Coltrane. I wrote about it in the post It was an ordinary day until I got on that elevator.

Build Your Business

Since before I even launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, I identified the types of clients I wanted to work with. I spent a disproportionate amount of time focused on developing relationships with my ideal client types. As a result, The Weaponry works with a lot of really great clients in interesting industries. Just like I envisioned we would.

Key Takeaway

Don’t settle for the opportunities that come your way. Go after the opportunities you want. Find the clients, customers or employers you want to work with. Then actively promote yourself to them. It’s the only way to build the business, brand and life you imagined. It takes more work. But it’s worth it.

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

What do you do when you hit a wall?

When I was a high school freshman I ran my first 400 meter race. 400 meters is one lap around an outdoor track. It is a difficult race to run. I started strong. The first 100 meters felt great. The second 100 meters felt good. The third 100 meters were tough. Then, with just 100 meters left to go, I hit the wall. Everyone who has run a 400 meter race knows where that wall is. Once you hit it you are no longer sprinting. You are just trying to survive. And you are suddenly thankful that more people don’t come to watch track meets.

Hitting Walls

Today I recognize that every difficult challenge has a wall. A point at which things are no longer easy. A point when people typically quit. We hit walls like college students hit weeder classes. And the walls stop those who are not determined to keep going.

I see it all the time. Someone will start a project full of energy and ambition. They start a side hustle, blog, a club or mustache. Maybe they get their real estate license, start writing a book, or begin exercising and eating right. Then something happens. A challenge confronts them. They hit a busy period. Or a dry spell. Or they go too long without seeing results. Or they simply take a moment to nap in a field of poppies with their friends Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion (all of whom have strange New York accents).

It could be hours, days, weeks, or months into the adventure. But at some point people run into something hard. And they stop. The momentum vanishes. The music dies. And the dream end.

Inspiration Strikes

In 2014 a co-worker of mine started taking on exciting marketing projects on his own.  He told me all about the projects, and how much money he was making. I was amazed. He was developing the start of his own agency. It was thrilling to see. It inspired me. I wanted to do what he was doing. And within a year I began planning my own agency.

While I was eagerly planning my dream agency, I sought out that same coworker to get another inspiring update. But when we sat down to talk about his latest success he instead told me he wasn’t doing it anymore. I was shocked, and asked him why.  He said, ‘It got really hard.’

The Perfect Agency Project

I started my wannabe-agency-project as a nights-and-weekends effort in the fall of 2015. By April of 2016 I had legally established The Weaponry LLC, left my job, and committed to making this new agency work. By the end of 2016 we had generated over $400,000 in revenue. Which felt great. Like Frosted Flakes.

The Wall

Then we hit a wall. Our very first client, the client that represented the lion’s share of our revenue for 2016, didn’t have any more work for us in 2017. This was bad news. It was the kind of news that kills businesses all the time. But we did one thing that saved us. We didn’t stop.

Yes, we hit a wall. But we kept marching. We were not going to let the loss of our largest client stop us. We wanted to succeed too much to quit. (We were also too legit.) So we hustled. We found new clients. And discovered more opportunities with our other clients. Instead of folding because things got hard, we doubled our efforts. And we doubled the business in 2017. Simply because we refused to stop.

Key Takeaway

I hope you try to do something hard this year. Something really ambitious. And if you do, know that sooner or later you will run into a wall. All great things are hard to do. The key to success is simply not stopping when things get hard. Find a way around, over or through the wall. Just don’t stop. Because all the great stuff is on the other side of the wall.

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

Entrepreneurs are 125% more successful if they do this.

The idea of starting your own business can be scary. The statistics say that there is a high probability of your dream business failing. But then again, there is a really, really high probably that your heart will fail at some point too. And when that happens none of your other failures matter anymore anyway.

A Safer Bet

But there is a way to practice safe entrepreneurship. It’s not perfectly safe. Just like there is no perfectly safe sex. At least not any that involves other people.

