Yesterday I had an amazing chance to complete a life goal!

I spent the last hours of my 39th year reflecting on my life. I wrote down a long list of things I was proud I had accomplished so far. It was good to take a 40-year view of life. In fact, I consider this moment one of the pivotal moments in my adventure on Earth. It helped put my journey and path in perspective. After I took inventory of all the good things I had accomplished and experienced I turned my attention to the future.

I asked myself a simple question:

If life ended right here, what things would I regret not doing?

This was an exciting question. Because it would form my to-do list for the next chapter of life. At that point I felt like I was living up to most of my expectations. My personal life was great. I had a wonderful wife (Dawn), a daughter (Ava) and two sons (Johann and Magnus). My parents, sisters and their families were all doing well. I have a huge and wonderful extended family and great friends around the world.

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My family.

My career was going very well. I was the Chief Creative Officer of a 275-person advertising agency called Engauge, and we were about to finalize a deal to sell the agency to Publicis, the giant advertising agency holding company out of Paris.

The 4 Things

With my personal and professional life on track, what were the things that I would regret not doing if died the next day? There were 4 things that quickly rose to the top.

  1. More international travel. I had visited 11 foreign countries at that time. But that left about 200 that I hadn’t seen.
  2. Starting an advertising agency.
  3. Starting a real estate business.
  4. Donating blood.

This became my checklist of things to accomplish in the decade ahead.

The Advertising Agency

Within 2 years I began plans to launch my own advertising agency. And within 3 years I had actually left my job, started the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, and had clients in Atlanta, Boston, Quebec, Milwaukee and San Francisco.

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Me and my cousin Brooks at The Weaponry.

The Real Estate Business

By the end of that 3rd year, Dawn and I had bought a new house and converted our home in Atlanta into a rental property, complete with tenants and rental income. Which meant that we had birthed our real estate business.

The International Travel

Last year I had a really exciting opportunity to travel to India to film a video for a great client, Fifth Third bank. My experience there was incredible. In fact I summarized it in this popular blog post, 20 interesting things you notice when you travel to India. Now America is the only country that reads my blog more than India.

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I am excited to be making good progress on these 3 areas. Which are the toughest 3 on my list to accomplish. Which leaves just one of my goals for the decade unaddressed.

Until yesterday.

Donating Blood

Yesterday morning when I got on the elevator to go to my office I saw a flyer posted above the keypad. There was a blood drive, from 10am to 2pm in the office space directly above The Weaponry. I was thrilled. This was the sign I needed. And today was the day!

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The Flyer

My Dad

A quick bit of background. My Dad, Robert Albrecht donates blood like it is his job. He is the equivalent of a Million Mile Flyer for giving blood. But I had never given blood myself, and have always felt bad about this. When I was on the track team at the University of Wisconsin our coaches discouraged us from giving for training and performance reasons. After graduation I simply never found the on-ramp to giving. I have no fear of blood or needles or ‘I gave’ stickers. I just hadn’t done it.

At 11am I left my office and made my way to suite 307. I was more excited than most people to donate blood. But then again, most people don’t have donating blood on their bucket list. I walked in the room and was greeted by a blue scrubbed technician. I said, ‘If you have any time slots still available I am full of blood, and willing to give some to you.’ She laughed and told me there was an open slot at 11:50am.

I was thrilled. And at 11:50am I was back and got the process started. I signed in on a clipboard and was taken to a semi-private cubicle for my pre-screening. They took my driver’s license and entered a bunch of information about me into a computer. Then they had me scan a binder previewing the questionnaire I was about to take.

The Questionnaire

Then I took the questionnaire. It was crazy. It asked if I was, or ever had been pregnant. It asked if I took any drugs, received a blood transfusion, had AIDS or Cancer. It asked if I had ever had man on man sex, or sex with a prostitute. #thingsIhadn’texpectedtoreadthatday.

When I was finished with the 45 question survey I only said Yes to one question. The technician then reviewed my answers and said, ‘It looks like we have just one question to review.’ It says that you have traveled outside of the US or Canada in the past year. I proudly said, ‘Yes!’

The technician asked where I had traveled. I told her I had been to India. She then asked me what area I visited. I replied that I had been to Bangalore, in southern India.

