The surprising question I was asked while guest lecturing.

I guest lecture to college students several times each year. Guest lecturing is like a box of chocolates. Because you never know which students will be surprisingly delightful and which will be totally nutty. Last week I spoke to Erin Napier’s marketing campaigns class at Marquette University (which I secretly call a Marquetteing campaigns class, because it’s kinda funny).

Good Evening

There were 36 students in the class. It started at 5:30pm. Which, in case you don’t remember, is not when college students are at their energetic or attentive peak. I decided to bring some extra energy to make sure no one fell asleep (and no one fell asleep).

Sharing Is Caring

I spoke to the class about advertising, my career journey, the creative process and networking. I talked about starting my own business. And about the value of sitting in the front row. When I was done I opened the floor for questions. Not literally, of course.

A Trick Of The Trade

The students asked many good questions. Although I give myself partial credit for the quantity. Because after the first 2 questions I told the the class that I always remember the people who ask questions. If we stopped right then, 2 out of the 36 of them had made a positive impression on me. After my commentary the questions came fast and furious. Like Ludacris.

The Questions

The students peppered me with the follow queries:

  • Where do your best ideas come from?
  • What do you do when you are stuck creatively?
  • What was your favorite project ever?
  • What is your dream project?
  • What has been the greatest challenge of your career?

The Surprise

But there was one very simple question that truly surprised me.  Julian Wright, a freshman on the Marquette track & field team asked:

Why did you want to talk to this class tonight?  -Julian ‘Lefty’ Wright

My Response:

I wanted to share my knowledge with you. I have learned so much from experienced professionals who volunteered their time that I wanted to pay if forward, or backwards, or however you like to think about it. And I hope someday you give your time to share what you have learned with the next generation.

But I also wanted to make a positive impression on you, so that when you are looking for internships or jobs after college, you think of Adam Albrecht or The Weaponry first. I am always looking for rockstars. And I want the next generation of rockstars to be looking for me.

Key Takeaway

Share what you know. Add to the body of knowledge of students and others who are hungry to learn. The greatest impact you will ever have on Earth is the impact you make on other people. Pass along your knowledge, experience and observations. And in the process you will collect even more. Better still, teaching expands your exposure to talented people. It grows your network, and increases the number of opportunities that come your way.

Speaking Of Which…

This afternoon I will be speaking at an event about marketing through storytelling, hosted by the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce. I am excited to learn from the other 2 speakers at the event, Tim Dyer and Richie Burke.  Here is an overview:

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? USING STORYTELLING TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM CST
The Venue at Milwaukee Brewing Co
1130 N. 9th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Behind every business is a great story. As new platforms for content marketing continue to grow, there’s never been more opportunity to use storytelling to strengthen your brand and find strategic ways to reach new audiences.

You can find more details, and register for the event here.

 

 

 

The surefire way to increase your wealth.

I own a lot of books with the word ‘rich’ in the title. Among them you’ll find Think And Grow Rich, Rich Dad Poor DadThe Science of Getting Rich, The Richest Man In Town, and  Rich Like Them. In fact, I have bought so many books with the word ‘rich’ in the title that the Amazon recommendation engine now suggest books like The Adventures of Richie Rich, Rich Desserts, and The Many Impressions Of Rich Little.

The Real Lessons

I like these books because they are about success. They help you think and act in ways that help you accomplish great things. And those great things often attract money like magnets. Or magnates.

I consider the tips, tricks and examples in these books to be important reminders rather than great aha’s. Although there are certainly plenty of both in my library of riches.

The One Thing To Remember

But if you want to know the most important point of all about getting rich it is summarized in the following line:

‘It is the value you bring to a company, an organization, indeed the universe, that ultimately determines your level of wealth.’ -From The Richest Man In Town by W. Randall Jones

Key Takeaway

If you want to earn more money, add more value. If you want more social capital, add more value. If you want more political capital, add more value. Your success is directly related to your contribution. So if you want more, contribute more.

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

My 10 Simple Rules For Business Success.

My 14-year old daughter Ava has been studying The 10 Commandments during her confirmation class. She has lots of questions. Like, ‘How did we arrive at these 10?’ (I said God and David Letterman decided.) And, ‘Which one is the most important of all?’ (I told her it’s the one about honoring thy mother and thy father.) Her many questions are hard for humans to answer. But they serve as great kindling for meaningful conversations.

Rules For Life

I try to live my life according to The 10 Commandments. I’m so-so at it. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t worshipped any golden calves. But I sometimes use the Lord’s name in vain. (Sorry Big Guy.) And I have definitely coveted my neighbors house. But come on, my neighbors have sweet houses!

Rules For Career Success

I love simple rules. And all of our recent talk about The 10 Commandments got me thinking about my own rules. So I wrote down my 10 rules for business success. Here’s my list. These are short enough enough to be carved on just one stone tablet. Which means that you could carry these rules and a gallon of chocolate milk at the same time.

