The really easy way to pay people over the table.

Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business? I have. It’s easy to dream about the fun you would have being in charge. It’s fun to dream of a cool company name, the bazillion dollars you would make, and the crazy company benefits you would offer. #EveryoneGetsAPony

The Details

But on the other side of the dream are the details. It is the details of owning and running your own business that scare most people away. And the more people you have in your organization the more details there are to figure out. That’s why so many people decide to simply freelance, or become consulting cowboys and cowgirls, rather than deal with the complexities or paying other people.

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Look how serious this dude is about taking care of business!

I have seen far too many freelancers, consultants and business-of-one types become so fearful of hiring additional help that they hurt their own business and limit their own income. They never take advantage of opportunities for larger projects. And they never scale up. Because they don’t know how to handle employees, freelancers, contractors or outside vendors. And that’s a real shame.

The Weaponry

When I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I had a dream. #MLKJr I dreamed of growing The Weaponry into a large, amazing organization. Which meant that we needed to be able to easily add to our team. Luckily for us, there has never been a better time in history to launch a business. Because there are so many digital resources to enable you to easily do big businessy things as a small startup.

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Some of The Weapons.

Quickbooks

We use Quickbooks to run our accounting. It makes it hyper-easy to create and send estimates and invoices. It allows us to track our accounts payable and accounts receivable. We can see our profit and losses anytime. We link Quickbooks to our bank accounts and credit cards. And it makes it easy to track everything.

Paying People

One of the challenges a business owner must be able to handle is paying the people who perform work for the business. Some business owners decide to pay people under the table. This typically means you pay them in cash to avoid officially tracking the payment. Which means no one has to report the payments or the income to the IRS or state or local taxing agencies.

But this is not how real businesses operate. If you want to have a legitimate business, which you should, you pay people real wages, report the payments and income legitimately, and pay the appropriate taxes and withholdings. (Cue the national anthem and soaring eagle.)

Gusto

Making all of your payments legally and correctly is actually really easy. We use a great payment app called Gusto. Every time we hire an employee, freelancer, contractor or vendor, we set them up on Gusto.

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Here’s how it works:

  • Individuals enter their social security numbers.
  • Businesses enter their tax ID numbers.
  • Everyone enters their address.
  • Everyone enters a bank account where they want their payment directly deposited.
  • Everybody Wang Chungs tonight.

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Trust The Process

We then process all of our payments through Gusto. And it works like magic. Based on factors like location and type of work performed (employee vs contractor vs vendor), it knows what type of payment needs to be made. I think it even knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.

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Gusto automatically figures out taxes, social security, unemployment insurance, workers comp details and the types of things that would otherwise keep you awake at night wondering why you decided to start your own business.

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Dream Team

Together, Gusto and Quickbooks, along with our accountant, Sally Bretsch, make our accounting one of the least stressful parts of owning my business. We have an easy-to- follow system for onboarding employees, contractors, clients and vendors. We get people set up quickly and we pay them on time. All of the difficult calculations happen automatically. And we spend more time doing the important work that helps us grow our business and keep our clients happy, like Pharrell Williams.

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The Price Is Right

The fee structure is simple. You pay a small monthly fee. And then you pay a small, increment cost per-person-you-pay-through-the-system each month. It is highly affordable and totally worth the sanity it preserves.

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A Great Time To Sign Up

Recently, my friend Dr. Theresa Pride, who owns a great business in Atlanta called Pride Physique Pilates and Physical Therapy told me she was going to switch to Gusto based on my recommendation. She asked me if there was a referral code she could enter to make sure Gusto knew I sent her. I looked in my email and sure enough, right now Gusto offers a referral bonus to both the referrer and the referree (that could be you you).

Here’s the information:

  1. Use the referral link: https://gusto.com/e/adam1529 by January 31, 2020 to sign up.
  2. My email associated with the account is still my startup-stage email: adamralbrecht@gmail.com (not my I-started-up email which is adam@theweaponry.com)
  3. When you run your first paid payroll, you’ll get a $200 Amazon gift card. And I will get a $200 Amazon gift card, too.

 Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to start a business. Don’t be afraid to hire contractors, employees or vendors. Gusto makes it easy to pay everyone you work with over the table, tax compliant, like a real, legitimate business. And because you don’t have to worry that you are paying people the right way you’ll have more time to think about the real business of your business. Which is what you have dreamed about from the beginning.

*If you know someone who owns, or would like to own their own business, please consider sharing this with them. #ThatsALotOfOwnsInOneSentence

Are you disappointed enough in yourself to do something about it?