She then pulled out a binder to check on any restrictions that may apply, based on my travel. Once she found what she was looking for she turned the binder around towards me. She put her finger next to the word India. She then slid her finger to show me that travelers to India were prohibited from donating blood for one year, due to the threat of Malaria.

I was denied.

She told me to come back at the end of September and they would happily take my blood. She then handing me my parting gift. It was a ticket that provided free admission for four people to Mt. Olympus Water Park in Wisconsin Dells. While I love a good water park, this was little consolation for not being able to check off one my major life goals.

Reflecting

But I couldn’t help but smile, reflecting on the last few hours of my 39th year. That night I declared I would launch my own business. Which lead to exciting international travel. Which prevented me from donating blood. In other words, I still have unfinished business.

Key Takeaway

Take inventory of your life. Give gratitude for all you have and all you’ve done, both personally and professionally. And think about the things you will regret not doing next. Write them down. Prioritize them. And give yourself a deadline to accomplish them. Then take action. Even long lives fly by. If you don’t recognize, declare and take action towards the things you want most, they will never happen.

I am excited to have made such good progress on 3 out of 4 Decade Goals. In September I expect to knock off another. Unless, of course, I have more exciting international travel before then. Which is always a possibility. Afterall, it is on my to-do list.

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

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How to attract good things by starting early.

I loved my college experience. But when I graduated, I was thrilled to be done with school. Like Alice Cooper. Yet I was far from done with my education. Since I graduated from the University of Wisconsin I have been busy acquiring self-directed micro-degrees. How? First, by making up this silly, but plausible term. Then, by reading. Not just reading for reading. I am constantly looking for new books, magazines and online articles to help me become a smarter, more effective human, a better business person and a more creative thinker.

7 Habits

One of my favorite micro-degrees came from reading  Stephen R. Covey’s classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Reading books like these is akin to taking a college course, only without the chance to meet an attractive co-ed. In fact, I have learned, retained and applied more from books like this than from many of my college courses. (Sorry dude who taught that Emotions class junior year. That was worthless.)

Not Urgent, Not Urgent, No Emergency…

In his best-selling book, Covey introduces a concept that I absolutely love. It’s the idea of spending more time doing things that are important but not urgent. This is really where the magic in your life comes from. When I learned about this concept I realized that I already did a lot of work in this quadrant.

Check out the impressive quads on the chart below.

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The important but not urgent work is the key to all of the good things that have happened in my career. But as I have created and grown The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, this type of activity has been crucial.

Important but not urgent, in action.

I identify talented people who I want to join our team, and begin planting seeds. I plant seeds all the time that I don’t expect to bear fruit, nuts or vegetables for years. In fact, there are talented people in cities across America that I have been talking to about joining The Weaponry,  not in the next weeks or months, but in the next years.  

Why? Because great things often take a long time to develop. So I want to start the process as early as possible. My goal is not only to appear on the radar of talented people, but for the course of these talented people’s careers to begin steering towards me.

I want to create a gravitational pull towards me and my organization. How?  Through early conversations these valued recruits can begin imagining us making magic together. By creating an attractive vision of the future, the people start steering their courses towards this attractive future reality.

The Power Of Advertising

This early recruiting activity works just like marketing and advertising. Because advertising, through brand awareness and brand affinity, begins to create a gravitational pull towards products and services.

I have spent my entire career planting seeds about the merits of various brands. Eventually, by sharing those merits, customers, clients and members find their way to the brands that can help solve their problems or enrich their lives. And everyone wins. This is what I am doing now, both personally and professionally. And you can too.

Key Takeaway

To attract the people you want to surround yourself with, start early. Start well before you need them. Whether you are looking for friends, co-workers or customers, begin recruiting today. Offer others a picture of what a friendship, career or success could look like when you join forces. Do the important work early, before it becomes urgent. Then watch as paths alter in your direction. It’s a pretty amazing thing to see. It’s what highly effective people do. You know, people like you.

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Amanda Peraud and I met last week about the possibility of this senior at Illinois working with The Weaponry. It was a classic important but not urgent activity. Also, Amanda’s cousin Melissa Roth, is a good friend of mine. So this was also classic networking activity.

 

How much money do you need to start a business?

