The valuable business lesson I taught my 9-year old.

I often talk about work at home. I want my 3 children to learn as much about business and entrepreneurship as possible. In the same way languages are easier to learn when you are younger, good business lessons are easier to learn before you become a cog in a machine. I learned that from reading Rich Dad. Poor Dad. And from becoming a cog in a machine.

The Proposal Parade

My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, has been writing a lot of proposals lately. You write a proposal when a client or potential client wants to know how you would handle a specific project. The proposal, also called a statement of work (S.O.W.), includes a proposed course of action, timing and budget. It does not include getting down on one knee. #KaepernickCouldDoIt

The Conversation

Earlier this week I was telling my wife about an exciting new proposal that we were working on. My 9-year old son Magnus overheard the conversation. Mostly because I wanted him to overhear the conversation. #sneakydadlessons

When I tucked Magnus into bed that night he asked me, ‘Dad, is someone really going to pay your business Vague Large Sum of Money? I was glad he asked. Because his interest gave me a perfect opportunity to share a lesson…

The Bedtime Story

Me:  Yes Magnus. Someone is really going to pay us Vague Large Sum of Money. But there is more to it that you should understand. Remember when we went to Dallas during spring break last year? And on the last day we went to Dunkin Donuts?

Magnus:  Yes.

Me:  Remember after we ate donuts, Mom dropped me off to have chocolate milk with my friend? Then Mom took you, Ava and Johann to some shops and to that park nearby where you played on that long horned cow statue?

IMG_5091
Magnus ripped his shorts getting off this statue in Dallas, and it was the last time he ever wore them. #hookedemhorns

Magnus: Yes.

Me: Well, after my friend and I caught up on what had happened over the past 13 years since we had last seen each other, he said, ‘I could use your help on some projects I am working on.’

Then he called me after we got home from vacation, and we set up a video conference meeting between our teams. We did 3 small projects together. And they really liked how those projects went. So they asked us to do more work for them. And we did a good job on those project too.

Because we did a good job on all those projects, now they are going to give us Vague Large Sum of Money to do an even larger project.

But, think of that money as a loaf of bread.  They give us the whole loaf. And that is called Revenue.

But then we need to give slices of bread to the workers at The Weaponry who work on the project. And we have to give slices of the bread to the film crew and the photographers and editors who work on the project. And we have to give a slice to other companies, like the airlines and the hotels that we use when we travel to do the work.

After everyone else who works on the project gets their slices of bread, The Weaponry keeps a few slices for itself for helping to organize all of the work that needed to be done.

And those slices of bread that we keep are called profit.

Magnus: How much profit does the business keep?

Me:  We like to aim for 25%. Or 1 out of 4 dollars. So if they gave us $100 our profit would be $25.  (Profit is actually a bit more complicated, and depends on the project. But I was trying to keep things simple.)

Putting Math To Work

Magnus and I then applied the 25% rule to the Vague Large Sum of Money so that Magnus could understand what a project of that size represented after all of the work was done, and all the bills were paid.

The Lesson Learned

After completing Daddy’s Bedtime Business Lesson, I asked, ‘So Magnus, what is the key lesson you learned here?’

And without a moment of hesitation, Magnus replied:

‘Have chocolate milk with your friends.’  -Magnus Albrecht (9 y/o)

Key Takeaway

Have chocolate milk with your friends. Or coffee, or beer or Kool Aid. Spend time with your people. Good things happen when you first develop and maintain good relationships. Even a 9-year old knows that.

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

To be an entrepreneur you need to know where clients come from.

2019 has been a very good year for my business. Lately, The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I started in 2016, has felt like the prettiest girl at the ball. Despite the fact that I am not wearing any makeup and haven’t had my hair permed in months.

Reflecting

As I reflect on this great year, I have been thinking a lot about our clients. Because the key to success as an entrepreneur is your ability to attract, maintain and grow clients. If you are considering starting your own business you need to start thinking more about finding clients than finding Nemo.

