Does your organization trust you to be an insider?

One of the great debates in business is about how much information we should share with our teams. There are two schools of thought:

  1. The ‘You-Can’t-Handle-The-Truth’ Community College.
  2. The ‘There’s-No-Such-Thing-As-TMI’ Prep Academy.

I have gone on recruiting trips to both campuses. They feel very different. One has a work hard, play hard vibe. The other feels like the place where the parents from Footloose went to school.

Solving For Happy

One of the key factors of employee satisfaction is feeling like you know what is happening within your organization. Employees are afraid of being left in the dark. It makes them feel like outsiders, when all they really want is to feel like insiders. #SodaPopAndPonyBoy

A lack of information sharing makes employees suspicious, and encourages them to jump to their own conclusions. In many corporate cultures conclusion jumping is like an Olympic event, and a world-class distraction.

Low Unemployment Means Higher Expectations.

Today, the labor market is tighter than a Boca Raton facelift. Which means that we have to make sure our employees feel valued and included in order to keep them engaged (I mean actively interested and invested in your company, not committed to getting married).

That’s why I believe in this simple philosophy:

Share information to show your employees that you see them as part of the solution. And not part of the problem.

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If You’ve Got A Problem, Yo, Let Them Solve It.

At the beginning of 2018 all of the business at my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, was project based. We were thrilled to have the work. And the work we performed for many of our clients was steady throughout the year. However, because we didn’t have any long-term commitments from our clients it limited our ability to plan. And it prevented us from committing to more full-time hires, which would better serve our clients.

I shared this challenge with our team at the beginning of 2018. Our account leaders took matters into their own hands. They had discussions with several of our clients who regularly engaged us for projects. They shared the merits of having a fixed plan in place, dedicated employees who accumulated knowledge on their business, and the ad agency-equivalent of rollover minutes that would never expire.

As a result, by the 3rd quarter of 2018 we had 6 retainer clients who compensated us with a fixed monthly payment. That helped make our revenue stream steadier and more predictable. It makes it easier for our clients to manage their budget. The retainer commitments have enabled us to think longer term about the work we do for our clients. And it has allowed us to invest in our team and infrastructure to better serve our clients.

Key Takeaway

People love solving problems. They love showing that they know, or can find the right answers. So share information with your team. Let them solve more of your organizations challenges by giving them more of the information they need to create great solutions. Remember, leadership will never have all of the best answers to the challenges that face an organization. It’s amazing how much faster and more intelligently you can solve an issue when all of your best minds are working on the problem.

 

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How to collect more points for creative thinking.

Creative thinking requires you to fill your head with interesting stimuli. This takes effort. Because life’s most interesting elements don’t just show up on your doorstep like Ed McMahon, with a giant check, balloons and a camera crew. That’s why I make a regular point of visiting museums.

Long before social media and hipster shopping sites made curation seem like a cool new idea, museums around the world began curating facts, images, stories, ideas and experiences. Museum-style binge-learning helps you stretch your mind in unexpected directions. This is good for everyone. But essential for professional creative thinkers, like me.

My Kind of Museums, Chicago Has.

Over the past 2 days I have visited some of the greatest museums in the world. The Field Museum of Natural History, The Museum of Science and Industry, and the Shedd Aquarium, all in Chicago.

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My family and I hit the museums hard in Chicago this weekend. Not to mention the pizza, hot dogs and donuts.

I visit the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry at least once a year. But there is so much to see that I always find new things to tickle my brain. Here are a smattering of things that caught my attention this weekend.

9 Things That Stretched My Brain

1. Sea Dragons

These beautiful little dragons don’t breathe fire. But they do look like bigger, more elegant versions of sea horses. What really fascinated me were the almost invisible fins near their bums, and behind their heads, that provide propulsion and change of direction. The Mother of Sea Dragons should be very proud of her intriguing little offspring.

2. The Helicoprion

Check out that lower jaw!  That thing is ridiculous! It is like a weaponized dip-lip. Wait a minute, maybe these sharks chewed tobacco, got mouth cancer and that’s why they went extinct.  #truthsleuth

3. Vertical Farms

I learned how vertical farms in sky scrapers could help us feed urban populations, close to home, year round, without weather reliance or threats of drought. I also like the idea of growing popcorn at high enough elevations that it pops itself.

4. Our Proximity to Space

The quote above is a novel thought to me. Evel Knievel and Bo and Luke Duke were more like astronauts than I ever knew. In fact, we are often closer to outer space than we are to neighboring states. It makes me want to stop by to borrow a cup of space sugar.

5. Zheng He’s Treasure Ship

Holy Ship! Check out this beautiful Chinese vessel! I had a hard time wrapping my head around how big the actual ship was, based on how long ago it was built. Read the story below for more. 

