This is how our new conference room came to life.

Breathing life into an idea is my favorite thing in the world. Taking a vision that only existed in my head, making it real, and then showing it to the world, offers a healthy, natural high. Even Nancy Reagan would approve.

I thought about creating my advertising agency for a long time before I named it The Weaponry and declared it open for thinkness. In the summer of 2017 I shopped for a new office space. But when I first got tossed the keys the office was pretty bland. So we began putting our mark on the place.


Furnishing our office has been a fun undertaking.  I have written before about our custom-built surfboard coffee table. We had readers of this blog vote on their favorite surfboard designs. Then we shared the final result. The coffee table has been a great addition to the office, and a great conversation starter. Since then, we turned our attention to another room.

Yep, we’ve got one of these. Read all about it at the links above.

The Conference Room

The conference room at The Weaponry was the last room we furnished. We wanted to keep it simple. In fact, we only wanted four elements in the room:

  1. Table
  2. 6-8 chairs
  3. TV monitor
  4. Whiteboard
Folding chairs and tape helped us determine the perfect table size and the number of chairs we could fit. In the end, we crumpled up this 4×8 foot table and tossed it in the trash.

Shopping For A Table

We looked at a lot of used conference room tables, and they all made me want to cry. Most of them felt like they would have been right at home on the set of the TV show, The Office. That would never do. We looked through catalogs. All the tables either looked too serious, too sterile or had no look at all.

Then something caught our eye. It wasn’t a traditional conference room table.  It was a high top. The type of furniture designed for an active huddle space. Not the kind of table typically used to pacify you before a Powerpoint lobotomy.

When we inquired about the table we discovered it could be custom-made. Which meant we could choose the perfect length, width, height and color.

We had our 58 inch TV monitor, but we couldn’t install it until we had the table, so we knew how high to hang it. It was our version of the chicken and the egg.

Placing The Order

We custom-designed our table to fit our conference room space like a proverbial hand in glove. We chose both the leg style and the leg color. Then came the biggest, and most important choice of all: the color of the surface.

These six tall stools were anxious to rip their plastic off and meet some new butts.

Surfacing the Surface Color

We saw a model of our table with a white table top. It had a birch pattern to it, and it looked nice. But we picked out a few other color chips that might work as well. On the day we placed the final order I glanced at the sign in our office that says, Think like a rebel. I knew that white wasn’t right.

We were finally birthing our conference room.  This is where the table began to crown.
Ta Da!  Our high red top table is up and ready for thinkness.
We finally knew the right height to hang our TV. Here you can see the monitor is well hung. The dry erase board, not so much.
The whiteboard is now up. And we already have several chips on the table top. Potato chips that is.

All of the other rooms in our office have one red wall. It makes a bold statement and adds energy to each room. The ConFro (I just made that up) doesn’t have outside windows. We wanted to keep the walls white and bright to make the room feel bigger. So we used the bright red, high top table to make the room feel like the rest of the office.

Because our table is tall, you can use it in sitting mode, like Britt, or in standing mode, like me.  Is your mind totally blown by this versatility?

The table feels active. The red color energizes the room. The height of the table means you can either perch on the high stools, and feel like you are leaning into a meeting, like at a bar. Or you can stand without looking any odder than you usually do. You can also easily switch between the two positions, if you have ants in your pants.


We love the way our conference room has come together. We love that it offers a great hub for active thinking. We love that we have a tall, red-headed 48 inch by 96 inch table. We love our giant dry erase board for ideating and illustrating. We love having a large TV monitor for presentations, and for watching Netflix while eating lunch. We look forward to adding a few embellishments to the walls. But most of all, we look forward to having your stop by for a think.

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The most valuable product my business produces shocked me.

In 2016 I left a salaried position with a large, stable advertising agency. I had amassed almost 20 years of experience as an advertising creative. Over the course of my career I had developed a clear vision of what the perfect ad agency looked like. And like Bob The Builder, I believed I could build it.

1 Year Later

A year later my startup ad agency was buzzing with activity. So I joined a CEO roundtable to surround myself with people who knew things I didn’t know. My Council Of Small Business Executives (COSBE) group meets once a month to compare notes, discuss issues and serve as a thought-provoking sounding board.

My Introduction

At the first meeting I attended back in August, the group asked me to take a couple of minutes to talk about me and my business. It was like the introductions you make at an addiction recovery group. You know, ‘My name is Adam, and I am an Ideaholic.’ Welcome brother Adam.

I told the group that my business, an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, had attracted ten clients in the first year. Those clients stretched from Florida to Atlanta, Boston, Montreal, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

Then I dropped this fun, and almost unbelievable footnote:

We did this despite the fact that we were a brand new business with:

  • no logo
  • no business cards
  • no website

The Insight

After I finished my quick overview on my business, the guest speaker that day said something that I will never forget.