Daddy, Where do clients come from?

Clients don’t come from a client factory. You can’t buy them at a store like ClientMart or Clients R’ Us. The don’t grow at a pick-your-own client orchard. And they don’t fall from the sky on clienty days. So where do they come from?

My Client Roster Evaluation

Understanding where clients really come from is critical for aspiring entrepreneurs, startups, or any business who has forgotten how to grow. That’s why I decided to evaluate our client roster to determine where each of our clients actually came from. The following is a list of how we found each of our 19 clients (N-n-n-n-nineteen, nineteen).

How We Met Our Current Clients

  1. I was introduced to the Client by a mutual friend.
  2. The Client is a former co-worker I have stayed in touch with.
  3. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  4. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  5. The Client found us through my speaking engagement.
  6. The Client came to us because of one of my co-worker’s relationships.
  7. The Client is an old friend of mine.
  8. The Client is a new friend of mine.
  9. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  10. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  11. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  12. The Client came through a friend’s recommendation.
  13. The Client came through one of our other Client’s Recommendations
  14. The Client is an Old Friend
  15. One of our business partners recommended us to the Client.
  16. A former coworker recommended us to the Client.
  17. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  18. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  19. The Client is a New Friend.
IMG_5170
My good friend, former client, current client, and amazing tennis player, Marc-Andre Dubois and I have known each other nearly 20 years. 

Key Takeaway

Clients come through relationships. Maintaining and growing your personal and professional relationships is key to business success. When I first launched my business I quickly realized that much of the hardest work of entrepreneurship, which is developing and maintaining genuine relationships, I had begun decades earlier. If you want to start your own business, side-hustle, or simply help your current business grow, start by focusing on your own relationships. Because that’s where all the best things in business and life begin.

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

The best way to connect with your people this holiday season.

I am good at staying in touch with people. In fact, I make a sport of it. I like to see how many friends, family and professional connections I can interact with each year. Because like volcanoes, an active relationship is more interesting than a dormant one. And the recency of your last interaction has a major impact on both the real and perceived value of a relationship.

Social Media

Social media makes it easy to stay in touch. Likes, hearts and thumbs-up offer us a way to say, ‘I see you baby…’ But they are not really staying in touch. They are kind of like making eye contact and waving at a party. There is very little social investment, and little long-term value.

Next Level Interactions

As we barrel into Christmas and Hanukkah with our noses glowing, one of the greatest gifts we can give one another is the gift of human interactions. Making time for coffee meet-ups, lunches, dinners and drop-bys are great. But they are hard to do this time of year. Those in-person interactions are also limited by geography, and hard to scale (meaning hard to do in large numbers, not hard to put on a scale, or to remove the scales from the body).

My Secret Social Weapon

But there is one social interaction tool that I really love. It is great at keeping people in touch. It works regardless of geography. It is infinitely scaleable. And it is always at your fingertips.

The Group Text

I love staying connected with groups texts. If you don’t know what a group text is, it is a text interaction with a group of 3 or more people. The French call it a Mobile A Trois. And it is an easy way to create your own micro-social networking platform.

My Groups

I have created an eclectic variety of social groups via texts. For example:

  • I have a group text with my parents and my 3 sisters. It enables my original homies and I to reconnect quickly from anywhere. Our group text conversations are like our conversations at the dinner table in my childhood home in Norwich, Vermont. Only now we can’t see each other snarf.
  • I have a group text with my high school football teammates. This group text is a little like the banter on a bus ride home after a road win, sans mooning. This text group includes people in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, California, Colorado, Illinois and Wisconsin. But we can still huddle together anytime we text.
  • I have a group text with my neighbors from our Madison Hall subdivision in Atlanta. The interactions here are often about planning our next get-together, funny memories or pics from a past get-together, or theories about who called the police with a noise complaint (I always blame you Vickie).
  • I have a group text with the advertising creatives who I worked with at my first job out of college. These texts are so full of inside jokes that military communications seem less encrypted.

