11 ways my 11-year old would make my lame business awesome.

When I first launched my advertising and idea agency in 2016, I knew great things would happen. I just couldn’t predict the pace at which those great things would unfold. Despite my confidence, had I been grilled under oath by a great lawyer like Ally McBeal or Jackie Chiles, I would have had to admit that I had no hard facts, and no physical evidence to support my original assumptions about our imminent success.

Today,  The Weaponry has indeed been a great success. Our rate of growth, roster of clients and level of talent is tracking with my lofty expectations. Most people who know the details of our story are impressed. But not everyone. Namely, my 11-year-old son, Johann.

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Johann and I in Hilton Head, just before his little brother kicked his flip-flop under the railing and into the water, never to be seen again.

Johann

Last week, as I drove Johann home from his piano lesson he asked, ‘Dad, what’s new at The Weaponry?’ Which he always pronounces as Webonry. (I’ve noticed about 25% of the population does this.) I excitedly told him about our latest news, the number of employees, the new clients, the new lease and more. I concluded with, ‘It’s pretty great huh?’

Johann responded with, ‘Not really.’

It seems a 2-year old advertising agency, launched from dust, now rolling fast and picking up steam, still has a hard time impressing a 5th Grader. I wanted to know what would seem more impressive to my elementary-aged son. So I asked Johann. And here are his answers.


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Some of my biggest fans, and my biggest critic on their first visit to The Weaponry.

11 Things Johann thinks would make The Weaponry way more awesome.


1. A Better Building  Johann said, ‘Dad, nobody even notices your building. You need a much taller building. Either move into a building 20 stories high, or build one of your own. (He liked that my old office in Atlanta was on the 22nd floor.)

2. A Breakfast Buffet I couldn’t argue with this.

3. Promote Yourself!  ‘You need to advertise The Weaponry on billboards all over the city! You need big signs with your logo that say “The Weaponry is for hire!”‘ I think all the  personal injury attorney ads have gotten to him.

4. More People ‘Dad, don’t be an average business with very few people working for you. You need more than 100 people to be a big business. And the more people you have the more money you will make.’

5. More Clients  ‘You need more clients. Like hotels and resorts. You should work with Coca Cola, Ramen Noodles, Fortnite, oh, and movies!’

6. More Offices: ‘You should have offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta and Orlando. You know, the big ones.’ I said, ‘You know I have employees in Atlanta, right?’ He responded, ‘Yeah, but they just work with you online. You don’t have an office there yet.’ Touché! #appealdenied

7. Even More Offices ‘You really should have international offices in Tokyo, London, Paris and Sydney.’   Me: ‘What about Greenland?’ Johann: ‘Greenland has a very low population.’

(Yet I dream of my blog one day being read in Greenland. It is the largest country on Earth that has never viewed my blog. #popularitygoals)

8. Celebrities: ‘You should work with celebrity spokespeople, like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Justin Timberlake and the woman who plays Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns. Jack Black and the guy who plays Remy in Ratatouille. Oh, and Rachael Ray and Jimmy Fallon! But Not Miley Cyrus, because she was naked on a wrecking ball.’

9. Athletes ‘You should also work with sports people like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick, Aaron Rogers, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, LeBron James and Gronk!’

10. Directors: ‘You should work with directors like Brad Bird and John Lassiter. And you should also make memes.’

11. Real Weapons: ‘And Dad, The weaponry would be cooler if you actually made weapons. Like swords with skulls on the handles. That would be really cool. And you should have a sailboat that has your logo on the sail!’  Apparently I would be cooler if I was a pirate.

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Johann would be jumping for joy if The Weaponry was more Hollywood. Or more Pirates of The Caribbean.

Key Takeaway:

It is always helpful to have someone remind you that you are capable of more. It is easy to spend time counting your successes, and to surround yourself with those who tell you how great you are doing. But if you want to really accomplish amazing things that are universally impressive, find someone who will tell you all the things you have not yet done. You know, the things that would make you a worldwide success. And if you can’t find someone like that in your circle of friends, try stopping by an elementary school. Because as the saying goes, kids and the dumb ones tell the truth.

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How to know who you should really listen to.

If you think you already know everything this post is not for you. This is for people who have a growth mindset. If you are trying to become smarter, stronger and more capable every day, you need to keep your ears open for good advice.

The problem is that not all advice is good. And most certainly, not all advice is right for you. So if you are trying to become a better entrepreneur, employee, parent, student, athlete of friend, how do you know when to listen to advice, and when to Leave it to Beaver?

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Britnie Turner

I stumbled across a nice quote yesterday on Instagram Stories from Britnie Turner, Founder and CEO of Aerial Development Group in Nashville. I don’t know Britnie, and I don’t remember how I started following her on Instagram. But I know she is a successful entrepreneur. I know that a percentage of the profits from each home her organization sells directly supports orphans and local nonprofits. And I know that spellcheck desperately wants to change her name to Britain.

The Quote

‘Only listen to people you want to be like and only in that area of their life.’ -Britnie Turner

This is excellent advice. The point is clear. Only take advice from people who are already doing what you want to be doing. Learn the tips and tricks of the people who behave the way you want to behave. Don’t listen to every voice in the wind. Instead, carefully curate the advice you accept.

Sliver Mentors

I love the second part of the message as much as the first. The qualifier ‘only in that area of their life’ is important. Because I believe in Sliver Mentors. Those are mentors or role models who can teach you how to do very specific things very well. This can be anything from how to make a great introduction, to how to give kind feedback, to how to respond to email, to how to show your significant other that you are thinking about them during a busy day.

