3 ways that you can work like Google.

Have you heard of the Google? If your answer is yes, then you know that they are one of the smartest, most progressive companies on Google Earth. If you’ve never heard of them I strongly encourage you to google them. I’ll wait while you do.

I’ve been so impressed by this organization that I’ve recently read several books written by a gaggle of Googlers. Including How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. These cats who run Google have some pretty good ideas. So I’ve stolen them. (Actually, I think they wanted me to steal them. Because they wrote a book about them. Which makes them open-source ideas, right?)

 

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How Google Works is about how Google works. And don’t be confused by the design. The book title is not Goc.

3 Ideas I stole from Google

1. Hire Smart Creatives:

Smart Creatives are people with smart, curious minds.  They are dreamers and doers. They are self-propelled. They are constantly coming up with great ideas and acting on them, with or without you. They have lots of interests. And they are hard to find.

When you find a Smart Creative, grab him or her by the intellect, and don’t let go. At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry this is exactly who we hire. I’m proud to say we are dense with these types.  But Smart Creatives are not just found in creative fields. They are in every industry and every category. Find them and they will transform your organization.

2. Keep your people crowded:

Most companies give their people too much space. Business space is like personal space, but at work. We mistakenly think the more business space you have the better. Organizations reward employees with more space as they become more valuable. Because the bigger the office the better, right? Google says no.

When you give your people lots of space the only time they interact with each other is in meetings and in the hallway. Google recommends keeping people close to each other so that interacting and sharing ideas is the norm, not the exception. At The Weaponry we are crowding our people together. It helps us rapidly share and build ideas. It helps build culture and camaraderie. It’s also great for sing-alongs. And I love a good sing-along.

3. Spend 80% of your time on 80% of your revenue:

Google stole this mantra from a guy named Bill Gates. The founder of Microsoft obviously knows something about macro-thinking. After all, he is the richest man in the Seattle metro area. The reason to use this 80-80 rule is that it is easy to get distracted by new ventures, experiments and pet projects.

New things are always fun and exciting. But you have to stay focused on the work that  keeps the wi-fi on. This has been especially valuable advice to The Weaponry lately. We have recently moved into new office space. And it is really easy to find cool projects to work on in the new space. But we have reminded ourselves to budget the time we spend on the space according to the 80-80 rule.

How you work

There are a lot of other great ideas in How Google Works.  But I’d like to hear from you. What is one thing that you do in your organization that you know contributes to your success?

*If you are in the market for more semi-stolen ideas please consider subscribing to this blog.

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How to make an office feel like your home.

In the summer of 2015 I began the perfect agency project in my home office in Atlanta. It wasn’t just this blog. It was an entrepreneurial project to create the perfect ad agency. I was a man on a mission. I wrote down my goals. I mapped out the people, processes, and purchases needed. I declared the agency’s core values and pillars for success. I could see it all. I even envisioned the first company picnic, and how lame it was going to be when we played tug-of-war with just 2 or 3 people.

In mid 2016 the agency opened for business.

One of the most profound and important steps in the process was naming the agency. There was something about going from building “an advertising agency” to creating The Weaponry that transformed the dream from ethereal to concrete.

The first year was a great success, as measured by the original vision. We had even moved the headquarters to Milwaukee, which was part of the larger plan. In July of 2017 we decided it was time to move the agency operations from a home office to a real office downtown (things will be great when you’re downtown). I began a search for space and wrote about my experience in a 3-part series that you can now binge read anytime. See Looking for office space: A Startup Story,  Looking For Office Space 2: The Messy Middle, & Looking for office space: We have an office!

Moving in.

November 1st we got the keys to our new space in Milwaukee’s modern North End. The team is thrilled to have an office of our own. But just like when you buy a house, the empty space we inherited didn’t immediately feel like us. It wasn’t bad. It was just, neutral. And we are decidedly not neutral. So, just like at the beginning of the project, our team had to apply our vision for the agency in order to transform the space into The Weaponry.

We started with some basics. We added wi-fi and computers, desks and chairs. We were operational and our most basic needs were met within the first week. But the space wasn’t ours yet. Like ranchers brand their livestock, we needed to brand our new space. We needed to give the office a name. And personality. So we looked for ways to make our mark.

