11 ways my 11-year old would make my lame business awesome.

When I first launched my advertising and idea agency in 2016, I knew great things would happen. I just couldn’t predict the pace at which those great things would unfold. Despite my confidence, had I been grilled under oath by a great lawyer like Ally McBeal or Jackie Chiles, I would have had to admit that I had no hard facts, and no physical evidence to support my original assumptions about our imminent success.

Today,  The Weaponry has indeed been a great success. Our rate of growth, roster of clients and level of talent is tracking with my lofty expectations. Most people who know the details of our story are impressed. But not everyone. Namely, my 11-year-old son, Johann.

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Johann and I in Hilton Head, just before his little brother kicked his flip-flop under the railing and into the water, never to be seen again.

Johann

Last week, as I drove Johann home from his piano lesson he asked, ‘Dad, what’s new at The Weaponry?’ Which he always pronounces as Webonry. (I’ve noticed about 25% of the population does this.) I excitedly told him about our latest news, the number of employees, the new clients, the new lease and more. I concluded with, ‘It’s pretty great huh?’

Johann responded with, ‘Not really.’

It seems a 2-year old advertising agency, launched from dust, now rolling fast and picking up steam, still has a hard time impressing a 5th Grader. I wanted to know what would seem more impressive to my elementary-aged son. So I asked Johann. And here are his answers.


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Some of my biggest fans, and my biggest critic on their first visit to The Weaponry.

11 Things Johann thinks would make The Weaponry way more awesome.


1. A Better Building  Johann said, ‘Dad, nobody even notices your building. You need a much taller building. Either move into a building 20 stories high, or build one of your own. (He liked that my old office in Atlanta was on the 22nd floor.)

2. A Breakfast Buffet I couldn’t argue with this.

3. Promote Yourself!  ‘You need to advertise The Weaponry on billboards all over the city! You need big signs with your logo that say “The Weaponry is for hire!”‘ I think all the  personal injury attorney ads have gotten to him.

4. More People ‘Dad, don’t be an average business with very few people working for you. You need more than 100 people to be a big business. And the more people you have the more money you will make.’

5. More Clients  ‘You need more clients. Like hotels and resorts. You should work with Coca Cola, Ramen Noodles, Fortnite, oh, and movies!’

6. More Offices: ‘You should have offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta and Orlando. You know, the big ones.’ I said, ‘You know I have employees in Atlanta, right?’ He responded, ‘Yeah, but they just work with you online. You don’t have an office there yet.’ Touché! #appealdenied

7. Even More Offices ‘You really should have international offices in Tokyo, London, Paris and Sydney.’   Me: ‘What about Greenland?’ Johann: ‘Greenland has a very low population.’

(Yet I dream of my blog one day being read in Greenland. It is the largest country on Earth that has never viewed my blog. #popularitygoals)

8. Celebrities: ‘You should work with celebrity spokespeople, like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Justin Timberlake and the woman who plays Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns. Jack Black and the guy who plays Remy in Ratatouille. Oh, and Rachael Ray and Jimmy Fallon! But Not Miley Cyrus, because she was naked on a wrecking ball.’

9. Athletes ‘You should also work with sports people like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick, Aaron Rogers, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, LeBron James and Gronk!’

10. Directors: ‘You should work with directors like Brad Bird and John Lassiter. And you should also make memes.’

11. Real Weapons: ‘And Dad, The weaponry would be cooler if you actually made weapons. Like swords with skulls on the handles. That would be really cool. And you should have a sailboat that has your logo on the sail!’  Apparently I would be cooler if I was a pirate.

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Johann would be jumping for joy if The Weaponry was more Hollywood. Or more Pirates of The Caribbean.

Key Takeaway:

It is always helpful to have someone remind you that you are capable of more. It is easy to spend time counting your successes, and to surround yourself with those who tell you how great you are doing. But if you want to really accomplish amazing things that are universally impressive, find someone who will tell you all the things you have not yet done. You know, the things that would make you a worldwide success. And if you can’t find someone like that in your circle of friends, try stopping by an elementary school. Because as the saying goes, kids and the dumb ones tell the truth.

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We have come to the end of our first lease. So now what?

I walked into my office on Monday morning at 7:30am. For many this would serve as a low point for the new week. But for me, in the quiet and calm, before the week roared to life, I could not have been happier. Because I was standing in the middle of the advertising agency I always dreamed of building.