Key Takeaway

We all have to develop our advice filters. That starts by knowing what we want our fully formed selves to be like. Study, listen and learn from the people who are already doing what you want to do. But don’t let them overstep their areas of influence. Uncle Vern might be great at teaching you how to fish. But that doesn’t mean you want to dance, dress or do business the way he does. So remember to keep the Q-Tips handy. That way when people who don’t already align with your ideals offer advice, it can quickly go in one ear, and right out the other.

 

The best way to start the New Year right.

Tonight is the big night! It’s New Year’s Eve! Like the Lexus December to Remember, it’s time to put a big red bow on 2018. Or, if your 2018 was a lemon, it’s time to put on some Del Amitri and kiss this thing goodbye. Either way, this is the biggest party night of the year. Because we always save the best for last. Or do we always start off with a bang? (I always forget.)

New Year. New You.

With the new year comes new expectations. We set goals and resolutions for the next 365 days. It’s exciting to think that, like a new iPhone or Fast & Furious release, the new and improved version of ourselves hit the shelves tomorrow!

Most of us think our lives, habits and body fat will all get better, starting tomorrow morning. But there is one simple thing you can do tonight, on New Year’s Eve, to give yourself the best possible start to a great 2019.

Don’t stay up until midnight.

Go to bed at a decent hour tonight. Going to sleep early on New Year’s Eve is a wonderfully rebellious move that sets you up for success in the new year. I went to bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve last year. And I loved it.

No Bonus Points

You don’t get any credit, in either the old year or the new, for staying up to witness the clock tick to midnight. There will be very little productive work that happens between 10pm and midnight. If you haven’t made your goals in the first 364 days and 22 hours, you’re not likely to achieve them in the last 120 minutes. And Auld Lang Syne is a dumb song, which I presume is about Mr. Syne, who lived next door to me when I was growing up in Vermont. He wasn’t worth singing about at any hour.

The fact is that you don’t get a jumpstart on your goals, hopes, dreams or resolutions by staying up past midnight tonight. You get tired. And maybe you’ll start the new year with a hangover. Neither of which you really want.

The Downside To Staying Up Late

If you stay up until midnight tonight, one of 2 things will happen:

  1. You won’t get an early start tomorrow morning. Getting an early start to your day is the best way to be productive. So if you are motivated to achieve more in the year ahead, get up early and get going.
  2. You won’t get a good night of sleep. Let’s say that you stayed up late, but also get up early tomorrow. That means that you are not fully recharged, fully energized, and ready to make January 1st an outstanding start to the new year. If you are serious about making positive changes, you should seriously get serious about creating good sleep habits, starting tonight.
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This could totally be you tomorrow.

Let’s get it started

Aim for getting a good 8 hours of sleep tonight. Try getting to bed by 10:30pm and waking up by 6:30am. As we all know, the end is determined by how we begin. One great step leads to another. And one great day leads to another. Remember, the longer you wait to get into a new, positive habit, the less likely it is to happen.

Key Takeaway

Consider being a rebel tonight and turning in early. Get a great night sleep. Start 2019 early, well-rested, recharged and re-energized. It’s the best way to start your best year yet. Have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve! Oh, and if it is already 2019 when you are reading this, there is no need to read any further.

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.

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.

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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.

What would you look like as a Venn diagram?

Last Saturday I received a very interesting text message. It was from a former client of mine who was the CEO of a popular American brand. The text said that she wanted to talk about potentially working together on a new marketing campaign. She wanted to know if I could talk the next day. Which, for those of you familiar with calendars, was Sunday.

I have always really liked this woman. She is smart, savvy and aggressive. But what made her text particularly interesting was that I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in 5 years. That’s right. 5 years. So I was quite surprised to hear from her. Pleasantly surprised, yet surprised nonetheless.

Sunday afternoon we jumped on a call (actually there was no real jumping). She told me that about the exciting things unfolding at a new company that she is now leading. She said:

The work we need to do requires someone who is passionate, strategic and highly creative. And the first person I thought of that fits that description is you.  -Former Client

That may have been baloney. I may have been the 5th person she thought of. Or the 50th. Or 500th. But the thing that struck me was the Venn diagram she referenced.

Venn Diagram

Venn diagrams are like filters, sorters or separators. They are like visual algorithms. They help identify people places and things that have a specified combination of required attributes. And based on her evaluation, I fit into the small space at the intersection of strategic, creative and passionate.

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A favorite Venn diagram…

Flattered

I was flattered, honored and appreciative of her comments. And when I quieted my own humility, I had to agree with her evaluation. I have worked very hard at developing both my strategic and creative skills for decades. They are areas of relative strength. And I am a naturally passionate human. However I don’t take any credit for that. Because baby, I was born this way.

Personal Brands

Our personal brands are nothing more than Venn Diagrams. We are sorted and remembered for our distinct combination of traits and abilities. It is how we quickly summarize and categorize each other.

Following that phone call I thought a lot about my own VD (um… maybe we should stick with Venn diagram). I wondered about what venn diagrams I had created in the other people’s’ minds. I wondered about the good, the bad and the ugly. I thought about my strengths and weaknesses. I thought and the various impressions I have made along the way. I thought that I should ask for feedback from other people to better understand my venn diagram.

Key Takeaway

Do you have a strong brand image? What unique combination of assets or liabilities describes you? Do you get sorted into the groups you want to be in?  Do people think of you at all?  If not, it is time to develop your own Venn diagram. Work on sharpening your strengths. Put them to great use. Add value. And let me know the next time you find yourself in a satisfying venn diagram. We could all use a little more of that in our lives.