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.

The really easy way to pay people over the table.

Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business? I have. It’s easy to dream about the fun you would have being in charge. It’s fun to dream of a cool company name, the bazillion dollars you would make, and the crazy company benefits you would offer. #EveryoneGetsAPony

The Details

But on the other side of the dream are the details. It is the details of owning and running your own business that scare most people away. And the more people you have in your organization the more details there are to figure out. That’s why so many people decide to simply freelance, or become consulting cowboys and cowgirls, rather than deal with the complexities or paying other people.

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Look how serious this dude is about taking care of business!

I have seen far too many freelancers, consultants and business-of-one types become so fearful of hiring additional help that they hurt their own business and limit their own income. They never take advantage of opportunities for larger projects. And they never scale up. Because they don’t know how to handle employees, freelancers, contractors or outside vendors. And that’s a real shame.

The Weaponry

When I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I had a dream. #MLKJr I dreamed of growing The Weaponry into a large, amazing organization. Which meant that we needed to be able to easily add to our team. Luckily for us, there has never been a better time in history to launch a business. Because there are so many digital resources to enable you to easily do big businessy things as a small startup.

All Rights Reserved
Some of The Weapons.

Quickbooks

We use Quickbooks to run our accounting. It makes it hyper-easy to create and send estimates and invoices. It allows us to track our accounts payable and accounts receivable. We can see our profit and losses anytime. We link Quickbooks to our bank accounts and credit cards. And it makes it easy to track everything.

Paying People

One of the challenges a business owner must be able to handle is paying the people who perform work for the business. Some business owners decide to pay people under the table. This typically means you pay them in cash to avoid officially tracking the payment. Which means no one has to report the payments or the income to the IRS or state or local taxing agencies.

But this is not how real businesses operate. If you want to have a legitimate business, which you should, you pay people real wages, report the payments and income legitimately, and pay the appropriate taxes and withholdings. (Cue the national anthem and soaring eagle.)

Gusto

Making all of your payments legally and correctly is actually really easy. We use a great payment app called Gusto. Every time we hire an employee, freelancer, contractor or vendor, we set them up on Gusto.

gusto logo

Here’s how it works:

  • Individuals enter their social security numbers.
  • Businesses enter their tax ID numbers.
  • Everyone enters their address.
  • Everyone enters a bank account where they want their payment directly deposited.
  • Everybody Wang Chungs tonight.

gusto-employee-management

Trust The Process

We then process all of our payments through Gusto. And it works like magic. Based on factors like location and type of work performed (employee vs contractor vs vendor), it knows what type of payment needs to be made. I think it even knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.

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Gusto automatically figures out taxes, social security, unemployment insurance, workers comp details and the types of things that would otherwise keep you awake at night wondering why you decided to start your own business.

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Dream Team

Together, Gusto and Quickbooks, along with our accountant, Sally Bretsch, make our accounting one of the least stressful parts of owning my business. We have an easy-to- follow system for onboarding employees, contractors, clients and vendors. We get people set up quickly and we pay them on time. All of the difficult calculations happen automatically. And we spend more time doing the important work that helps us grow our business and keep our clients happy, like Pharrell Williams.

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The Price Is Right

The fee structure is simple. You pay a small monthly fee. And then you pay a small, increment cost per-person-you-pay-through-the-system each month. It is highly affordable and totally worth the sanity it preserves.

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A Great Time To Sign Up

Recently, my friend Dr. Theresa Pride, who owns a great business in Atlanta called Pride Physique Pilates and Physical Therapy told me she was going to switch to Gusto based on my recommendation. She asked me if there was a referral code she could enter to make sure Gusto knew I sent her. I looked in my email and sure enough, right now Gusto offers a referral bonus to both the referrer and the referree (that could be you you).

Here’s the information:

  1. Use the referral link: https://gusto.com/e/adam1529 by January 31, 2020 to sign up.
  2. My email associated with the account is still my startup-stage email: adamralbrecht@gmail.com (not my I-started-up email which is adam@theweaponry.com)
  3. When you run your first paid payroll, you’ll get a $200 Amazon gift card. And I will get a $200 Amazon gift card, too.

 Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to start a business. Don’t be afraid to hire contractors, employees or vendors. Gusto makes it easy to pay everyone you work with over the table, tax compliant, like a real, legitimate business. And because you don’t have to worry that you are paying people the right way you’ll have more time to think about the real business of your business. Which is what you have dreamed about from the beginning.

*If you know someone who owns, or would like to own their own business, please consider sharing this with them. #ThatsALotOfOwnsInOneSentence

The business lesson I didn’t know my 7th grade teacher taught me.

In 7th grade I had a social studies teacher named Mr. Wilson. I think his first name was Roger. Although Brian, Russell and Annandnancy all sound right as prefixes to Wilson. So it may have been one of those.

I remember Mr. Wilson as a portly, middle aged white man. But it wouldn’t surprise me if I discovered that he was the same age I am now. Because when you are 12 years old you think all adults are old.

Like most teachers, Mr. Wilson had go-to phrases that enabled us to do some hilarious impressions of him when he wasn’t around. We did hilarious impressions of all of our teachers. It’s probably why I never wanted to be a teacher.

The Sound Bite

Several times in every class, while we were supposed to be working on our assignments Mr. Wilson would bellow out,  ‘T-O-T.!’  He was not announcing his craving for tater tots (at least I don’t think so). It was an acronym for Time On Task. When my friend Marcus Chioffi (rhymes with coffee) and I would hear T.O.T. we would snicker at how much Mr. Wilson sounded like our impression of Mr. Wilson.

Fast Forward 3 Decades.

Today I own my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. And I find myself thinking about T.O.T. a lot. As I reflect on what has worked for me throughout my career and my entrepreneurial journey, I keep coming back to T.O.T.

Time To Make It Real

We all have dreams, goals and wishes. But we tend to spend far too little time working on them to force them into reality. The amount of time you actually spend working on a task is the key determinant of success in that area. There simply is no substitute for the focused work. It is why Time On Task is the key to progress.

Key Takeaway

If you want to be an entrepreneur, or achieve any lofty goal, you have to spend Time On Task. Focus your time. Block your time. Invest your time. Block out distractions. And do the work. It’s the only way to make great things happen. Just like Mr. Wilson said.

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

Have you found your chain of knowledge?

When I was a kid I knew about college. My parents both went to the University of Minnesota (and I still turned out okay). Dartmouth College was across the street from my high school in Hanover, New Hampshire. Everyone from Hanover High School seemed to go to college. There was never a question of whether or not I would go to college. It was just a matter of where. And whether or not I would get kicked out.

UW-Madison

After high school I went to the University of Wisconsin. I earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and psychology. Following college I had many friends who did even more schooling. They got master’s degrees, went to law school or medical school.

I did none of those things. Instead I began to self-educate. I began reading books, not just for entertainment, but for knowledge. I subscribed to various magazines and devoured them monthly. Eventually I learned that devouring reading materials does not mean that you actually eat them. Once I discovered that I began enjoying reading materials significantly more.

There’s Something Happening Here

I started noticing an interesting phenomenon. When I read a book, article or blog that I found valuable there would be a reference to another book, article, blog, vlog or podcast. I would add that new reference to my list of materials to explore. Then, not only would I find great value in that material, I would find another reference to other worthwhile material to explore.

One Thing Leads To Another.

I began compiling a rich list of books, authors, blogs and podcasts that continuously linked me to even more valuable new material. Like the required set of coursework you must take to earn a college degree, my self-directed readings began creating a unique and valuable path forward. Like my own yellow brick road.

Chains and Change

As I followed this chain of knowledge it changed my life in profound ways. I didn’t know it at the time, but my chain of knowledge created my coursework for entrepreneurship. Some of it was inspirational. Some of it was instructional. But each link added profound value.

Boarding The Entrepreneurship

In 2015 I began planning the launch of my own advertising agency. My readings and self education prepared me well for the process. I didn’t need an MBA. Or a business coach. I just needed my own self-directed chain of knowledge. And action.