Front Door

Our front door was just naked glass. There was nothing on it to tell people who we were or where they were. This had to change. So we contacted a very talent freehand sign painter. We really loved her style. Apparently so does everyone else. Because she told us in November that she was booked until late January or early February. Since we signed a 13-month lease we couldn’t afford to go sign-less for the first 3 or 4 months.

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Our front door is no longer naked. 

We looked into signage that we could have in place quickly.  We found a good sign company that could make what we wanted, and have it installed within 3 days. Which was great.  But then we ran into another challenge. To install the wall graphics we wanted we had to wait a month after we painted so that the gas could escape from the new paint on the walls. I snickered at the idea of having gassy walls.

So we began painting immediately. Or I should say K-Lil, our super talented Associate Creative Director started painting. She picked the perfect colors and started bringing The Weaponry to life as a real place.

 

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Do you think the logo is too small?  

Last Friday, the paint had properly aged and we had the sign people come and make their magic. And magic it was.  They put up our first three branding marks. And suddenly the space feels like The Weaponry. Our front door declares that you have arrived at The Weaponry. When you enter our space you are greeted by a 90-inch wide reminder of where you are. And we have started putting small thinking reminders around the space.

 

We have much more to add. But the office is developing a great feel. We’re thrilled to call this place our home. And we’d be happy to have you come see it for yourself.

Here are a few videos of the installation.  If you want to see and hear more about our journey please subscribe to this blog.

 

Why I hate networking, and what I do instead.

Since I was in college I have heard career-minded folk talk about the importance of networking. Which begs the question, What the fruit is networking? Because before college I didn’t network, and I seem to have gotten along just fine.

But starting my freshman year in college, professors, advisors and guest speakers talked about networking as if it twas the key to success beyond college (twas is a word you can only use in December). Then I started my career in advertising and I heard the same thing. Business books and career coaches strongly encourage you to network. I have even attended a few functions called networking events. Oy. 

So what the funk does it means to network? 

Oh looky here! I found a definition.

Network (verb): interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.

Ahh. When you put it that way, I understand what you mean. And it kinda makes me want to barf.  ‘Interacting with people‘, ‘exchanging information’ and ‘developing contacts’ is something that can be done by a machine. Or a criminal.

What I do.

While other people network, I am still doing what I did before college. Before I was told that networking was the key to advancing my career. Before I was told networking was crucial to successful entrepreneurship.

No. I don’t network.

I befriend.

What does that mean?  Well, I just happen to have the definition for you right here:

Befriend (verb): act as a friend to someone by offering help or support.
This is what I do. I learned how to do this when I was in pre-school and it has served me well my entire life.  Notice the keys to befriending? You act as a friend. You offer help and support. This is the good stuff. This is what other people really want.  This is how you improve life on the big blue marble.

When you dive into the synonyms of befriending you develop an even richer picture:
  • make friends with
  • make a friend of
  • look after
  • keep an eye on
  • be of service to
  • lend a helping hand to
  • help
  • protect
  • side with
  • stand by
  • encourage

The Take Away

The world would be a better place if we stopped trying to network, and we just tried to make friends. So I encourage you to develop real relationships. Because when you make people the most important thing in your life, everything else magically falls into place.  Our relationships, and the positive impact we have on one another, are the only things that really matter. It is true at home. It is true in pre-school. It is true in college. And it is true in business. So if you really want to be a great success, be a great friend. If there is any way I can help, please let me know.

Starting your own business is as easy as getting pregnant.

It is easy to talk about starting your own business. I started talking about it within the first year of landing my first job in advertising. I have heard countless colleagues and friends dream about starting their own business over the years. But few have done it. Last year I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. I also started this blog to share my learnings about the process.

So, what have I learned?

Most people think that starting a business is really hard. It is not. It is actually pretty easy.  In fact, as the title of this post suggests, it is as easy to start a business as it is to get pregnant. And for many people it’s actually way easier.

How to get pregnant.

To get pregnant you simply need two people to agree to a somewhat awkward exchange. One time. That’s all. And boom, your pregnant! You don’t need foreplay or formality. You don’t need to be experienced or even be particularly good at it.

Starting a business works the exact same way. Two people agree to a very basic, if not awkward initial exchange. They connect a problem and a solution. And when the money changes hands you have a business transaction. Once you have created a business transaction, even a micro-transaction, you have started a business.

The rest of it is romance. Window dressing.

Congratulations, it’s a business!  Now what?

