What leaves the room when you do?

There are a lot of people on this planet. The last time I lined everybody up and counted them I tallied 7.4 billion humans. With that many people, all connected by the interwebs, you have a lot of options when you need a human. Whether you need an employee, a spouse or a plumber the supply works in your favor.

But we often find ourselves on the other side of that equation. We want to be employed. We want to be asked on a date. We want to snake someone’s drain. So how do we stand out in this 7.4 billion person crowd? It’s an important question that people spend far too little time contemplating. Yet I found a quote that states the answer quite succinctly:

Something special must leave the room when you leave the room. -Peter Drucker

Read that again a couple of times. (I’ll wait.)

Do you bring something special everywhere you go? You may have never thought about you in these terms. But you should. Over the next week I want you to think about what you bring to a room when you walk in. What do you add to the meeting, to the organization, to the relationship, to the overall value equation that others do not? What disappears again when you leave? If you can’t come up with anything you are a commodity. Our country places a very specific value on the commodity human. It’s called minimum wage. 

You’ve sat in meetings where there were too many attendees. You know there were too many because the meeting would have been exactly the same had one or more of the attendees not attended. On the other hand, we have also been in meetings when we asked, ‘Why are we meeting if Fill-In-The-Name isn’t here?’ You, my friend, want to be Fill-In-The-Name!

So what leaves the room when you do?

Here is a sample of the things you might bring to a room. Mix and match to create unique combinations. Or collect them all!

  • Energy
  • Experience
  • Connective tissue
  • Humor
  • Creativity
  • Compassion
  • Insight
  • Reason
  • Balance
  • Knowledge
  • Relationships
  • Trust
  • Positivity
  • Diversity
  • Know how
  • Spunk
  • Confidence
  • Reality
  • The wi-fi password

As you think about differentiating and marketing yourself The Perfect Agency Project reminds you that the same Principle of Specialness applies to all products and services.  What changes if your iPhone walks out of your life? Or your Yeti tumbler? Or your Johnsonville brats? You can’t simply replace these things with commodities without feeling you have lost something.

You and I both know you are not a commodity. But you must make sure that others clearly recognize the specialness you bring to the room. So reflect on your brand. What are your features and benefits that make you special. Focus on enhancing and augmenting them. Study the business and social situations you find yourself in. What isn’t there that you could add so that others miss you when you’re gone? I’ve always said that I never want to attend a meeting that I’m not in. Which sounds like something Yogi Berra might say. But if I can bring enough to the party that others are disappointed by my absences, we’re talking pure Drucker.

 

 

 

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How I am making the nap my secret business weapon.

Remember Kindergarten?  I do. It was great. Blocks, snacks, learning to read and being the cutest kids in the school. It was a sweet gig for a 5-year old. And, of course, there were the naps. I remember curling up on my squishy little quadrifold mat. Speckled blue on one side. Flecked red on the other. I zonked and drooled for a few minutes every day. And I always came out of the nap better than I went into it.

For most of us Kindergarten was the last time in our lives we were encouraged, if not forced to take a nap. Now, I want to bring the nap back. But this time for creative professionals. I can’t think of anything that would help my mind perform at its best and  make my days more enjoyable than a regular nap-cation. Even at the office.

Too often we push ourselves until we run out of gas. And you are simply not at your best when you are running on fumes. Call me crazy, but I don’t think we should pay great people with great minds great money and have them operate on low batteries. (Yes I mixed fuel and batteries. I’m a hybrid.) 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers. Which means they sleep in short siestas throughout the day. But somehow we’ve rejected what the rest of our hairy relatives have heartily embraced.

Napping isn’t just important for creative professionals. In various other lines of work the nap is a must. If you drive an 18-wheeler I want you to stop and nap whenever you need to so that you don’t get your Peterbilt in my chocolate. Doctors, if you’re on for a 24-hour shift, wait, scratch that. ANYTIME you need to make sure you are at your best, you take yourself a nap. I’ll even write you a prescription.