‘There is only one way you could build a business like that. People really trust you.’

This guy was a total stranger. We had been in a room together for 15 minutes. Yet he gave me an amazing insight as to why my perfect agency project was working.

I knew I had clients that liked me. I knew they had good experiences with me. I knew that some of them thought I was funny or smart or creative, or perhaps a non-alchoholic cocktail of all three. But the only reason my business stood a chance of succeeding is that people I have worked with in the past, and those I meet today, trust me.

It’s a matter of trust. (Like Billy Joel said)

Trust is the key ingredient of a successful entrepreneur. It is the most valuable product that you will ever deliver to your clients.

  • My clients trust me with their money.
  • They trust me with their confidential information.
  • They trust me with their valuable time.
  • They trust me to reflect positively on their personal reputations.

Key Takeaway

If you want to increase your value to other people, increase your trustworthiness. Do what you say you will do. Deliver what you say you will deliver. Meet the timeline you said you would meet at the price you quoted. Always demonstrate that you’ve heard and care about the concerns of others. You’ll find the rewards far exceed the cost of doing business.

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My unique spin on the coffee meeting has come full circle.

One of the great traditions of networking is grabbing coffee. When you meet someone for the first time you suggest grabbing coffee. When you see someone you haven’t seen in a long time, you talk about grabbing coffee. Coffee gets grabbed more than an aspiring actress at a Harvey Weinstein pool party. #timesup

I don’t drink coffee. Ok, that’s not fully true. I have now had 4 cups of coffee in my life. That’s about one per decade. But the coffee meeting is one of the most valuable elements of professional development. It is a useful tool for developing and maintaining relationships. It can be used for research, informal mentoring and for stay at home moms to have sanity-preserving conversations with full-sized rational humans.

Despite the fact that coffee tastes like burnt bark juice, I love using coffee meetings to catch up with old friends or get to know new people better. I just do it differently.

Barista, The Usual.

My go to beverage at the coffee shop is chocolate milk. I love that stuff. It reminds me of Fridays in elementary school. Which was the only day chocolate milk was served at school when I was a kid. Today, drinking chocolate milk still feels like a party.


This is my friend Andy. We regularly grab beverages,where we compare and contrast the merits of different hair styles. 

Andy Salamone

One of the people I regularly grab chocolate milk with is my friend Andy Salamone. Andy is an amazing guy. He started a business called CarSpot right out of college. He developed a way of aggregating used car inventory from dealerships into a centralized, customer-friendly online shopping experience. Andy and his team developed innovative technology to transform and grow the business until AutoTrader made Andy an offer he didn’t refuse. He sold the business several years ago, and now enjoys the fruits of his exit.

It is fascinating to talk to Andy as he scans the landscape looking for the next great entrepreneurial opportunity. He sees businesses the way an engineer sees a machine. He can talk you through the mechanics of creating an efficient device to deliver a great idea. He has been a great influence on me and the way I think about my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

Recent Visit

Andy texted me last week and said he wanted to swing by and see The Weaponry’s new office. I was thrilled to have him see our space. He arrived with some really fun surprises. He had a gallon of Oberwies chocolate milk. Which is the chocolate milk equivalent to a Goody McGood bottle of Scotch. That alone would have been a great office warming gesture. Then Andy reached into the bag that contained the milk and pulled out four glasses with the five Great Lakes printed on them. On each glass there’s a heart printed right where Milwaukee sits on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Cheers to friends, good fortune and frothy chocolate milk.

A Moment To Absorb.

Now picture this. As I poured my glass full of that chocolatey nectar of the Guernsey’s, I was sitting on a couch at the adverting agency that I always dreamed of creating. I toasted my good fortune with a friend and fellow entrepreneur. Then I set my new Great Lakes glass down on my custom-made The Weaponry surfboard coffee table.

My life was coming together just the way I had always imagined it would. Even my fellow Wisconsin Badger, Abraham Maslow would have grabbed one of my new glasses, raised it towards me and said, ‘Kid, it doesn’t get any better than this.’ #selfactualization.

A Toast

Make the time to grab a drink of your own choice with the people of your own choice. May you find your own version of The Weaponry, and chocolate milk and custom surfboard coffee tables. I hope that you look forward to going to work every day. I hope you get to design your life, your work and your tribe. May your days be full of great moments that are uniquely you. Here’s to feeling as if you are winning at life.

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The exciting first time my parents visited my office.

Starting your own business brings on a parade of exciting firsts. Each one marks an important milestone in the realization of your dream. There is your first client. Your first employee. Your first office. And your first lawsuit (I assume).

