This is where I encourage you to pitch your elevator pitch.

In 2015 I decided to launch a new advertising agency. I already had a vivid image of the agency in my head. So I began mapping, sketching and listing every detail of the company. I considered the business from every angle. I even created a Life Stage chart of the yet unborn business. It was like What to Expect When You Are Expecting. Except I was expecting a bouncing baby business.

The Elevator Pitch 

However, there was one detail that start-ups typically obsess over that I skipped entirely: the Elevator Pitch. It is supposed to be the centerpiece of a startup’s marketing efforts. If you’ve never heard of an elevator pitch, the idea is that you have to summarize the essence of who you are, and what you do, in a short statement that you could deliver to a captive hostage on a brief elevator ride. Apparently, lots of entrepreneurs stalk high-powered executives on elevators, thinking it would be a great strategy for winning their affection.

I’m not buying it.

I hate the whole concept of the elevator pitch. I think it is the most overrated, over-discussed element of salesmanship. And entrepreneurship. And elevatorship.

Sure, it is important to be able to succinctly talk about your business. Your Great Aunt Petunia doesn’t have enough time left on Earth to waste it on your full story. But I have never bought anything or hired anyone because of a brief discussion I had on an elevator, escalator or Wonk-avator.

In fact, I have been in business for two years. And not once have I found myself in an elevator with someone who told me I had 10 floors of verticality to perform the sales pitch of a lifetime.

My Approach

Instead of scripting and performing an elevator monologue to an audience that never shows up, which feels a little like writing an acceptance speech for an award you didn’t win, I take the opposite approach.

The Quiet Game

I play the quiet game. You know, it’s that game where you see how long you can go without talking. I was terrible at the Quiet Game as a child. Scratch that. I was the Cleveland Browns of The Quiet Game. But today, as an entrepreneur, I am quite good at it. When I meet a marketer, I don’t whip out a polished sales pitch and throw it at her. Instead, I listen.

I want to hear what potential clients talk about. I want to hear what challenges they are facing. I want to know where their pain points are. I want to identify their greatest unmet needs. I continue to grow and transform The Weaponry in response to the unmet needs of our clients. Because we are focused on solving client problems, we grow in the direction that our clients’ needs dictate.

Key Takeaway

If you want to collect more great clients and grow your business, don’t practice your elevator pitch. Practice listening. Play detective. Or doctor. Listen for the discomfort, the bottlenecks, and the solution-less problems your clients and potential clients are facing.  Discover their unmet needs. And you’ll have found your next opportunity.

*If you found anything of value in this post, please consider subscribing to this blog. You’ll receive two fresh-baked posts via email each week. Oh, and you may also dig this post I wrote about My Vanilla Ice Philosophy. Vanilla Ice himself liked it. And Tweeted it. And hung it above his bed (ok, that very last part might not be true).

 

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How to warm up your entrepreneurial spirit.

Admit it, you would really like to own your own business. Most of us would. But getting started is a gnarly tangle of question marks.

  • Do I have what it takes?
  • What do I do first?
  • Do I have the appetite for risk?
  • Should I find a partner?
  • If my business doesn’t take off quickly do I give up food, shelter or clothing first?

Curious-but-careful types turn to books for answers to these questions. While you can read about entrepreneurship all you want, you can’t actually become an entrepreneur without taking action. Which means the best thing to do to warm up your entrepreneurial spirit is practice taking entrepreneurial action (without spending or losing money in the process).

The Challenge

I offer people enamored with the idea of entrepreneurship a simple one week challenge. If you bail on the challenge in the first day, it is a sign that you should not be a sailor on the entrepreneur ship. But if you complete the challenge, not only have you exercised the right behavior, you’ve primed the pump for the next step too.

So here is my challenge to you:


Adam Albrecht’s Unpatented One Week Entrepreneurial Warm Up Exercise.

  1. Pick a good starting day that offers flexibility in your schedule. Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays work well.
  2. Every time you think of someone, reach out to them. Send an email,  text or a call them. Shoot them a message on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Write the impulse down if you can’t send a message at that moment. But send the message that day. If there is a reason that person popped into your mind let them know. *only contact each person once, even if you think of them multiple times during the week. You don’t want to creep them out.

3. Write down the number of days in a row that you completed the mission.


The 3 Reasons You Should Try This Exercise:

1.Entrepreneurship is about turning thoughts into actions. Everyone has thoughts, ideas and impulses. But most of the time these impulses dissipate before they become actions. This exercise helps you transform your moments of inspiration into actions.

2. Entrepreneurship also requires you to actively maintain your network. That means investing time, thought, action and care into other people. It also involves expanding your network. Which could mean reaching out to people you don’t know, or don’t know well.