I love being an entrepreneur. After spending the first 19 years of my career working for ad agencies owned by other people I decided to start my own. That was almost 4 years ago. It was also a leap year. Which is a good year to do anything because it gives you a 24 hour advantage. I tell this to presidential candidates and olympic hopefuls all the time.

The Reaction

Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, people often treat me like I am doing something impressive. Or daring. They are positive and supportive of my entrepreneurial adventure. I often hear from people who want to launch their own business. They tell me I was really brave to set out on my own. But when I analyze the driving force behind my leap into entrepreneurship it was not bravery. Not even close.

Ambition

I wanted to own my business since the beginning of my career. I envisioned myself as a business owner or business launcher-type-guy. Whatever that meant. In fact, in my head it was so clear that I would be an entrepreneur that after 15 years of working for other people I considered myself a failure for not actually being a real entrepreneur.

Disappointment for the win!

Eventually, it was the disappointment, and  sense of dissatisfaction in myself that finally moved things forward. Don’t get me wrong, I like myself. But I have a strong vision of my ideal self. And whenever I am not acting in accordance with that vision, or I am too far off the pace I set in my head, I really bothers me. And that disappointment and embarrassment is a powerful fuel. One we should guzzle regularly.

Disappointment (Is better den dat appointment)

Most people never become so disappointed in themselves that it propels them forward. But that is extremely valuable. An injury to your pride is one of the best things that can happen to you. You don’t have to become a prostitute or a heroin addict. Because there is a point of diminishing returns. You just need to be incongruent with your self perception. That feeling eventually pushes you forward like the other side of the magnet.

Key Takeaway.

Create a strong image of who you really are at your core. Write a glorious story about yourself in your head. Make it vivid and real. Think about it all the time. And eventually you will get so fed up with not being that version of yourself that you will take drastic measures. It’s in those drastic measures that the magic happens. And when you do you will feel remarkably alive. Like you are no longer coasting through life. I hope that happens to you. Here’s to you experiencing disappointment in motivating quantities in 2020.

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

Why you should get comfortable starting over at zero.

I grew up in the small town of Norwich, Vermont. There were about 3,500 people in town. I knew many of those 3,500. And many of them knew me. After graduating from high school I left Norwich for the University of Wisconsin. The student population was 43,000. That is nearly 40,000 more people than lived in my hometown. Heck, it was more people than lived in the biggest city in my home state. #BurlingtonIsNotBurly

Alone

On my first day of school I moved from class to class within a massive sea of students. Between classes the sidewalks on campus in Madison were as packed as the sidewalks in Manhattan. And as I hustled my bustle through the crowds, I didn’t see a single face I knew. It was really weird.

On the 3rd day of classes, walking across campus from Bascom Hall to the chemistry building I saw someone I knew. One familiar face among the 10s of thousands crisscrossing campus (making you jump, jump). I was so excited that I remember telling people about it that night back at the dorms.

The next day I saw 3 people I knew while walking around campus. It was amazing. The day after that I saw 5 people. I was so excited. The day after that I stopped counting.

The Shift

Within the first month of school I saw people I knew everywhere I went. By my sophomore year I felt like I knew everyone on campus. And by my junior year I felt like 43,000 students were not enough.

The Gym

I was reminded of this story yesterday morning when I went to the health club that my family belongs to. We joined when we first moved to Milwaukee from Atlanta. The first day I worked out there I didn’t know anyone. In fact, I did’t talk to anyone at the club for the first 2 months. Despite the fact that I wore both normal clothes and deodorant.

But yesterday club-goers stopped to talk to me before I got to the locker room. I saw friends on the way to the weight room. Other people I knew stopped by to say hi when I was on the elliptical trainer. And while I was lifting weights. And on the way back to the locker room. What a difference that was from my first 2 months.

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship works the same way. You have to be willing to start over at zero. With no clients. No employees. And none of the stuff you took for granted before. But when those clients or customers finally show up you value them more than you could ever imagine.

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry in 2016. Today we have 19 clients. And I couldn’t appreciate them more. Because I remember when I had no clients at all.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to start over at zero. Don’t be afraid to move, or join a new club, class, church or volunteer organization where you don’t know anyone. Don’t be afraid of that new town, new job or new career. Knowing no one is not the end of the world. It is the beginning of a new one. Starting at zero is the start of something exciting. And nothing makes you value what you have more than starting again at zero.

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

Want amazing success? Do what long jumpers do.

