Are you living the life of a yes-man or a no-man?

There are two kinds of people… We’ve heard this intro line many times before. We love to simplify the world’s inhabitants this way. Because it offers an easy construct to think about complicated topics. I recently read one of these ‘two-types-of-people’ observations that wowed me with its simplicity and profunditude.

Here it is:

There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no’. Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.

-Keith Johnstone  Author of Impro

Wow! With this simple statement Johnstone summarizes the difference between accepting and denying offers that come your way. Did you notice that both outcomes are positive? You either walk away with adventure or safety. Nobody goes home empty-handed.

Which one are you?

The key is to know which outcome you really want. I am an emphatic Yes-Man. I like road trips without reservations. I am all in on the adventure or life. I am an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is all about saying yes. So is creativity. I see all of life’s challenges through the ‘Yes,and’ lens of improvisation. It truly makes every day adventurous, exciting and full of new possibilities. I’m not saying it is better than safety. It’s just better for me.

Key Takeaway

Make sure you know what makes you happy. Know what makes you sleep well at night. And reward yourself with more of that. If you prefer the safety, predictability and peace of mind of home then embrace it unapologetically. If you prefer adventure, embrace the bruises, wardrobe malfunctions and flat tires as souvenirs from the trip.

 

*Yes-Man and No-man are not intended to be gender specific. Regardless of your gender please consider subscribing to this blog. It’s written for people who prefer a safe reading adventure.

 

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I was warned this is the worst part of entrepreneurship.

In the spring of 2016 I left my job as EVP, Executive Creative Director of a large advertising agency. It was owned by a publicly held advertising agency holding company that employed 80,000 people in over 100 countries. One of the great benefits of working for a company that size was the benefits themselves. Because when you have that many people in your organization, you have Bezos-level buying clout.

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More People = More Benefit Buying Power 

On My Own.

I love a good adventure. So I left the cushy benefits behind and started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. I love what we have built. The Weaponry is quick and nimble. Strategic and creative. It is a really fun place to work and offers a great culture of collaboration. We have a lot going for us. But one thing we do not have is benefit-buying clout.

The Hard Part

When I launched The Weaponry I asked a lot of questions of my entrepreneurial network about a broad range of subjects. In return I got a lot of great advice. But when it came to insurance I got absolutely nothing. Unless those crickets I heard were trying to tell me something (chirp chirp… run while you can… chirp chirp).

I could tell by the lack of insights that insurance was the toughest nut for entrepreneurs to crack. Those who did comment said things like, ‘Yeah, that’s hard. I don’t know what to tell you.’ And, ‘It Sucks.’ And, ‘I would love to help you, but I would rather set the world record for most paper cuts received over a 24-hour period than talk about health insurance.’

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We must protect this house (with health and dental insurance)!

Me vs Goliath       

However, I am very proud to say that as of January 1st, 2018, The Weaponry offers insurance benefits. I wanted to share my experience with anyone thinking of starting their own business, or wondering how Obamacare impacts a small business and its ability to grow and compete.

Starting The Search

Over the second half of last year I began planning our employee benefits for 2018. I wanted to offer health and dental insurance. But I also considered a couple of other benefits, including life insurance for full-time employees. But as with so many other aspects of this startup adventure, I decided to simplify to make sure we completed the critical mission.

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I felt like this in the beginning. Only without the suit and itchy scalp.

Research

I began with research. I learned right away that you need at least two non-related employees in your business to be able to offer insurance as an employer. We qualified. I found my way to the health insurance marketplace and started poking around and modeling various products and prices. But in a vacuum it was pretty hard to evaluate what was good, what was necessary, and what was not. From this initial poking I learned my first lesson:

Key Insight:  You will not feel empowered to make a good health insurance purchasing decision if you try to do it on your own.