3. Entrepreneurship requires persistence. You have to keep at it day after day. Even if you really enjoyed a day or two of this exercise, don’t try to launch a business until you can string together a full week of successful impulse activation. 

5 Things You Will Learn From This Exercise:

1. What it is like to activate your thoughts.

2. Whether or not you can activate your thoughts with consistency.

3. Your connections with others will grow stronger.

4. The recency of your communications with make others more likely to think of you again in the near future.

5. Human interactions often set off a chain of interesting positive events. 

Key Takeaway

In entrepreneurship action is everything. In order to invent Facebook you actually have to invent Facebook. And it starts by doing the things you’ve thought about doing but haven’t done. Entrepreneurship requires you to spend a good chunk of your time outside your comfort zone. So practice getting over that discomfort by reaching out to friends and family you haven’t contacted for quite some time. By the end of this Unpatented One Week Entrepreneurial Warm Up Exercise, you won’t have spent any money on your business idea. But you will have created a more fertile environment for it to grow.

Are you really in control of your career?

It was December of 1999. The world was facing a possible Y2K apocalypse, and I was surrounded by cranberries. I had written a national TV commercial for Northland Cranberry Juice and was now preparing to shoot the spot in their hometown, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Rapids (just in case you’ve never been there) is to cranberries what Nashville is to country music.

The premise of the commercial we were shooting was that the honest, hardworking people of Wisconsin Rapids put 100% into everything they do. So they would never consider putting anything less than 100% juice into a bottle of Northland. The same could not be said for those villains at Ocean Spray. Their cranberry cocktails ranged from just 17% to 27% juice. Cut to the close up of the Ocean Spray ingredient label, and cue the horror movie music.

The Director

But this story is not about juice. It is about the director. Ashley Lazarus. While Ashley Lazarus is one of the most beautiful names I have ever heard, it belongs to a bear of a man. A South African man. A man best known in America for launching the Saturn car brand with the iconic Spring in Springhill commercials. In other words, Ashley had mad directing skillz.

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Ashley Lazarus and a camera that won’t fit in your pocket.

Location Scouting

My first two days with Ashley were spent scouting for locations to shoot the commercial.  We were looking for the most interesting locations in and around Wisconsin Rapids to capture on film.

The conversation

While driving between locations in the Wisconsin countryside, Ashley, who was in his 60s, turned to me and slowly asked in his deep, South African accent, ‘Adam, how old are you?’

I replied, ’26’.

Not only will I never forget what he said next, it helped steer the course of my career, and my life.

Ashley continued,

‘Adam, eventually you must open your own advertising agency. You will be promised great positions in your career. You may even be offered them. But eventually all creatives are either passed over or forced out of agencies. The only way for you to remain in control of your career is to own your own agency.’

I had dreamed of owning my own agency since I first started my career three years earlier. But now, at 26 years old, I was told I had no choice. If I wanted to be in control of my career and my life’s path, I would have to start my own advertising agency and create my own opportunities.

That advice stuck in my head like a cocklebur to corduroy. I believed Ashley was right. Over the next 15 years I was promoted from Copywriter, to Senior Writer, to Associate Creative Director, to Creative Director, to Executive Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. But I never forgot what Ashley said. And I wanted the ultimate control over my career path.

The Weaponry

In 2016, when I was 42 years old, I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I also launched this blog to chronicle the entire journey (if you’d like to follow along at home consider subscribing). Today, I’d like Ashley to know that I listened, appreciated and followed the advice he gave me in the back of that SUV in Wisconsin, Rapids in 1999.

Key Takeaway

What Ashley said about my career holds true for you too. Your career path, and your life path will be determined by someone else if you don’t take control of it. You too should start your own business, or side hustle, or consulting gig. Prepare your own plan B before you need it. It’s the key to writing your own script with your own happy ending.

The best business call I never expected to get.

I got a unique phone call this week. The caller, a friendly and energetic young man, introduced himself as a banker calling from Name-Of-Bank-Protected. Once upon a time, I had banked with Name-Of-Bank-Protected. But now I was confused. Because I had closed my account with them over ten years ago. What was even stranger, was that the banker added that he was a mortgage specialist.

Hmm?

I asked the nice mortgage specialist from the bank I once banked with, ‘Is there something wrong with the mortgage I clearly do not have with your bank?’

He laughed and said ‘No. I am calling about Name-Of-Employee-Protected.  Does Name-Of- Employee-Protected work at The Weaponry?’

Then I understood.

I have purchased four homes in my home purchasing career. Right before the closing, the bank offering the mortgage calls your employer to confirm that you actually have the job you claim to have. This gives the bank confidence that you will have the funds to pay your mortgage on the new home. This has always been a wise move for banks. But it has become standard practice since the failure to do background checks lead to the world-melting mortgage crisis a decade ago.