Once you have made that exchange (become pregnant or started a business) you can figure out what to do next. In fact you don’t have to do much. You don’t have to be a good business owner, or parent. Certainly there are many parents who make their greatest, if not only contribution at conception.

You don’t have to get married to have children. And you are not required to make your business official by creating a separate business entity. It can remain a sole-proprietorship.

Sole Proprietorship

Income and losses are taxed on the individual’s personal income tax return. This is the simplest business form under which one can operate a business. It aint even a legal entity. It simply refers to a person who owns the business and is personally responsible for its debts.    -Entrepreneur

Remember, the pass-fail question here is, ‘Did you exchange a product or service for money?’ Once you have done that, you have a business, whether you claim it or not. Putting a lot more energy into the business is up to you. You get to decide what kind of parent of owner you want to be.

Conclusion

Stop thinking it is so hard.  Stop thinking you have all sorts of prerequisites to starting a business. You don’t. You don’t need any foreplay at all. You just need to play. And if you like it, the after-play is where you can develop the business further.  You have time to figure all of that out as you go.

But if you really want to start a business just take that first small step. It’s really not that hard.

If you know someone who has been talking about starting a business forever, please pass this post along to them. And if you found a bit of value in this post yourself, please consider subscribing to my blog.

 

If you are celebrating your failures you are missing the point.

I hate the word failure. In my book, failure is the real F-word. So why the F has this F-word become so popular lately? Organizational leaders, motivational books and quasi-business coaches are encouraging us to embrace our failures. They tell us to fail fast. And fail more often. They say that if you are not failing you are not pushing yourself enough. I fail to understand this thinking. In fact, I don’t place any value on failures at all.

Emphasizing The Wrong Syllable. 

When I set out to create the perfect advertising agency, I expected it would be a lot of hard work. I expected that I would face a lot of challenges that I was underprepared for.  But one of the best things I did from the beginning of my entrepreneurial adventure was give myself permission to be an amateur. As an amateur, I have valued one thing above all else. It’s not success. And it’s certainly not failure.

I place the greatest value on the attempt. 

The attempt is the action that creates all possibilities of success. Failure is simply a result of the attempt. Failure by itself does not lead to success. Never forget that.

A Life Lesson From Newtonian Physics

Newton’s first law of motion says that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. True dat, Sir Issac! You know what that means to me? A body at rest does not start a business. It does not change paradigms. It doesn’t invent new products or services. A body at rest does not create a magnetic culture. It does not develop a force that helps businesses thrive. A body at rest does not lead a company in sales. It does not create a positive impact on friends, families and communities. In fact, the only thing a body at rest does is remain at rest. Which is tragic.

And… Action!

The supreme value of my entrepreneurial-self is action. As long as I am taking action I give myself credit. Every action gets me closer to success. Action is the energy. Action is the possibility maker. Action is the seed of accomplishment. Remember the old saying that sex is hereditary? (If your parents didn’t have sex, chances are you won’t either.) If you don’t take action, none of your dreams will either.

Golf 

Life is like golf. To get the ball from the tee into the hole you need action. That, my friends, comes from you swinging the club. If you are too lazy or too afraid to swing the club you will never, ever get the ball in the hole. Simply by swinging the club you have given yourself a chance to succeed.

Back to Business

As I build my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I put a premium on action. I place a high value on simply taking one step after another. If the steps are off, or fruitless or inflict pain or damage, that’s ok. The key is to learn, correct and act again.

It was either Steve Perry or Lao Tzu who said, ‘A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.’ But even more importantly, every step of the journey is just a single step taken. Maybe you’ll have some missteps along the way that will ultimately make your journey 1001 miles, or 1110 miles or 2000 miles. That’s ok. That’s not failure. That’s action. Take the first action. Take the second action. Then just keep going. That’s how it happens. Don’t embrace failure. Embrace the action that created the possibility.

If you’re ready to take more action now, consider subscribing to this blog. Where else will you find Sir Issac Newton, Steve Perry, golf and the F-word references in the same 600 word post?

 

Looking for Office Space Part 3: We Have An Office!

Welcome to the third post in my Finding Office Space series. This is a trilogy, like Rocky (which actually has seven chapters, but who’s counting?). In Looking for office space: A startup story. we began our quest for a great new office. In Looking for Office Space: The Messy Middle, we shared the middle of the journey, including an overview of all of the spaces we looked at. In this post we will decide which office we want, sign a lease, and defeat Mr. T (Clubber Lang). Then Eye of The Tiger will play, the credits will roll, and I’ll share some pics from the new space.