Time Flies

It has been 13 months since The Weaponry moved into our office space. When we first signed the lease the space had less personality than an empty bucket. Which simply wouldn’t do for the agency I had founded 18 months earlier. Today, as we near the end of our initial lease, it looks as if The Weaponry has always been here. Here’s why:

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My friend Elizabeth Rees, Founder of Chasing Paper, stopping by The Weaponry. Clearly this was not in July.

 

The Furniture

We have real desks and Herman Miller Aeon chairs (which are AEON-MAZING!). We  have comfortable guest chairs in my office that feel like you are getting a hug from a giant Teddy Bear. We have our loungey area couch and chairs that offer a casual place to stop, collaborate and listen. We have our custom designed surfboard coffee table. Because who doesn’t need one of those, right?

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Our casual meeting space where you can put your feet up on The Weaponry surfboard coffee chocolate milk table, or lay down on the couch if you are feeling wiped out.
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Me and Chris Meece in the Teddy Bear Chairs.

The Conference Room

Our conference room is home to our custom-built red, high top conference table. It has been as great as we thought it would be. It allows people to sit or stand and magically be at or near the same eye level. Which is great for staring contests.

The active sitting position of the high chairs means that you simply can’t relax for hours on end at this table. So we meet quickly, then get back to the work to be done. We also have a 55-inch TV mounted to the wall to share work, host video conference calls and watch Netflix at lunch.

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My friend Britt Beck is demonstrating how to sit at our conference room table. I’m executing what we call ‘the stand’. We are both pleased with our individual performances.
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This year a group of CEOs, including Darren Fisher, Larry Bangs, and Adam ‘Little Adam’ Ausloos,  gathered for a regular roundtable lunch at The Weaponry. Shhh. Don’t tell them that the table is actually rectangular.

The Walls

We have a new map on the wall that will be the subject of future posts. But we also have important messages on the wall. Oh, and we painted all of the walls either Snowfall White or The Weaponry Red. So the space feels like us, and we feel like our space.

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Some of our Weapons on our 2-year anniversary, wearing office camouflage.

The Fridge

We have a refrigerator in The Weaponry Red too! It’s the hottest thing in cooling. It cost us twice as much as a black or white fridge. But the fact that it goes perfectly with our space makes it totally worth it. Because you gotta coordinate.

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Our refrigerator, which we call Perry.

What Next?

Now that we have imposed our vision on this space we are facing some interesting realities. We may not fit here for much longer. So we are working with our building’s management team to determine how we can expand over the course of the next year as we will most definitely outgrow this space. In fact, by December 31st I will sign a new lease. But I still haven’t decided which option I will choose.

The Options:

  1. Add new space to our current office
  2. Move from the 2nd floor to the 3rd floor
  3. Move from the 2nd floor to the 5th floor
  4. Sign a 1, 3 or 5 year extension
  5. None of the above
  6. All of the above
  7. Let love lift us up where we belong

Key Takeaway

We have been very happy with the office. It has been a great asset to our team. These 1000 square feet transform The Weaponry from a business to a place. People drop by to see us all the time. I love that. Our clients come and work from our office. Students stop by to see what an agency looks like. Friends and family passing through Milwaukee schedule a stop into their travels (there is also a great beer tour a block away if you are planning your itinerary).

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My parents (who celebrated 49 years of marriage yesterday) on their first visit to The Weaponry.

The day that we outgrow this space will be bitter-sweet for me. It will mean that we have grown beyond our starter office, which is the goal. But it also means leaving our first real home. A home that Kristyn Lilley and I painted and personalized. No matter what, 2019 will be an interesting year. At some point we will be moving on up like George and Weezy. I can’t wait to find out where and when. Thanks for following the journey. Because we’re in this blog together. And like berries on the vine, it gets sweeter all the time.

*If you want to know what happens next consider subscribing to this blog. And if you want to know more about how I did any of this, please let me know. I am happy to share.

How to share your ideas around the world like I do.

When I began writing the Perfect Agency Project blog in 2015 I was in the early phases of launching my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I had so many questions about starting a business that I tried to find information anywhere I could get it. Much of the information and inspiration I found was in blogs. I realized that future entrepreneurs could also benefit from my accumulated knowledge. So I began publishing blog posts on WordPress every week. I wrote about my experiences starting and running a business. I wrote about my philosophies on advertising, marketing, strategy and creativity. I wrote about networking and sales. And I wrote about a strange encounter I had with a woman at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Because hey, I had a blog.

