It’s time for a new office in a new city!

When I first decided to launch my own advertising agency, I had a clear vision of what the fully formed business would look like. It was spectacular, as visions should be. Because it costs just as much to envision a multi-billion dollar empire as it does to envision a lemonade stand. So you might as well envision big.

In 2015, even though my startup was still in the embryonic-stage, I was confident that great things lie ahead. I just never knew the pace at which success would unfold. But I knew, like a 2-year old in a laundry room, the unfolding was just a matter of time.

Things Started Happening

In the fall of 2015 I ran an alpha test of our minimum viable product (MVP) with our first client. The test run went as well as advertised. (#punsalwaysintended) Then, in the spring of 2016, my home office in Atlanta, where I planned every detail of the business, became The Weaponry’s first headquarters. Suddenly I was in business. And I had the best commute in Atlanta.

By the end of 2016, as part of my life design, I moved to Milwaukee. The Weaponry’s new headquarters was my new  home office. In 2017 the business was humming, we saw plenty of runway ahead, and we signed a lease on 1000 square feet of office space downtown, on the Milwaukee River (actually it was on the side of the river).

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Our Milwaukee office. As they say, home is where custom designed surfboard coffee table is.

But Wait. There’s More!

I never wanted to settle for just one office. That’s why I developed my Home Office Strategy. Which means I plan to establish an office every place I’ve owned a home. This includes Milwaukee, Atlanta and Columbus. I also want an office in New England, where I grew up. So Burlington, Vermont and Boston are possibilities too.

By 2018 we had full-time employees in Milwaukee, Columbus and Atlanta. 6 months ago we started thinking about the next office. And, (drumroll app please…) we’ve decided that Columbus, Ohio will be the home of the next office of The Weaponry.

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Columbus, Ohio just keeps getting better.

Discovering Columbus.

Columbus, Ohio is a hidden gem. It is well stocked with a highly educated workforce. It offers an amazing quality of life. And thriving industries. We have had full-time Weapons in Columbus for well over a year. And we are eager to add more.

Back Story

I spent 7 great years in Columbus with the ad agency Engauge, before it was acquired by Publicis, and I was asked to move to the new headquarters in Atlanta. Columbus has a 3-ship flotilla of talented advertising and design professionals. And there are more great brands and smart marketers there than even John Lennon could imagine.

Getting Down To Business

Columbus is the home to well-known brands like Nationwide Insurance and Safelite Auto Glass. There are great restaurants headquartered in C-Bus, including Wendy’s, Bob Evans, White Castle, Charley’s Philly Steaks, Sbarro, Donatos and Steak Escape. There are great retail brands, including Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Express. Scott’s Miracle Grow is also growing plants miraculously in Columbus. Cardinal Health, which is the 14th largest company in America is headquartered there too.

The Weaponry C-Bus

We have collected a great nucleus of talent in Columbus, including both full-time and freelance Weapons. The relatively low-cost of living and high quality of life make the city a great draw. What’s even better is that Columbus is within a 3-hour drive of Detroit, Windsor, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Lexington, Louisville and Indianapolis. Not to mention Youngstown, Akron, Canton, Dayton and Toledo (wait, I DID just mention them!) The close proximity enables us to service clients in all of those cities from our Columbus hub.

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What is round on both ends, hi in the middle, and loaded with Weapons?

Key Takeaway

There is a lot to love about Columbus. Which is why we are excited to be opening our next office in this great city. I look forward to sharing how we’ve gone about the process of finding our new space, and why we landed where we did. If you are in Columbus and want to be part of a great team, we should talk. Because things are about to get really interesting.

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We have signed a new lease. Here is the scoop.

As Elvis Costello once said, ‘Every day I write the book.’ As an entrepreneur you make decisions every day that write the story of your business. Sometimes the decisions are large and profound. Other times the decisions are simply things you decided not to do. But in aggregate, your decisions tell the tale of your business. It is up to you to make the story worth sharing.