10 Simple Rules for Business Success.

  1. Always do what you know is right.
  2. Develop and maintain strong relationships.
  3. Solve problems.
  4. Deal with the decision maker.
  5. Hire people whose results make you jealous.
  6. Collect Dots and Connect Dots.
  7. Add value.
  8. Focus for greatest results.
  9. Add energy.
  10. Start with the end in mind.
  11. Overdeliver.

Key Takeaway

It is important to develop a strong set of rules to help you perform your best. The rules serve as reminders, guides and inspiration. They stand as pillars that support great people and great performance. If you ever lose your way, go back to your rules. They will never let you down.

What are your go-to rules?

What pieces of career advice would you write in stone and have delivered by Charleston Heston? Please share in the comments section. Or send me a note. If you do I will create another post called The Top 10 Rules I Learned From Readers, and I will give you credit. It will be a collaboration. Like Band Aid, USA For Africa or Dionne and Friends.

How to get your foot in the door like an All-American.

I have a strong appreciation for student athletes. As a former track athlete at the University of Wisconsin I understand how hard it is just to earn an opportunity to participate in college athletics. I know how difficult it is to balance the demands of athletics and academics. And I know how well those demands prepare you for life after college. But I was reminded of this lesson again over the past year.

The W Letterwinners Club

A year ago I started attending W Club events at the University of Wisconsin. The W Club is the varsity athlete letter winners alumni club. If you won a varsity letter as a Badger you are automatically in the club. And if I were to rebrand the club, I would name it the W Letterwinners Club, so that the name would express in two words and one letter what it has taken me 2 sentences to explain.

Scott and Stephanie

The incoming club President, Stephanie Herbst-Lucke, and Vice President, Scott Brinen, asked me to join the W Club’s advisory board when I moved from Atlanta to Milwaukee. Because it is much easier to get involved in things centered in Madison when you live in Milwaukee than in Marietta, Miami or Mozambique.

IMG_8787
That’s me in the middle, sandwiched between Stephanie Herbst-Lucke and my college teammate Scott Brinen. Scott is the W Club VP. Stephanie is the P. (#snickering)

They Meet

At my first advisory board meeting in October of 2018, Stephanie introduced me to one of the representatives from the women’s track team named Sarah Disanza. Sarah was an All-American distance runner who had just graduated 5 months earlier. It was clear that Stephanie and Scott really liked this young woman and had invited her to join the advisory board right after graduation.

Badger Athlete Reunion

Following the W Club meeting we all migrated to a fun event the W Club hosts annually called the Badger Athlete Reunion. It was held at the most iconic of iconic Madison bars, State Street Brats. The event, as the name so aptly implies, is a reunion of all letter-winning athletes who ever attended the University of Wisconsin.

img_9423.png
After the party there’s the after party.

The Badger Athlete Reunion is athletically eclectic. Like the Badger’s version of Studio 54. Every sport is represented. Every era is represented. Female and Male athletes are represented. And it makes it clear that being a student athlete at Wisconsin prepares you for great things after graduation. Because the room was full of ass kickers and name takers. Not just athletically. But in business, and life.

Impressed

That evening I spent more time talking with Sarah Disanza and I was impressed. She seemed to fit right in with groups of former athletes who were 10, 20 and 30 years her senior.

The Suggestive Sell

A few months later Stephanie Herbst-Lucke contacted me and said, ‘I think you should consider hiring Sarah Disanza on your team at The Weaponry.’ The Weaponry is the advertising and idea agency I founded in 2016. Stephanie is a rockstar marketer herself, so I took her suggestion seriously.

Sarah

Sarah was the national runner up in cross country, and a 4 time All-American at Wisconsin. She was still training seriously and had been working at a great restaurant in Madison. But she had met her life quota for garlic smashing. And decided she wanted to start her real career.

Disanza_Sarah_TheDual_012117_internal.jpg
Sarah leading a gang of hungry Badgers to Mickies Dairy Bar for some giant pancakes and scramblers.

 

Talent Scouts

I asked Simon Harper, one of my talented account leaders, to meet with Sarah the next time he was in Madison. He did. And he liked her like everyone else does. So we invited her to come to Milwaukee to meet with our broader team. (Broader meaning diverse, not wide.)

Sarah came to our office a week later. She was on time. She was prepared. She asked great questions. Again, everyone liked her. But we didn’t have an obvious opening for her to fill. So we didn’t have an obvious next step forward.

The Surprise

Then Sarah did something that distinguished her from other talented people. Yes, she followed up. Which is always the right thing to do. (See How to impress others with a follow up note for how to crush the follow up letter.)

