Why you should mind your own business.

In 2016 I left a comfortable job to start my own business. After working in the advertising industry for two decades I had a clear vision of what the perfect advertising agency was like. I used that vision as a blueprint to create a new agency called The Weaponry. At the same time, I began writing The Perfect Agency Project blog to share my experience and learnings along the way. And in case you didn’t notice, I just created a link to this blog, in this blog. Which may technically be the silliest thing I’ve done in 219 posts.

The Perfect Agency

I have thought about every aspect of the perfect advertising agency. From the dress code (which is only 9 words long), to the way we respond to client requests (always explore them), to the way we deliver invoices (singing telegram*), we are creating both the agency I would want to hire to create my advertising, and the place I want to work.

Competitors

But one thing I haven’t done since launching The Weaponry is think about our competitors. In fact, I don’t even know who our competitors are. We are not trying to win a geographical area. We are not trying to win a singular discipline, or serve a niche industry. So it’s hard to find another agency to throw in a cage match with us.

We are focused on building a machine for developing great creative ideas, delivering excellent customer service and providing a fun experience for everyone involved. That’s it. Oh, we’re also drinking a lot of chocolate milk. 

Occasionally in an RFP (Request For Proposal) we are asked who we compete against in various services. I always respond by saying we compete against everyone who offers those services.

But I don’t pay any attention to those supposed competitors. I don’t worry about what other agencies look like. Or what their websites say. I don’t go to awards shows to see their work. There is not a thing I can do about how they conduct their business. I am not trying to hurt them or steal their business. I am solely focused on us handling our business and delivering against our client requests.

In fact, there are only two agencies I think about at all.

  1. The Weaponry in its current state.
  2. The fully formed version of The Weaponry.

I am focused on closing the gap between the two, and making the business we work in today look more and more like the ideal.

Key Takeaway

Mind your own business. Don’t become distracted by what everyone else is doing. Understand what your customers and your employees want, and work diligently on delivering that at the highest level. It’s the shortest path to success.

This same principle hold true for us as individuals. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, or how they are doing it. Focus on what you believe in. You can never go wrong doing what you know is right.

(*Okay, so we haven’t fully implemented the singing telegram invoice delivery system yet. But let me know if you would like to be part of the beta test.) 

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How to enjoy the best results from your reading.

 As I began planning to launch my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2015, I could tell something was changing in me. In hindsight I now know that this is when I became an entrepreneur. I still had a full-time job, but I was creating The Weaponry in my spare time. I was transitioning from dreamer to doer.

I wrote the blog post below at that time. But I think about the basic lesson in this post often, and felt it was worth re-sharing. Especially since it was one of my very early blog posts, and very few people read it (Besides Joe, Jessa and Jeff, who all commented on it. Apparently it appeals to the J-crowd). 

Originally posted to The Perfect Agency Project on January 7th, 2016

books

I love to read.  Like most people I was born highly uneducated. Reading has become an instrumental part of my plan to overcome my early shortcomings. I love to learn and to become inspired. And if you are reading this I expect you do too.

I like reading classic literature because it makes me feel worldly. I liked reading the first three Harry Potter books because they made me feel magical. But then I realized my life is too short to read four more books about a fanciful wizard boy. Today I read a lot of books on self-improvement, business, and biographies. I also read healthy portions of magazines like Fast Company  and Inc because I find them both creatively stimulating and educational (and I like the pictures).

Your Reading Changes You

Several years ago I read an interesting quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones that said,

“You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet.”  -Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

This reading about reading encouraged Adam “Ordinary” Albrecht to read even more.

The Revelation

But today I’m trying to read less. Because I have found that too much reading leads to too little doing. If I fill my time with learning and inspiration I leave no time for action.

When I began The Perfect Agency Project I created a simple rule of thumb that influences my reading today:

Read just enough to learn something new and become inspired. Then act on it.

Since I started following this rule I have accomplished more. I’ve wasted less time. And I’m more excited about my work.

Let’s Go!

I think of reading now like a pregame speech. One that I listen to just long enough to become properly motivated. And as soon as I am lathered up, I jump to work, acting on the inspiration.

That’s when I start writing, planning, structuring, detailing, calling, creating, wizarding or potioning. And what I’ve found is that when I have one hour available, instead of one hour of reading, I can do 10 or 15 minutes of reading. And then I can spend the rest of the hour implementing. And the return on that one hour is significantly higher.

Key Takeaway

I encourage you to try this for a week. Read enough each day to want to do something new and exciting. Then do it. Then repeat the process. And let me know how it works for you. I’ll read at least part of whatever you write me.

How to evaluate your career and your life with one simple question.

I love a good rule of thumb. While other people collect stamps, art or sports memorabilia, I collect rules of thumb. In fact I have far more rules of thumb than I have thumbs. Which, upon further reflection, is not saying much. But I love a good, simple lens through which to view complex issues.