Broker

My business finance advisor encouraged me to talk to an insurance broker, and preferably more than one. He encouraged me to have them model a variety of options so that I could get a feel for the landscape available to me. By talking to more than one broker, he said, you can compare and contrast styles to know that you are getting the right option for you. This was all good advice. But I still didn’t know how to find a reputable broker, let alone multiple brokers.

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This photo is merely a re-enactment. Although we did sit at a desk and look at papers like this, nobody wore a tie. And I didn’t wear a bracelet like the dude in blue.

My Wife To The Rescue

My wife Dawn is a smart woman, and an important part of The Weaponry brain trust. She was the one that finally got us moving in a positive direction on health insurance. How? She talked to our neighbor Sally.

Sally’s husband, Bruce is the President at EBSO,  a third party administrator (TPA) benefits solutions company. However, because of our size and our specific needs EBSO couldn’t help us, yet. But Sally said that Bruce frequently partners with Jon Rauser at The Rauser Agency for clients of our size. Dawn got Jon’s contact info. And within a few days Dawn and I  were sitting in Jon’s office.

Key Insight: A good wife is the best business asset in the world. This may also be true of good husbands, but I’ve never had one of those.

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Before signing anything that may be photographed make sure to get a manicure.

The Rauser Agency

Dawn and I met with Jon, and it couldn’t have gone much smoother. He started by offering us a range of three or four different insurance providers. Based on our preference, and the providers prevalence in our healthcare market, we quickly narrowed in on one health insurance provider. Then it was a matter of comparing deductibles to get to the final premium options. We simply had to share the ages and family status of our employees. With that we were able to see projected costs, broken down by employee.

Once we provided the names and ages of our employees who would be opting in for our insurance we had to sign a couple of forms to initiate coverage. We also needed forms signed by the full-time employees who were opting out, acknowledging that they had been offered coverage. Next, we had to decide how much of the premium we would pay for our employees. Then we had to send in a check for the first month’s premium.

Then we were done. Seriously. 

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We signed documents. But I never saw a stethoscope.

We Did It!

We had an employer health insurance plan! We have dental insurance too, which was easy to get. We were all grown up! And we were becoming an even more attractive place for smart creative people to work! We had climbed the most daunting mountain on the Entrepreneurial Range. And we planted The Weaponry’s flag at its peak.

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Apparently when someone took a closer look at Obamacare a line came shooting out of a piggy bank’s right nostril.

Obamacare

Why was the process so easy? Obamacare. I should insert here that I am a staunchly independent voter. I grew up in Vermont where independent thinking flows like maple syrup. I think the two parties are antiquated and don’t allow for my complex vision of the world. But Obamacare made it really easy for this startup to insure our employees. There are no pre-existing conditions. We didn’t need medical exams. We didn’t need to take a lie detector test. I didn’t have to tell anyone that my Great-Great Uncle Nels choked on a peach pit when he was eight years old. (RIP Little Uncle Nellie…)

Is Obamacare perfect? No. It has driven insurance costs up by 30%. But you know what? My baseline is today. So I simply look at the price today and ask, ‘Can we afford to pay this?’ And the answer is yes.

I can’t change the costs. But what should it really cost? I have no idea. All I know is that we were able to get it fairly easily, and all we had to do was pay for it. Our premiums are not much more expensive than the COBRA prices I had been paying since I started The Weaponry.

Conclusion. 

I may hate Obamacare in the future. And I certainly don’t want to ever pay more than I have to. But today I am happy to have easy access to health insurance for my team. I want to make sure they are protected. So as you follow the political fight over Obamacare, know that this independent voter, who owns a small business said it was easy to protect his team because of Obamacare. And the small price to pay is simply a larger price to pay. And today, we’ll take it.

*If you know someone thinking of starting their own business that could benefit from this story, please share it with them. If you would like to learn more from my entrepreneurial journey consider subscribing to this blog.  If you have more specific questions about my health insurance experience please contact me directly. I am happy to share what I know.

Kickstart your day with this powerful and simple habit.