Cultures in other parts of the world highly value the workplace nap. In China you’ll find entire teams facedown at their desk over the lunch hour. I love this! And not just because I would take and post hilarious sleeper pics on Instagram every day. In Spain they siesta. Italy has they rock the riposo. And other countries from the Philippines to Nigeria say don’t worry, be nappy.

My friend and former officemate Vince DeMarinis used to announce every day at 3pm, ‘Welcome to the worst hour of the day!’  But with a well timed nap we could be as great at 3pm as we were first thing in the morning. My Grandfathers were both farmers. And you know what they did between the morning and evening chores to prepare for operating heavy and spinny and choppy farm equipment?  They fed their nap-petites on the couch for a few minutes every day. And their cattle and appendages were better off for it.

So I want to apply the same principle to The Perfect Agency Project. When me and my team are worn down from a long day slinging the pickaxe in the Idea Mine, I don’t want the team to simply push through with caffeine. Or 5-Hour Energy. Or Red Bull. Or Crack. What a fatigued mind really needs is a nap. A nap powers us up like our iPhones plugged into the wall. Only without the electricity and charging cords in our orifices.

I’m not proposing long naps where you shut your doors for a few hours and change into your footy pajamas. A quick cat nap will do the trick. A study by the research journal Sleep found that 10 minute naps were optimal in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. Another study of theirs showed that almost no one reads the research journal Sleep.

NASA performed some rocket science on sleepy military pilots and astronauts. They found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%. It even made Tang taste tangier. Since most of the ideators and pencil pilots I work with spend a lot of time with their heads in the clouds I find these results highly relevant.

I am planning out a napping policy and facility now. We may have mats, build bunk beds or hang hammocks. But the nap will be used. It will be sacred. It will help us develop better ideas faster. And it will help us be more productive. I firmly believe it will give us a competitive advantage in ideation. I encourage you to consider incorporating naps into your routine as well. And when you do, let me know. I’d be happy to come take some pictures of your team hard at sleep.

 

 

10 tips every graduate should use to find a job.

It’s that time of year again. College seniors are triumphantly crossing the stage and grabbing their pricey diplomas to the proud applause of their relieved families. The smiles, pride and sense of accomplishment last until the student loans come and the U-haul carries the humbled graduate’s futon back home to start life in The Basement. That is unless they can land themselves a job in the mysterious new frontier we call ‘The Real World’. If you are anything like I was when I graduated you don’t have a clue how to land that first job. So here are my 10 keys to opening the door to the first job in advertising (and probably most other fields).

1. Request an informational interview.

This is the single best advice I can offer. It’s a free audition for you and the agency. And if the person you are calling won’t take the time to help out a young prospect you don’t want to work for that selfish bastard or bastardette anyway.

2. Research the company you want to talk to.

If you really want to talk to me you should know something about me and my company. So show up with as much knowledge as you can find on the business you’re interested in and its clients. A great tool I recommend using to do your research is the internet. Because it has all the information ever accumulated by mankind. #noexcuses

3. Make connections.

I’m not just talking about people networking. Make connections between the organization’s needs and your own areas of knowledge and expertise. I got my first job because I knew a lot about farming. And the agency had a new client that manufactured farm equipment. The agency seemed to know nothing about agriculture. So to them I was like Doogie Howser in flannel.

4. Show up a little early.

Don’t get carried away here. There is a proper amount of early. Too early and you look socially awkward. And late is the kiss of death.

5. Dress professionally.

Determine what that means in your world. For my first interviews out of school I borrowed a suit from my college buddy, Greg Gill. Greg is now a judge and wears a black dress to work. I have never worn a tie to work since. But I made a good first impression.

6. Lose the like.

If there is one thing that reminds me that you’re still a kid it’s using like the word like like way too like much.

7. Prove direction.

It’s great to be open to various possibilities. But I want to hire someone who knows what she or he wants. So know your skills. Know what interests you. Have a vision. And don’t get lost on the way to or from the bathroom.