I recently watched an interesting story on TV about a business in Brooklyn called Ample Hills Creamery. It was founded by a wife and husband who both quit their jobs and went all-in on their unique ice cream shop. Obviously the business is doing well, or they wouldn’t be profiled on TV. But one specific statement in the story stood out to me.

‘The couple invested their whole life savings into the business.’  

This is a great line to capture attention. It says that the couple was daring, and brave. It says they risked everything. They were in a must-win situation. All the chips were pushed to the center of the table.

Now the audience has to know what happened next! Bravo, dramatic story teller!

Risking It All

Most people seem to think you have to risk everything you have to launch a new business. Most people don’t have the stomach for such risk (although it appears Americans have no shortage of stomach). So most people never consider entrepreneurship an option. And I don’t blame them. But do you really have to dig into your entire life savings to become your own boss?

My Story

I launched my own business in 2016. I had worked in advertising for 2 decades. Then, in 2015, several former clients encouraged me to start my own agency. I began by dabbling with a nights-and-weekends side hustle. I did a little freelance work for my friend Dan Richards at Global Rescue, and earned $16,000. A few months later I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency. Global Rescue was our founding client. I opened a business checking and business banking account with Wells Fargo, and put $6000 into the checking account, and $10,000 into the savings account.

My Initial Investment

So how much money did I use to start my business? You could say $16,000, because that’s what I put into my combined bank account at the start. You could say $6000, because that is what I put in the checking account. Either of those answers could be correct. But they would be correct, like saying it takes 3 licks to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.

No Money Down

The truth is that I started my side hustle by investing $0.00 into my adventure. All I needed to get started was my home computer, which I already had at home (hence the name home computer.) I was able to start providing value to others with the things I already owned. I simply needed action to start generating a new stream of income. I then diverted the new stream to form a reservoir. And once the reservoir grew large enough, it became my official pool of money to start my own business.

The Real Costs  

To officially launch The Weaponry I spent $120 to establish The Weaponry LLC with my state. That’s all I can remember initially spending on the business. I started by working out of my home office, using my home computer. That cost me nothing.

My first real investments in the business were a dedicated work computer, a MacBook Pro, and an iPhone. It’s amazing how much commerce you can facilitate with just those two resources. And most people already own those two powerful business tools.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a lot of money to start your own business. You don’t. It costs almost nothing to birth a business. There are always ways to start small. You can probably go MacGyver-style and create your own business out of things lying around your own home right now (or laying around your own home right now, depending on your grammatical choices and intended meaning).

You’d be amazed by how much you could do with just a single run to the grocery store, or the Home Depot. The cost to get on the entrepreneur-ship is much lower than you think. Even if you ultimately want to do big, capital-intensive things. You don’t have to risk your life savings. You just need to get moving. Follow the Yellow Brick road. And pick up as many of those yellow bricks along the way as you can.

*To find out more of the things I am learning on my entrepreneurial journey, consider subscribing to this blog.

The search for our second office: Part 2

In the summer of 2015 I began planning to open my own advertising agency. I knew that I would call it The Weaponry. I knew it would be an exciting adventure. And I knew that we would eventually have an office in Columbus, Ohio. Why Columbus? I’m glad I asked for you. My affinity for this hidden-gem is all right here.

I had lived in Columbus for 7 years and I knew a lot of very talented advertising professionals in the city. Just as importantly I knew a great number of brands and very talented marketers in C-Bus that could use a great agency partner.

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Columbus, Ohio. Our HQ2.

In the October of 2017 The Weaponry opened its first office, in Milwaukee. Our new office literally put us on the Google Map, and transformed our business. But just 8 months later we also had two full-time employees in Columbus. And we began planning for our expansion into C-Bus.

2019

By the fall of 2018 we committed to finding our Columbus office in the first quarter of 2019. We considered 3 different options for our initial Columbus space.

  1. Subletting, or sharing space with another business (not letting submarines or long sandwiches).
  2. Coworking spaces (which I always read as cow orking, but I don’t think that’s right).
  3. Stand alone offices space. (The office should stand alone. The people should sit together.)

The Sublease We Could Do

The Weaponry has a lot of great friends in businesses in Columbus. Several of our people invited us to explore sharing some of their unused space. This was not a totally foreign concept to us, as we had also explored subletting in Milwaukee during our initial search.