Do what you know.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, but your tolerance for risk is sweet n’ low, the safe thing to do is to start a business in an industry you have already worked in.

It turns out that entrepreneurs are 125% more successful if they’ve previously worked in the industry they start their own business in.

Keep on rocking in the free world.

This should be encouraging to those of you who are rockstars in your current job and think you could do it even better on your own. That’s what I did. Okay, so I am not really a rockstar. I am more like a bluegrass artist with a loyal local following, that consists mostly of my family and the hard of hearing.

The Weaponry

After working for other advertising agencies for 19 years, I launched my own advertising and idea agency in 2016. Today, The Weaponry is nearly 4 years old. And I have been able to pour all of my industry experience directly into my entrepreneurial adventure. And in return, it has poured some sugar on me.

Key Takeaway

If you really want to start your own business, and I hope you do, consider starting a business in the industry you are already working in. Your experience and connections give you a major advantage. You do have connections don’t you? If not, work on building that parachute before you jump out of your current airplane.

Fun note: I am writing this on a plane as I fly to Florida to film the CEO of one of our greatest clients. We work with this great client because my friend and former coworker, Erin Lovett recommended us. But don’t worry. I won’t jump out of the plane. It would put a quick end to my 125% advantage.

If you ever want to be an entrepreneur, start doing this now.

Entrepreneurship is a wonderful and mysterious adventure. It is both easier and harder than it seems. Which is a hard thing to fathom. Hence the mysterious adventure.

Getting Started

The greatest challenge to starting your own business is simply getting started. Because you have to figure out how to run your household on an an alternative financial fuel source. Namely, self-generated income.

For most people who have spent their adult lives operating on a predictable, salaried income, this switch to self-generated financial fuel is a difficult conversion. But there is one simple thing you can do right now to put yourself in favorable position to start your own business.

man sitting down and using his laptop
Despite what Tom Petty said, the starting is actually the hardest part.

The First Thing To Do.

The first step on your entrepreneurial journey is to live below your means. Which means you should spend less money than you earn. This is the best entrepreneurial move you can make right now. It will help you start your own business in 2 ways.

1. It helps you save money to invest in your own business.

You can start a business with very little money. But you will need some. You have to register your business entity with your state. That cost me about $150. You will need some business cards. You can get good cards from Moo for about $100.

You will need the materials and supplies required to create your product, or offer your service. The more money you have saved the more you have to invest in yourself. Your stash of cash determines how long your runway is before your new baby business needs to make money.

I started The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, by depositing $16,000 I earned doing freelance work into a business banking account. Think of the money you are saving as they money you have to buy your own freedom. Which is the most valuable thing you can ever buy.

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Yes, you can start your own business even if you have 3 kids and a wife you really want to keep.

2. It makes it easier to replace your Minimum Required Income. 

Take a moment to determine your Minimum Required Income. Your MRI is how much income you need to survive this year. Make sure everyone you are responsible for has food, clothing and shelter. Otherwise Family Services will stand between you and your entrepreneurial dreams. Take your MRI and compare it your current income. Are they same? If you want to become an entrepreneur your MRI should be lower. If possible, much lower.

How Low Can You Go?

When I started thinking about my minimum required income I quickly came to a number that was less than half of my actual income at the time. Then I told myself that if I found a way to self-generate my MRI, I would jump, like David Lee Roth, or The Pointer Sisters.

That is exactly what happened. A few initial opportunities emerged that appeared as if they would help me hit my number. So I jumped like Camp Randall stadium at the start of the 4th quarter. Had my MRI been equal to my salary I would have needed twice as much opportunity to com together before I could press go. Living well within my means made it much easier to take the entrepreneurial leap.

black and gray photo of person in front of computer monitor
Crunch your numbers. Get to work. And if you know what language that is on the screen please fill me in.

Shorty Got Low, Low, Low.

The key is not to expand your lifestyle when your income increases. This is the single greatest thing you can do to afford yourself career options. The money you are not spending buys your freedom. Because the person who needs to replace $50,000 in income has an easier on-ramp to entrepreneurship than the person who needs $200,000. That’s math.

