To make 2019 the best year ever, start right now.

I have a confession to make. When I set my yearly goals, I cheat in order to attain them. It’s not the kind of cheating that hurts anyone else. In fact, it’s not the kind of cheating that hurts anyone at all. But it sure gives me an advantage. And I don’t feel the least bit bad about it either.

Getting it wrong.

Most people set their goals for the year, and begin working towards them, on January 1st. Or maybe they start on January 2nd, depending on when the holiday falls. Or maybe January 3rd, depending on what bowl games are on TV on the 1st and 2nd. Then, despite the fact that we all have 365 days to accomplish our annual goals, most people lose their momentum before the end of the first month.

Getting it right.

I don’t want to be one of those people. So I give myself every advantage possible. I noticed long ago that no one calls you for a false start if you start working towards your annual goals early. So I cheat. I start working on my goals for next year before the current year is over.

Personal Goals

I start working on my fitness goals for the year at Thanksgiving of the year before. I am a bit of a contrarian. So I use Thanksgiving as a cue to get fitter, not fatter. That way I start the new year with a healthy routine already formed.

My wife Dawn and I begin planning our travel adventures for the next year as soon as we have taken our final trip of the current year. Which is now typically right before Labor Day (because kids ruin everything). I found that when I waited too long to plan my vacations they didn’t plan themselves. Which meant they didn’t happen. Now we schedule our adventures early, and we get more out of them.

WWGGD (What Would Gordon Gekko Do?)

I would never consider waiting to act on my professional goals until January 1st either.

Because in business, your year is determined by what you do in the 4th quarter of the year before.

When you add new business in the fall, you start benefiting from it right away, in the  beginning or the first quarter. And it pays out all year long. Whereas new opportunities that surface in the first quarter might not bear any fruit until the second, third or 4th quarter. Which means that a piece of business worth $1 million, $100,000 or $1000 over the course of 12 months will only be worth a fraction of that in the first calendar year.

Starting your own business

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in the spring of 2016. But I began planning my business in August of 2015. I took on freelance projects beginning in October of 2015. And I used the income from those projects as the seed money to start my own agency. That early start was key to a successful launch. You can do the same thing.

Key Takeaway

If you want to be great, you can’t wait (that sounds like a Jesse Jacksonism).  You can’t coast from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve. You have to build momentum. So improve your chances of making 2019 your best year ever by starting today. Do more tomorrow. Because a New Year’s resolution is most successful when you find your resolve in the old year.

*If one of your resolutions is to read more in the new year, consider subscribing to this blog.

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What in the world does The Weaponry do?

What’s in a name? When I was launching my new advertising agency in 2016, I needed to come up with a name. But I didn’t want to do what other agencies do. I didn’t want a collection of last names that sounds like a law firm, (Welcome to Nonebrecht, Somebrecht & Albrecht…). I didn’t want random letters like SOS, PMS or IBS. In short, I didn’t want a boredinary name. What I wanted was a name that no one would forget.

Whoomp, there it is!

When I first wrote down the name The Weaponry, it might as well have been written in giant, flashing neon letters. Because it jumped off the screen at me. I instantly knew I had found the right name.

Like the boy named Sue, our name has been one of our great assets. People tell me every week how much they like the name. It’s intriguing. It sounds aggressive and provocative. And I am constantly asked about The Weaponry’s origin and meaning. In other words, it’s a great conversation starter (except maybe that conversation it started with the Immigration officer in India at 2am).

What’s behind the name.

When people ask me what the name means I usually answer with the follow statement:

‘Well, right behind the desk in my office is a giant sign that says, The most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind.’

Like the answer to a good riddle, that line always converts skeptics, doubters and critics, into enlightened insiders.

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But wait, there’s more!

However, there is another reason we are called The Weaponry. I absolutely love the definition of the word:

Weaponry (noun): all the weapons, collectively.

All The Weapons

When I set our to create my perfect agency, I wanted to offer our clients ALL the weapons, collectively. For two reasons. First, it would make life easier for our clients to be able to get all of the services they need from one resource. Having one agency translates to less time looking for agencies, less time managing agencies and no time coordinating agencies.