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This is a smart option for many startups. But The Weaponry is no longer in startup mode. We have a unique vibe and culture, and we were concerned that sharing space with another business wouldn’t allow us to feel as much like us as we wanted. So after exploring the option with 3 or 4 other businesses, we decided subletting was not for us. And like the movie Frozen, we sublet it go.

Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are now everywhere. And for good reason. They offer a beautiful solution to many officing challenges. For newborn businesses these spaces offer an instant, fully functioning office, with all the amenities of a fully grown business. With just one call, and one payment, you can instantly have a furnished office, with wi-fi, printers, conference rooms, garbage cans and cool common spaces to hangout in, that are not coffee shops.

For solo-preneurs, coworking spaces offer a place where you can work near others, and talk to other people doing what you are doing. Which is attractive, and can be highly beneficial to your network. These spaces also prevent people working in a business-of-one from going all Tom Hanks in Castaway and talking to their volleyballs. #Wilson

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Sometimes you just want to be around other people, like Jake and Nina.

These spaces tend to be very new, because coworking is such a modern trend. As a result, the office spaces feel very contemporary. Which means they instantly let you play the part of new startup. or cool agency.

Coworking spaces also provide existing businesses flexibility as they grow. In fact, my friend Lara Shanley, Head of Marketing at Amazon Prime Now, was working in a coworking space in New York City when I saw her last summer. It seems Amazon can’t stop growing, and repeatedly runs out of office space. Coworking facilities prevent people like Laura from having to work Tokyo subway-style, or becoming office-less.

The coworking options are plentiful in Columbus. Our team toured 4 or 5 different spaces. Each one was cooler than the last. Some were part of a national, or international collection of shared spaces. Which would provide us with interesting options when traveling or expanding into other markets. Some were locally owned, which offered the sense that we would have local management eager to help if we needed anything.

But the turnkey co-working space comes at a cost. And the cost is a high cost, and little ability to personalize the environment. We realized through the search for space that an important part of our brand is putting a mark on our space. So we decided to look for a stand alone space of our own.

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We decided we really wanted to create our own space in Columbus, like we have in Milwaukee.

Key Takeaway:

There are a lot of different options for office space. They all have pros and cons. It is worth the time to explore each option, and find the one that feels right for you. We thought that sharing space would be a really good option. But like so many of us discover in our twenties, we no longer wanted to have a roommate. In the next chapter or our Columbus office saga I’ll share where we landed and why. I’ll also share some exciting news that has happened during our first month in the new space. Thanks for following along! 

Extra

If you are considering looking for office space, or interested in following The Weaponry’s story, you may also be interested in the following posts about how we found our first office in Milwaukee.

Looking for office space: A startup story.

Looking For Office Space Part 2: The Messy Middle.

Looking for Office Space Part 3: We Have An Office!

 

 

 

A fresh new look for one of the most loved brands in Wisconsin.

Last summer I got a very interesting call from a friend. She said she was conducting research for the University of Wisconsin Credit Union. And that following the research they would be looking for an agency partner, in Wisconsin, to help rebrand them. She began telling me how the UW Credit Union was a remarkable organization, with great people who delivered an excellent member experience. But I stopped her before she could finish. I said ‘Oh, I know all about the UW Credit Union.’

(To skip the fun back story you can scroll to the bottom, DVR-Style, to see the new work. But you will miss some interesting points and a giggle or two.) 

Back In the Day (When I was raised I’m not a kid anymore…)

I am a proud University of Wisconsin Badger. On my 3rd day in Madison, my freshman year in college, I made what I thought would be a quick trip to the UW Credit Union near my dorm. But when I approached the UW Credit Union it seemed that all 43,000 UW students were already in line in front of me. The only other lines I ever saw that long in Madison were outside Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday mornings, and in front of the Kollege Klub on Saturday nights.

I joined what appeared to be the entire student body, and stood in the longest line of my life, holding all of the money I had ever earned. All to open my UW Credit Union checking and savings accounts. I thought this place must be special.

And it was.

You’re So Money, You Don’t Even Know You’re Money!