Limit Yourself Now To Unlimit Yourself Later

Once I started my entrepreneurial journey I quickly exceeded my MRI. But that bought me more freedom. It let me save more money. It also allowed me to reinvest in the business. Both activities added to the security of the new adventure. And long term financial security is one of the greatest reasons to start your own business in the first place.

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Set your MRI. Set your mind to making it happen. And set several red things on your desk. 

Key Takeaway

If you want to be able to start your own business you need to live below your means. Save money. Know your minimum required income for the first year. That becomes your go-no-go for launch income. Use that number as your benchmark when evaluating your opportunities. The lower your MRI the sooner you can get started. And the faster you will earn more money than you even thought possible.

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

The valuable business lesson I taught my 9-year old.

I often talk about work at home. I want my 3 children to learn as much about business and entrepreneurship as possible. In the same way languages are easier to learn when you are younger, good business lessons are easier to learn before you become a cog in a machine. I learned that from reading Rich Dad. Poor Dad. And from becoming a cog in a machine.

The Proposal Parade

My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, has been writing a lot of proposals lately. You write a proposal when a client or potential client wants to know how you would handle a specific project. The proposal, also called a statement of work (S.O.W.), includes a proposed course of action, timing and budget. It does not include getting down on one knee. #KaepernickCouldDoIt

The Conversation

Earlier this week I was telling my wife about an exciting new proposal that we were working on. My 9-year old son Magnus overheard the conversation. Mostly because I wanted him to overhear the conversation. #sneakydadlessons

When I tucked Magnus into bed that night he asked me, ‘Dad, is someone really going to pay your business Vague Large Sum of Money? I was glad he asked. Because his interest gave me a perfect opportunity to share a lesson…

The Bedtime Story

Me:  Yes Magnus. Someone is really going to pay us Vague Large Sum of Money. But there is more to it that you should understand. Remember when we went to Dallas during spring break last year? And on the last day we went to Dunkin Donuts?

Magnus:  Yes.

Me:  Remember after we ate donuts, Mom dropped me off to have chocolate milk with my friend? Then Mom took you, Ava and Johann to some shops and to that park nearby where you played on that long horned cow statue?

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Magnus ripped his shorts getting off this statue in Dallas, and it was the last time he ever wore them. #hookedemhorns

Magnus: Yes.

Me: Well, after my friend and I caught up on what had happened over the past 13 years since we had last seen each other, he said, ‘I could use your help on some projects I am working on.’

Then he called me after we got home from vacation, and we set up a video conference meeting between our teams. We did 3 small projects together. And they really liked how those projects went. So they asked us to do more work for them. And we did a good job on those project too.

Because we did a good job on all those projects, now they are going to give us Vague Large Sum of Money to do an even larger project.

But, think of that money as a loaf of bread.  They give us the whole loaf. And that is called Revenue.

But then we need to give slices of bread to the workers at The Weaponry who work on the project. And we have to give slices of the bread to the film crew and the photographers and editors who work on the project. And we have to give a slice to other companies, like the airlines and the hotels that we use when we travel to do the work.

After everyone else who works on the project gets their slices of bread, The Weaponry keeps a few slices for itself for helping to organize all of the work that needed to be done.

And those slices of bread that we keep are called profit.

Magnus: How much profit does the business keep?

Me:  We like to aim for 25%. Or 1 out of 4 dollars. So if they gave us $100 our profit would be $25.  (Profit is actually a bit more complicated, and depends on the project. But I was trying to keep things simple.)

Putting Math To Work

Magnus and I then applied the 25% rule to the Vague Large Sum of Money so that Magnus could understand what a project of that size represented after all of the work was done, and all the bills were paid.

The Lesson Learned

After completing Daddy’s Bedtime Business Lesson, I asked, ‘So Magnus, what is the key lesson you learned here?’