The Weaponry

In the spring of 2016 I launched my own business called The Weaponry. At the same time, I launched this blog to help others build their chain of knowledge.

I have discovered that to accomplish great and difficult feats you don’t have to go back to school, like Rodney Dangerfield or Billy Madison. You simply have to keep adding links to your own chain.

Here are some sources that have provided strong links in my chain of knowledge. 

Books

  • Rich Dad. Poor Dad.
  • The Alchemist
  • Think And Grow Rich.
  • The E-Myth
  • Traction
  • TheCash Flow Quadrant
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  • Everything by John C. Maxwell
  • Everything by Jim Collins
  • Everything by Daniel Pink 
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  • Talent Is Overrated
  • Delivering Happiness
  • Call Me Ted
  • Pour Your Heart Into it
  • The One Thing

Podcasts

  • How I Built This
  • Bigger Pockets
  • Side Hustle School 
  • Open For Business
  • Startup

Magazines

  • Inc.
  • Fast Company

Key Takeaway

To become the best You that you can be build your own chain of knowledge. Direct your own education. Add to it every day. It will empower you to do great things. Things that you alone are uniquely qualified to do. And please share what you discover with others. Because like Billy Madison, I still have a lot left to learn.

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

My daughter thinks I am lucky to have such a cool job. But she is wrong.

Yesterday my daughter Ava had a basketball tournament 90 minutes from home. Ava and I enjoyed some daddy-daughter time as we drove to and from the tournament together. We always talk a lot on our drives. Our conversation yesterday included such random topics as:

  • Top 3 cities in the US you would want to live in someday
  • How to become a songwriter
  • How old you have to be to join the CIA
  • Elbows to the throat
  • Billy Eilish
  • Basketball moves that work
  • How Silicon Valley became a thing
  • Hair tossing and checking my nails
  • Honors Geometry terms (we studied for her quiz together)
  • How the championship medals they won glow in the dark
  • What is the 3rd Jonas Brother’s name (It’s Kevin)

Entrepreneurship

We also talked about my work. When I started The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, I also started this blog to share what I learned on my entrepreneurial journey. This is the 382nd post. So I must be learning something. But I don’t just blog about what I am learning. I try to teach my children as much as they can absorb. And maybe just a little more.

Recent Updates

I told Ava about some of the projects I am working on. I told her about work travel that I have coming up to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and potentially Orlando. I gave her an update on some of the things I just did on trips to Dallas and San Antonio.

Then she said something that really struck me. She said,

‘Dad, you are so lucky. You have the coolest job.’ -Ava Albrecht (14)

I smiled, and told Ava that my entire advertising career has been filled with cool opportunities and experiences. But the thing worth noting now is that I created my own job. I started my own business. All of the cool things I get to do now were not offered to me by an employer. I didn’t find this job like you find a 4-leaf clover. I created the opportunity to do cool things myself.

How Long Does It Take?

I knew that when I launched my own business I would be walking away from a number of amazing opportunities to do fun and interesting work. I wondered how long it would take before I got to do those same kinds of projects for The Weaponry.

It didn’t take long. Today I get to work on rewarding projects for many of my clients. I get to travel all over the country. I get to work with interesting and well known people. And so do my teammates.

Go Luck Yourself

Ava was right, I do have a cool job. But I am not lucky to have this job. I made this job. I knew the kind of work I wanted to do. And I created a job where I would get to do it. I told Ava that I want to make sure she knows that she has the ability to create her own dream job. And I want you to know that you do too.

Key Takeaway

The best way to land your dream job is to create it yourself. Know what you want. And realize you have the potential to make it happen. Today, I am busy creating my dream job. I am certainly not done yet. And neither are you.

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

Are you disappointed enough in yourself to do something about it?

I love being an entrepreneur. After spending the first 19 years of my career working for ad agencies owned by other people I decided to start my own. That was almost 4 years ago. It was also a leap year. Which is a good year to do anything because it gives you a 24 hour advantage. I tell this to presidential candidates and olympic hopefuls all the time.

