When you develop a new business you develop new hope.

I expected that starting my own advertising agency would be hard. I expected long days and late nights. I expected endless challenges. I expected to make mistakes. I expected to forgive myself for not knowing all the things a business owner really should know. I expected to learn and grow along the way. And I expected to use the word expected more than usual in this opening paragraph.

Hard Things Are The Best Things.

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016. And all of the things I expected ahead of time have come true. I have no complaints. Because doing great things should be hard. I am not afraid of hard things. They make me feel alive. Where others get anxious, intimidated or nervous, I get excited. It’s a gift. Or maybe there is something wrong with me. Or both.

The Unexpected

But more and more I am noticing something I didn’t anticipate during the pre-launch phase. I am surprised by the number of former coworkers, clients, friends and acquaintances that have come to me hoping, urging, expecting me to build something great that they could be part of too.

There are a significant number of very talented people who have gotten very close to The Weaponry, and put their names on our wait list, preparing for the next opening or opportunity to develop.

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Sarah Disanza created her own opportunity at The Weaponry, worthy of a whole other post. #Prequel

These are smart people with jobs, and freelancers. Recent graduates and pre-retirees. People who are burned out with their current situation, and fed up with their boss. People who want to feel like they are part of a winning and growing team. People who want a little more excitement in their workday. People who believe that The Weaponry offers the type of work experience they are hungry like the wolf for. And I would like to have all of them on our team.

Under Pressure

So the pressure is on to grow this business. To find out just how many people we can accommodate. We need to see how much demand can we generate. While keeping this business as attractive at scale as it is in miniature, and in the collective minds of both our current team members and those who hope to join us next. That’s a good pressure. Like the pressure Queen and David Bowie were under.

Key Takeaway

When you start something new, anything new, you are creating new hope. Hope for a better job, a better experience, a better resource, and ultimately better products and services. All of which ladder up to hope for a better life. If you can make that happen you have done something really special. That’s exactly why I started the The Perfect Agency Project in the first place.

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You never forget your first income as an entrepreneur.

I am into simple pleasures. As an entrepreneur, one of those simple pleasures is taking checks to the bank and depositing them in person, old school style. I have been doing this since I first launched my business in 2016. It is one of my favorite parts of business ownerships. I find it extremely rewarding. Like a fisherman bringing home his daily catch. Like a farmer hauling the harvest to town. Or a gold prospector showing off his nuggets. #snickering

My Last Bank Run

Friday afternoon I made a run to the bank to deposit some checks I received last week. But what started as a routine trip to the bank became a trip down memory lane. Because as I entered the bank I was hit by the memory of depositing the very first check my business ever received.

You Never Forget Your First

I dreamed of starting my own advertising agency since I first started my career as a young copywriter. Finally, in 2015 I decided to take the proverbial plunge. (Which makes me a proverbial plunger.) From the time I committed to launching my own agency until I legally established The Weaponry LLC and left my job was 7 months. Just 1 month after I launched The Weaponry I received a check for $46,444 made out to The Weaponry LLC. I was amazed. I kept thinking that 1 month earlier The Weaponry didn’t even exist. Now it was about to have $46,000 in the bank.

Show And Tell

I remember going to my bank in Atlanta to deposit the check like it was yesterday. The woman who helped me set up The Weaponry’s business banking accounts just weeks earlier happened to be working that day. I hurried over to her like a proud kid coming home with a great report card and said, ‘Look what I have!’

I showed her the check for $46,000 and her eyes got really big. She said, ‘Wow! That was fast! How do I get in on this business?’

3 Years Later

Fast forward 3 years to last Friday. I walked into another branch of that same bank in Milwaukee. I was thinking about that momentous first check as I approached the counter where I sign my checks before I deposit them. As I pulled out the checks to give them my John ‘Don’t-Call-Me-Herbie’ Hancock, I saw something remarkable on the checks. And it wasn’t the dollar value.