The UW Credit Union became my primary financial institution, and would be for the next 15 years. My first auto loan was with the UW Credit Union. I borrowed $3000, paid it off in 11 months, and felt like a financial baller. But in 2007 an exciting career opportunities came calling, and it was time for me to fly (…time for me to fly…). So I left America’s Dairy Land, and the domain of the UW Credit Union.

Leaving Wisconsin (The Wander Years)

I moved to Columbus, Ohio, and then on to Atlanta, working my way up to the title of Chief Creative Officer. Then in 2016 I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, and moved back to Wisconsin to be closer to family.  I had worked with several esteemed financial institutions, including Fifth Third Bank, Wells Fargo, and Huntington Bank along the way. And now I was hoping to put all of my financial experience to use with UW Credit Union.

They Meet

My friend Sue Northey introduced me to UW Credit Union’s Chief Marketing Officer, Anne Norman via email. We decided to meet for lunch. But I was in Milwaukee, and Anne was in Madison. So we met in Johnson Creek, an Outlet Malltropolis located directly between Wisconsin’s two largest cities.

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Anne Norman, about to sing the theme song from Laverne and Shirley.

Anne and I met for lunch at Hi-Way Harry’s, which for the unfamiliar, is the Rainforest Cafe of Johnson Creek. We had instant rapport. Although I think Anne has instant rapport with everyone. We quickly realized we shared the same vision for how great the UW Credit Union brand could be. We began talking next steps. Which are always my favorite steps.

The Mission

We put together a thorough proposal that was quickly approved. And we started to roll. We were about to strip the branding down to the studs, and reconsider everything. The logo, tagline, colors and personality would all be re-examined. When we were done we would create a look, language and personality that matched how great the UW Credit Union membership experience really was. Then we would create a fully integrated marketing campaign to bring the brand to life.

Assembling The Team.

My fellow Weapons, Simon ‘Sharper’ Harper, Kristyn’ K-Lil’ Lilley, Kevin ‘Lower’ Kayse and I met with the UW Credit Union’s marketing team, including Anne ’40-Under-40′ Norman, Justine ‘Happy Tears’ Kessler, April ‘Spring’ Laabs, Jocelyn ‘Let’s Ride’ Vande Velde, Becky ‘Shock Value’ Hubing, Jill ‘Rickert’ Rickert, Jill ‘Addy’ Addy, Andy ‘Hugs’ Schubert and Melissa ‘Everything Bagel’ Stapleton (because she does everything, not because she likes everything bagels).

Discovery

We started by digesting all that had been gathered about the UW Credit Union. The research revealed some really important findings, including:

  1. UW Credit Union is a very special place.
  2. UW Credit Union members love their experience.
  3. UW Credit Union invests time and energy in our members well before a bank would find any financial value in them.
  4. UW Credit Union really cares about the communities it serves.

However…

There was a common misperception that UW Credit Union was a starter bank. (Gasp!) Which is totes not true. But the strong and valuable association with the University of Wisconsin made people think it was a financial institution for college kids and recent graduates. They didn’t realize that UW Credit Union was an excellent financial institution for all ages and stages.

It was time to set the record straight.

Tagline

We explored a wide range of taglines to summarize how we support our members from their teenage years through retirement. Life changes bring on different needs and opportunities. And at the UW Credit Union we want to help you no matter where you are on your financial journey.

The new tagline:

UW Credit Union. Here for every you.

We are Here, whenever you need us. Which talks to UW Credit Union’s customer service that made them Forbes #1 rated credit union in the state. We are also Here in Wisconsin, just like our members. It explains why we care about your community, your neighborhoods, and your causes. Because they are ours too. We love the emphasis on You, the member. Because as a credit union, we only exist to serve you and your needs. Every symbolizes our flexibility and ability to adapt as your needs change.

Logo

We wanted a logo that was cleaner, simpler and easier to use. We wanted a contemporary look. And we wanted to it give us an identity that was distinct from other UW-related organizations, including UW-Health and The UW System itself.

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The old logo. It was ready for a good makeover.

New UW Credit Union Logo

The logo highlights the first priority of the organization: you. By highlighting the U in the  name in our flagship color, and making it of equal weight and importance to the name of our institution, we also convey our sense of responsibility to those we serve: You, our members. We also opted for a lower case ‘u’ because it felt more approachable, which is a distinguishing factor of the UW Credit Union. Also, we have taken the liberty to use ‘U’ and ‘You’ interchangeably. #creativelicence

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The new logo. If you overlay the square and the circle from the old logo you can see the inspiration for the new U-Leaf shape.