Desperately Seeking Office Space

In the summer of 2017 I could see a solid runway in front of my baby advertising agency, The Weaponry. (To be clear, the agency was a baby. We didn’t advertise the benefits of being or having a baby.) Having recently relocated from Atlanta to Milwaukee for family reasons, I  began looking for a legit office space to serve as our world headquarters. Or in Amazonian terms, HQ1.

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This is a sign announcing that this space is for lease. But you probably figured that out on your own.

Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.

Like a scary rash, The Weaponry was growing at a rapid, yet unpredictable rate. So I began looking for a 1-year lease, which would provide short-term stability, yet long-term flexibility. I captured the entire search in a 3-part series, which I share again here, with hopes that it gives anyone with aspirations of having their own office a vision for how the process works.

The Looking For Office Mini-Series:

  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!
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This is not our office. This is a completely naked office we saw during our search.

Our Current Space

We signed a 12-month lease on 1000 square feet of office space in the fall of 2017. (You can get a good look at our office here.) We worked hard to make the space look and feel like home. But the year flew by, and our initial lease expired on December 31st, 2018. We grew, as expected. But several of our new employees were in Columbus and Atlanta. So we still weren’t in trouble with the fire marshal in Milwaukee.

We really liked our location. So to prepare for the end of our first lease we looked at every available office space in our 5-story building. I appreciated the way our property owners worked with us as we developed a plan for our next chapter. I think they appreciated the fact that when they came to talk to us we didn’t look like we were about to pull a Baltimore Colts on them and skip town in the middle of the night.

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The writing is still on the wall.

What We Are Doing Now.

After much deliberation, this is what we signed into our new contract on January 2nd:

  1. We are staying in our current space, for now.  We are not yet feeling stretched to capacity. Plus, we love our current space, and have made it our home.
  2. We signed a 13-month extension. Our landlord asked for at least a 1-year commitment. And although we looked at 1, 3 and 5-year options, a 1-year lease was the smallest financial commitment I could make. And given how much growth I see on our horizon, it is hard to tell what our needs will be like more than a year down the road. Why 13 months? A 12-month lease would have us moving between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. And I want to be home sipping eggnog.
  3. Our rent went up 2.5%. That’s all I have to say about that.
  4. We added a right of first refusal on another space. We saw 3 other offices in our building that were of considerable interest to us. But rather than moving now, we decided to put first dibs on a great space overlooking the Milwaukee River (like our current space) on the 5th floor. #Penthouse  #NotTheNaughtyMagazine #IsThatEvenStillAThing

The space on the 5th floor would double our square footage, adding several more individual offices, a bigger conference room, a storage room, reception desk and a break room with water, a fridge, and dishwasher. The 5th floor location would also make me feel less guilty about taking the elevator than I do when I ride it to the 2nd floor.

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A view of the Milwaukee River, not taken in January.

Key Takeaway

We have decided to be conservative in our commitments. Yet we have a nice option if we outgrow our space in the next 13 months. Which is highly likely. I have discovered that as an entrepreneur you need to know when to be conservative and when to take risks. We think we got this one right. But I’d like to know what you think of our decision. I’m always up for some well-considered counsel. Leave a message in the comment section and let me know if you would have chosen a different adventure.

Forget what you see on TV. This is what an advertising agency is really like.

I admit, I am a fairly loud human. As an extrovert I love to interact with other people. I like to talk, laugh, and not-so-occasionally sing. It doesn’t surprise people when they find out that I  work at an advertising agency. More specifically, in 2016 I founded an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Naturally, you would expect an agency to reflect the personality of the Founder. And indeed, it does.

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Reality Check

But right now it is deafeningly quiet in our office. There is no witty banter among colleagues. No loud music thumping. No pinging and ponging. No pinball machine dinging. No sounds of ball-smacking at the foosball table.

Just quiet.

Tour Disappointment

Many times during my career, in moments just like this, an agency executive would stride through the quiet office, excited to show off the totally cool agency to a client. And the executive would be clearly disappointed by the quiet.