Creation

By creating a group text you can instantly reunite and rekindle a social group from the past. But you also have the power to create a totally new social group. You have the ability to huddle up a select group of people like a team, a club, a society or a telephonic gang. And that is a fun gift to give.

Text Me Maybe

We could all use more positive human connections. Especially this time of year. So between now and New Year’s Day I encourage you to create a new group text to help bring people together, or bring people back together again. Just remember, my mobile number is 614-256-2850.

Key Takeaway

It is important for us to invest in our relationships. Creating a group text is an easy way to stay in touch. But it also has the power to make other people feel special. Because being included in a group text means you are considered a member of a special group, team, family or community. It is easy to do. It’s fun. And there is someone in your network who needs it now more than you know.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. Or maybe text it to them to start you own group.

 

Do you know your Social Value?

The true measure of your financial success is your net worth. I calculate my net worth regularly. I track it month over month. I set goals for growing it over the near, mid and long term. It’s a fun game to play. One that pays long term dividends. Literally.

However, your net worth, or financial assets, don’t represent your true value. Lately I have been thinking about another way to measure my worth that is even more meaningful. A way to not simply tally the money I have accumulated. But to measure the value I bring to other people. 

Social Value

Your Social Value is important for several reasons. At the end of your days the only thing that really matters is the impact you have had on other people. But offering a great deal of social value is also a leading indicator of your financial well-being. Because when you help others you are always helping yourself.  And if you are finding yourself poor and alone, chances are you are not offering much social value. And your situation is a result. 

To determine your social value ask yourself this simple question:

How valuable am I to the people I know?

Know Your Social Value

I have been asking myself this question a lot lately. Because I am evaluating how much I contribute to those around me. It is easy to focus on what you are receiving, or what you are accumulating. But I have a sneaking suspicion that when I get to the Peary Gates the entrance criteria might not be financial. Unless Heaven is more like Disney World than we realized.

Evaluate Yourself

There are many ways to add value to others. Here are some of them. Evaluate yourself on the following 20 areas.

  • Give yourself 3 points for each element that you give generously.
  • Give yourself a 1 if you give it occasionally.
  • Give yourself a zero if it is simply not something you offer others.

Here we go.

1. Smiles Do you give away a lot of smiles every day? Could you give more?  This small investment pays big dividends for others who need a smile the most.

F23136AE-113D-41AD-B3B7-8A3FA4225523

2. Help  Do you offer others help? When people need it do they turn to you? Or do they write you off as a dead end when they are in need?

fingers hand reaching

3. Entertainment:  Are you entertaining to be around? Do you do and say things that other find interesting, amusing or amazing? Will people put down their mobile device around you because you are likely to serve up something more compelling than a cat in  sweater or a football-to-the-groin video?

IMG_5656

4. Education: Do you teach people what you know? Do you have knowledge to share? 

photography of girl riding bike beside man

5. Wisdom: Do you have valuable experience to share? Have you made mistakes, overcome obstacles and come out smarter, and with better perspective that you are willing to talk about?

6. Encouragement When people are down do you help pick them back up?  When others face great challenges do you become a cheerleader?

laverne-shirley-ftr

7. Positive Peer Pressure We talk a lot about peer pressure as being negative. But peer pressure comes in 2 flavors. Do you exert positive peer pressure to keep people between the ditches? To help force people to make positive choices or overcome bad habits?

8. Role Model  We all could use a positive role model to serve as an example of what is possible. Are you doing that for others? Or are you more Charles Barkley-ish

9. Humor Laughter is the best medicine. Are you serving up large doses of it, like doctors serve up opioids?

Zyck at Rett's

10. Listening  At the end of the day, most people just want to be heard. Are you known as a listener? As someone others can talk to, even without offering brilliant advice? Often others are not looking for you to solve their problems. They just need to talk to someone who will listen as they try to work out their own challenges. #justnod

IMG_1934

11. Connections Do you have strong connections? Do you know other people with high Social Value scores? The more you know and can tap into, the more value you offer.