The long jump is one of my favorite track and field events. Not only is it one of the most entertaining, aside from the 100-meter dash, it is the easiest for a non-participant to relate to.

Real Life Applications

Long jumping may also be one of the most useful skills in track and field. Imagine you are visiting Hawaii on vacation and a crack in the Earth opens up between you and your coconut drink. It would be really useful to be able to jump over the fissure and save your drink. I think that happened to Carl Lewis once.

My Rockstar Jumpers

I was lucky to be a part of the track and field team at the University of Wisconsin. And I had some teammates who were really good at the long jump. Here is a list of the notable Badger long jump marks when I was in school.

  • Sonya Jenson: 19 feet 11 inches
  • Heather Hyland: 20 feet 5 inches
  • Jeremy Fischer: 24 feet 8 inches
  • Maxwell Seales: 25 feet 2 inches
  • Reggie Torian: 26 feet 2 inches.

To fully appreciate how good these marks are simply go out in your yard and see how far you can long jump today.

There are 4 things to love about the long jump.

1. The crowd clap.  The crowd watching a meet will often start clapping in unison to motive a jumper. The claps get faster and faster as they speed down the runway. I wish someone did this for me at work as I filled out my time sheets.

2. The run: It is fun watching a jumper accelerate towards the takeoff board. It’s kind of like the countdown for a rocket launch.

3. The jump itself: There is something primal and childlike about watching a human fly through the air self-propelled. It is pure fun. It reminds me of my adventures as a kid, jumping over creeks and jumping into piles of hay, hay, hay, like Fat Albert.

4. The landing (or what I would have called the sanding): What goes up must come down. Watching the jumper hit the ground again, usually in a spray of sand, is good dirty fun.

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Will Claye is one of the best long jumpers and triple jumpers on the planet. He is coached by my college teammate at the University of Wisconsin, and very close friend, Jeremy ‘Shakes’ Fischer.

The Part Most People Overlook.

My favorite part of the long jump actually happens before any of that. It happens as a part of the competition day preparation that most people pay no attention to at all.

A long  jumper doesn’t just show up at the track, walk onto the runway, and start jumping. Instead, they have to find their starting point. To do that they have to start at the end. They go to the takeoff board, and then work their way back from there to determine where they should actually begin their approach.

Finding The First Step

Some jumpers will stand on the takeoff board itself, with their back to the sandpit, and then run down the track, away from the takeoff point, counting their steps, to find their starting point.

Other jumpers use a tape measure. They set the end of the tape at the takeoff board and unreel it until they get to their preordained measurement. Then they mark that point on the runway as their starting point.

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Former Badger jumper, Jeremy ‘Shakes’ Fischer now teaches athletes to jump at an Olympic level.

Know Where You Want To End

There is magic in that process that everyone can benefit from. Because the long jumper starts at the end of the run, the most critical point in the process, and then figures out, to the inch, where they need to start to hit that point perfectly. In long jumping, if you step past the board your jump is no good. And every millimeter you are short of the board doesn’t count towards your jump. (Notice how I mixed English and metric measurement systems? That because I am bi-numeric. Which is like being bi-lingual, but not with linguals).

My Entrepreneurial Leap

Before I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I did the same thing long jumpers do. I put myself at the launch, imagining in great detail what my flight would look like once I finally jumped. Then I determined all the of the steps I would need to take in order to launch myself properly.

I figured out how much time it would take me to create everything I needed to create. I put a mark down. Then I started running, accelerating towards the launch point the whole time.

Purposeful Steps

All of my steps have been purposeful to get me the results I am after. It took me 8 months of planning from the time I decided to launch The Weaponry until I was open for business. 3 years later, The Weaponry is a multi-million dollar business and climbing rapidly. Just like I planned.

Key Takeaway

To achieve great things, start with the end in mind. Then work backwards from there. Because when you know your direction, your steps, and your takeoff point, you’ll go as far as you can possibly go. It’s all in the preparation. So put yourself in the best position to succeed. Start today by focusing on the end first. I’ll be clapping for you the whole way.

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

This is what a smart startup looks like.

Entrepreneurship is full of difficult decisions. Especially in the beginning. In fact, the decisions you make about expenditures early on determine whether your organization lives or dies. It sound dramatic. Like a commercial for the business board game Go! Gordon Gekko Go! But it’s the truth.

I have always been financially conservative. I believe leadership’s #1 responsibility is to keep the business alive forever. That’s why I have hired slowly, expanded slowly and invested slowly.