They would often apologize to their tour mate with a line like, ‘It’s usually much louder in here.‘ Or, ‘We have a lot of people out right now.’ Or ‘We have to be careful since we got that last noise violation…’

This is all because ad agencies like The Weaponry are supposed to be loud, fun, energetic and entertaining, right?

And often times we are.

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I think this is a picture of thinking.

But other times, like now, we are as quiet as a library on Saturday night. Because creators gotta create. And we don’t need to get loud to do it. Quite the opposite (or is it quiet the opposite?). The harder I work, the more focused I am, the quieter I am. So are my fellow Weapons. Because the most important work we do is the mental processing we perform when we are alone. That is when we are finding the language to articulate our new ideas in words and images. It is when we are editing our thinking down to the simplest, cleanest, clearest expressions. And that takes quiet focus.

Key Takeaway

If you stop by an ad agency when the people are really, really quiet, don’t be disappointed that you didn’t get a show. Stick around a few minutes to watch the work in progress. It’s usually, fast, focused and fascinating. During a break in the action ask if you can see the work hot-off-the-fingertips. When you see the freshly crafted art, read the  newly woven words, or ingest the just-birthed strategy, you’ll understand that silence is golden.

It’s where the real magic happens.

I’m working this week for the first time in 18 years.

I’m heading to the office today. I was there yesterday. And I’ll be there tomorrow too. While this might not seem significant to you, it is to me. This marks the first time since I partied like Prince that I have gone to an office between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Before I launched my own business I worked at an adverting agency that shut down during this span. Before that, I saved my vacation days to enjoy the entire holiday week off. Before that was 1999, the last year I was in the office. Back then I was worried about the havoc Y2K was going to wreak on my Blockbuster account.

Today

I couldn’t be happier about going to work today. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and spending time with Dawn (my wife partner) and 3 children. But I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, because I thought it would be the best way to ensure stability for my family. Today, The Weaponry is extremely busy. And I have things to take care of.

This week I have three precious days to focus on The Weaponry’s past, present and future.

The Past.

We are busy tying a giant red bow on 2017.  It looks like we will double our revenue from 2016. But we have financial matters to complete before we arrive at the final numbers. This week we have invoices to send and expenses to expense. We are also investing more in infrastructure before the close of the year. On our shopping list:

  • Large TV/monitor for our conference room
  • 6 high stools for our recently ordered 48-inch x 96-inch high-top conference room table (it is red!)
  • Giant signs for 2 walls.
  • A refrigerator
  • A new printer/copier/fax machine/ smoke signal sender/ Carrier Pigeon launcher
  • Surf Board coffee table (you can read about it by clicking here)

The Present.

We are very fortunate to have a lot of work going through the agency right now. In fact, we will have four client presentations in the first week of 2018. Here’s a glimpse of what we are working on:

  • A major website redesign that will launch in early February
  • Several ads for various print campaigns
  • Ads for a Facebook paid media campaign
  • 2 completely new brand logos
  • A new brand name for a client (following a series of major acquisitions)
  • A brand repositioning project
  • A fun t-shirt design for a client that we just sent to the screen printer
  • A choreographed new business dance routine spectacular that we will perform in every new business meeting in 2018 (If you want to see it just invite us to come talk)

While our clients are enjoying a well deserved break, we are stealing some time to finish painting our office. Yesterday we finished painting another individual office. We finished painting our hallway, and started on our conference room. Today we plan to finish the conference room and then hang up the rollers and brushes until we expand into more space.

The Future.

We are busy preparing for 2018.  This is an extremely exciting time for us. Starting on January 1st, The Weaponry will be providing health and dental insurance to full-time employees. I am extremely proud of this milestone and will share more about finding insurance in a future post.  We are also considering adding a couple of new people to our team. We are exploring office options for our employees who live outside Milwaukee (specifically in Columbus and Atlanta).  I feel very fortunate to have to deal with such issues.