Your first act of the day sets the tone for how your entire day will go. Some people cuddle with a cup of coffee. Some read. Others exercise. While still others begin their morning by repeatedly jabbing at the snooze button on their alarm clock as if they were picking a fight with the Pillsbury Doughboy.

My First Habit 

My first act of the day is simple, and more impactful than any of the above. The very first thing I do each morning when I wake up, is smile. I smile and instantly the day is good. It makes me feel as if the day is a game that I am ready to play. I feel funny and playful. Because smiling to yourself in the dark for no reason is a funny thing to do. But it puts me in the right frame of mind for the 18-hour adventure ahead.

Life Comes At You Fast.

Like everyone else, I face challenges every day. I have 3 semi-domesticated children (12G, 10B and 7B). I have a home that regularly throws me surprises. I have a commute that I don’t control. I own an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, which comes with employees, contractors, clients, finances, insurance and a landlord. And they all have the potential to hip-check my plans each day.

But that first smile in the morning makes me feel as if I won the day before the sun even gets out of the starting blocks. It sets the tone for everything else. It reminds me that funny things are going to happen that day, and it is up to me to see those events as humourous, and not tragic, vengeful or a clear sign of how much the universe hates me.

Put a smile to work for you.

Try it yourself. It is the easiest positive thing you’ll do all day. Yet it has the power to propel and protect you until you crawl back into bed at night. And if you have not yet smiled today, do it now.

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This is Guy Smiley from Sesame Street. Fun fact: while he was a guy, he was not actually smiley, because he was stitched without smiling functionality. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

If you find that a morning smile helps set a positive tone for your day let me know. If you have a great way to start your day that might help me, please share. I’ll take all the help I can get.

*To learn more about how I approach life and business you could shadow me 24-7. Or you could subscribe to this blog. It’s really up to you.

The best thing about our new stickers is hidden on the back.

There are some business secrets they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School. Like the fact that every great business needs a great sticker. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, now has a great sticker. It comes from Sticker Robot.  Which I think is where The Jetsons and R2-D2 get their sticker supplies.

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Sticker Robot makes the best silkscreened stickers in the business. But if you want some for your business you should order them the same day you establish your legal business entity. Because they take a loooong time to produce. We ordered ours back in November.  They finally arrived on January 16th.

A video on how Sticker Robot make their world-famous stickers.

The Modern Branding Iron.

The whole concept of branding originated from ranchers who branded their livestock with a hot iron to identify their little dogies. Today I find very few people who will let me sear them with a red-hot iron. So we use these 2.5 inch X 2.5 inch vinyl stickers instead. I have already placed one on my computer, my Yeti tumbler, my car and all three of my children.

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We ordered 1000 stickers and got 500 free.
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I’ll tumbler for you.

Check out that backside… (It’s stickerlicious!)

But what I really love about them is their backside. Sticker Robot allows you to print a message or design on the back of the sticker. So we added some of our philosophy. And some of our philosophy about our philosophy. And we added a call to confusion. Which is like a call to action, if the action actually leads to more confusion, like our website does. Visit theweaponry.com to see what I mean.

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I love sharing our philosophy on the back of our sticker. Don’t overlook the little opportunities to share your brand message in unexpected places.

Then we also added a note about the importance of proofreading.  See the *note below? I’ll wait while you review.

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Did you find the typo? Did you look carefully?

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The Typo

If you didn’t find the typo it is probably because there is no typo. We just thought it was a funny addition. And perhaps it would increase engagement. Who reads the back of a sticker two or three times?  Well, if it’s a sticker from The Weaponry, and you feel challenged, maybe you will. Then, maybe you walk away with a story about how you spent 60 seconds looking for a typo that wasn’t really there.

This sticker sums up The Weaponry pretty well.

  1. We believe in the power of a consistent brand look.
  2. Red reflects our enthusiasm.
  3. We believe the most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind.
  4. We believe that business is war.
  5. We believe we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.
  6. And we believe in finding fun ways to increase engagement.