True Value

But what Sarah did went beyond manners, protocol and good form. She added value. When she followed up with me she noted an initiative I had mentioned during our conversation in my office. It was a research project that I wanted to undertake related to new business development.

WTF!?!

She shocked me when told me she did the project on her own! When she sent me the file containing her research work it was so good I told her that she had to charge us for her time, because it was truly valuable to us.

The Door Opens

I then invited Sarah to do some freelance work for us on another project for a major client. Sarah always showed up early, ready to roll. She took initiative. Displayed great people skills with our client. And she did such a great job we found ourselves looking for more places to get Sarah involved.

High Jumping

Sarah eagerly jumped at anything we offered. And I was convinced we should add this go-getter to our team full-time. But before we did, I wanted to do one last check on Sarah with someone who knew her as well as anyone: her college coach.

Jill Miller
Jill ‘The Coach’ Miller

Jill Miller

Jill Miller coached Sarah in both Track and Cross Country at The University of Wisconsin. I emailed her, asking if she would be willing to talk to me about Sarah. She enthusiastically agreed.

Jill and I had a fun conversation as we connected dots between the people and places we both knew (#DublinOhio #RachelWeber). Then the conversation turned to Sarah. Jill enthusiastically confirmed all of the great things we saw in Sarah. She talked about her work ethic, her punctuality, her sense of responsibility and accountability. She talked about Sarah’s great family and the strong character that clearly came from her parents, Paul and Debbie Disanza.

Just Do Grit

Jill told me that Sarah had the highest pain threshold of anyone she has ever coached. Which is a clear indicator of grit and determination. Which is valuable in every endeavor in life. I had heard enough. But Jill Miller (who I would like to nickname Jiller) had one more thought to add.

‘As a coach I often think about which of my athletes I would hire if I had my own business. I have had a lot of great athletes that I would gladly hire. But there are 2 that stand out as the first people I would hire. And Sarah is one of them.’  – Jill Miller

That was quite an endorsement. I told Jill how much I appreciated her time and insights. And I had all I needed to know.

The Offer

In August we offered Sarah a full time position with The Weaponry. She started the day after Labor Day. And she has been as good as advertised. Or better. She is eager. She is a fast learner. She asks great questions. And she has deftly handled everything we throw her way.

All Rights Reserved
Sarah and her new team of smiley Weapons.

Best of all, she is super fun, super funny, and has a great personality that really adds to our team. Which means that she is like so many badger athletes, past and present: Hard working, smart and determined. Yet as fun and full of personality as the kids who fail out of lesser colleges.

Taking Initiative

But the reason Sarah is on our team is that she took initiative. She spotted an opportunity during the interview process to wow us. She performed her own research that was highly valuable to our business. She built her own on-ramp. And she was so good we couldn’t ignore her. So we didn’t. Anyone can do this. Although very few will. Just those willing to perform like All-Americans.

Key Takeaway

If you want to get your foot in the door with a new employer, a new client or a new relationship, add value. Show how much you would bring to the table every day. Don’t wait to be asked. Show initiative. It will tip the scales in your favor. Those you are trying to impress won’t want to lose you as a valuable asset. They’ll make exceptions for you. Be patient, but persistent. And keeping adding value. You’ll find that doors will open for you over and over again.

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

If you want results do what my son does.

When I first became a parent I was prepared to drop knowledge on my kids. I had prepared a syllabus of over 30 years worth of life lessons. They were sorted into 3 files. The first was labeled Smart Things I Did. The second was labeled Dumb Things I Did That You Should Avoid. And the third file was simply labeled Bill Cosby.

Magnus

What I wasn’t prepared for were are all of the lessons that my children would teach me. My latest lessons have come from my 9-year old son Magnus. Magnus, has taught me a lot about socializing. He has a remarkable ability to make instantaneous friendships anywhere. His social intelligence is as good as the best adults I know. He’s like a little Dale Carnegie on the playground, just winning little friends and influencing little people.

Losing Teeth

But as impressive as Magnus is at socializing, he is world class at losing teeth. It’s an odd thing to be great at, I know. But lately Magnus has lost teeth at a meth addict rate. I think he has lost 8 teeth in the last 2 months. In fact, I don’t know how he actually chews anything anymore. #popsiclesfordinner

IMG_6832.JPG
Me and Magnus and all of our hair at the top of the Astoria Column in Astoria, Oregon. 

Talk Is Cheap

However, it is not his quantity of tooth loss that impresses me. It is the style. You know how I know when Magnus has a loose tooth? He puts the tooth in my hand. Before that he doesn’t talk about it, complain about it or brag about it. He says nothing until the tooth is out. Even then he doesn’t really talk about it. He just shows me the results, and smiles an ever toothlessier smile. And every time he surprises me (and the Tooth Fairy) with absolutely no advanced warning, I am more impressed by his ability to quietly take care of business.