Thank You

I sincerely appreciate you following this journey by reading The Perfect Agency Project. The readership of this blog doubled from 2015 to 2016. And it doubled again in 2017 thanks to readers like you. To make sure you never miss an update please subscribe to receive each post via email.  I’ll even spring for the postage.

How to make an office feel like your home.

In the summer of 2015 I began the perfect agency project in my home office in Atlanta. It wasn’t just this blog. It was an entrepreneurial project to create the perfect ad agency. I was a man on a mission. I wrote down my goals. I mapped out the people, processes, and purchases needed. I declared the agency’s core values and pillars for success. I could see it all. I even envisioned the first company picnic, and how lame it was going to be when we played tug-of-war with just 2 or 3 people.

In mid 2016 the agency opened for business.

One of the most profound and important steps in the process was naming the agency. There was something about going from building “an advertising agency” to creating The Weaponry that transformed the dream from ethereal to concrete.

The first year was a great success, as measured by the original vision. We had even moved the headquarters to Milwaukee, which was part of the larger plan. In July of 2017 we decided it was time to move the agency operations from a home office to a real office downtown (things will be great when you’re downtown). I began a search for space and wrote about my experience in a 3-part series that you can now binge read anytime. See Looking for office space: A Startup Story,  Looking For Office Space 2: The Messy Middle, & Looking for office space: We have an office!

Moving in.

November 1st we got the keys to our new space in Milwaukee’s modern North End. The team is thrilled to have an office of our own. But just like when you buy a house, the empty space we inherited didn’t immediately feel like us. It wasn’t bad. It was just, neutral. And we are decidedly not neutral. So, just like at the beginning of the project, our team had to apply our vision for the agency in order to transform the space into The Weaponry.

We started with some basics. We added wi-fi and computers, desks and chairs. We were operational and our most basic needs were met within the first week. But the space wasn’t ours yet. Like ranchers brand their livestock, we needed to brand our new space. We needed to give the office a name. And personality. So we looked for ways to make our mark.

Front Door

Our front door was just naked glass. There was nothing on it to tell people who we were or where they were. This had to change. So we contacted a very talent freehand sign painter. We really loved her style. Apparently so does everyone else. Because she told us in November that she was booked until late January or early February. Since we signed a 13-month lease we couldn’t afford to go sign-less for the first 3 or 4 months.

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Our front door is no longer naked. 

We looked into signage that we could have in place quickly.  We found a good sign company that could make what we wanted, and have it installed within 3 days. Which was great.  But then we ran into another challenge. To install the wall graphics we wanted we had to wait a month after we painted so that the gas could escape from the new paint on the walls. I snickered at the idea of having gassy walls.

So we began painting immediately. Or I should say K-Lil, our super talented Associate Creative Director started painting. She picked the perfect colors and started bringing The Weaponry to life as a real place.

 

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Do you think the logo is too small?  

Last Friday, the paint had properly aged and we had the sign people come and make their magic. And magic it was.  They put up our first three branding marks. And suddenly the space feels like The Weaponry. Our front door declares that you have arrived at The Weaponry. When you enter our space you are greeted by a 90-inch wide reminder of where you are. And we have started putting small thinking reminders around the space.

 

We have much more to add. But the office is developing a great feel. We’re thrilled to call this place our home. And we’d be happy to have you come see it for yourself.

Here are a few videos of the installation.  If you want to see and hear more about our journey please subscribe to this blog.

 

Applying Dr. King’s approach at work.

I love MLK Jr. Day. It is a holiday that makes me think. It makes me appreciate being an American. Like the 4th of July, MLK Jr. Day is a reminder of the American Dream. Which is dreaming of your ideal world. Then overcoming the forces that have prevented that ideal from becoming your reality. Finally, you have a great movie made about you that garners critical acclaim, even if you don’t win the big awards you deserve.

