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.

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

Establishing a new business was much simpler before Al Gore invented the interwebs. You just established your legal entity with your state. You received a tax ID number from the federal government. Then, you got yourself a phone number from Ma Bell and listed it in something our forefathers called The Yellow Pages. Then you sat back and let your customers’ fingers do the walking across their phones to your business. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

It’s A Different World

In 2016, when I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, things were very different. The Yellow Pages were effectively extinct. Because the Google and its band of digital buddies changed everything. Suddenly, you were expected to build a website that told the world everything it wanted to know about your business.

A High Degree Of Difficulty

For most new business creating a website is really hard. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the Bob Villa skills to build their own website. At least nothing that looks like a website you would want your business to live in. Of course you can hire someone else to design your website. But that can involve more expense than most bootstrapped startups can pay when they have no revenue.

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Apparently this guy really loves to drink D- rum.

Marching To An Offbeat Drummer

The Weaponry decided to do things differently. We created a fun and frivolous, if not totally fricken random website at The Weaponry.com. The first headline visitors read says, ‘Am I in the right place?’ And the first body copy on the site reads, ‘This is not a legit website’. At least visitors can’t say we didn’t warn them. The main image on our home page is of Laverne and Shirley from the sitcom Laverne & Shirley. I wrote in detail about the site in The story of our crazy website. Part 1: What is this?.

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Give them any rule they’ll break it.

More Thought Than You Think

While it appears that we were just trying to be funny when we created our website there was actually a lot of thought put into the decision to create such an unconventional site. And here’s the rationale.


The 7 Reason The Weaponry doesn’t have a real website.

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1. Our website is not our business.

I have met far too many entrepreneurs and non-trepreneurs who spent all of their critical, early effort thinking about their website. They spun their wheels and delayed the real work of establishing a new business until the website was complete. Which stole far too much of their valuable time when the business was still in its veal stage.

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see startups make. Instead of focussing on your website, focus on business development. Work on your network. Work on your processes and procedures. Work on your product or service. All of those things are far more valuable to your growth and long term viability than a website. Don’t fool yourself. A polished website is merely a placebo that makes you feel as if you have a real, viable business.

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2. All agency websites looked the same.

Agencies love to puff about how creative and different they are. But the sites all say the same thing, which betrays the statement. If you are really different, and think different, do different. Our illegitimate website is nothing if not different. It helps us stand out. Which is the first order of business in marketing.

3. We didn’t start out with creative work to show.

Advertising agencies deal in the currency of ideas and creativity. In the beginning we didn’t have ideas that were born and raised at The Weaponry to share. I didn’t want to feature work that wasn’t conceived, gestated and birthed at The Weaponry. But agency websites that don’t show creative work feel as if the are covering something up. So we decided to avoid creative work altogether by not revealing anything.

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Now we have creative work to show.
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Like this.
Dreams Come True copy
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And this.

4. Our website is meant for prospective employees. Not clients.

Websites, like any good piece of communication, should be crafted for a specific audience. The audience we most wanted to reach was prospective team members. We knew that creative thinkers would recognize what we were doing as very different. Which probably meant that the way we thought and operated was different. And that we are open to new and novel thinking. While I might not know much, I know, I know, I know this much is true.

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Our site is targeted towards people like Sarah Disanza, who hunted us down and demanded a job. So we gave her one.

5. The intrigue was too fun to let go.

When the first visitors found our fake site the fun began. People immediately wanted to know more. In fact, everyone told us that they read every single word on the site. We have now had that non-website for 3 years. And the stories just keep piling up. We could write a book on the stories we have heard, and the funny emails that have been forwarded to us. It has definitely created an inside/outside effect. All to the benefit of our insiders.

 

6. I didn’t want the business to grow faster than I grew as the leader of the business.

This is the most important reason we don’t have a real site. When I first launched The Weaponry I had a lot to learn. And I didn’t want the agency’s growth to outpace my own. It would likely lead to disaster. Unhappy clients, unhappy partners and unhappy employees.

I knew the business would grow. But I didn’t want the pressure of additional demand before we created the systems and processes to accommodate for it. So a magnetic website with great SEO and a sharply-honed paid search strategy, like we implement for our clients, would have actually worked against our long term plans.

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This guy has been growing like a weed wearing tweed.

7. My Own Rebelliousness

I simply like doing things differently. And I wanted to prove that even in the digital era you can grow a multi million dollar business without a website that shares a dot of data about you. Which is exactly what has happened.

What is even better is that smart businesses trust us to design and build their websites, despite the fact that we don’t have one ourselves. That will provide a great hook when I finally write the book about my experience. #MarketingBakedInFromTheStart

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Find great people and start doing great things. That’s how you grow a business without a website.

Key Takeaway

There are no absolutes in business. There are multiple ways to do everything. If everyone else is zigging then you should zag. Or zog or zeg. Because breaking the rules always gets you noticed. And getting noticed is the first step to making a sale. So learn all the rules. Then decide which ones are worth breaking. Then break away. It may just provide the break you’ve been looking for.

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

The most underrated risk takers in entrepreneurship.

Americans have great reverence for entrepreneurs. I certainly do. Ever since I was a kid I was awed by men and women who were brave enough to start their own business. I looked up to them. I wanted to be like them. I still do.

Start Me Up

In 2016 I joined the ranks of those who dared to create their own living. I started an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Soon I developed an even deeper understanding of why we are so impressed by entrepreneurs. Not just because entrepreneurship is hard to spell. But because they really do risk a lot to play this thrilling game of business.

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Me and my original wingman, my cousin Brooks Albrecht.

You’ve Got Me Running Hot.

But there is another group that doesn’t get nearly enough credit for their bravery, risk taking and contribution to the success of startups: the early employees. Without the early employees, a startup never moves beyond starting. Without the early employees entrepreneurs can’t scale. We can never develop real businesses that create significant jobs and help grow the economy. Which means that company picnics could take place on a single pogo stick.

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My first hire at The Weaponry, K-Lil, and one of our billboards for the UW Credit Union, or no?

Let’s Do This Thang

It is the early employees who enable the ultimate success of the organization. I am extremely grateful to The Weaponry employees who have taken a chance on me, my business idea, my vision and my ambition. Without you I would be a 1-man band, limited to playing a pretty lame tune. Like Hot Cross Buns.

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Some of our Weapons at a recent team brewery tour including, Adam ‘Henry’ Emery, Kevin ‘Lower’ Kayse, Sarah ‘Ice’ Disanza, Calla ‘Superfragelistic’ Stanford, Sally ‘Money’ Bretsch,Jeanne ‘Meyer’ Mayer, Shirley Feeney and Laverne DeFazio.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurs can not create great organizations alone. It takes a strong team to make a strong business. I would also like to say thank you to all of those employees who have, or are taking a flyer on a startup. Especially my Weapons. Your bravery, commitment and confidence don’t go unnoticed. We couldn’t do this without you. Literally.

 

 

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.

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.