Developing An Audience

Three years later, as 2018 draws to a close, I wanted to share a few interesting statistics that demonstrate the power of the blogging platform. When I began writing I knew that I would have readers across the United States. Not because I’m well-known. But because I have 31 aunts and uncles spread from Philadelphia to Phoenix. And 43 first cousins stretched from New England to Nevada. So thanks to my adventurous grandparents, I had America covered.

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America! Blog Yeah!

Going Global

What I didn’t anticipate, at all, was how my blog would reach an international audience.  Sure, I figured some of my friends is places like Norway, India and Germany would occasionally stumble across my posts. But my readership has now gone well beyond that.

In 2018 alone, my blog has been read in (I’m stalling to let you guess the number before you read it yourself…) in 105 countries! That is hard for me to wrap my head around. But it serves as quantitative reminder of just how connected the world now is.

As I look at the map below of the countries where my blog has been viewed, I am in awe of the potential to share widespread messages without paid media, access to a personal satellite (sung like Dave Matthews), a radio tower or fleet of macho carrier pigeons. The map also indicates that when you are interested in a topic, you can now find and connect with others who are sharing what they know on the subject from the other side of the globe.

 

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Where My Blog Is Not

As I look at my blog’s heat map, I can see that my coverage is pretty spotty in Africa. My posts are not the most in Mongolia. And I’m getting no love from the Stans, including Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and the birthplace of the Afghan: Afghanistan.

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A typical Stanscape.

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas.

Based on the geopolitical climate, I am not expecting a sudden burst in popularity in the Stans. But the country I really wish I had at least one reader in is Greenland. Look at how huge Greenland is! That is a large chunk of land just sitting naked on my map. However, the Earth’s largest island has only 55,000 people on it. Which means that not even Kevin Bacon is well-connected there.

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I flew over Greenland on my trip to Iceland several years ago. It is amazingly beautiful. Although there was no green to be seen. What really stood out to me was the endless sea of rugged, inhospitable, snow-covered mountains. As I flew over Greenland I remember thinking those mountains would make it hard to get to a good blog if you really needed one. But maybe, just maybe, by writing two paragraphs on Greenland, and an accompanying tag and category mention, I can turn this great white land mass yellow on my map before the end of the year. It would be a very sweet Christmas present.

A little more detail on my international exposure.

Here are a few other facts that I found interesting when I performed Adamlytics on my blog:

  • My blog has multiple views from 79 different countries. Which means there are only 26 countries that have only 1 view (depending on whether you like your stats framed positively or negatively.)
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This is not my dashboard. This is not my beautiful wife. #waterflowingunderground

My Blog’s Top 10 Countries By Total Views:

  1. The United States
  2. Canada (Thanks to all my friends in Quebec and Ontario)
  3. India  (Thanks to this post I wrote about my work travel to India)
  4. The United Kingdom
  5. Germany
  6. Australia
  7. South Africa
  8. Sweden (Thanks Anneli & your friends at Ikea)
  9. Romania
  10. Ireland

  • There are 5 different continents represented in the top 7 countries!
  • In a very symmetrical statistic, the 20th most popular country, Brazil, has 20 views of the blog.
  • The only continent that the blog doesn’t register on is Antarctica. But I’m not sure a view would register as being from Antarctica anyway. Because it is so cold there.
  • There are at least 2 countries where the blog has been viewed that I had never heard of before: Mauritius and Vanuatu (which I think may have been a Survivor Island (meaning a location for the reality tv show, not the rock band from the 80s).

The Perfect Agency Project’s International Exposure By Year

2015: 25 countries

2016: 41 countries

2017: 68 countries

 2018: 105 countries


Key Takeaway

Blogging is an amazing way to reach a very wide audience. You don’t need approval from anyone to start a blog. You don’t have to buy media to get your message out. You simply have to write about things that people are interested in reading. As you write, be patient. Keep writing insightful, educational or entertaining posts, and people will find you. Even halfway around the world. I look forward to seeing where this goes next. Because thanks to the world-wide web, there are no limits to how far your message can reach. Heck you might even get noticed in Mongolia, the Stans, and, Leif-Eriksson-willing, Greenland.