 

6. The Rate of Extinction

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This is a frightening number. Although it also makes me wonder how many species are created every day. Oh, and when the asteroid that killed the dinos hit, it also wiped out half of the other species on Earth. #NeverForget

7. The Tiger River Stingray

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I was fascinated by the pattern on these rays. It made me wonder which came first, the tiger or the tiger ray? This species should get its own breakfast cereal. Tony-Ray, The Tiger River Ray, would make a Grrrrrrreat spokesperson.

8. How Sue Got Its name

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Sue, The T-Rex, is the most famous dinosaur in the world. Ok, maybe it is just the most famous dinosaur in my world. But I never knew why it was named Sue. It was actually discovered by Sue Hendrickson, an explorer and fossil collector in South Dakota. And hence the name. Although scientist don’t know if it was a male or female. (Don’t you just look at it’s private fossils?)

9. How They Got The Boeing 727 to The Museum

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I have been on this airplane at the MSI many times. But I never thought about how it arrived at its current location. There is a fun video that plays nearby that tells the story. Highlights: It was flown to an airport on the lakeshore. It was loaded onto a barge, and then driven/pulled across the beach, down the street and into the parking lot. Then, one of the museums massive columns had to be removed to bring it into the building. When it was finally in place there was a huge celebration with tiny little bags of peanuts.

Key Takeaway

If you want to think in new and more interesting ways, you have to continue to feed your brain new and more interesting food. There is no better way to expand your thinking than exploring a museum. I encourage you to find one near you with a reciprocal membership that offers access to museums in other cities. That way you can see great museums whenever you travel. Or better yet, you’ll have great new reasons to travel.

Bonus Points: Can anyone name the art museum in the featured image at the top of this post? Leave your guesses in the comment section!

How I designed my life. And suddenly it became true.

On the eve of my 40th birthday I sketched out a vision for the rest of my life. I wrote in great detail about what I felt was my personal legend. By starting with the end in mind, I was able to determine the actions I needed to start making in order to accomplish all of my personal and professional goals.

It was a transformational evening.  In the last hours of my 39th year I determined the best way to grab control of my life, and design it exactly the way I imagined, was to start my own business.

I became totally focused on bringing my design vision to life. I put my plans into motion. Two years later, I launched my own advertising and idea agency in Atlanta. I named it The Weaponry. And I have been living into the vision ever since.

One Life. One Wife.

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We are family. Except on the last day of school. Then it’s every Albrecht for her or himself.

 

My wife, Dawn, gets co-creator credit on my life design. Like Al Jarreau said, we’re in this love together. Because a good marriage is like a 3-legged race, my life plan had to accommodate Dawn’s, and vice versa. We also had to consider our 3 children as part of the design. While we liked Atlanta, it didn’t quite fit all of our design requirements for our perfect long-term home base. So we had to plan our next move.

We didn’t mind moving our children while they were young. But we wanted to stop moving by the time our oldest child, Ava, reached middle school. We wanted to be closer to our families. And as a couple who grew up in Wisconsin and Vermont, we wanted winter. So we began looking for a northern headquarters for our family and bouncing baby business.

The City Search

We began looking for our 13-year home. A 13-year home would mean none of our children would have to move again before they graduated from high school. We drew a circle of acceptability around an area that included Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis. All of these cities are in the Central Time Zone, which we felt was the best time zone for a well designed life, and maximum business flexibility. These cities also put us within a comfortable driving radius of our parents. And we like our parents.

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As part of our life design we like to cut down our own Christmas tree. We like them full, with a lot of sap.

In the Goldilocks And The 3 Bears analysis of these cities, we decided that Chicago didn’t offer the best quality of life (cost of living and the commute were Boos). Madison was too small for the business I wanted to build. And Minneapolis needed another ad agency like an NBA player needs another tattoo.

The Brew City Sweet Spot

After much deliberation, we chose Milwaukee as our 13-year home. It put us within a 3.5 hour drive of both of our parents. I have a substantial network in Milwaukee, that includes former clients and co-workers from my time at Cramer Krasselt. Dawn and I both graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and Milwaukee is ground zero for Badger alumni. The city offers a great quality of life. The suburban schools are excellent. Plus, it offers easy access to Madison and Chicago, both just 90 minutes away.

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This is the view in front of my office on The Milwaukee River. Full disclosure: this photo was not taken in January.

But I’m A Rolling Stone…

While I wanted to provide my wife and children with long-term stability, deep down, and maybe not that deep, I like moving. By the summer of 2016 I had lived in 9 different cities. I wasn’t sure I could commit to one place for 13 years. So I built a solution into the master design.