At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, we have bootstrapped everything. Which means that we have paid for everything ourselves. No outside investors. No loans. No crowdfunding. No Ponzi scheme.

We started with the free version of every app and software until we knew it was worthwhile to upgrade. We made our first 3 desks out of countertops and legs we purchased at a used office furniture store. And we commuted to work uphill both ways.

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Yep, I made that desk out of found parts. And it works as well as the most expensive desk you can buy.

 Office Space

When I first launched The Weaponry I waited a year and a half until I decided we could afford an office. In hindsight I feel like I nailed that decision. Because we didn’t over commit in the early months when we were most fragile. We didn’t assume that our rate of growth was predictable or sustainable.

Cautionary Tale

I recently heard about another agency that launched the same time as The Weaponry. It just shuttered one of their 2 offices and laid off all but 1 employee in the other. (By shuttered I mean that they closed it, not that they added fancy, yet extraneous exterior window treatments).

The agency had invested and expanded aggressively. Too aggressively to sustain. Watching them establish beautiful offices with enviable appointments made me jealous. But it also made me concerned for them. Because those investments made them vulnerable. And of all the abilities your business can have, vulnerability is among the least appealing.

Doing It Right

Last month I saw an office that I absolutely loved. It was the office of an early stage human resources company. It had 4 desks in a space half the size of my bedroom. The density of  humanity in that office equated to a very dense return on the investment in the space.

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This is where my friend Amy Fallucca grew her human resources business, Bravent, into a thriving organization before moving it into a large fancy-pants space.

 

Idea of the Day

Calculate how much revenue you earn per square foot of office space. It is a much better way to think about your space than cost per square foot.

Key Takeaway

When considering office space for a small or new business think of the Tiny House movement. Consider the minimum space you need, not the max you can afford. Put the rest of the money you save in the bank as an insurance policy for future downturns and slow periods. Because they are likely to come. And you will be prepared when they do.

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

3.5 years after The Weaponry launched we finally have a real website.

When I first started telling people that I was launching my own business they asked, ‘Is your website up yet?’ I quickly realized that many people consider having a business website actually having a business. I also realized that startups that begin with a website, rather than a business development plan, struggle like Muggles at Hogwarts.

Creating A Business

Instead of focusing on building a website, we focused on building a business. We were creating an advertising and idea agency. And we named it The Weaponry. We started by meeting with marketers, asking about their unmet needs, and then creating services to meet those needs. #WeAllHaveNeeds

Building the Machine

We focused on finding great people to work on our team. We developed repeatable processes and procedures that enabled us to deliver great results. We developed the machinery that enabled us to find new clients. We implemented customer service standards that kept those clients coming back. And we honed our accounting operation to make sure that cash flowed through the business to keep the organization healthy and its people paid.

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Some of The Weapons.

Shiny Happy People

As a result, we developed a strong foundation of happy customers. We developed a strong group of business partners and collaborators who loved working with us. And that created a problem.

Losing Out On Brand Champions

We were developing brand champions who didn’t have an easy way to champion us. Because clients who loved working with us, and partners who loved working alongside us would want to recommend us to others. But the only website they could reference to promote us was a joke website we created that featured Laverne and Shirley from the TV show by the same name.

The NonWebsite

I loved not having a real website. It was rebellious and provocative. I loved that we built a multi-million dollar business without a website, by focusing on old fashion business development and maintenance.

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One of The Weaponry’s rockstar clients, Nicole Hallada of AEM.

But I hated the fact that people who loved The Weaponry didn’t have an easy way to promote, endorse or recommend us. In fact, we made our biggest fans look looney when they did tell others about us and had to note that we didn’t have a website, or at least a real website.

I’m Gonna Make A Change, For Once In My Life.

The realization that we were not helping those who were trying to help us was the reason we decided to create a real website for The Weaponry.

TheWeaponry.com

Today, I am excited to announce that TheWeaponry.com is a totally legit website.

  • You can now find out why our name is The Weaponry.
  • You can learn about our 3 Pillars of Success.
  • You can check out the What We Do section to see if it is what you are looking for.
  • You can see photos of our offices.
  • You can find out who we work with, and where those clients are.
  • You can see work.
  • You can see our team members, and you can read their not-too-serious bios.
  • You can submit request for information or more conversation.
  • You can find our contact info, office locations and ways to socialize with us.
  • You can tell us if you like Pina Coladas.

I invite you to check out the site at theweaponry.com and see it all for yourself. And if you look hard enough you still may find Laverne & Shirley.