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This is where I was sitting when I got the mortgage lender’s call. Except the plant was on the other side of the desk.

However, this was different.

Now a bank was calling me about a mortgage, because I am the employer. This may not seem like a big deal to you. But this was monumental to me.

My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, started as a vision in my head two and a half years ago. I had a clear vision of what the perfect advertising agency would look like. I believed I could create an agency that generated excellent creative ideas, provided amazing customer service and offered a fun experience for everyone involved. Best of all, I knew it could provide long-term financial stability for employees.

As I started on my journey to bring that vision to life, I started this blog. Then brick by brick, the vision has become realer and realerer and realererer.

Today, The Weaponry has great clients, a nice office, amazing employees and benefits. But now, we also have real American bankers calling The Weaponry to confirm that our Weapons actually work at The Weaponry.

That’s a great feeling.

The Weaponry is not just real in my head. It is real in the eyes of a bank that will offer a major loan to one of our employees today, so that they can close on a new house this afternoon. I’m not sure I can articulate how fulfilling that is. The Weaponry has come a long way. And we are just getting started. I look forward to many more confirmation calls from many more mortgage lenders from across the country in the years ahead.

*If you would like to follow our journey, please consider following The Perfect Agency Project by clicking the subscribe button. It requires minimal effort from one of your fingers. Any finger will do.

Want to be an entrepreneur? Start by flying a kite.

Entrepreneurship is a thrilling game. I started my own adverting and idea agency almost two years ago. Building my business has been the most fun and exciting chapter in a career full of fun and exciting chapters. If you think you’d like to play entrepreneur, I have a few insights to share. But I should warn you, I don’t have an MBA. My business philosophies come from life.

Creating your own business requires four elements:

  1. Vision to see what you want to build.
  2. Optimism to believe you can do it.
  3. Will Power to keep you moving forward.
  4. Money to pay the bills.

The first three inputs are about attitude. If you have a great attitude, you have 75% of the requirements covered. Then there is number four. It has ruined many a good business. It’s the proverbial turd in the punch bowl. And there is no way around it.

Money, Money, Money, Money

It isn’t enough simply to have money. The real challenge is that you have to invest your money at the proper pace. If you spend too little you don’t grow, you don’t mature, and you don’t get closer to your ultimate vision. But if you spend too much, you die.

In order to thrive, you need to find the sweet spot between these two pitfalls. This is the game of business finance in a nutshell. And if you remember your shell history, the nutshell beat out both the eggshell and the clamshell as the perfect container for simple summations.

So how do you know when to save and when to spend? I have developed an approach to spending money that influences every purchase, every hire, and financial commitment we make at The Weaponry.

The Kite Flying Method. 

I think of spending money like flying a kite. Once you get a kite in the air, you have to decide if you are satisfied flying it ten feet above the ground. If you are not, and I hope you are not, you have to let out more string.

But when?

You let out more string when the wind increases. Not before. This sounds simple enough. But the key is knowing the difference between winds and gusts. A gust is temporary. If you let out string because of a gust, you are in trouble. Because when the gust stops, your line will go slack, and the kite will plummet to the ground. This is bad.

Key Takeaway

The wind is your income. The string is your outgo. If you want your business to soar to impressive heights, you have to let out string. But always let out less string than the wind can support. That tension you feel is profitability. It is what keeps you in control. Always maintain that. It will keep you soaring for as long as you want to play.

This is how our new conference room came to life.

Breathing life into an idea is my favorite thing in the world. Taking a vision that only existed in my head, making it real, and then showing it to the world, offers a healthy, natural high. Even Nancy Reagan would approve.

I thought about creating my advertising agency for a long time before I named it The Weaponry and declared it open for thinkness. In the summer of 2017 I shopped for a new office space. But when I first got tossed the keys the office was pretty bland. So we began putting our mark on the place.

Furniture

Furnishing our office has been a fun undertaking.  I have written before about our custom-built surfboard coffee table. We had readers of this blog vote on their favorite surfboard designs. Then we shared the final result. The coffee table has been a great addition to the office, and a great conversation starter. Since then, we turned our attention to another room.

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Yep, we’ve got one of these. Read all about it at the links above.

The Conference Room

The conference room at The Weaponry was the last room we furnished. We wanted to keep it simple. In fact, we only wanted four elements in the room:

  1. Table
  2. 6-8 chairs
  3. TV monitor
  4. Whiteboard
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Folding chairs and tape helped us determine the perfect table size and the number of chairs we could fit. In the end, we crumpled up this 4×8 foot table and tossed it in the trash.

Shopping For A Table

We looked at a lot of used conference room tables, and they all made me want to cry. Most of them felt like they would have been right at home on the set of the TV show, The Office. That would never do. We looked through catalogs. All the tables either looked too serious, too sterile or had no look at all.