The Home Office Strategy

As part of my life design, I developed The Weaponry’s Home Office strategy.  Which is my strategic plan to have an office for The Weaponry every place I’ve had a home. This strategy would provide regular travel and consistent interaction with the friends, co-workers and clients I have made along the way. It would also make me feel like I am part of several communities, so I don’t have to choose just one.

The cities on The Weaponry Home Office Strategy list include Milwaukee, Columbus and Atlanta. Because I grew up in New England I also want an office in either Burlington or Boston. Both of which are wicked good options.

Laying The Groundwork

When I began looking at potential employees and freelancers to join The Weaponry, I was biased towards people based in the cities listed above. So I began forming little clusters of resources in the Home Office Cities to help me live into the dream. In the fall of 2017 we signed a lease on 1000 square feet of space overlooking the Milwaukee River in, you guessed it, Milwaukee.

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It’s great having an office where you can point at someone with both hands.

What’s Next…

Today, I am really excited about the next step we are taking to bring the Home Office Strategy to life. We have been putting a lot of time and effort into the next phase, which may mean a new office in a new city. So tune in next week, when I share the unfolding news of our HQ2. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

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Our next office will be somewhere on this map.

Key Takeaway

If you want to live your ideal life you have to write down a vision of what you want your life to look like. You have to map out the steps to get you to your ideal design. Then you have to take deliberate actions to make it all come true. It’s an amazingly rewarding and fulfilling adventure. I’m typing proof.

*If you want to follow along to see what happens next, consider subscribing to get each post via email.

The most important ingredient to entrepreneurial success.

There is a fun debate about what it really takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Some think the key is having a great idea. Others think it is all about your network. While still others think the key is not running out of cash. I would argue that running out of cash is an awfully bad thing for a business. In the same way that running out of blood is bad for the human body. But that’s kind of like saying the key to solving global warming is not letting the Earth get warmer. It may be accurate. But it will make you look like an idiot when you suggest that at your next Mensa meetup.

Jeff Hilimire’s Recipe

Recently, my friend, and entrepreneur, Jeff Hilimire shared his secret recipe for whipping up a successful entrepreneur on LinkedIn.

 ‘50% amount of runway + 40% hard work/execution + 10% initial idea. I might have overshot the importance of the initial idea.’  -Jeff Hilimire. CEO of Dragon Army and Founder of 48in48

As a good facilitator of engagement should do, Jeff then asked the LinkedIn collective brain if we agreed or disagreed. Which provoked a healthy sharing of opinions. All of which had merit. None of which matched my own.

My Recipe for Entrepreneurial Success

My recipe is simpler than Jeff’s. In fact, I believe there is only one ingredient that matters at all. The absolute essential, non-negotiable, Holy Grail of ingredients, is action.  Without action you are guaranteed not to succeed. But with action, continuous action, all things are possible.

The Idea

The idea is not at all important to entrepreneurial success. Because absolutely everyone has an idea. You have had an idea for a product, service or business that could have worked. I know you have. The only reason that idea hasn’t become a successful business is that you haven’t taken enough action. Yet.

Time, time for some time for some action. (#obscurelyricreference)

Your runway, which is your brine of time and money, is continuously increased by taking more action. Action makes opportunity. Action spins straw into gold. Action is what builds and maintains your network. Action is what makes luck. And action is what makes for a really great date. #amiright

In the past 2.5 years since I took action and launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have had hundreds of discussions with people about the business ideas they wanted to pursuit. Every one of those ideas could have been successful. And every one of those people could have become a successful entrepreneur if it wasn’t for one missing ingredient. You guessed it: Action, Jackson!

Key Takeaway

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur the verb is the word. You have to take action. Absolutely nothing happens without it. The best of ideas, the best networked humans, the deepest pockets and the best of intentions are powerless without action. Talk is cheap. Potential is nothing. Ideas are everywhere. So as Nike once so famously and succinctly commanded, if you want to be successful entrepreneur, just do it.

Why you should be thankful for your competitors.

Can you imagine what it would be like to have a monopoly? I’m not talking about the Parker Brothers board game. I mean a situation where one player, you in this scenario, has exclusive control over the supply of a commodity, product or service.

You could jack your prices sky-high and offer crappy customer service. You could say things like ‘This is how we have always done it.’ And, ‘If you don’t like it, take your business somewhere else!’ #maniacallaugh Because when no one else is trying to steal your cheese, you can run through the maze as slowly as you like.

Thanks, but no thanks.

A monopoly sounds terrible to me. Because without competition there is no game to win. You never have to push yourself to improve. There is no pressure to find the next competitive advantage. And therefore, there can be no great victory.

It is competition that makes business a grand adventure. It is what makes us admire the bold entrepreneur. Because without competition there is no risk (again, not the Hasbro board game).