*If you’d like to see if I ever make to Greenland, please consider subscribing to this blog.

Why you should mind your own business.

In 2016 I left a comfortable job to start my own business. After working in the advertising industry for two decades I had a clear vision of what the perfect advertising agency was like. I used that vision as a blueprint to create a new agency called The Weaponry. At the same time, I began writing The Perfect Agency Project blog to share my experience and learnings along the way. And in case you didn’t notice, I just created a link to this blog, in this blog. Which may technically be the silliest thing I’ve done in 219 posts.

The Perfect Agency

I have thought about every aspect of the perfect advertising agency. From the dress code (which is only 9 words long), to the way we respond to client requests (always explore them), to the way we deliver invoices (singing telegram*), we are creating both the agency I would want to hire to create my advertising, and the place I want to work.

Competitors

But one thing I haven’t done since launching The Weaponry is think about our competitors. In fact, I don’t even know who our competitors are. We are not trying to win a geographical area. We are not trying to win a singular discipline, or serve a niche industry. So it’s hard to find another agency to throw in a cage match with us.

We are focused on building a machine for developing great creative ideas, delivering excellent customer service and providing a fun experience for everyone involved. That’s it. Oh, we’re also drinking a lot of chocolate milk. 

Occasionally in an RFP (Request For Proposal) we are asked who we compete against in various services. I always respond by saying we compete against everyone who offers those services.

But I don’t pay any attention to those supposed competitors. I don’t worry about what other agencies look like. Or what their websites say. I don’t go to awards shows to see their work. There is not a thing I can do about how they conduct their business. I am not trying to hurt them or steal their business. I am solely focused on us handling our business and delivering against our client requests.

In fact, there are only two agencies I think about at all.

  1. The Weaponry in its current state.
  2. The fully formed version of The Weaponry.

I am focused on closing the gap between the two, and making the business we work in today look more and more like the ideal.

Key Takeaway

Mind your own business. Don’t become distracted by what everyone else is doing. Understand what your customers and your employees want, and work diligently on delivering that at the highest level. It’s the shortest path to success.

This same principle hold true for us as individuals. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, or how they are doing it. Focus on what you believe in. You can never go wrong doing what you know is right.

(*Okay, so we haven’t fully implemented the singing telegram invoice delivery system yet. But let me know if you would like to be part of the beta test.) 

How to increase your chances of a big lottery payout.

Today the Mega Millions lottery jackpot is expected to reach $1.6 billion dollars. The Power Ball lottery will reach $620 million by tomorrow. And you will not win either of them. In fact, you would get more value for your money by burning your cash for heat,  or eating it for the nutritional value of the paper.

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Life Lesson

I learned this lesson early in life. When I was 18 I had a lottery experience that forever shaped my perspective on this get-rich-instantly game. I shared this story a few years ago, but with lottery fever once again creating a jackpot mirage, it felt like a good time to reshare.

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The Graduation Lesson

At my high school graduation, my classmates and I received our Hanover High School diplomas from our principal, the late, super-great Uwe Bagnato. As he handed us our diplomas, we each handed him a lottery ticket. It was an exciting experiment.

We all wondered how much he might win with 143 chances (my high school scoured ten towns from Vermont and New Hampshire to find 143 educatable kids). We imagined Uwe would become mega-rich, and we would be the last class to graduate under his principality. But when we discovered that he only won a couple of bucks, and would be back at work again after Labor Day, the lottery was forever dead to me.

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Entrepreneurship.

Don’t flush your hard-earned money down the lottery toilet. If you want a great return on your money, you should always bet on yourself. Bet on your ability to think. On your will to succeed. On you determination and stick-to-it-ness. Bet on your ability to create value. And bet on your ability to do what you are doing right now, but for yourself.

Collect that money you were going to spend on the lottery and invest it in your own business. Buy something to resell. Or purchase equipment so that you can offer a valued service, or create a new product. Get certified at a valuable skill that you can market on your own. Because if you do that, and you have the drive to succeed, you will succeed. There is  much more money to be made through entrepreneurship than the lottery could ever provide.

“More gold had been mined from the minds of men than the earth itself.”  -Napoleon Hill from Think and Grow Rich.

