Start seeing the amazing opportunities that surround you.

The movie The Sixth Sense by M. Night Shyamalan has one of the greatest surprise endings of all time. But the only spoiler here is that at the end of the movie you might not be surprised that you are surprised.

There was a famous line from the movie that was delivered by little Haley Joel Osment. You know H-JO. He was Forrest and Jenny’s little boy in Forrest Gump. His classic line from The Sixth Sense is ranked #44 on the American Film Institute‘s list of 100 Movie Quotes.

‘I see dead people.’ – Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment)

Entrepreneurship

Three years ago when I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, I became an entrepreneur. With that role came a mindset change that has enabled me to see things that most people don’t.

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I See On-Ramps.

You have probably wished for an opportunity to start your own business, make a lot of money or accelerate your own career. Most people have. But most people can’t find the path forward. My entrepreneurial mindset enables me to see on-ramps to exciting new opportunities everywhere. Seriously.

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The on-ramps are in the problems you can solve. They are in the people you meet. In the books you read. And the questions you ask. The on-ramps are in the buildings you pass with the For Sale sign out front. The on-ramps are in your taste that people compliment you on. They are in your ability to write, design or photograph. The on-ramps are in the dots you connect. There are more on-ramps than you can count. And new ones appear every day.

Turn On Your Blinker

This week steer yourself onto one of those on-ramps and make something exciting happen. Start writing, planning, thinking, asking, creating, calling, connecting or buying. It is how you begin to take advantage of all of the opportunities that are around you all the time. Opportunities to do what you have always wanted to do.

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This week head for that place you have always wanted to go. But turn around if you hear banjos.

Key Takeaway

Today we start a new week. We also start the second half of the year. Which means that today is a great day to make new progress. So start the things you’ve always wanted to start. Don’t put this off any longer. Take the next onramp you see. You will be amazed at where it takes you.

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

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My inspirational visit to the original Starbucks.

Last Saturday morning I went to Starbucks. A typical Starbucks run is not exactly newsworthy. Or Blogworthy. Or spongeworthy, But this Starbucks trip provided an expresso shot of inspiration for me. Because this wasn’t just any Starbucks. It was the original Starbucks at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

I should mention that I don’t drink coffee. My standard meet-up/networking drink of choice is chocolate milk. I’ll do a venti hot chocolate when my go-to chocolate milk is not on the menu. You know, when I’m slumming it.

But I wasn’t viewing this Starbucks as a meet-up joint. Or a beverage joint. Or even as a tourist attraction. Although clearly it was. I saw the original Starbucks through the eyes of Adam Albrecht, the Founder of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. I evaluated the original Starbucks through the lens of a guy who started a small business and has large ambitions.

The first Starbucks serves as a reminder that we all start small. Because even the biggest brands, companies and cultural pillars begin as a vision. That vision, combined with action, soon becomes a small store, office, shop or stand. And if you just keep taking more steps and more action there is no telling how big your vision can become.

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Raising a cup to Howard Schultz!

Key Takeaway

Even the biggest, most influential businesses start small. The key is having a vision and taking action. We can all do this. There is no magic formula. All you need is a venti vision with a double shot of action, topped with some stick-to-it-ness. That’s how Howard Schultz started Starbucks. And it is how you will start your next big thing.

The one thing you need to have if you want to start a business.

I love a good proverb. It offers a great way to summarize and remember a simple truth. I recently stumbled upon an interesting old Chinese proverb. By stumbling, I mean I found it by accident. Not that I tripped and fell on top of it.

Here it is:

 ‘A Man Without a Smiling Face Must Never Open a Shop’ -Chinese Proverb

This proverb makes me laugh. It isn’t poetic. It lacks the thought-inspiring depth of Confucius. It’s what I would label a very niche-audience proverb. I don’t know if this was intended for the non-smiling crowd, or the maybe-I-will-open-a-shop crowd.

Smiling Is A Requirement

Regardless of how narrow and niche and blunt the proverb is, it is true. Businesses are about human interactions. If you don’t have a smiling face, you can’t show people you are happy to see them. Customers won’t feel welcomed, appreciated or valued. A person without a smiling face creates a poor customer experience. If you can take someone’s money, but can’t give them a smile in return, there will be no repeat business.

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Dr. Demond Means, one of my great clients, loves a good smile!