The second reason I wanted to offer all of the weapons is that I believe that if you have the ability to skillfully use each weapon, you will always use the right weapon for the situation. Whereas specialist, or sliver agencies, who only know how to operate a couple of weapons, will use what they have, regardless of what the situation or strategy dictate.

So, what kind of work do you do?

People always ask me what kind of work The Weaponry does. I say, ‘Whatever our clients need.’ Which I realize sounds kind of lame, and kind of smart-assy. But it is the truth. To illustrate the breadth of work we do at The Weaponry, here is a list of the things we are creating this week:

  • billboards
  • radio commercials
  • print ads
  • television commercials
  • mobile ads
  • social content
  • website design
  • package design
  • videos
  • credit card design
  • logo design
  • business card design
  • taglines
  • blog posts
  • podcasts
  • manifestos
  • media plans
  • media buys
  • photo shoot planning
  • brand style guides
  • Powerpoint template design
  • pre-roll video
  • SEO
  • website development
  • trade show booth design
  • and some fun promotional buttons

Key Takeaway

At The Weaponry we are living into the vision. We have created a valuable and flexible resource for our clients. Our broad range of opportunities have created a stimulating  environment for our Weapons. And thanks to our provocative name, we have great t-shirts, stickers and business cards that always get people thinking, and talking. Which is exactly what advertising is supposed to do.

How to share your ideas around the world like I do.

When I began writing the Perfect Agency Project blog in 2015 I was in the early phases of launching my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I had so many questions about starting a business that I tried to find information anywhere I could get it. Much of the information and inspiration I found was in blogs. I realized that future entrepreneurs could also benefit from my accumulated knowledge. So I began publishing blog posts on WordPress every week. I wrote about my experiences starting and running a business. I wrote about my philosophies on advertising, marketing, strategy and creativity. I wrote about networking and sales. And I wrote about a strange encounter I had with a woman at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Because hey, I had a blog.

Developing An Audience

Three years later, as 2018 draws to a close, I wanted to share a few interesting statistics that demonstrate the power of the blogging platform. When I began writing I knew that I would have readers across the United States. Not because I’m well-known. But because I have 31 aunts and uncles spread from Philadelphia to Phoenix. And 43 first cousins stretched from New England to Nevada. So thanks to my adventurous grandparents, I had America covered.

map maps american book
America! Blog Yeah!

Going Global

What I didn’t anticipate, at all, was how my blog would reach an international audience.  Sure, I figured some of my friends is places like Norway, India and Germany would occasionally stumble across my posts. But my readership has now gone well beyond that.

In 2018 alone, my blog has been read in (I’m stalling to let you guess the number before you read it yourself…) in 105 countries! That is hard for me to wrap my head around. But it serves as quantitative reminder of just how connected the world now is.

As I look at the map below of the countries where my blog has been viewed, I am in awe of the potential to share widespread messages without paid media, access to a personal satellite (sung like Dave Matthews), a radio tower or fleet of macho carrier pigeons. The map also indicates that when you are interested in a topic, you can now find and connect with others who are sharing what they know on the subject from the other side of the globe.

 

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Where My Blog Is Not

As I look at my blog’s heat map, I can see that my coverage is pretty spotty in Africa. My posts are not the most in Mongolia. And I’m getting no love from the Stans, including Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and the birthplace of the Afghan: Afghanistan.

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A typical Stanscape.

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas.

Based on the geopolitical climate, I am not expecting a sudden burst in popularity in the Stans. But the country I really wish I had at least one reader in is Greenland. Look at how huge Greenland is! That is a large chunk of land just sitting naked on my map. However, the Earth’s largest island has only 55,000 people on it. Which means that not even Kevin Bacon is well-connected there.

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I flew over Greenland on my trip to Iceland several years ago. It is amazingly beautiful. Although there was no green to be seen. What really stood out to me was the endless sea of rugged, inhospitable, snow-covered mountains. As I flew over Greenland I remember thinking those mountains would make it hard to get to a good blog if you really needed one. But maybe, just maybe, by writing two paragraphs on Greenland, and an accompanying tag and category mention, I can turn this great white land mass yellow on my map before the end of the year. It would be a very sweet Christmas present.