Quick Background

My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, first opened for business in 2016. Technology, including Slack, Google’s G-Suite, Dropbox, Asana and Zoom connected and enabled our team immediately. So we didn’t need a dedicated office. But I highly value culture and a team atmosphere. So we began searching for a new office space in July. We knew our first office should be in Milwaukee. But our rate of growth makes it difficult to know just how much space we will need a year from now.

Our Criteria

Looking for an office is a little like looking for a date. Here is a list of the criteria we included in our E-Harmony profile:

  1. 1000 square feet.  This provides enough room for our current team, and room for us to get really cozy as we grow.
  2. A 1-year lease. From year one to year two we will have doubled our business. We would like to maintain that trend. But we are not willing to bet the business on it. So we will not bite off more than we can lease.
  3. Downtown location. We want the energy of the city, sure. But we also want to make the commute reasonable for everyone. And all roads lead to downtown.
  4. Northern Downtown location (The North End). This wasn’t a mandate. But it was more than a tie-breaker. I live north of Milwaukee in the suburb of Mequon. Having moved to Milwaukee from Atlanta a year ago, I am eager to minimize my commute as much as possible.
  5. A separate conference room. Our team needs to gather, get loud and have fun client meetings without disturbing the rest of the staff. So a fully open concept wouldn’t work.
  6. A separate private office.  We wanted to have a private office that anyone could use to have more privacy when needed.
  7. Windows. I love the energy that comes with natural light. So we wanted significant windows that let in a lot of sunshine.
  8. Inexpensive parking. Downtown parking isn’t fun or easy.  But it is a necessity. So we wanted parking close by at the best rate available.
  9. Move-in ready condition: We didn’t want to have to build or move any walls. That would eat up time and money, and call for a longer lease term.
  10. A good feel. If you’ve ever shopped for apartments or homes you know that some places just feel right for you. The same thing holds true for office space. And underwear.

The RFP

After looking at eight properties we narrowed the field to a final four for an RFP process. Easy Breezy, which I will now call 1661 North Water Street, was our Goldilocks. It met all of the criteria listed above. And the porridge temperature was just right.

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Shut The Front Door! That’s our new office!

Legal Mumbo Jumbo

The first step towards securing our new space was a credit check. Which felt kind of like getting tested to make sure we didn’t have any diseases. Which, of course, we don’t. Then the property owners sent a 19-page lease agreement, which is like a pre-nup. I say this because it was the highly unromantic part of what had been a romantic experience. But in the lease application phase you go from dreaming about the space to distrustful statements and lawyery clauses that add a little bitter to the glitter.

The lease agreement failed to mention a couple of important clauses from the original proposal. Like the month of rent abatement that the property owners offered (a free month of rent). It also had some wonky wording around the insurance we were required to carry. Our insurance provider and I were both scratching our heads over the language, which I now believe was just a cut-and-paste error from the landlord.

Please allow myself to introduce myself…

I had to co-sign for the lease as Adam Albrecht, the human. So if Adam Albrecht, the Founder of The Weaponry can’t pay the lease, Adam Albrecht, the regular guy has to pick up the bill. I found this to be an odd part of the process. But as Bob Bradley, my business finance advisor, and the retired CFO of Cramer Krasselt told me, bankers and landlords still ask businesses that have been around for 100 years to have someone co-sign. Those experienced businesses have a track record that allows them to reject such requests. The Weaponry, with no rental history, and little credit history, hasn’t yet earned that luxury.

 

Trying to finalize.

I signed all of the paperwork, printed out my proof of insurance, wrote out a business check for the deposit. Then I told Mitch, my broker, I was ready to stop by the property owner’s office to drop everything off and pick up the keys. He called to warn them I was coming the next afternoon. But when I arrived no one there could help me (despite the fact that there were 50 people in the office).

The receptionist was new. The person she tried to page couldn’t be found. And I had to run to a CEO roundtable meeting.

When I came back that afternoon they restored my confidence in the organization.  A seasoned receptionist was at the desk. She summoned Daniel immediately, He greeted me at the front desk to take the paperwork and deposit check.

The Keys!

Then came the moment I had been waiting for. They keys.  If you’ve ever bought a car, house or sturdy pair of handcuffs, you know how great it feels to get handed those keys. It signifies that all of the paper road blocks have finally been cleared.