Advertising

With the new logo, tagline and brand standards in place, we began putting the new brand look to good use. We started creating all manner of new materials in a fully integrated program

First out of the gate are these New Billboards.

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If you know anything about Wisconsin you know we love to jump around. (Jump! Jump! Jump!)
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A very wise plant once said, ‘It’s been a long time since I rock ‘n’ rolled.’
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One of these is typically immature, the other is typically mature. But not always.
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Eventually, we all transition.
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People in Wisconsin have a funny was of saying things…
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From George and Weezy to The Wiz!

There are also new print ads.

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We treat everyone like an insider. Even Soda Pop and Pony Boy.
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This will appear in the Milwaukee Brewers program. And maybe a few popular dentist publication.

Radio

Here’s a radio script currently on air. I would attach the audio file, but I would have to upgrade my account to do that. And it’s too late at night to take on such monumental tasks.

At The UW Credit Union, we like to say we knew you way back when. When your only mode of transportation was the heel-toe express. When the only wheels you owned were connected to a pedal. We knew you when the only home you had ever considered buying was on a monopoly board. When your financial future was defined by the next pay check.  We knew you when your family was still supporting you. It was then, when you greatest asset was your work ethic and a dream, that we first invested in you.  The UW Credit Union. Here For Every You.

Credit Card Design

We then helped redesign the new UW Credit Cards. We turned the design on its head. Literally. Instead of the traditional horizontal design, we designed this card for the chip reader era, with a vertical orientation. To keep the design clean and simple we moved all the hard-working elements, including card holder name, number, contact info and legalese to the back of the card.

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Creating UW Credit Union credit cards was an in-creditable experience.

What’s Next

The new brand will also impact UW Credit Union branch design, television commercials,  sponsorships, debit cards and more. But the member experience will remain as good as advertised. Because people love the UW Credit Union experience. And we have certainly loved working with this great brand and the great team behind it. We look forward to all there is to come.

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This billboard showed up across the street from The Weaponry, where it was born.

Why you should share what you know for no good reason.

I grew up in Vermont. If you’ve ever met me you know I am very proud of this fact. Vermont was a wonderful place to be a kid. It was beautiful, safe and quiet. There were various career options available to Vermonters. We had a lot of maple syrup farmers, stone fence stackers, and a couple of world-class ice cream makers. But I didn’t know a single advertising professional.

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The maple syrup district in my hometown of Norwich, Vermont

I left Vermont for college and went to the University of Wisconsin. When I graduated and wanted to find a job as a copywriter for an advertising agency, I didn’t know anyone who could help me prepare for my job search.

A Friend of a Friend of a Friend.

However, I did have friends. My college friend Gina Wagner (now Gina Zanik of Salt Lake City) told me that a friend of her Mom’s might know someone who could help. A few calls were made, and through a friend-chain I was put in touch with a man named Paul Zukowski.

Paul Zukowski

Paul, a grown man with a real advertising career, then did something remarkable. He took time out of his day to meet with me, a total stranger, on a Saturday, to offer advice on how to best present my work, to maximize the chances of landing a job as an advertising creative.

Paul not only owed me nothing, he was likely to get nothing in return for helping this penniless, jobless, cotton headed ninny muggins. Yet Paul offered me some of his valuable time and gave me some really great, if not unconventional advice. Advice that ultimately helped me land my first job in advertising. And this blog post, written 23 years later, is all he got for his effort. (Although, upon his death he may receive eternal consciousness. Which is nice.)

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Union South at the University of Wisconsin, where Paul dropped knowledge like college.

Thinking of Paul

I haven’t seen Paul since the day we met at Union South in Madison, back in 1996, But I have thought of Paul often. In fact, I think of him every time a college student contacts me asking for an informational interview. I think of him every time someone wants advice on launching their own business. I think of him every time someone who is looking for a new job wants to grab coffee. I think of him when an aspiring blogger wants to buy me a chocolate milk and learn how to get started. (You can learn most of what I know here.)