When I first launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I created a human-like set of life stages that I expected the business to go through. I listed key developments that would happen at Rolling Over, Crawling and Running. That way I would have some sense of where the business I birthed was on its maturing process from newborn to Olympic athlete.

An Especially Special Day.  

On February 7th I had a uniquely proud first. My parents came to see my office for the first time. As an entrepreneur, your business is like a child. So that day I got to introduce my parents to their Grandbusiness.

My Parents’ Influence

My parents were responsible for planting the seeds that led to The Weaponry. Since I was a small child they taught me how to develop meaningful relationships. They taught me to think about the needs of others. They built my confidence to believe I could do whatever I set my mind to. They taught me how to be financially responsible. My mom taught me writing and public speaking. My dad taught me how to work hard.

They made several important decisions that put me into great schools in my childhood. Their Big 10 educations at the University of Minnesota influenced my Big 10 education at the University of Wisconsin. They helped support me through college. After graduation, when I was offered my first job as an advertising copywriter at Cramer Krasselt, they gave me the $500 I needed to move to Milwaukee, put a security deposit on my first apartment, and stock my pantry with ramen noodles. If it weren’t for my parents I probably wouldn’t be here.

The Tour

Showing off the office was really fun. Kind of like the first time I brought my wife, Dawn, home to meet my parents. I gave Bob and Jill the grandest tour our space would allow. I pointed out all the changes we had made. I shared plans for what’s next. And I got to introduced my Mom and Dad to my team.

My parents brought an office warming gift. It was my favorite celebratory beverage: a bottle of nonalcoholic sparking cider (I still haven’t matured to the hard stuff). It was a meaningful gesture from the people who have helped shape me through meaningful gestures.

Business and Family

This week more of The Weaponry’s broader family have visited the office. We’ve had one Weapon’s husband and another Weapon’s brother spend time with us. It’s important to me to have siblings, parents, children and spouses come to our office.  I want them to understand our culture. And I want them to feel part of it too. The more we can integrate our at-work family with our at-home family the more we are able to understand and support each other.


Thanks Mom and Dad for taking time to come see The Weaponry. Thanks for taking the time to meet my teammates. Thanks for the little boy bottle of bubbly. But most importantly, thanks for giving this little birdie a great nest to grow up in. And thanks for teaching me how to fly.

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The surprisingly simple way to test your risk tolerance.

Starting your own business requires a special mindset. You have to have both a tolerance for risk, and a confidence that you will succeed despite the odds stacked against you. But how do you know if you have the right kind of entrepreneurial wiring? Before I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry I didn’t have a predictive test to evaluate my risk tolerance. But now I do.

Tom O’Hara

I recenly had a very interesting conversation about risk with my friend Tom O’Hara. Tom is EVP & Enterprise Risk Management Director at Huntington National Bank. Evaluating risk is a challenging task. You must find a way to assess risk tolerance in a way that people can easily articulate.

One question Tom poses in his risk evaluation is this little diagnostic gem:

If you have a meeting with the CEO of your company at 7am, and your commute usually takes 15 minutes, what time would you leave for the meeting?

The answer to this hypothetical question reveals a lot about your risk tolerance. If you say 5:30am you have a very low tolerance for risk. If you say 6:45am you have a very high tolerance for risk. If you say 7am you have trouble understanding the time and space continuum.

My big aha!

As Tom talked through this simple predictive test, a fake lightbulb went off in my real head. I applied the same evaluative criteria to my approach to catching airplanes. When planning my departure for the airport I don’t work off the standard ‘Be at the airport 1-hour ahead of time’ rule of thumb. I know that the check-in period for domestic flights ends 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure. But I don’t use the 30-minute rule either, because I always check in online.

Instead, I use the ‘What time will they close the door?‘ rule of thumb. I have always thought this was the only indicator that really mattered. As a result I am often the last person on the plane. Which has freaked out many of my more conservative coworkers. Yet, I can only remember missing a plane one time in my entire business career. And that was because I had the wrong departure time in my head. Stupid departure time memory malfunction!

What this says about entrepreneurship

Clearly I have a high tolerance for risk. Because those airplanes, they don’t wait (I heard that in a country song). That being typed, I am never unprepared for my  travel too and through an airport. I have timed my airport route to the minute, and I allow for a degree of error in traffic, difficulty finding parking, and for crowds at security. On the other hand, my drive to the airport makes me feel alive. So does owing my own business.

Key Takeaway 

Know thyself (but don’t call thyself ‘thyself’). If you have to be at the airport two hours  before a domestic flight you may struggle with the coo-coo crazy of entrepreneurship. But if you like rolling onto the plane just as it prepares to roll away from the gate, you likely have what it takes to stomach a couple of years of unpredictability. But there is no right or wrong answer to risk tolerance. There are just different types of rewards. So whether you are traveling for work or pleasure, always consider the rewards that make you happy when you file your flight plan.