Then something caught our eye. It wasn’t a traditional conference room table.  It was a high top. The type of furniture designed for an active huddle space. Not the kind of table typically used to pacify you before a Powerpoint lobotomy.

When we inquired about the table we discovered it could be custom-made. Which meant we could choose the perfect length, width, height and color.

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We had our 58 inch TV monitor, but we couldn’t install it until we had the table, so we knew how high to hang it. It was our version of the chicken and the egg.

Placing The Order

We custom-designed our table to fit our conference room space like a proverbial hand in glove. We chose both the leg style and the leg color. Then came the biggest, and most important choice of all: the color of the surface.

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These six tall stools were anxious to rip their plastic off and meet some new butts.

Surfacing the Surface Color

We saw a model of our table with a white table top. It had a birch pattern to it, and it looked nice. But we picked out a few other color chips that might work as well. On the day we placed the final order I glanced at the sign in our office that says, Think like a rebel. I knew that white wasn’t right.

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We were finally birthing our conference room.  This is where the table began to crown.
Ta Da!  Our high red top table is up and ready for thinkness.
We finally knew the right height to hang our TV. Here you can see the monitor is well hung. The dry erase board, not so much.
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The whiteboard is now up. And we already have several chips on the table top. Potato chips that is.

All of the other rooms in our office have one red wall. It makes a bold statement and adds energy to each room. The ConFro (I just made that up) doesn’t have outside windows. We wanted to keep the walls white and bright to make the room feel bigger. So we used the bright red, high top table to make the room feel like the rest of the office.

Because our table is tall, you can use it in sitting mode, like Britt, or in standing mode, like me.  Is your mind totally blown by this versatility?

The table feels active. The red color energizes the room. The height of the table means you can either perch on the high stools, and feel like you are leaning into a meeting, like at a bar. Or you can stand without looking any odder than you usually do. You can also easily switch between the two positions, if you have ants in your pants.

Conclusion

We love the way our conference room has come together. We love that it offers a great hub for active thinking. We love that we have a tall, red-headed 48 inch by 96 inch table. We love our giant dry erase board for ideating and illustrating. We love having a large TV monitor for presentations, and for watching Netflix while eating lunch. We look forward to adding a few embellishments to the walls. But most of all, we look forward to having your stop by for a think.

*To follow the story of The Weaponry, and to see how this perfect agency project grows and evolves, consider subscribing to this blog.

The most valuable product my business produces shocked me.

In 2016 I left a salaried position with a large, stable advertising agency. I had amassed almost 20 years of experience as an advertising creative. Over the course of my career I had developed a clear vision of what the perfect ad agency looked like. And like Bob The Builder, I believed I could build it.

1 Year Later

A year later my startup ad agency was buzzing with activity. So I joined a CEO roundtable to surround myself with people who knew things I didn’t know. My Council Of Small Business Executives (COSBE) group meets once a month to compare notes, discuss issues and serve as a thought-provoking sounding board.

My Introduction

At the first meeting I attended back in August, the group asked me to take a couple of minutes to talk about me and my business. It was like the introductions you make at an addiction recovery group. You know, ‘My name is Adam, and I am an Ideaholic.’ Welcome brother Adam.

I told the group that my business, an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, had attracted ten clients in the first year. Those clients stretched from Florida to Atlanta, Boston, Montreal, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

Then I dropped this fun, and almost unbelievable footnote:

We did this despite the fact that we were a brand new business with:

  • no logo
  • no business cards
  • no website

The Insight

After I finished my quick overview on my business, the guest speaker that day said something that I will never forget.

‘There is only one way you could build a business like that. People really trust you.’

This guy was a total stranger. We had been in a room together for 15 minutes. Yet he gave me an amazing insight as to why my perfect agency project was working.

I knew I had clients that liked me. I knew they had good experiences with me. I knew that some of them thought I was funny or smart or creative, or perhaps a non-alchoholic cocktail of all three. But the only reason my business stood a chance of succeeding is that people I have worked with in the past, and those I meet today, trust me.

It’s a matter of trust. (Like Billy Joel said)

Trust is the key ingredient of a successful entrepreneur. It is the most valuable product that you will ever deliver to your clients.

  • My clients trust me with their money.
  • They trust me with their confidential information.
  • They trust me with their valuable time.
  • They trust me to reflect positively on their personal reputations.

Key Takeaway

If you want to increase your value to other people, increase your trustworthiness. Do what you say you will do. Deliver what you say you will deliver. Meet the timeline you said you would meet at the price you quoted. Always demonstrate that you’ve heard and care about the concerns of others. You’ll find the rewards far exceed the cost of doing business.

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