8.  Don’t drink at the interview.

Advertising interviews can be tricky. Especially if you show up late in the afternoon or on a Friday. The beer is often available and encouraged (this is starting to sound like an ad for advertising). Don’t play along. The dangers outweigh the risks in this case. Demonstrate your self restraint. Ad people are really good at drinking (see Mad Men).  And there are always plenty of permanent markers around and artists who know how to use them on your face.

9. Talk about how you and your friends never use Facebook anymore.

Even if you are on Facebook all day every day say that you can’t stand it. Advertising people are always trying to spot the next trend they know nothing about. Kids, that is the ace up your sleeve. Tell them about the cool new things you are into and how you are rejecting all previously embraced media. Your stock will rise. Trust me.

10.  Follow up.

After the interview send a note thanking the people you met for their time.  This is important in several ways. It shows that you are considerate. It shows that you follow through. And it ensures that the people you talked to have your contact information. Send a note in the mail or by email. Both work. Email makes it easy for them to reply to you. A mailed note always feels special. And retro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 words from my Grampy that will improve your business and marriage.

Marriage is one of life’s greatest adventures. You can never be too prepared for it. Half of marriages end in I don’t. A healthy percentage of the other half aren’t any healthier. So on my wedding day I wanted to cram in one last bit of preparation. I scheduled breakfast with my three marriage mentors, my dad and my two grandfathers (who would all laugh me off the family tree for calling them my marriage mentors). At the time my parents had been married 32 years. My grandparents had been hitched 61 and 63 years.

After we sat down at Emma Krumbies in Wausau, Wisconsin and worked through some Northwoods pancakes and sausage I decided it was time for the knowledge share. I asked The Paternity, ‘What is the key to making a marriage great?’  With 156 years of experience at the table I felt like I just lit the fuse on a 4th of July fireworks grand finale. This was going to be an amazing show. So I sat back to take it all in.

Then my maternal grandfather, Kenny Sprau, crossed his arms, leaned back in his chair and said,

‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’

Um… WTF Grampy?  61 years of trial and error, nine kids and a World War, and that’s all you’ve got?  I wanted to give him a mulligan and see if he could hit it past the women’s tee this time. But he went on. ‘You have to keep doing the things that got you to this point.’

Over time I’ve come to understand what Grampy was saying.  When we are dating we are at our best. The unfortunate tendency is to drop the hard work, the energy, the attention, and charm we put into the relationship after the contract is signed.

This advice holds true in business as well as marriage.  Treat your potential partners well. Act as if you would like nothing more than spending the rest of your time together. Listen. Make them laugh. Show them you are interesting, kind and thoughtful. Get the contract signed.  And then keep doing what you’ve been doing.

If you are a creative it is easy to get precious about the work you do.  It’s easy to throw hissy fits (although the best place to grab the hissy to throw it is hard to determine). It’s easy to be combative. Oh, and it’s easy to go out of business. The statistics aren’t good.

But in business, as in marriage, listening and collaborating are valuable approaches to your growth strategy. Clients and spouses alike really like that stuff. Crazy right?  When you respond favorably to a client’s request they generate something called ‘good feelings’ about you.  And these ‘good feelings’ make them want to see you more and work with you more. And the result is business growth.

The opposite is also true.  If you are the all-time best seller at The Jerk Store no one wants to be around you. This is true of both the individual and the organization.

If you recognize complacency, apathy or combativeness between your organization and your clients stamp that out like a flaming bag of dog poo on your front porch. The behavior may feel justified today. But you’ll regret the justice leveled tomorrow when you’re trading the offspring in the McDonald’s parking lot.

At the Perfect Agency Project our goal is to treat our current business like new business. We never want to take them for granted.  We are trying to re-win them every day. Even after we put a ring on it. Thanks for the wise advice Grampy. Me and Grammy miss you.

 

Who should go to the pitch?