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Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to do things your own way. But recognize when it limits your growth.  This is true in your personal life, and in business. If you want to launch your own startup remember that building a business is more important than building a website. But once you have fans you should make it easy for them to evangelize for you. Can I get an Amen?

There was a lot of thought that went into our decision to not have a real website. I wrote about that thought in these posts:

The story of our crazy website. Part 1: What is this?

Our unconventional website, Part 2: 7 Reasons we don’t have a real website.

 

How to make your dream business real.

Every business starts off as an idea, dream, or vision. You probably have a great business idea lounging in your brain right now. Or maybe you have a conglomerate-worth of business ideas up in your noggin. What entrepreneurs know that others don’t is that businesses are just ideas that someone decided to make real by simply living into their dream.

My Dream

In the summer of 2015 my cousin Brooks Albrecht and I started talking about opening our own advertising agency. And the first step was really fun. Because all we had to do was dre-E-E-E-eam, dream, dream, dream. There are absolutely no constraints, no budget limitations, and no reality check at all in this phase. Just ideas and fantasies.

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The E-Myth

Brooks and I bought and devoured copies of The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. (It was delicious). Then we followed the book’s advice. We wrote down all the details we dreamed up about the business, its processes, procedures and culture. We thought about all the crazy things our business would have. Like Thinking Showers and Thinking Beds, because those are where people come up with many of their best ideas. And I wanted my imaginary HR director to have something real to worry about. #AmIRight

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Read this book.

Impractical Jokers

The whole thing was just a dream. And totally impractical. I lived in Atlanta and Brooks lived in Seattle. Yet we kept calling each other late at night to talk more about our fake little advertising agency. We were playing business, like kids play house. Which is to say we were grown(ish) men, imagining and pretending. But through all that pretending we seemed to have envisioned and imagined everything. And this ad agency we were pretending we owned seemed totally real to us. Like realer than Real Deal Holyfield.

What If…

We could have stopped right there. We could have told our friends, family and professional network that we had thought of a great agency idea. Like so many of my coworkers had done. And we would have wondered for the rest of our lives what would have happened to that idea had we brought it to life, like Pinocchio, Frankenstein, or that hot chick from Weird Science.

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Don’t Stop, Get it, Get it.

But we didn’t stop at the dream, the vision, or even the janky police sketches we made of the business. We took the next step. And we told people what we were trying to do. And we talked to potential clients as if the business really existed. Because in our heads it totally did.

Then, one day, we decided to go online and register The Weaponry LLC as a legal business entity for $120. And the business got realer.

Then we sent for a federal tax ID number. And it got realer.

Then we opened a bank account and transferred $16,000 into it. And it got realer.

Then I took the day off of work, and flew to Boston to spend the day working with our first customer, Global Rescue. And shit got really real. Because Dan Richards, Global Rescue’s CEO and one of my best friends in the world, told me he needed what The Weaponry offered.

It’s Getting Realer!

Throughout the fall of 2015 and the spring of 2016 my favorite line to Brooks was, ‘It’s getting realer!’ Because that is exactly what was happening. The business I dreamed up was becoming realer every day. Because Brooks and I believed it into being. And this little figment of my imagination literally became a business because we pretended it was a business. And like visionaries and people suffering from serious mental illness, we could no longer separate reality from fantasy.

Soon, perfectly sane humans started referring to The Weaponry as if it was a real thing. Or even better than the real thing. #U2  In meetings people introduced me as ‘Adam Albrecht, from The Weaponry.’ And suddenly real business were working with The Weaponry. And it just got realer and realer and realer.

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I’m just living the dream.

Today

It has been 4 years since Brooks and I started dreaming about our advertising agency. And things keep getting realer. We have offices in Milwaukee and Columbus. We have 17 clients from coast-to-coast. Yesterday I saw advertisements The Weaponry created on TV, on billboards, on my mobile device, and on my computer. I saw packaging we created at the grocery store last night. I saw a trade show booth we designed. And I saw logos we designed for our clients on Facebook and Instagram. And the dream felt realer than ever.

Key Takeaway

Don’t just dream your dreams. Make them real. Envision your vision. Then live into it. Don’t quit your job. Just take one step forward. Taking that first step makes it realer. Then take another step. And another. And another.

Before you know it other people will call your made up idea by name. Fiction will become reality. Because a business is just a made up idea that someone began treating as if it was real. That’s all it takes. If you have a dream to create a business, organization, event, product or service, all you need to do is live into it. And it will get realer than you ever imagined it could.

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