But this was slightly different. Because when Daniel pulled the keys out of the cabinet to hand them to me there weren’t just one or two keys. There were 13.  I had a whole mitt full of keys. I was like Edward Keys-hands. Or Schneider from One Day At A Time. It was a pretty exciting moment.

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The Keys!

The Opening Ceremony

I left Daniel and strutted across the parking lot to my new office building. I got on the elevator and rode to the second floor. I got off and walked about 50 feet down the hallway to Suite #206. Then I fumbled though the keys to find one that opened the door to the office. My FIRST office, for the very first time!

The first key I picked worked. I opened the door and walked in.

I was present in that moment. I drank it all in. I was by myself, which was nice. Because it gave me a moment to reflect on my very personal journey.

Of course there are several other people who I wish could have been there to share that moment with me too. I’ll mention them in another post. But for now, I am thankful to be starting what promises to be an even bigger, better chapter in The Weaponry’s story.

Today

Our official lease started November 1st. We have a bit of furniture moved in. Which I will write about soon. I’ve provided a few pics of the new space below. So, please take a self-scrolling tour.

Thanks for following our story. If you would like to know what happens next, consider subscribing to this blog. And please stop when you are in the neighborhood. Or, if you are really fun, smart, creative and adventurous, consider joining our team.

 

We’re picking out paint to freshen up the fort.

 

We have a minimum viable product.

 

 

 

 

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One of our areas is already equipped with a shared desk space. This is where we will have our staring contests.
We are looking at options for a couch, or sectional and coffee table (chocolate milk table) for our common space.
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The conference room furniture is a work in progress. But If you want to come over for card night we are totally prepared.

 

Lucky 21!

Do you remember the very first day of your career? You probably remember what the day was like. (You didn’t know anyone. You had to ask where the bathroom was. Lunch options were a mystery. And you didn’t know when it was acceptable to go home.) But do you remember the date? I do. I started my career in adverting 21 years ago today, on October 7th. I’ve always remembered that because it is also my Mom’s birthday. It must have been a pretty great birthday present for her, knowing that her son wouldn’t be living in her cellar (I’m from Vermont. We didn’t have basements).

Feeling Lucky.

Today I am feeling lucky that 21 years later I am just as excited about my career as I was on Day 1. Maybe even more excited.

On that first day, 21 years ago, I became an advertising copywriter. I think. I never actually saw my title written anywhere in that first year. Today, I am lucky to be the Founder and CEO of my own advertising agency called The Weaponry.  I’ve been able to take everything that I have learned about creativity, strategy, customer service, business development and having fun, and turn it into The Weaponry Way.

I’ve been lucky to develop a lot of really great personal relationships over the first 21 years. And I’m enjoying those relationships more now than ever. My latest chapter is a product of the trust my clients have in me and my team. As well as the faith that my colleagues have in my ability to help keep them fed and sheltered.

I feel lucky that my Weapons and I will soon move into our new office space (hopefully we will get our keys this week).

I am lucky to be working with so many great brands and great clients. There are even more great clients joining us over the next few months. Which is likely to make this year the most exciting year of my career yet.

I am lucky to still be learning.  But now I am also in a position to share all that I have learned.

As many of my friends consider career changes I am still intensely passionate about my work. I still get to wear t-shirts and flip-flops most days. I still get to play loud music in the office. And I still find nothing more exciting than a smart new idea.

On the first day of my career, 21 years ago today, I sat next to a young art director named Vince Demarinis. On Thursday I am traveling to Miami to meet with a potential new client. Thursday night I will be staying with Vince. We have remained good friends despite the fact that we haven’t worked together for 17 years. And despite the fact that he has way better hair than me.

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That’s Vince (art director)  on the left.  I’m in the middle. The third amigo is Dan Koel (art director) on the right. I am sporting the very informal costume I wore to the formal company Christmas party at Cramer Krasselt.  It’s not that I didn’t get the memo. I just decided to ignore it. Oh, and I would never wear that hat under normal circumstances. Go Sox!

Today I’m thankful for my supportive wife Dawn, whom I met at that first job. I am blessed to have three great, healthy kids who get to see a father who really loves his work. And I feel lucky to have friends, family and others willing to read a blog post about my career anniversary. Thank you for your time and your continued support. I can’t wait to see what’s next.