Whoever does most of the talking at the initial meeting needs to work with us the whole time.  -Elise Demboski

When the going gets tough read this.

My career goal is to create the perfect advertising agency. Simple right? Or maybe not. Because attaining perfection is hard. And elusive. And a Milton Bradley board game that makes you feel like MacGyver racing the timer on a bomb in your rec room. But creating the perfect agency is my goal because it’s hard. And because achieving it would help make everyone involved (including my clients, my teammates and our families) happy, sought after and prosperous.

If you are undertaking something hard, and I hope you are, it will test you, repeatedly.  Like a diabetic tests their glucose. Your mission is like a boxing match. You step between the ropes and square off with whatever or whoever is standing between you and your goals. And you start throwing all you have at each other. Only one of you will win. The one who wants it more.

Today I read a great quote that I want you to put in your pocket. As you fight for your dreams, your goals and your right to party  pull it out between rounds and use the quote as your smelling salts to help shake off the cobwebs and the fatigue.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other thing -Abraham Lincoln

My friends, Abe Lincoln knew what he was talking about. Though he faced immense opposition, his personal resolution lead to the single most important victory in American history, both for our nation and for us as humans. He also used his unwavering resolve to achieve his other lofty life goals of getting his face on the penny, creating a popular log-based toy, and building a car company with Matthew McConaughey.

So keep doing that hard thing. Keep fighting for your ultimate success. Keep your eyes on the prize. And keep Lincoln’s quote close at hand. Because as he can attest, you never know when you might take an unexpected hit. (What? Too soon?)

The secret ingredient to increase your creativity.

Everyone wishes they were more creative.  Even really creative people.  Because there is a magical power that comes with great creative abilities. You can see things others don’t. You find opportunities in business that others miss. You can create art, music, stories, products and services that people have never seen before.

Much has been written on the subject of increasing your creativity. There is brainstorming and mindstorming and Hannah Storming activities you can do. Some people try drugs or alcohol to unlock their creativity.  Which can lead to really creative ways to ruin your life.  But there is one key ingredient that is guaranteed to help you, your coworkers and your family and friends think more creatively. And that’s confidence.

Creativity is about taking chances. And the more we believe in ourselves the more and bigger chances we are willing to take. The opposite is also true.  When we don’t have great confidence in a particular area of our lives we play it safe. That’s why I look for confidence when I hire creative talent. (I also look to see if they are dry and secure, and if they will raise their hand…)

I saw a great example of confidence-enhanced creativity recently in my 10 year old daughter, Ava.  She is a great writer if I do say so myself. And I do say it often because I want to amplify this strength. Recently her school held a writing competition. Each class would have two finalists whose writings would be judged against the best writers from the other classes to see who was the best in the entire grade.

Ava came home one day and couldn’t wait to tell me what happened in class. She said, ‘Dad, today in school the kids started talking about who they thought were going to be the two winners from my class. And everyone thought that I was going to be one of them!’   She felt like she had already won. That’s because everyone believed in her. So what happened next? A couple weeks later I ran into her handsome and talented teacher, Mr. Paul DeVigne, at a school play. He said, ‘Adam, I’ve been looking for you! (I get this a lot.) We have had a writing competition at school and Ava won for her entire grade!  Now I need your permission to allow her to enter her poem in the county-wide competition.’ Boom goes the dynamite!

I am sure Ava would have written a nice piece no matter what. But the fact that her class believed in her gave her added confidence to take greater chances.  And when you read the poem she wrote she clearly pushed her creativity and took bigger chances than she might have had no one considered her a viable champ.

So look for opportunities to increase confidence in yourself and others.  Create easy wins, celebrate them and grow. Reward the wild ideas, the big dreams, and you’ll get bigger and wilder yet.  The mind is a complicated place. But if you fill it with high octane confidence there’s no telling what great ideas will come out.  Good luck.  Think big. I know you will. Because you are good enough. You are smart enough. And gosh darn it, people like you.