12. Action: Are you a person of action? Do you do? Do you throw water on a fire or do you tell someone else there is a fire? Do you help when you see it is needed? Or do you leave it to others?

13. Remembering Names: Do you make a point of remembering names? We’re not real friends until we remember each others’ names. Because you can’t properly greet, contact or introduce another person unless you know their name. And nothing in life is sweeter than the sound of your own name being positively called. Except maybe sweet tea. That stuff is super sweet.

adult african american afro black

14. Showing Up: Do you show up when people are in need? When there is an event, activity or funeral do you make a point of being there whenever you can? 

15. Promises: Do you keep yours? Is your word good? Are you trustworthy? Can people count on you to come through when they need you?

backlit dawn foggy friendship

16. Influence: Do you have influence on people, situations and decisions? People who have influence over decisions, other people, and outcomes are valuable to know. Just ask any politician, lobbyist or mobster.

17. Positivity: Do you bring a positive outlook with you? Do you help encourage positivity in others? Seeing things in a positive light and expecting positive results helps you shape the world positively. I am positive about this.

beach blue sky cheerful clouds

18. Inclusive: Do you include others? Do you look for ways to bring more people into the fold? Do you make people feel like part of a group, activity or movement? #notbowelmovement 

IMG_2982

19. Introductory: Do you introduce people to each other? Do you help increase connections, create larger, more powerful social groups? Do you see that as part of your responsibility, or do you let others fend for themselves?

20. Initiating: Do you initiate social interactions? Do you call, email or text first? Do you organize events, coffees, beers, lunches, or hangouts? In all social interactions someone needs to make the first move. If you aren’t doing your fair share the relationship will start to feel one sided. Which is simply a less valuable relationship.

0461DD9F-CFEC-43DE-8C80-41F8DF729864

Tally Your Score

  • If you got a 60 you are amazingly valuable to know.
  • If you got a 0 you are worthless to others, like a social Ebenezer Scrooge.
  • If you are closer to 60 than 0 you are doing pretty good.
  • If you are closer to 0 than 60 you have a lot of room for improvement. But you can do it. I know you can.

Key Takeaway

If you are interested in self improvement start with increasing your Social Value. It will have the greatest positive impact on others. And when you positively impact others it will lead to more positive outcomes for you. Offering strong Social Value means that people will be drawn to you, seek you out, and think of you when they are in need. Which means that your Social Value makes you more popular and move valuable than your net worth ever could.

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

5 reasons you should think of people like bicycles.

My family and I went for our first bike ride of the year yesterday. It was amazing. I was once again reminded that bicycles are magical. They are The Two-Wheeled Fountain of Youth. Because the instant you start riding a bike you feel like a kid again. They make exercise fun. They allow you you to travel much faster and farther than any other human powered form of locomotion. And unlike swinging a golf club, once you learn how to ride a bike you never forget.

Revelation

As I rode yesterday I thought about how friends are like bicycles. How? I’m glad I asked for you. And for simplicity’s sake, I am rolling the terms coworker, business associate, and family into the word friend. It will save us a lot of verbosity between here and the end of the post. Let’s ride…

forest bike bulls
A bike is a great thing. But it needs a person to make it work.

5 Ways Friends Are Like Bicycles

1. Sometimes you need to prop them up. Recognize when a friend needs a kickstand to lean on. And be that kickstand.

2. Sometimes you need to help them balance. Life constantly throws challenges at us. Knowing how to handle it all can be overwhelming. Notice when a friend is struggling to find their own balance. And help them stabilize. Lend a helping hand or prioritizing advice. Sometimes you just need someone else to show you how to shift your load so you’re not constantly fighting with it. 

IMG_2053
My wife Dawn and son Magnus spinning some quality miles together on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

3. Sometimes you need to help them steer.  We don’t always know which way to go. This is a simple fact of life. We need help when we come to crossroads. We need help navigating around obstacles. So help your friends make those challenging decisions they will inevitably encounter along their journey.