And without a moment of hesitation, Magnus replied:

‘Have chocolate milk with your friends.’  -Magnus Albrecht (9 y/o)

Key Takeaway

Have chocolate milk with your friends. Or coffee, or beer or Kool Aid. Spend time with your people. Good things happen when you first develop and maintain good relationships. Even a 9-year old knows that.

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

Do you love your work as much as Jim Cantore loves thundersnow?

During the spring of my senior year of college I was approached by a major pharmaceutical company about an entry level sales position. They recruited college athletes, because they wanted competitive go-getters to go sell, sell, sell for them.

Wearing a suit I borrowed from my Wisconsin track teammate, Greg Gill, I did 2 rounds of interviews. The pay, bonus structure and the benefits all sounded amazing for a kid right out of school. But I had no passion for pharmaceutical sales. Or for wearing business suits. So I passed.

Advertising!

Instead, I looked for opportunities as a copywriter with an advertising agency. I got informational interviews at 2 agencies. I was then offered jobs by both companies. The pay was half what the pharmaceutical sales job would have paid. But the work excited me. So I jumped at the chance to join Cramer Krasselt, one of the country’s best advertising agencies, for $21,000 a year.

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Me and my man Lucian McAfee on a shoot at the Atlanta Braves’ spring training facility in Florida.

Just An Excitable Boy

I loved my low paying job, and it showed. I got my first raise 3 months later. I got another raise 6 months after that. And another raise 6 months after that. Then I got a promotion, and another raise. It was clear I was doing the work I was supposed to do.

 

Love Will Keep Us Together

The quick success and pay increases happened because I loved my work. I was all in on the work. Working hard as an advertising creative was extremely fulfilling. Many advertising creatives will say they didn’t choose the work, the work chose them. That’s exactly how I felt. Somehow the work didn’t feel like work. It felt like playing. And it still does today.

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Me and my fellow Weapon, Adam Emery are the bread in a Blake Pieroni sandwich. Blake is an Olympic Gold Medalist. Guess which sport…

Jim Cantore

I once saw a clip of Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel capturing the super-rare phenomenon of thundersnow on camera. According to a Royal Meteorological Society study (I read all of their stuff), this phenomenon occurs in only 0.07 percent of snowstorms in the United States. And only 6 occurrences are reported each year. In the video, Jim is about as excited about thundersnow as anyone could be about anything, ever.  Here is the clip:

Straight Outta The Upper Connecticut River Valley

Jim Cantore and I grew up in neighboring towns in Vermont. I am from Norwich. Jim grew up 5 miles south in White River Junction. I am super proud of the passion of my  fellow Green Mountain Boy. I wish everyone loved their work as much as Jim loves his.

Passion Powered

I recognize the excitement that Jim showed. Because I feel like that all the time. My enthusiasm for my work has made my entire career feel like, well, not work. My clients and coworkers can feel how much I enjoy the work I do. I think my enthusiasm makes me more enjoyable to work around. Granted, there may be a point of diminishing returns.

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That time me and Danica Patrick filled a Prevost motorhome with ping pong balls for work.

Entrepreneurship

When I first launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I knew it would be successful. Because I loved the work, and was willing to do all of the hard work necessary to make the business fly. As it turns out the work has been just as fun as I thought it would be. Solving problems is fun. Developing ideas is to help my clients thrive is extremely fun. And I never tire of the demands of business ownership.

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Gung-ho in gingham, with Jon Mathews.

Key Takeaway

If you haven’t found work you are passionate about yet, keep looking. Find that thing that makes you lose your mind, like Jim Cantore in thundersnow. Find something that make you pound the table like I pound the table when we have found another great idea that will help our clients win. Don’t settle for good pay, nice benefits and a safe existence. Energize yourself by doing something you really love every day.

Note: I first witnessed thundersnow while snowmobiling with my great friends Greg Gill and George Mort in Saint Germain, Wisconsin. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s like seeing lightning in a snow globe. It’s my favorite weather phenomenon.