Make Them Feel Good

This proverb is a great reminder about the doors that open when we smile. Smiling makes you magnetic, pleasant and warm. Smiling make others feel good. And customers will pay a premium for that feeling. Customers and clients have a wide range of options to choose from. They will always go where they feel welcomed and appreciated. And a smile makes them feel both.

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My client Mike Bortolotti likes smiling. Smiling is his favorite.

Smiling Is a Customer Magnet

When I was young I spent a few valuable Saturdays working at a concession booth at a stadium. I smiled the whole time. It was clear that by smiling I gave the crowd walking past the impression that I was happy to see them. Which made them more likely to approach the booth. I’ll never forget that lesson. As a result I sold a lot of foam fingers.

Be A Good Host

As a business owner you must always put the customer first. You must be a good host. By putting a smile on your face you attract customers and keep them coming back over and over again.

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My clients Tarun, Payal, Nina and Jake like to see me and Adam ‘Henry’ Emery smile, even in India.

Resting Smile Face

Smiling is my default. I don’t put a lot of thought into it. Because I don’t have to. I am sure that my naturally smiley nature has been an important factor in my entrepreneurial success. I want to make my clients’ interactions with The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, the most enjoyable part of their day. And by the looks on their faces, it often is.

Key Takeaway

If you can’t put a smile on your face you can’t be an entrepreneur. Because if you can’t put a smile on your own face you certainly won’t be able to put one on anyone else’s. Customers have options. In the age of online commerce, one of the greatest reasons to enter a shop is to see a smiling face that is happy to help you. Offer a smiling face to every customer you see. And you are likely to see them over and over again.

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

It’s my birthday! Time for 5 new goals.

Today, May 25th, is my birthday. I consider my birthday the most important day of my life. Seriously. If it wasn’t for my birthday I doubt I’d have a wedding anniversary. Or kids. Or my birthday suit. Or a blog.

The Real New Year’s Day

I think of my birthday, not New Year’s Day, as the starting point of my year. And this year I am focused on some very important goals. Or as a Mexican soccer announcer would say, I have some ‘Muy Importante Gooooooooooals!’

My 5 Goals For The Next Year

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Me at work with my favorite saying.

1. Get More Aggressive.  Recently I’ve done more leaping and less looking. I’ve taken several premature steps forward on initiatives rather than taking the time to properly prepare, and consider all of the possible outcomes. The results have been impressive. By simply moving forward when I get an inkling I am creating more progress than I do when I carefully consider my options. So in the year ahead, less thinking. More doing. Or as Toby Keith said, a little less talk and a lot more action.

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 I remember being excited to hit 200 blog posts. That was almost 100 posts ago. Art credit goes to Intern Ava.

2. Write more.  I already write like I am Orville and Wilbur’s third brother. But in the year ahead I have goals to crank my typewriter up to 11. In addition to this blog that I post to 3 times per week, I now have 3 book ideas started. I also met with a couple of magazine publishers yesterday about writing a regular piece for their pub. (That’s slang for publication. I am not writing for an Irish bar.) How did this opportunity come about?  I got aggressive and contacted them on an impulse, before I really thought it through. (See Goal #1)

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I launched my first business with my cousin Brooks Albrecht. Now we’re discussing other ideas.

3. Create Another Business. There is something about entrepreneurship that is like Pringles. Because once you pop, you can’t stop. I have 3 leading business ideas I am currently working through. One involves cheese. (#WhenInWisconsin…) One is a franchise opportunity (not to be confused with a french fry opportunity). And the other involves fo real estate. (#forealdo). Of course I have other ideas that get added to the list daily. So I want to bring at least one of the ideas to life in the next year. But no matter which one wins, I want to eat more cheese.

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The stud in the middle is my man Enrique Perez-Guerra, my college athletic trainer. We reconnected recently after 20 years. My teammate Scott Brinen and I now video conference with each other once a month.

4. Become A Greater Connector. I am a dot connector. It is how I process the world. I love creating, maintaining and facilitating connections. This is my most meaningful contribution to the people in my circles. Because at the end of our days the only thing that really matters is the impact we have on each other’s lives. Wait, did that just get real serious, real fast? #crickets

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My family on the Riverwalk in San Antonio during Fiesta.