The Search

A few years ago when I was looking to hire an Executive Creative Director in Atlanta, I found  many interesting candidates. While discussing their various merits, Michael Palma, my headhunter, dropped an interesting rule of thumb into the conversation. He said,

‘I think you always have to ask yourself, is the candidate’s best 5 years in front of them, or behind them.’

Evaluating The Path

person holding chart and bar graph

I found this to be a startlingly simple way to evaluate a job candidate. Because it boils a career down to trajectory. Is the candidate growing and learning and becoming more capable, more energetic, more inspired, more influential, more well-connected and more wise? Or have they peaked?  Have they begun coasting? Have they begun living off of past successes? Are they still seeking out bigger challenges? Are they still hungry and feisty? Are they still showering on a regular basis?

Self Evaluation

person on a bridge near a lake

Palma’s rule of thumb isn’t just useful when evaluating job candidates. Its real power is that it is a great way to think about our own careers. And our own lives. I have sought out and surrounded myself with people who maintain an upward trajectory. I am inspired by people who continue to grow and challenge themselves to do, learn and be more.

I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, as part of a personal growth plan. I knew it was the next challenge I needed to maintain my trajectory of growth, passion and impact. As the business continues to grow and expand, it is clear to me that the best 5 years of my career are still ahead.

Key Takeaway

Take a moment today to look at your own big picture. Are you getting better? Are you pushing yourself? Are you taking on challenges that scare you? Are you maintaining a commitment to life-long learning and self-improvement? Are your interpersonal skills, maturity and accountability improving? If not, it is time for you to spend more time working on you.

A lesson from the most overlooked event in track and field.

I love track and field. I first got involved in the sport as a freshman in high school, mostly because I was terrible at baseball. But also because it was co-ed. And, I thought the fact that it was a no-cut sport significantly improved my chances of actually making the team.

Trying Everything

I have competed in a wide variety of track and field events. My resume includes the 100 meters, 400 meters, 1600 meters, high jump, long jump, shot put, discus, javelin, hammer, 35-pound weight, 110 meter hurdles, 4×100 meter relay, 4×400 meter relay, and, yes, even the pole vault (which I approached more like the high jump with a stick).

I liked every event I ever competed in. I love the energy and atmosphere at track meets. But you know when track and field becomes really fun?

The Second Meet.

The second meet is the most important and impactful event in a track athlete’s career. In your first meet you are just setting a baseline. But once you get to your second meet you walk in with a time, distance or height to beat. And most of the time, the results in the second meet are a rewarding step forward from the first meet.

In track and field, every result is measured in minutes and seconds, or feet and inches. Which means that your linear progression is clear and quantifiable. Your undeniable improvement in the second meet gets you thinking about the third meet. It makes you think about practicing more, training harder, lifting weights, warming up smarter and getting some better hype music. You start wondering just how much better you can get. The seeds of self-improvement are planted, fertilized and watered in that second meet.

The Broader Lesson

This is not just a track and field thing. This is a life thing. The same principle applies to our careers, our relationships, our responsibilities and our hobbies. Our first attempts simply set a baseline. The second time we do anything we start the improvement process. We recognize that as we pour more energy, time and focus into any activity we get better and better. This is true of presenting a closing argument in court, hiring good employees and folding fitted sheets (although my wife, Dawn is so good at the fitted sheet thing that I focus on the closing arguments in court instead).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try something new because you think you will be bad at it. You will be bad at it. Or at least you will be the worst you will ever be. But that first attempt creates a starting point. The climb from there is both exciting and rewarding. As you improve, remember that first attempt. Recognize how far you have come since you first started. It is one of the most rewarding reflections in life.

*To see if these posts improve over time, please consider subscribing to this blog. Like the measurements of my track and field days, I now track follows, likes and comments to see if I am getting better. And like track and field, I am happy blogging is a no-cut sport.

Why you should put a smile on every time you get your dial on.

Have you ever thought about how you look when you make a phone call? It is easy to think that your appearance doesn’t matter. After all, the person on the other end of the call doesn’t see you. Unless you are a Close Caller. Which is like a Close Talker, only you use your phone, because you can. Which is weird.

But your appearance on a phone call does matter. Because how you look influences how you feel. Even if you are thousands of miles away, the person on the other end of the conversation will pick up on how you feel. And it will influence what they send back to you.

You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile.

When I make or take a phone call, I always put a smile on my face before I start talking. It magically brightens my mood. Because smiling is the ultimate human happiness hack. You don’t have to be happy to smile. You can smile to be happy.

In fact, many a scientific study have proven that your responses to questions are significantly more positive when you hold a pencil between your teeth the broad way. Holding a pencil this way forces you to smile. And the forced smile has the same effect as the real thing. And while Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell would have you believe there ain’t nothing like the real thing (baby), Guy Smiley and Happy Gilmore would disagree.