Your takeaway.

If you would like a sticker just ask (I now carry them with me everywhere). Or leave a request in the comment section below. You can also stop by The Weaponry to pick one up (1661 N. Water Street In Milwaukee). If you are looking for a job, an internship, a chance to network or just a good excuse to come for a grand tour of The Weaponry’s World Headquarters, a sticker request is a good in. And we have a sticker with your name on it. Well, actually our name is on it. That was just a figure or speech.

*If you would like to stick around to learn more about The Weaponry and my entrepreneurial journey please subscribe to this blog. You may even find some real typos.

 

How do you measure your professional growth?

When I was a kid I loved being measured. It was a great way to track my growth. I loved standing against the wall and measuring my height to see how much I had grown since the last time I stood against a wall. But I have not grown a millimeter since I was 14 years old. I topped out at 6 feet and 1/4 inch. But I was thrilled to be 6-something and not 5-something. (No disrespect 5-Somethings. #heightgoals)

Weight

I used to love stepping on a scale to see how much weight I had gained too. While I didn’t get any taller after my freshman year, I did gain 65 pounds during high school. In the 20+ years since then I have never been more than 10 pounds above my graduation weight. But like most adults, I am no longer excited to see growth on the bathroom scale.

Taking New Measurements

Today I measure my growth in other ways. In 2016 I decided to undertake a personal growth challenge and start an advertising and idea agency. I knew this entrepreneurial adventure would push me to grow in a great number of ways. But when I first began my journey I’m not sure I could have identified those many areas of growth. Or perhaps more importantly, how I would recognize the growth when it occurred.  After all, there is no scale to step on to measure the size of you Entrepreneurium.

Last week I saw it.

Late last Wednesday afternoon I left my office and climbed into the driver’s seat of my car. I took a moment to reflect on my day. There, in the quiet of my car, I could measure my own growth as clearly as I could when I was a kid standing against the wall or stepping on the bathroom scale.

The New Growth

Here are a few things that happened that day that showed me how far I had come in my entrepreneurial journey.

  1. I went to my office at The Weaponry. What had started as a business idea in my head in 2016 is no longer just an idea in my head. It’s a real, physical space with walls, doors and windows. It’s located at 1661 N. Water Street, Suite, #206 in Milwaukee. Stop by when you have a moment.
  2. I spent an hour dealing with our employer-offered insurance. We now offer health and dental insurance to our full-time employees. I had to chase down information that morning to get our new group ID numbers. I then put on my HR Director hat and held an impromptu meeting to update our employees who have enrolled in our insurance. Then I distributed temporary ID cards. Even typing this feels like a big step forward. I will have a whole post on this process to share soon.
  3. I participated in my monthly CEO roundtable discussion. I meet with a group of six business owners on the second Wednesday of every month. This group is part of the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE), organized by the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). I encourage you to click that link just to see how beautiful their picture of Milwaukee is. Milwaukee is a great city on a great lake. And I am thrilled to be here. But the discussions I participate in at these monthly meetings are a clear indicator of my professional growth over the past 18 months.
  4. I ended my day with a 45 minute discussion with our IT consultant. We are implementing upgrades to our IT infrastructure to meet the stringent security standards of the banking industry. There will be more to come on this in a future post. But when I stop and think about my expanded vocabulary in this space alone it is impossible not to recognize the growth. I’ve come a long way since I was a young copywriter penning headlines like, “It’s so responsive it knows which butt cheek you’re flexing.’  

Take Away

I don’t need a scale or measuring tape to document the growth spurt that I’m experiencing now. It is clearly evident in my daily actions, my language, and the growing circle of impressive people I spend my time with. This is exactly what I was after when I first experienced the urge for more growth, both personally and professionally. I know there is much I don’t yet know. But I am working on it. And that makes all the difference.