The Reaction

Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, people often treat me like I am doing something impressive. Or daring. They are positive and supportive of my entrepreneurial adventure. I often hear from people who want to launch their own business. They tell me I was really brave to set out on my own. But when I analyze the driving force behind my leap into entrepreneurship it was not bravery. Not even close.

Ambition

I wanted to own my business since the beginning of my career. I envisioned myself as a business owner or business launcher-type-guy. Whatever that meant. In fact, in my head it was so clear that I would be an entrepreneur that after 15 years of working for other people I considered myself a failure for not actually being a real entrepreneur.

Disappointment for the win!

Eventually, it was the disappointment, and  sense of dissatisfaction in myself that finally moved things forward. Don’t get me wrong, I like myself. But I have a strong vision of my ideal self. And whenever I am not acting in accordance with that vision, or I am too far off the pace I set in my head, I really bothers me. And that disappointment and embarrassment is a powerful fuel. One we should guzzle regularly.

Disappointment (Is better den dat appointment)

Most people never become so disappointed in themselves that it propels them forward. But that is extremely valuable. An injury to your pride is one of the best things that can happen to you. You don’t have to become a prostitute or a heroin addict. Because there is a point of diminishing returns. You just need to be incongruent with your self perception. That feeling eventually pushes you forward like the other side of the magnet.

Key Takeaway.

Create a strong image of who you really are at your core. Write a glorious story about yourself in your head. Make it vivid and real. Think about it all the time. And eventually you will get so fed up with not being that version of yourself that you will take drastic measures. It’s in those drastic measures that the magic happens. And when you do you will feel remarkably alive. Like you are no longer coasting through life. I hope that happens to you. Here’s to you experiencing disappointment in motivating quantities in 2020.

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

The key to great problem solving.

I love my job. I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of my work. Not just the advertising-specific stuff. But all of the businessy work I have to do as an entrepreneur. The problem solving I do is extremely rewarding. Every day feels like a game. Sometimes it’s Monopoly. Sometimes it’s Go Fish. Sometimes it’s The Running Man.

Netflix

As much as I love the work I do, one of my favorite parts of the workday at The Weaponry is when we eat lunch and watch shows on Netflix. We watch a broad range of programming that either helps stimulate our thinking, makes us laugh, or both.

The Repair Shop

Yesterday we watched an episode of The Repair Shop, which is a reality show about a British repair shop (go figure) that people bring antique treasures to in order to have them restored to their former glory. At the shop there is a furniture expert, a fabric expert, an art expert, an electronics expert, a clock expert and more.

The Repair Shop

I love watching the experts at The Repair Shop work, because they are all really great problem solvers. And I learn from the way they solve their problems

The Desk

In the episode we watched yesterday an old Davenport desk came into the shop with a great deal of damage. One of the problems that had to be addressed was that there were drawers with locks but no keys to open them. Because the furniture expert really wanted to get in those drawers (#snickering), he approached the clock and lock expert to see if he could help unlock the locked drawer. The clock and lock jock was happy to help.

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A Davenport desk, like the one on The Repair Shop. Not like the Davenport my Grampy used to nap on.

The Keys

The lock expert then pulled out a large jar full of all kinds of random old keys. The man explained that he has a large collection of old spare keys that he uses to help unlock tricky locks. He then said that whenever he sees keys in an antique shop he will always buy them to add to his collection. So that he can unlock even more locks in the future.

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A collection of skeleton keys, in case you ever need to get inside a locked skeleton.

Ditto

I instantly recognized that I do the same thing. I am always collecting keys. Except my  keys don’t come from antique shops. They come from books, magazines and podcasts. From discussions with experts, and from asking a lot of questions.

The keys that I collect don’t go into a jar. They get stored in my library, my notebooks and in the files of information in my head. My keys wait patiently for me to call on them to help me unlock the next problem I need to solve. And while I can’t display them for the world to see, I know they are there. And the older I get, the more keys I have in my collection. Which means I can unlock problems faster now than ever before.

Key Takeaway (literally)

There are keys to unlocking problems everywhere. They are found in the things you read and the experts you meet. They are found through experience, and observation. So look for them. Collect them before you need them. And be prepared for whatever your world and your work send your way.

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