When you put a smile on your face before a phone call it makes good things happen. It influences what you say, how you say it, and how you respond to your telephonic partner. It makes the call more enjoyable for the other person. It helps you overcome anxiousness when making an important call. And if the call goes poorly, well, it’s easy to laugh it off if you are already in a smiling position.

Key Takeaway

Next time you pick up the phone, first pick up the corners of your mouth. Wearing a smile will positively impact everything about the call. It will make you sound warmer and more likable. It will influence the words you choose. It will leave a lasting impression on the person on the other end. It can even make them look forward to talking to you again.

If you want to try it now, put on a smile and call my number at 614-256-2850. If I don’t answer, leave a message and let me know you’re practicing your Smile Call. When I call you back you can bet I’ll be smiling too.

*If you’d rather not call me, but would still like to hear what I’m thinking, consider subscribing to this blog. If you want to read about another fun smiling technique I use, read Kickstart your day with this powerful and simple habit.

Who you should always compare yourself to.

I always say something ridiculous at the beginning of our quarterly meetings. Ok, even typing that sentence sounds ridiculous. For someone who started his advertising career as a precocious young copywriter, the idea of being a business owner who ‘begins quarterly meetings’ sounds kinda crazy. But I digress.

At the beginning of each quarter meeting at my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I say,

“The Weaponry is a (insert ridiculously large revenue number) business, with (insert ridiculously large number) of offices, and (insert ridiculously large number) of employees. Our job, ladies and gentlemen, is to close the gap between The Weaponry I just described, and The Weaponry that exists today.”

We then identify the most important things the business must add, remove, implement, enhance or change in order to close the gap between who we are today and our ideal self. We use the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), as spelled out in Gino Wickman’s book Traction to help us do this.

Every Day I Write The Book.

We compare ourselves to The Ideal Weaponry constantly.  It’s our version of What Would Jesus Do? When making decisions about hiring, copier machines, our website, or business development, we constantly asks, What Would The Fully Formed, Fully Realized Version of The Weaponry Do. You know, the classic WWTFFFRVOTWD.

By creating a strong, tangible and detailed vision of your future self, you can mentally google any questions about your ideal state. Just ask yourself, ‘How does Future State You handle performance reviews?’ Or ‘How does Future State You invoice, or develop a pipeline of new business opportunities?’ When you ask such questions, you’ll usually find the answers sitting right there at the top of the search results. Because your ideal state is optimized for mental SEO.

I’m Talking About You Too (And Maybe U2)

This works for individuals too. By creating a strong image of your future self, you always have a great model to follow. When you stand back-to-back with your future self,  you can easily find the gaps in knowledge, professionalism, patience, trust or reliability that you need to close. This helps you focus your efforts on acquiring new knowledge, skills, and maybe updating your wardrobe.

Key Takeaway.

Don’t compare your business to a competitor. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’s. The only organization you should be benchmarking against is your organization’s ideal state.  The only person you should be jealous of is Fully Formed You. These are the only comparisons that matter. And they are the only comparisons that you can do anything about. That’s why the guy sitting in my chair at my company’s quarterly meeting didn’t completely surprise me. I’ve been comparing myself to him my entire life.

How to prepare your mind for competition.

I love a good quote. In fact, I consider my susceptibility to a good quote one of my greatest assets. I love the way a powerful quote can summarize a complicated concept in a simple, memorable way. I regularly add these little gems to my personal guide-book. Then I pull them out to remind myself how to respond to challenging situations. Like starting a new business. Or Atlanta traffic.

Phil Knight

I recently came across a great quote from Nike Founder, Phil Knight. In his book Shoe Dog, Knight shares the challenges he faced when fighting for US distribution rights of the Japanese-made Tiger running shoes in the early 1960s. He was in a showdown with a formidable opponent who also wanted exclusive distribution rights. Which meant that Knight was going to have to compete to win.

phil.knight
Nike Founder, Phil Knight, who pioneered the concept of wearing a track jacket with a blazer. #SportsCoats

Here’s the quote:

“The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and I now reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.”   ― Phil Knight

To Compete You Must Forget

When you compete you can’t let past performances determine future outcomes. You have to expect the next performance will produce the desired outcome. It’s true in business. And it’s true in our personal lives.

Selective amnesia is a powerful thing. It gets you to try again, even if you have lost, or failed or suffered in the past. You can’t let a loss win. Forget it, and keep going. Get back up. Dust yourself off (if you live somewhere dusty). Then try again.

goats-competition-dispute.jpg
It’s easier to forget things if you bang your head until it no longer works. But I don’t recommend this technique for humans. And neither do former NFL players.

Key Takeaway

Forget your failures. Forget your rejections. Forget the losses, the suffering, the pain and this disappointment. Remember, every chance is an opportunity for a new and better outcome. Forgetting worked out nicely for Phil Knight. It will work out for you too.

*If you have a great quote relevant to competition, please share it in the comment section. If you want to see more of the quotes I find inspiring, consider subscribing to this blog.