A little more detail on my international exposure.

Here are a few other facts that I found interesting when I performed Adamlytics on my blog:

  • My blog has multiple views from 79 different countries. Which means there are only 26 countries that have only 1 view (depending on whether you like your stats framed positively or negatively.)
turned on white tablet computer at globe share graph
This is not my dashboard. This is not my beautiful wife. #waterflowingunderground

My Blog’s Top 10 Countries By Total Views:

  1. The United States
  2. Canada (Thanks to all my friends in Quebec and Ontario)
  3. India  (Thanks to this post I wrote about my work travel to India)
  4. The United Kingdom
  5. Germany
  6. Australia
  7. South Africa
  8. Sweden (Thanks Anneli & your friends at Ikea)
  9. Romania
  10. Ireland

  • There are 5 different continents represented in the top 7 countries!
  • In a very symmetrical statistic, the 20th most popular country, Brazil, has 20 views of the blog.
  • The only continent that the blog doesn’t register on is Antarctica. But I’m not sure a view would register as being from Antarctica anyway. Because it is so cold there.
  • There are at least 2 countries where the blog has been viewed that I had never heard of before: Mauritius and Vanuatu (which I think may have been a Survivor Island (meaning a location for the reality tv show, not the rock band from the 80s).

The Perfect Agency Project’s International Exposure By Year

2015: 25 countries

2016: 41 countries

2017: 68 countries

 2018: 105 countries


Key Takeaway

Blogging is an amazing way to reach a very wide audience. You don’t need approval from anyone to start a blog. You don’t have to buy media to get your message out. You simply have to write about things that people are interested in reading. As you write, be patient. Keep writing insightful, educational or entertaining posts, and people will find you. Even halfway around the world. I look forward to seeing where this goes next. Because thanks to the world-wide web, there are no limits to how far your message can reach. Heck you might even get noticed in Mongolia, the Stans, and, Leif-Eriksson-willing, Greenland.

*If you’d like to see if I ever make to Greenland, please consider subscribing to this blog.

Why I encourage people to fight in the office.

Designing an office space that fits your company culture is like creating a clubhouse. When we signed the lease on our new office space a year ago I couldn’t wait to give it a serious makeover.* The drab office we leased was move-in ready for a lobotomy clinic. That wasn’t quite the vibe we were going for at The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I launched the year before. So as soon as we got the keys to the office we began transforming the space to match our personality.

A Sign Of Things To Come.

One of my favorite features of our office is the large sign that now greets you when you first come in the door. The bright red and white, 5-foot by 5-foot sign invites you to, in no uncertain terms, Fight With Your Brain.

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Business Is War

I love this statement. because at The Weaponry, we believe that business is war. To win the war of business you need to outthink the competition. You win with strategic thinking and creativity. You win by summoning your intelligence and accumulated knowledge. In fact, your brain is your most powerful weapon in any battle, whether you are talking about business, board games or back alleys.

The Double Entendre

As much as I love the obvious meaning of this statement, I love the second meaning even more. The next level message encourages you to fight against your brain. It is a call to resist your brain’s tendencies. It is a reminder to fight your brain whenever it attempts to follow a well-worn path. To default to habit. To think too small. To simply follow others. Or to delete the last sentence in a paragraph (phew, that was close).

Fight With Your Brain is a warning to resist the feeling that you think you already know the answer. It is a call to fight against assumptions. Fight the belief that there is only one right way to approach a problem.

We want you to fight with your brain when it wants to reject a new process, procedure or plan. Fight with your brain when it wants the old version of an app back (I know you know what I mean).

You must also fight against negative thinking. You need to fight self-doubt. Fight unwarranted feelings of insecurity. Fight against giving up. And fight your bad habits. In fact, you should fight against anything that limits your thinking. Except maybe city hall. Because come on, it’s city hall!

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We have also created Fight With Your Brain pins. If you want one leave me a message in the comments section. 