Another Wow

What I noticed was that 2 of the 3 checks I was depositing had logos printed on them that The Weaponry designed. Now we were not just getting paid with checks. Our work was literally on the checks, and on the envelopes in which the checks were mailed.

When I first envisioned The Weaponry I imagined the agency impacting every touchpoint of the brands we worked with. But I hadn’t imagined getting paid for our efforts with checks that had logos on them the we had designed.

These brands were not tiny startups either. One of the checks came from a client of ours who is celebrating their 125th year in business. The other was from a brand owned by one of the best known companies in the world.

I took my time signing the checks as I soaked in the moment. Then I walked up to the teller with a smile even wider than usual. Knowing that The Weaponry is not just making money. We are making an impact on our clients’ businesses.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship, like life, is an exciting journey. It is easy to lose sight of just how much progress you have made along the way. That’s why it is important to recognize those telltale signs that you are growing, building and improving. Keep your eyes open for your own important, yet often subtle signs of progress. They indicate that You have outgrown the You of yesterday. In the end that is all we can really hope for.

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

The valuable skill new entrepreneurs should focus on first.

Being an entrepreneur is like being an astronaut. Not just because they are both weird words. But because both jobs require you to know a little bit about everything. However, no one starts out knowing all the things they need to know. Which means that when you begin your entrepreneurial adventure you start in an uncomfortable, if not vulnerable position. Like astronauts.

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Sometimes entrepreneurship feels this way.

When I first launched The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, I was curious to discover which newly-required skill area would test me the most. Accounting? Contract Law? Human Resources? Dry Erase Board Maintenance? But 3 years later there is one skill I find I need to use more than any other. It’s my humanity.

Honing Humanity

Being a great entrepreneur, first and foremost, requires you to be the best human you can be. Because businesses are not businesses. They are collections of people. To help people be their best you have to listen, understand and care about the issues they are dealing with.

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This picture includes clients, partners and employees. Which are all the basic kinds of humans you need to create a successful business.

Human challenges regularly get in the way of business. That’s simply a fact of life. Entrepreneurs have to be good at working with those challenges. They come from everywhere. From your clients, employees, contractors, vendors and suppliers. Over the past few years I have had the honor or working through a wide variety of human challenges with my teammates, clients and partners.

Human Challenges I Have Worked Through As An Entrepreneur

  • Pregnancy
  • Home Buying
  • Home Selling
  • Mental Illness
  • Balance Issues (real, physical balance, not work-life or checkbook related)
  • Cancer
  • Care for Aging Parents
  • A Desire To Go Back To School
  • Weddings
  • Changes To Hopes and Dreams
  • Surgery
  • Home Power Outages
  • Family Vacations
  • Spousal Job Loss
  • Doctor’s Appointments
  • Major Dental Procedures
  • Drug & Alcohol Testing (which we are required to do for a client)
  • Criminal and Financial Background Checks
  • Sick Children
  • Alzheimers Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Hearing Loss
  • School Events
  • Financial hardships
  • Business failures
  • Lawsuits

Preparing Yourself

Working through these issue doesn’t require an MBA, finance degree or a Wall Street internship. It simply requires you to be a good compassionate and understanding human. It requires you to put people issues before business issues. It requires good listening skills and good problem solving skills. It requires you to be prepared for life to get in the way of business. And to be okay with that.

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Weaponry Humans

My Favorite Part

Still, the humanity is my favorite part of business. It provides a constant reminder that we are people first and clients, employees and contractors second. We work to live. We don’t live to work. At the end of your career you will be remembered more for how you impacted lives than how you impacted products and services.

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Business people having a very human experience.

Key Takeaway

Humans are critical to business success. If you want to create a thriving business you should always put the humans in them first. Because you can’t succeed without them. When you show that you care about the human issues that your team, clients and partners are dealing with, those same people will care even more for you and your shared business in return. So remember the Golden Rule. It’s the most golden entrepreneurial lesson I’ve learned so far.

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

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.

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.