4. Sometimes you need to help them pedal faster. It is easy to fall off your personal pace. Apply constant, gentle pressure on your friends when you know they should be moving faster than they are.

IMG_6404
My son Johann taking on the world on his Little Orangey.

5. Sometimes you need to help them stop. We can often see that our friends are heading towards a cliff, a tree or a car before they notice. In those moments, help your friends pump the brakes. Or slam on the brakes. Or remind them that they have brakes. Helping your friends recognize and stop bad behavior is one of the most valuable things you can do for them.

Key Takeaway

Your friends, family, and coworkers need you just as much as your bicycle does. Learn to recognize what inputs would be most beneficial. It could be encouragement, stability, direction or warnings. Remember, life is challenging. And we all benefit from having someone else along for the ride.

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

Why I hate networking, and what I do instead.

Since I was in college I have heard career-minded folk talk about the importance of networking. Which begs the question, What the fruit is networking? Because before college I didn’t network, and I seem to have gotten along just fine.

But starting my freshman year in college, professors, advisors and guest speakers talked about networking as if it twas the key to success beyond college (twas is a word you can only use in December). Then I started my career in advertising and I heard the same thing. Business books and career coaches strongly encourage you to network. I have even attended a few functions called networking events. Oy. 

So what the funk does it means to network? 

Oh looky here! I found a definition.

Network (verb): interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.

Ahh. When you put it that way, I understand what you mean. And it kinda makes me want to barf.  ‘Interacting with people‘, ‘exchanging information’ and ‘developing contacts’ is something that can be done by a machine. Or a criminal.

What I do.

While other people network, I am still doing what I did before college. Before I was told that networking was the key to advancing my career. Before I was told networking was crucial to successful entrepreneurship.

No. I don’t network.

I befriend.

What does that mean?  Well, I just happen to have the definition for you right here:

Befriend (verb): act as a friend to someone by offering help or support.
This is what I do. I learned how to do this when I was in pre-school and it has served me well my entire life.  Notice the keys to befriending? You act as a friend. You offer help and support. This is the good stuff. This is what other people really want.  This is how you improve life on the big blue marble.

When you dive into the synonyms of befriending you develop an even richer picture:
  • make friends with
  • make a friend of
  • look after
  • keep an eye on
  • be of service to
  • lend a helping hand to
  • help
  • protect
  • side with
  • stand by
  • encourage

The Take Away

The world would be a better place if we stopped trying to network, and we just tried to make friends. So I encourage you to develop real relationships. Because when you make people the most important thing in your life, everything else magically falls into place.  Our relationships, and the positive impact we have on one another, are the only things that really matter. It is true at home. It is true in pre-school. It is true in college. And it is true in business. So if you really want to be a great success, be a great friend. If there is any way I can help, please let me know.

How to make your business trips more personal.

I am not a control freak. I believe there is more than one way to skin a cat. Although most cats I have met strongly prefer not to be skinned at all. I like to hire good people and let them do their jobs. I am very comfortable delegating responsibility. With one notable exception.

Travel

When it comes to business travel I become a micromanager. You will never find me handing over my travel planning to an assistant or simply booking what everyone else is booking. Because when I travel for work I always have a hidden agenda… (cue the sinister music).

As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, my first priority on every business trip is to take care of business. I call this my Bachman-Turner Overdrive Philosophy.  I want to arrive with plenty of time to prepare for the meeting or the shoot, or whatever I’m travel to do. And I build in enough time for a travel backup plan in case anything goes wrong.

But once the work plan is set I always turn my attention to my hidden agenda. It’s not finding great restaurants or a fancy hotel or seeing a great show.

My People Plan 

When I travel for work I always think about the people I can see. Business trips offer us all a chance to keep in touch or reconnect with friends and family. I take advantage of this every chance I get. You should too.

The moment I know I need to travel I start working on my people plan. I study the location I am traveling. I look at a map to see who I know within a reasonable radius of my business.