*To follow my journey please consider subscribing to this blog. If you’ve never subscribed to a blog before, consider this part of your personal growth. Yay you!

 

 

The writing is on the wall, and I love it.

I don’t have any tattoos. I probably never will.  But I do have an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. And ever since we moved into our new office space I can understand the passion for tattoos. Because The Weaponry office now offers a blank canvas to adorn with meaningful words and images that are profound to us. I find myself giddy over the new ink we could apply to our empty spaces. Yet I don’t worry that my Mom and Dad will keel over dead, wondering where they went wrong as parents. #winwin

Our Latest Sign

Every time we personalize our new space it feels even more like The Weaponry.  More like home. More like us. Yesterday was really fun for me because we had a new sign added to the wall behind my desk.

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I love having this statement in my office as a constant reminder as I work. I also love the white wall and the Cream City Brick in our office. Fine, I love everything about working at The Weaponry. There, I said it.

I love this statement. It is a constant reminder of the power of the human mind. It offers us the power to create anything. It can solve any problem. And it is the greatest resource any of us will ever possess.

Here is a time-lapse video of our new sign being applied.

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I love this wall. And I love The Weaponry shield as the punctuation at the end of the statement.

Your Takeaway 

If you find this statement as powerful as I do let me know. I would be happy to share an image you could use as a lock screen on your phone or a background image for your computer. Maybe we’ll even put it on a sticker, poster, button, t-shirt or temporary tattoo. But if you want to turn it into a permanent tattoo, not only will I send you the artwork,  I may pay for it myself.

*If you want to see the other sign we installed yesterday consider subscribing to this blog. I’m sure there will be a post about that soon too.

How to be more courageous in the new year.

What would you do if nothing scared you? Would you wrestle a rabid alligator? Be the first person on the dance floor?  Jump out of rocket ships? Invite a family of termites to your log cabin for a long weekend? Or would you do something even scarier, like change career paths in your prime?

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Fearless you would be unstoppable. Unfortunately, fear is the greatest tranquilizer on Earth. It can stop a talented human like you in your tracks. Fear can prevent you from becoming the amazing person you were born to be. I hate that.

Fear vs Courage

I’ve had several conversations this week about fear and courage. It becomes a central topic this time of year as we aim to renew ourselves each January. So I’ve turned to one of my favorite quotes on the topic from Cus D’Amato. Cus was one of the greatest boxing trainers of all time. He used to train World Heavyweight Champion, Mike Tyson. If anyone knows about fear, Cus does. Here’s what he says:

I tell my kids, what is the difference between a hero and a coward?  What is the difference between being yellow and being brave? No difference. Only what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The man who is yellow refuses to face up to what he’s got to face. The hero is more disciplined and he fights those feelings off and he does what he has to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel.  -Cus D’Amato

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Whoa!

The key is not being immune to fear. Because everyone feels it. The key is to keep moving and keep doing despite the fear. What you feel is irrelevant. What you do makes all the difference.

Me and Fear

Since I founded the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have been meeting fear on Main Street at high noon every day.  I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know what the second quarter of the year looks like. And I don’t have a back-up plan.

But I show up every day. I put one foot in front of the other. I keep moving forward. And I keep winning. I keep living into the life I want and traveling the career path I created in my head. If it all ended tomorrow I would be proud to have been brave enough to try. Brave enough to leave a predictable path for the potential of a greater reward on many levels. The fear just makes the victories sweeter.

Key Take Away

At the beginning of the year you should have big plans and goals for yourself. You should want to become a better You. But perhaps the most important goal you should have is to simply step towards the fear and fight through it. We all feel fear. It is hardwired into us. Bur fear is just a yellow traffic light. You get to choose whether you treat it like a red light or a green.

*If you know someone who you think needs a little push to get them to step towards their fear, please share the Cus D’Amato quote with them. When facing fear it helps to have all the ammunition you can get.