My Dream

My dream is to be ridiculously happy. I’m a happy person naturally. I consider it fortunate wiring. But I want Maximum Happiness. To help chart my path to MaxHap I did what MLK Jr. did. I envisioned something better than anything I have seen. I wrote down my plan. I painted a picture of the dream in vivid detail.  Then I began to bring it to life. To spare you all the details, the rest of this post will focus on my happiness derived from work.

My dream was born in the last hours of my 39th year.  I contemplated what I wanted the next chapter of my career to look like. Then I started scripting a plan to make it happen.

We spend so much of our time at work that you have to get the work life right to get your whole life right.

It was clear to me that no one else was trying to create my ideal workplace. It was my responsibility. But after 20 years in the advertising industry I knew that if I could create the perfect agency I could help a lot of other people achieve their own happiness in the process.

The Perfect Agency Project

So I started The Perfect Agency project. It was just a project at first. Then, as it gained shape I decided to create a blog about it. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you are reading it right now. Maybe there is no way that you are not reading it right now.

Then I named the agency The Weaponry and began to bring it to life in 2016.

I started by scripting philosophies and processes. I have written down everything. I have written a list of clients I want to work with (you may be on that list).  I have created a list of teammates I want to work with (you may be on that list). I have detailed services, team sizes and office locations. I have a list of features for our physical space that will make others ask, “Why don’t we have that?’  I have created such a clear image in my head that the rest of the project is simply bringing the blueprint to life (as if that were a simple task).

Here are a few of the important points that will make The Weaponry my ideal place to work, contribtuing to my MaxHap.

Our 3 Pillars Of Success.

  1. Excellent creative ideas.
  2. Amazing customer service.
  3. A fun experience for everyone involved.

We will call our people team members, not employees.  They work with us. Not for us.

We must remain eternally optimistic. There is a beautiful solution to every problem. It is our job to find it.

We must be collaborative. We have to enable and create great ideas. But we also must recognize when the client (and, yes, even the client’s spouse) has a great idea that we should bring to life. Too may agencies think they have a monopoly on good ideas.  But there are two parts to the idea business that you have to master. 1. Coming up with great ideas. 2. Recognizing great ideas on arrival. Even if they didn’t hatch in your incubator.

Valuing Experience

The Perfect Agency is a place that values the experience and know-how of professionals who have been crushing it and accumulating knowledge for decades. But it also embraces the college student and even high schoolers who bring unbridled energy and fresh thinking to the table. Mixing the two together gives the ideal agency energy, stability and control.

Embracing Feedback

The Perfect Agency uses feedback productively. As an organization we are still in our infancy.  We have unlimited potential. But we need to take in feedback from others to learn and grow. Which includes feedback from staff, clients, advisors and partners. The kind of feedback you get when your walk in front of a speaker with a live microphone is not necessary to our success.

Playing Well With Others

The Perfect Agency plays well with our clients’ other agencies, vendors and consultants. We want to be the best partners we can be. That means that we don’t drop the ball. But just as importantly, we don’t try to steal the ball from others. If we do what our clients want we will earn more work. We don’t need to punch, kick and stab others to get ahead.  This isn’t prison.

The Perfect Agency allows you to live where you want and is flexible with your time. Happy people are better teammates. We want people who are living their ideal lives. Ideas come faster, and service is better from happy people.  That means being open-minded to remote and part-time work.

Working On Your Terms

The Perfect agency doesn’t force clients to sign a long-term commitment.  We are not trying to marry our clients after the first date.  We want our clients to be the ones who propose marriage because they love us so much and can’t stand the idea of us ever being with another client in their field of expertise. Romantic, I know.

The Perfect Agency doesn’t have A-holes. We baked that right into our logo.  See the A in the The Weaponry?  No A-hole.

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I could go on and on. But my dream blog post never hits 1000 words. If you would like to find out more about The Weaponry and how it could contribute to your long-term happiness give us a shout. My email is in my bio link. If  you can’t find that try adam@theweaponry.com.