Then I build my itinerary.

IMG_7484
This is my cousin Janelle. I saw her on a recent trip to Fort Myers. She saw me too. 

 

The 3 Parts To My People-Seeing Travel Plans.

Flight:  I look at flight options that will get me in early enough and allow me to leave late enough to see my people. Often I will take the last flight home on any given day to help open my schedule and improve my odds of connecting.

Lodging:  My lodging is always an important part of my plan. I book hotels that make it easy to see my people. This is either because the lodging is centrally located, or because it is in the middle of a pod of my peeps. However, sometimes the lodging is not a hotel at all. I stay with friends or family members whenever they offer to host me. This allows for the best people experience of all.

IMG_7788
I recently stayed with the DeMarinis Fam in Boca Raton. It was totes great. The photo was blurry. My memory is not.

 

Car  Unless I am staying in Manhattan or a similar car-unfriendly location I rent a  car from Hertz. That’s because Hertz has the best cars, the best service and the best loyalty  program. A rental car gives me the most flexibility to see my people. And it gives me the greatest people-seeing range. If I am ambitious, which I usually am, a rental car enables me see several people, over a large area, for a fixed price. This is a major advantage that rental cars have over a ride sharing service.

IMG_7488
I recently rented a convertible Mustang, which I drove 50 miles to see my college track coach, Mark Napier. 

 

 

A Recent Example

Last Thursday The Weaponry conducted an all-day branding workshop with a client in Minneapolis. I scheduled a flight that landed in Minneapolis at 5pm on Wednesday afternoon. I picked up my rental car, then Jeanne, our amazing account director and I picked up two of our clients and went to a really enjoyable dinner. (Side note: One of those clients was a friend before she was a client. And the last time I had seen her was on a people-seeing side trip in Atlanta earlier this year.)

Then I dropped off Jeanne and the clients at their hotels before heading to my sister Heather’s house for the night. There I got to see Heather, her husband John, my nephew Addison, and nieces Rebekkah and Rachael.

IMG_8181
Me and my nieces, making memories in the middle of a business trip.

Thursday was the branding workshop. It was great. Productive, insightful and fun.

Thursday evening I had dinner with Heather’s family at one of our favorite restaurants.

Then I met my friend Tom Burger for after-dinner lemonades. Tom and I were college roommates and track teammates at the University of Wisconsin. It was really great catching up on family, friends and careers.

IMG_8165
My college roommate Tom Burger and I got over-served on lemonade.

Friday morning was special.  I got up early and drove 70 miles west of Minneapolis to Hutchinson, Minnesota. I went to surprise my 98-year-old Grandma Albrecht. And boy was she surprised. Which made me think that surprises and 98-year-olds may not be a healthy mix.

It had been too long since I saw Grandma. It was a real gift to be able to spend a couple of hours alone with her.  This was all the more special because I lost my other grandmother, Grammy Sprau, two months ago at 100 years old.

IMG_8189
My 98 year Grandma, Judy Albrecht.  When I surprised her she was sitting at her kitchen table doing a crossword puzzle.

Then I drove back to Minneapolis and met my friend Mark Setterholm at his production company, Drive Thru.  Mark and I had worked together on a fun Ski-Doo project many  years ago and have kept in touch ever since. I got to see his latest office space, I reconnected with members of his team, and met new DriveThruvians. Mark and I had lunch, we updated each other on our latest work developments and talked about life in general. It was great.

Then I headed to the airport and home.

Summary

In the past two months alone I have had three business trips just like this. All of them were greatly enhanced with friends and family time. By integrating my work and personal life I am able to get the most out of both.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram offer us a great way to stay in touch with our friends, family, and business associates. But it is not the same as seeing your people in real life. Take advantage of the opportunities to grow, maintain, rekindle or develop relationships while you are away from home. You’ll be glad you did. Life is short. And nothing matters more than our relationships.

IMG_7804
My college teammate Bryan Jones and I had breakfast recently on a business trip.  On Wisconsin!