The Reminder

I meet people all the time who go on and on, (like Steven Bishop, down in Jamaica, with lots of pretty women), about their big dreams, lofty goals and ambitious plans. But talk doesn’t bring a dream to life. Discussions don’t achieve goals. And ambition doesn’t execute a plan. Talk is the cheapest of all commodities. Action is the the most valuable. And it’s the only currency you can use to buy your goals and dreams.

Key Takeaway

Success requires action. To be successful do more. Talk less. Complain less. Analyze less. And focus on results. Don’t tell the world what you are going to do. Show them what you’ve done. Then, after the work is all done, you can sit back and enjoy the rewards. Just like my son Magnus does.

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

 

 

How your opportunities are like popcorn.

Opportunities are like popcorn.

They both start as small unassuming kernels.

And if you leave them alone they will stay that way forever. Just small kernels of potential. Unrealized. And Inedible.

orange corn kernels
Look at all that opportunity!

There are millions of un-popped kernels around you. They are in jars. In stores and in cupboards. Just waiting to be popped.

But unless you live in Hades, those kernels won’t pop in the store. They won’t pop in the jar. And they won’t pop on the shelf in your cupboard.

You have to pop them yourself. The way your grandparents and Orville Redenbacher did.

The Recipe For Popcorn

  1. Pour kernels into a pan.
  2. Bathe them in oil.
  3. Crank up the heat.
  4. Start shaking the pan. Then keep shaking and shaking until all the kernels pop.

Key Takeaway

Opportunities surround you. But they won’t pop on their own. You need to apply heat and action. But when you do, the results just keep piling up. So crank up the heat to high and start shaking. Then keep heating and shaking until you have a bowl full of delicious, salted, buttered popcorn in front of you.

Every day I write the blog. And more people read it.

It’s really easy to start your own blog. I should know. I have started at least 8 of them. But it’s really hard to keep them going. I should know. Because 7 of mine moved like glaciers, until global warming put them out of their misery.

I enjoyed writing the blogs. But I never created a habit that kept them going. It takes time to find your groove, your voice and your writing schedule. Even more challenging, it takes a lot to attract an audience that wants to read what you are writing.

Writing No Matter Whataburger

When I started this blog I made a commitment to myself to just keep at it, no matter what. I was committed to sharing my experience as I launched my own advertising agency from dust. I thought it would help others start their own businesses. Just as I had read other blogs that inspired my entrepreneurial adventure. If the business failed and no one read the blog, at least when it ended I would have the experience and learnings well documented for myself. Which is like seeing the light at the end of my carpal tunnel.

My Twins

In many ways The Perfect Agency Project blog and The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, are like twins. They were born at the same time. They have grown together. And they are inseparable. Like conjoined twins. Or regular twins who got into the Gorilla Glue.

Quiet Growth

The growth of The Weaponry has been a shared experience, as we have added team members and clients. But the growth of The Perfect Agency Project blog has been private and quiet.

Writing this blog is a solitary endeavor. It’s just me and my computer. I write down my thoughts, lessons, experiences, observations and insights that stem from working in and on my business. Then I hope that someone, somewhere will read the posts and find some value in them.

Sometimes the posts are well read. And sometimes they are not. It is hard to tell why some posts fly and some flop. Especially when what I consider to be the best, most important ideas gain very little traction.

Write Anyway

But whether a post was extremely popular or went mostly unnoticed, I write again the next day. I have been consistent and persistent. I just kept writing. And just kept posting.

Seeing Obvious Progress

I am proud to say that on September 17th, 2019, the total number of views and visitors to my blog for 2019 surpassed the total number of views and visitors the blog received in all of 2018.  Which means that it had the same number of visitors in 8.5 months in 2019 as it did in the 12 months of 2018. #FirstGradeMathYall

IMG_8942
This is the growth chart for my blog. It represents the views and visitors (dark and light shades) for each year since 2015. The pink at the top of 2019 is optimism.

Insistence on Persistence

The persistence is leading to progress. I still have 3.5 months of readership growth ahead this year. At the pace of 3 posts per week, that is 42 blog posts left to share in 2019. As a result, I expect a 50% growth in views and visitors for the year. Which for a blog I have been writing for 4 years feels pretty good.

Fun Fact: The Perfect Agency Project blog has been read in 113 countries around the world in 2019.

I attribute the growth to just keeping at it. Slow and steady. Each post, whether it is read by tens or thousands, contributes to that total. And that’s progress. Truly, every little bit helps.

Key Takeaway

Success doesn’t come overnight. It comes in small steps that seem insignificant on their own. But over time the cumulative effect of all those small steps is significant progress. So keep going. Commit to creating a habit of action, day after day. Then give yourself time. Time for the results to pile up and make a difference. If I can do it you can do it. Do a little every day. And just don’t stop.

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