The Impact

Paul Zukowski, a man I have seen once in my life, played an important role in my advertising career. When I was desperately trying to get my foot in the door, he showed me how to put my best foot forward. As a result I got a job as a copywriter. I then got promoted all the way to Chief Creative Officer, before launching my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry in 2016.

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Me at work, reflecting. Or at least posing as if I am reflecting.

Paying It Forward

Today, I pay it forward and continue the goodwill that Paul started by helping others. This week I drove from Milwaukee to The Weaponry’s new office in Columbus, Ohio. During my drive I spent more than 3 hours talking to people who reached out to me because:

  1. They were about to graduate from college.
  2. They recently moved and were looking for a job and a network in a new city.
  3. They had lost a job and needed to figure out their next chapter.

I don’t expect a thing from any of the people I try to help. Although I hope my willingness to help encourages them to help others down the road. Just like Paul helped me.

Key Takeaway

Sooner or later we all need a Paul Zukowski. We need someone who can help us chart a new course through a foreign land. While it’s great to find someone who will do that for you, it’s even better to be the Paul Zukowski. To be the one who offers help and guidance while expecting nothing in return. Because it sets off a chain reaction that can make a significant impact on a significant number of people for generations to come. Heck, it can even help a kid from rural Vermont (#redundant) start a career in advertising, launch a business, and launch a blog to share the story with the world.

Why it is so important to just keep swimming.

I recently had the chance to work with Olympic Gold medalist Blake Pieroni.  Blake won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics as part of the 4×100 freestyle relay. He is such a strong swimmer that he recently became a Mizuno sponsored athlete. Which is saying something, since Mizuno makes the best racing suit in the pool.

While filming with Blake I asked the Indiana native, and Indiana University student athlete about the major breakthroughs in his career. I was surprised to hear this world-class athlete say he really hasn’t had any.

Slowly Getting Faster

Blake said his progress has been steady and incremental. Day after day he continues to invest time in his training and preparation. As a result, he has slowly gotten faster. Which is a ridiculous thing to write. Yet it’s a proven, oxymoronic formula for success.

Blake’s career is a testimony to the power of slow and steady progress. It is not showy. Or gimmicky. It’s not based on shortcuts, or nepotism, or your mama paying to get you into USC. This is a get rich slow scheme. And if you are willing to put in the work it takes, it is the most certain way to continuously reach beyond your previous best.

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Blake and photographer Lucian McAfee. See if you can figure out which one is the 23-year old Olympian.

My Business

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016. I bootstrapped the business, which is an Arkansas-sounding way of saying the business was self-funded. We have not grown by adding one giant account. Our growth has come by steadily accumulating great clients, and steadily growing our businesses together.

I was looking at numbers related to The Weaponry’s revenue yesterday when I noticed something interesting. At just 2.5 months into 2019 we have already generated more revenue this year than we did in our entire first year. Yet we haven’t acquired an Amazonian client. We didn’t go Uber-style and quadruple our pricing due to heavy rain and an umbrella plague. We have simply accumulated 17 active clients. And they all matter to our success.

The Blog

I also started writing The Perfect Agency Project blog when I launched The Weaponry. My goal was to tell the story of my entrepreneurial journey. I wanted to share my experiences and challenges, so that others could benefit from my learnings.

Coincidentally, I noticed an interesting statistic about this blog yesterday too.  As of March 20th, in 2019 I have already surpassed the total number of visitors and viewers I had in all of 2016.

Perhaps the blog is getting better too. Because my posts have already generated 14 times (14X) more likes than the entire first year. (And by likes I mean signs of social appreciation from readers. Not likes written into the body of my posts, because I write like a 16-year-old, like, kid from Likesylvania.)

The Reward

The business and blog growth are both very rewarding. Especially because they are growing too slowly to notice on a daily basis. But when I look at the year-over-year data, the results are clear.

Key Takeaway

Just keep swimming. Keep doing what you know you need to do to get better. Whether it is swimming, writing, growing a business, studying or any other pursuit worth pursuing. The progress might never be obvious, or dramatic. But keep at it anyway. Because if you do, eventually you will turn around and notice just how far you have come. It is the cumulative progress that matters. Not the speed. Not the attention. Just the results.