Key Takeaway

By fighting, while using your brain, you develop better strategies and ideas. By fighting, against your brain, you keep your thinking flexible and adaptable. You keep your emperor organ positive and prepared. It is the best way to keep new and valuable ideas flowing. Which is what makes the brain the most innovative research and development lab on Earth. So keep it cranking. Because when you fight with your brain you will be amazed at all the good you can produce.


*In 2017 I chronicled The Weaponry’s search for an office in a 3-part mini series that shares what the process of finding, negotiating and leasing office space is like for startups. My agent believes he can get the trilogy made into a movie series and have it distributed at every Blockbuster Video store in the country! Until then, you can find the story of our journey at these links:

  1. Looking for office space: A startup story.
  2. Looking For Office Space Part 2: The Messy Middle.
  3. Looking for Office Space Part 3: We Have An Office!

How eulogies can help you live a better life.

Yesterday I watched the touching tributes to President George H.W. Bush during his  presidential funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The highlight was George W. Bush’s eulogy, honoring his father, our 41st president, not as the Commander-In-Chief, but as a caring family man.

W’s thoughtful and tearful tribute brought back powerful memories of my grandfathers’ funerals. My Grampy Sprau, a Navy veteran, died in 2009 when he was 92. Three years earlier, in 2006, I lost my Grandpa Albrecht when he was 89. Both men left great human legacies. By that, I mean they left behind a lot of great humans as their legacies. In total, the two men had 21 children. Which means that they dutifully obeyed God’s command to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply.

Tim Albrecht Wedding Pic
My Grandpa Alton Albrecht, Grandma Judith, and their kids from left to right, Robert (my Dad), Paul, Pat, Linda, Jerry, John, Tim, Mary, Tom and Chuck.

The Honor of Honoring

Yet somehow, despite all those children, and nearly 50 grandchildren, when my Grandfathers each died I was given the honor of delivering their eulogy. In full disclosure, no one else wanted the job. It is very difficult to talk at a funeral. So I volunteered for the job. I was told that the only reservations my family had about me speaking was that once I had a microphone and a captive audience I might not stop.

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This is how I imagined my Grampy Sprau laughing at his own funeral. 

The Great Lesson

delivering a eulogy is an incredible honor and responsibility. But writing my first tribute for my Grandpa Albrecht also taught me one of the most important lessons of my life. Because writing a eulogy forces you to look at an entire life from the very end. It is how you complete the story of an adventure on Earth. And as I looked at Grandpa Albrecht’s entire life, from the very end, it forced me to think about my entire life from the closing curtain.

The Eulogy View

This view-point, makes you think about your life as if it were a book, movie or play. It makes you think about the plot, the characters, the obstacles and setbacks. It makes you think about the achievements, the risks, the rewards and the adventures. It makes you think about your contributions and your relationships. Your responsibilities and your regrets. It makes you think about wasting time and making time and taking time and the scarcity of time.

As I wrote my Grandfather’s eulogy, I realized that sooner than I would like, I too will be done with my own story. And if I wanted to make a difference and create a great tale for someone else to tell, I had to do it now. I had to get busy doing the things I would regret not doing. I had to choose my own adventure. I had to live a story worth sharing.

Valuing Our Time

I began seeing more value in each day. I started taking more pictures and documenting my own journey. I began contacting friends and family more. I took on bigger challenges and big changes in my career.  Within 6 months I moved to a new state. I advanced two positions along my career path, and nearly doubled my salary.

I planned more vacation time with my family, instead of letting vacation days vanish at the end of the year. Because I had learned that those vacation days represented the pages  of my story.

Write Your Rough Draft

Following my Grandfather’s funeral I began writing down more plans and goals. In fact, I spent the last hour of my 39th year writing about all that I wanted to do in the decade ahead. I knew I would have major regrets if I never tried to start my own advertising agency. Because when I looked at my life from the end, that was part of my story.

Two years later I launched my own agency. I called it The Weaponry.  At the same time I  started sharing the things I have learned along my journey in this blog. I try to share my insights and observations whenever I think they may add value to others. But lately I have noticed that I am offering the same piece of advice to others over and over. That advice: Look at your story from the end. Because from the end we can clearly see what we could have done, and what we should have done.