*If you like living dangerously and don’t mind missing any of my blog posts then don’t subscribe to this blog. But if you want to play it safe, and have every post emailed to your inbox upon publication, please subscribe today.

Only the paranoid survive.

I haven’t read Andy Grove’s book Only The Paranoid SurviveI don’t need to. I get everything I need to know from the title alone. If you want to survive in business you have to be paranoid.

Why I bring this up.

I am part of a CEO roundtable known as the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE) in Milwaukee. We had our monthly meeting yesterday at my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. The theme of the meeting was clear. The CEOs in my group are all feeling paranoid.

But here’s the funny thing: none of us are in imminent danger. There is no grim reaper at the door preparing to cut our internet connections and leave our businesses for dead. Quite the opposite. Our futures all look bright. We continue to grow and add new clients. We are hitting exciting milestones that indicate our businesses are moving in the right direction.

Yet we all seem concerned that we are not doing enough. That we are not as productive as we could be. Or as aggressive as we should be. Or as focused. Or as successful. To a therapist we may all appear to have odd self-image issues. Or a lack of confidence. But that is not the case.

The Real Issue

We are doing exactly what you need to do to survive as an entrepreneur. You have to worry about issues before they become issues. You have to invest in relationships you don’t need today. You have to develop plans and infrastructure that aren’t critical right now.

You need to do the little things that are important but not urgent before they become urgent. Because if you wait until they are urgent it will probably be too late. Self-inflicted paranoia keeps you a step or two ahead of the real danger. It activates your fight or flight responses when there is no imminent fight. That’s how you prevent complacency. And that’s how your thrive.

Your personal life.

The same power of paranoia can also help your personal relationships, fitness and finances. If you are paranoid that you are not doing enough, you will invest action in each of these three critical areas before they become real problems.

Key Takeaway. 

Embrace your self-inflicted paranoia. It’s a great survival tool. By pulling the fire alarm in your head you’ll be prepared before any actual fire has a chance to block your escape route. Better yet, there is a good chance that fire will never come.

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Our newest piece of office furniture is also the most unique.

If you like shopping for furniture you should become an entrepreneur. Because one of the by-products of owning a growing business is you need to buy products like chairs and table for your team. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, now owns 14 comfortable chairs, a couch, several tables, and one custom-made lamp. The lamp is probably considered lighting. But this is my blog and I’m calling it furniture.

The Coffee Table Quest

We quickly found options we liked for most of our office furniture needs. But there was one piece that we just couldn’t find in stores or online. We wanted a statement-making coffee table. In full disclosure, I don’t drink coffee. So I think of it as a chocolate milk table. But because the rest of the world knows these types of drink-stabilizing platforms as coffee tables, I will give in to peer pressure and act like I will enjoy coffee on them like everyone else.

Square Pegs.

Our office space is very square. The furniture in our casual seating area is very square too. So we needed a long table with a curvy figure to round out the room. A surfboard-shaped table would be perfect.

Desperately Seeking Surfboard.

Within 60 seconds of thinking, ‘A surfboard coffee table would to totally gnarly dude!’, I found a custom maker of surf furniture online. I was soon on the phone with Marker Six in North Carolina. Then the Weaponry whipped up six different design options and asked people to vote on their favorites. You can find the post ‘Surfing for a coffee table and we need your help.’ here.

If you didn’t play along then you can play now.

SurfBoard (1)
Pick your favorite (or remember your favorite from the first time you voted). Then check below to see if we have similar tastes.

The Votes Have Been Tallied

After we had sufficient feedback from our social networks we ordered our custom designed table. Then we waited.

It’s Here!

After about a month, and some unfortunate weather delays in the epoxification process and FedEx’s delivering-during-a-snowstorm process, our new table showed up yesterday.

The surfboard top came packaged like this. The box underneath it contained the legs. We didn’t read the instructions and thought this was how it should go together. #seesawtable
This is the revere angle of what our table top looked like covered with a cardboard prophylactic. 
This is the cardboard cocoon our table emerged from. Its duty was heavy, but still medium.
Rick from Marker Six, the makers of our coffee table, was listening during the ‘Use Protection’ talk.  He used layers of cardboard, pipe insulation, paper and styrofoam to protect the wood.


Ta Da! Number 3 is the winner!  It’s a fun conversation piece. Even if I am just talking to myself. In the background you can also see our custom-made pen lamp from David Laro.
This is a great place to surf the web.

What’s Next? 

The next step is for you to stop by to enjoy a tour of our office and a beverage on the board. Make The Weaponry part of your next swing through Wisconsin. If you live in Milwaukee, stop by and let’s have some chocolate milk, coffee, tea, beer or a juice box in our newly completed board room. We’re expecting you.

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