5. More Quality Time With Family. I put my family at the top of the list of people I want to connect with. Like the meatball on top of spaghetti. My family includes my wife, Dawn and children Ava, Johann and Magnus. But it also includes my parents, sisters and their families. As well as my very large extended family. Especially now that I am about to make my first lap around the sun without any grandparents. Which means my generation needs to prioritize and facilitate our gatherings now that my 4 grandparents are sitting together at the great card table in the sky.

Key Takeaway

Birthdays are important. They serve as an annual reminder of the scarcity of time. To make the most of each year, reevaluate what is most important to you on your birthday. Set new and higher goals and expectations. Then charge forward to meet them. It’s how we create a life worth writing about. Which, if I’m lucky, would be book number 4.

My Birthday Wish

If you want to do me a special free favor on my birthday, please subscribe to get this blog gift wrapped and delivered to your inbox. It would really mean a lot to me. The subscribe button is on the home page.

*Also, Happy Birthday to my sister Heather. Yes we share a birthday. No we’re not twins. #howweirdisthat

What to do when you realize your greatest limitation is you.

Planning the launch of your own business is one of life’s most enjoyable experiences. From the day you first start thinking about your new company until you actually open for business you are living on Fantasy Island with Tattoo and Mr. Roarke. On the island you create an ideal vision of your fully formed business. You should dream big. Because ginormous dreams cost exactly the same as itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot dreams. And that dream you create during the planning phase is the blueprint for the reality.

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Everything changes when you leave Fantasy Island on da plane.

Reality

But the moment you open for realsies, your business will face an unavoidable limitation. And that limitation is You. When you are an entrepreneur your business is only as good as you are.

I have been thinking about that since 2016 when I first launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency. Knowing that you are the great limiter is a scary motivator.  It means your business will either be forever limited by who you were and what you knew when you first launched. Or it means you have to continuously push yourself to get better so that your business can too. I have chosen the second option.

Let It Grow. Let it Grow.

I have chosen to grow. As a result, I am on a high knowledge diet. I am constantly seeking books, magazines and blogs that grow my knowledge and perspective. I am listening to podcasts. I am meeting with other entrepreneurs, both informally and in formal meet ups (although never in formal wear).

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I’m trying to grow my brain. (Extra points for anyone who knows where this pic was taken).

I am learning. And getting better. Although I feel as if I have no choice. Because only the growing entrepreneur can grow a business. And as Andy Grove, the famed CEO of Intel once said, ‘Only the paranoid survive.’ (But remember, you need 2 noids to be considered paranoidal).

Righting Wrongs

I am also learning from my mistakes. I am identifying flaws in my thinking, and gaps in my knowledge, and addressing them like Gettysburg. It forces me to be both honest and self aware (but not a werewolf #MichaelJFox).  You have to know your strengths and use them. You have to know your weaknesses, and hire great people with strengths you don’t have.

Key Takeaway

You are your own greatest limitation. This is true for entrepreneurship, relationships and most other kinds of ships. But you have an endless opportunity for improvement. It simply takes a growth mindset. Read, ask questions, study and learn. End each day a little smarter than you started. Seek feedback. And use that to help create a better plan, a better business and a better you. Because once you leave the fantasy world your success depends on it.

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

10 important lessons from my 3rd year of entrepreneurship.

I always wanted to start my own advertising agency. So on April 12th, 2016 I went online and officially registered The Weaponry LLC. I then marched over to another website where I got a federal tax ID number. I surfed over to a Capital One’s website, where I applied for a Visa Spark Card, because my friend Dan Richards recommended that credit card for business. Finally, I headed to the bank to set up a business checking and savings account for The Weaponry. And just like that, I had birthed a business.

The Hard Part

Setting up a business is easy. Any teenager can do it. The hard part is building a machine that will feed, clothe and shelter you and your family. It’s even harder to feed, clothe and shelter additional employees and their dependents. That’s why I am so proud The Weaponry is celebrating its 3rd birthday! We have doubled our business in the past year. And thankfully, I am not naked, starving or homeless.

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Working with Olympic Gold Medalist Blake Pieroni for Mizuno. He’s the one without the hat. Apparently swimmers where hats enough in the pool.

Momentum

The 3rd birthday is a fun milestone to reach. Just as each wedding anniversary is represented by a different gift (Honey I got you a new sponge!), each business birthday represents something unique. The first birthday is the ‘We’re really doing this!’ birthday. The second is the ‘We’re still alive!’ birthday. And the third is the ‘Now we’re rolling!’ birthday.