Key Takeaway

By using the end-perspective in your early decisions, you can actually steer the course of your life to align with your personal legend (#TheAlchemist).  That’s exactly what I am trying to do. It’s what I encourage you to do. In the end, the very end, this lesson was the greatest gift my Grandfather every gave me. And I wanted you to have it too.

Why you should mind your own business.

In 2016 I left a comfortable job to start my own business. After working in the advertising industry for two decades I had a clear vision of what the perfect advertising agency was like. I used that vision as a blueprint to create a new agency called The Weaponry. At the same time, I began writing The Perfect Agency Project blog to share my experience and learnings along the way. And in case you didn’t notice, I just created a link to this blog, in this blog. Which may technically be the silliest thing I’ve done in 219 posts.

The Perfect Agency

I have thought about every aspect of the perfect advertising agency. From the dress code (which is only 9 words long), to the way we respond to client requests (always explore them), to the way we deliver invoices (singing telegram*), we are creating both the agency I would want to hire to create my advertising, and the place I want to work.

Competitors

But one thing I haven’t done since launching The Weaponry is think about our competitors. In fact, I don’t even know who our competitors are. We are not trying to win a geographical area. We are not trying to win a singular discipline, or serve a niche industry. So it’s hard to find another agency to throw in a cage match with us.

We are focused on building a machine for developing great creative ideas, delivering excellent customer service and providing a fun experience for everyone involved. That’s it. Oh, we’re also drinking a lot of chocolate milk. 

Occasionally in an RFP (Request For Proposal) we are asked who we compete against in various services. I always respond by saying we compete against everyone who offers those services.

But I don’t pay any attention to those supposed competitors. I don’t worry about what other agencies look like. Or what their websites say. I don’t go to awards shows to see their work. There is not a thing I can do about how they conduct their business. I am not trying to hurt them or steal their business. I am solely focused on us handling our business and delivering against our client requests.

In fact, there are only two agencies I think about at all.

  1. The Weaponry in its current state.
  2. The fully formed version of The Weaponry.

I am focused on closing the gap between the two, and making the business we work in today look more and more like the ideal.

Key Takeaway

Mind your own business. Don’t become distracted by what everyone else is doing. Understand what your customers and your employees want, and work diligently on delivering that at the highest level. It’s the shortest path to success.

This same principle hold true for us as individuals. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, or how they are doing it. Focus on what you believe in. You can never go wrong doing what you know is right.

(*Okay, so we haven’t fully implemented the singing telegram invoice delivery system yet. But let me know if you would like to be part of the beta test.) 

Your mistakes are your most important milestones.

I read as much as I can. I am always searching for knowledge, wisdom, inspiration, perspective and a good laugh. Because I am always searching, I often find what I am looking for.

DaVinci

This morning I was reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Leonardo DaVinci. On page 59, Isaacson describes the flaws in DaVinci’s painting, The Annunciation. The painting depicts the moment when the angel Gabriel breaks the news to the Virgin Mary that she is going to become the mother of Christ. And Mary is all like ‘WTF!?!’

1200px-Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Annunciazione_-_Google_Art_Project
‘Hey Mary! How’s it going? Um, God wanted me to tell you that he wants you to have his son. Oh, and you get to ride a Donkey!’

Flawed Genius

The painting isn’t perfect. Because Leo was trying out some interesting new moves. The magic of this painting is revealed when you look at it from the angle he wanted you to see it from. But I think the real magic comes from Isaacson’s commentary:

‘In the process, he made some mistakes. But even the mistakes, which came from innovating and experimenting, heralded his genius.’ – Walter Isaacson from Leonardo DaVinci

Way To Grow!

I love that. I like to think that my mistakes are evidence that I am trying. That I am pushing beyond what I know how to do well, into areas of growth, improvement and innovation. I am more afraid of not growing that I am of messing things up.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You, your skills, and your abilities are iterative. Don’t stop at You 1.0. Try more. Learn more. Innovate and experiment more. Push yourself as far as you can. Discover what You 100.0 is capable of. And if you do, someone may write a book about you too.