Michael Dubin

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I recently listened to the How I Built This podcast interview with Michael Dubin, Founder of Dollar Shave Club. When Dubin launched the DSC he had a momentary monopoly on the direct-to-consumer razor model. But he wasn’t the only one in the category for long. Soon major razor brands and upstarts alike started cutting into his space. But Dubin didn’t get mad. He didn’t throw in the shaving towel. Instead, he recognized the great benefit of competition.

‘The presence of competition pushes you to define yourself more specifically. And focuses you on the things that you want to do. And makes you work a little bit harder.’

-Michael Dubin, Founder of Dollar Shave Club

Key Takeaway

Your competitors are a gift. They motivate you. They sharpen you. They offer your team a common enemy. And nothing pulls people together like a common enemy. Except maybe a black hole. Or a tray of nachos.

Competitors make you define your uniqueness. They force you to declare your mission, and what success looks like. So be thankful for those you compete against. They are making you better. And they make your work and your wins more rewarding.

4 Netflix shows that will inspire you to think in new ways.

Have you ever found yourself thinking there is nothing on TV? I have. But that is complete poppycock. Today, smart TVs enable you to watch cable, Youtube, Amazon Prime and Hulu on your television set. Not to mention every video ever uploaded to the inter-webs. The problem isn’t a lack of good programs. It is that there is so much programming that it is hard to sort through it all to find the good stuff.

4 Entertaining Shows That Will Stimulate Your Brainium.

At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, we seek out thought-provoking Netflix programs to watch during our lunch hour. It’s part of our program to stimulate creative thinking. As we watch, we frequently hit the pause button to discuss the interesting, inspiring or provocative stories. The 4 latest shows we have watched have generated so much conversation on our team that I thought they would be worth sharing. So here they are, ranked from Wholesome to Holy Shiznit!

  1.  Walt: The Man Behind The Myth.

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This family friendly program follows the improbable story of Walt Disney’s rise, from humble midwestern child, to the man who changed movies, TV, merchandising and amusement parks forever. Dick Van Dyke narrates the documentary, which features interviews and images that will make you admire Disney more than ever. It’s clean enough for the whole family to enjoy, yet provides a fascinating path for entrepreneurs and creative minds to emulate. I recently read Walt Disney by Neal Gabler, which is an outstanding book. But this 90 minute program covers much of the same story as the 851 page book. So, see it real soon.

2.  Follow This

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This Buzzfeed News production is exactly what the curious modern mind needs. It investigates interesting, if not obscure phenomenon in 20 minutes or less. It is like 60 Minutes for the next generation. Each episode follows BuzzFeed.News journalists on their journey to uncover a unique, untold story. Which means that viewers not only learn about the new topic, they learn how the reporter is learning about it too.

The topics are fascinating. From The dumping of Bird scooters across America, to video game addiction centers, to the ASMR video explosion. (I was surprised to discover my 13-year-old daughter knew all about ASMR. She was just as surprised to hear that I knew about it too.) 

The series often covers topics I know little to nothing about. Which makes them all the more interesting. I can’t wait to see what they uncover next.

3. Slobby’s World

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This is my current obsession. Slobby Robby is a true character who owns an 80s and 90s vintage store in Tuscon, Arizona. The store, Generation Cool, provides the backdrop for Slobby’s wheeling and dealing in old school sneakers, clothing, toys and so much more, bro!

3 reasons to love this show.

First, Slobby Robby is over the top. From his ridiculous clothing, to his insane hair, to his hilarious language, he is a character for the ages. I wish I had made him up. I can’t tell if he is channeling Chris Farley, or if Chris Farley was channeling him

Second. The things he buys, sells and trades are fascinating. If you spent any part of your life in the 80s or 90s this show is likely to bring back some memories of the way we were (sing that line like Barbara Streisand).

Third: Slobby Robby is a shrewd business man. Under all of his loud and clowny exterior (which I love) is a man who really knows his business inside and out. He knows how to find the goods to sell. He understands the true market value of another man’s junk (no, not that kind of junk). And he knows how to offer great customer experience, which keeps people coming back.

4. The American Meme

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Wow! This show is crayer than Crayola Crayons. The 90 minute documentary takes an in-depth look at the phenomenon of internet-famous celebrities, who have achieved celebrity status despite a lack of traditional talents. This all-access look at publicity fiends, including Paris Hilton, The Fat Jew, DJ Khalid, Kirill (The Slut Whisperer) and Bethany Furlan, shows the upside, and dark downside to social media-borne fame. I loved this. And if weren’t for all of the swearing, dildos and boobs I would make my kids watch it to understand that if you try to dance with this type of fame you will get burned.

Key Takeaway:

There is a lot of great programing available today. Much if it is good and stimulating for your brain. I hope you enjoy these 4 shows. If you have been watching something that has really made you think, please share. I am always looking for a good excuse to spend more time on my couch.

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.