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On set, showing Olympic Gold Medalist Jennie Finch my disappearing water bottle trick.

Indeed, The Weaponry is rolling. This past year has been exciting for our team.

A Few Highlights:

  • We hired more full-time and part-time staff.
  • We renewed our lease on our first office in Milwaukee.
  • We opened a new office in Columbus, Ohio.
  • We worked with President Jimmy Carter.
  • We worked with Olympic Gold Medalists Jennie Finch and Blake Pieroni.
  • Members of our team experienced work traveled to Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington DC, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, California, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
  • We had our first International shoot, on the other side of the world, in India.
  • A fun experience was had by all.
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Me and some of the ladies in red!

Client Roster

In the last 12 months we have worked with 23 Clients! Who works with 23 clients? I guess The Weaponry does.

Saying Yes!

Our broad and diverse client roster reminds me of one of my favorite things about being a business owner: I get to say yes to anything I am interested in doing. As result we have a fun mix of large, medium and small clients. Just as crop rotation keeps farm fields producing at their best, the variety of industries we play in keeps our team fresh and stimulated with a constant stream of new and varied challenges.

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Our team working with our friends at Safelite Autoglass. Did you know  they both repair, and replace?

10 Lessons From My 3rd Year of entrepreneurship.

As I reflect on this past year I have gathered a few key lessons I’ve learned. Here they are in a particular order.

  1. People make all the difference. A business is nothing but a collection of people running plays together. So find great people to run great plays and you are likely to experience great success.
  2. Slow and steady wins the race. At The Weaponry we are trying to build a business that lasts forever. You make different decisions when your goal is to survive eternally instead of generating hockey stick growth or making a quick sale.
  3. Do the important but not urgent work. Maintain your human relationships and invest time and energy in them. This will pay you back in a wide variety of rewarding ways.
  4. Diversify your clients. With so many different clients we are well-balanced financially. All of our clients are important to us. None of them are critical to our survival.
  5. Nothing is sure. We signed a large monthly retainer with a new client last summer, only to deal with a major reorganization within their business that changed everything one month later. I received a ‘This is your official notice that we are activating our right to cancel this agreement!’ from someone I didn’t know. Those things can happen at anytime.
  6. You never know when you are going to get the next opportunity of a lifetime. I got a random but welcomed call one day from my good friend Dennis Giglio at Fifth Third Bank, telling me that he had a project he wanted us to work on, and that there was a good chance we would have to go to India to shoot part of it. He was right. And it was amazing. Thank you Fifth Third and SLK Global friends for the opportunity!

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    Working with our friends at Fifth Third Bank and SLK Global in India.
  7. Set Your Sights High. The Weaponry has Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, and they force us to grow. I share our goals with our team in every agency-wide meeting. And despite the largeness of the goals, or perhaps because of them, I can always see the team focus, and lean in when we restate them. Everyone knows what we are after. We all know that we have a lot of work to do to close the gap between where we are today and our idealized, fully formed version of ourselves. And we are willing to do the work to get there.
  8.  Use A System For Growth. We use the EOS System from the book Traction by Gino Wickman. It makes a huge difference. If you are struggling to make satisfying progress with either a startup or a fully formed business, pick up this book and start the EOS Process. Setting quarterly rocks helps a business focus on continually moving the business forward. (This has been an unpaid endorsement of the book Traction. You can find it by clicking here.)
  9. Make Cash Flow plans This past year The Weaponry was owed a lot of money. For several months we carried an accounts receivable balance of over $700,000. Which meant that we had performed that much work, had paid what it cost us to create the work, but were not yet paid by our clients. You have to have a plan for such times. Because a business that runs out of cash is like a car that runs out of gas, or a human that runs out of blood.
  10. Develop Great Partners  Over the past year other businesses that we partner with on projects have brought great new clients to us. This is a total game changer. Because it is like having an additional business development team, or multiple business development teams bringing you opportunities. Sometimes it comes in the form of a collaboration. But other times the work comes simply as a trusted referral. And it works like compounded interest. Which is why you should compound your interest in great partners.

Key Takeaway

The Weaponry continues to grow. I am learning and growing just as much as the business. I have not done any of this alone. My fellow Weapons have been key to our success. As has the growing list of great clients we are lucky to work with. Thank you for following the story or being part of the story as it unfolds. It’s been an exciting adventure. I look forward to what the next year brings!

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