My Lottery

In 2016 I left a nice job at a big advertising agency to bet on myself. I left the perceived stability of a regular paycheck to see if I could make even more money, be even happier and feel even more fulfilled by creating my own jackpot. And I did it by investing less than most people spend on the lottery. In fact, when I started The Weaponry, I invested more time, energy and focus than money. And my business has been profitable from the beginning.

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But forget about getting rich quick. Forget about the instant cash payout, which is the surest way to bankruptcy. Opt for the get rich slow route. If you build your own business slowly and steadily, you can turn hundreds of dollars of side hustle income into millions of family supporting dollars.

 

Key Takeaway

The next time you think about filling out a lottery ticket, think about sketching out a business idea instead. Think of all the great businesses started by men and women no smarter or more talented than you. Think about how those businesses, have turned those people into millionaires and billionaires. I hope it encourages you to invest in your own ideas and your own initiative. Because take it from me and Uwe, the chances of winning the lottery are far better in your head. Your best bet is to put your money to work for you. Because the odds of hitting an entrepreneurial jackpot are determined by you.

It’s time to tell the full truth about the business I made up.

Three years ago I started writing the story of a fictional advertising and idea agency. I dreamed up the details of the business and then wrote them down in a notebook. I would fire up my laptop, open a google doc, and fill it with vivid descriptions of this company that only I could see. In the same way that children have imaginary friends, I had an imaginary ad agency. I thought about that agency all the time. I was obsessed.

The more I thought about it, the more I wrote about it. And the more I wrote about it the more vivid this fictional business became to me. So I did something crazy. I started talking to other people about my imaginary agency. I described it as if were absolutely real. I told people what kind of services it offered, what kind of people worked there. I talked about its culture and why it was the perfect agency. I even gave it a name.

Then a funny thing happened. Other people began talking about this completely fictional agency like it was a real business. They started asking questions about it. Smart, talented,  sane people wanted to know if they could work there.

So I began talking to marketing professionals and business owners about my imaginary agency. Then something unbelievable happened. Someone asked if they could hire this imaginary agency to create some real advertising.

Suddenly, this agency that was completely made up had a real client, a real project to work on, and a real deadline. I quickly filled the imaginary roles within the agency with real people, who did the real work and delivered real ads to a real business for real money.

From that moment on, this fictional story of mine became non-fiction. People started referring to my imaginary agency by name. They called it The Weaponry. The United States Government started sending it mail. Businesses started sending it money. People started listing it as their employer, and banks started calling it to make sure it was ok to offer applicants mortgages. How crazy is that?

Key Takeaway 

If you want to create a real business you start by creating a fictional business. Imagine every detail. Write it all down. Paint a picture so vivid it feels absolutely real. Talk about it in such detail that others start to see it too. Give it a name. Others will start calling it by that name too. Talk about your fake business to real customers and clients. It will be weird and surreal. It will warp and bend your sense of reality for a while. But if you believe in it enough, others will too. Then suddenly, and undeniably it will all become completely real. I know it sounds crazy. But it’s true.  

Great advice I didn’t take, but maybe you should.

In the first half of 2013 I was in New York City every week. I was the Chief Creative Officer of a 275 person ad agency called Engauge. And we were in the process of selling the agency. A four person leadership team from Engauge shared our story, our work and our finances with 15 potential suitors, ranging from Conde Nast to the Paris-based advertising agency holding company, Publicis, who eventually purchased the agency. However, Conde Nast provided the greatest challenge in the process, because the room that we presented in was plastered with oversized prints of topless women. Which lead to my short-term bout with Attention Deficit Disorder.

LGA

One evening after one of our many meetings with potential investors on Wall Street, Engauge President Jeff Hilimire and I headed to the Laguardia airport for our flight home. But first we stopped and grabbed burgers at a barely-open Five Guys at the airport. It was in that small, yet-highly caloric moment, that we proceeded to have one of the most important conversations of my entrepreneurial journey.

Going through an exit (sale) process like we were going through, you are forced to think about the next chapter of your career. Because depending on who purchases your business, some unknown combination of the leadership team will no longer be needed in the new organization. Some of us were on the business equivalent of a Kamikaze mission. Or maybe it was the business equivalent to Russian Roulette. Or maybe I am just being dramatic with an international flair. Either way, Jeff and I each discussed our future in a very open Komono way (I can’t stop).

The Only Job For Jeff.

Jeff told me, ‘There is only one title I ever want again.’

I was curious what that was, so of course I asked, ‘What’s that?’

He said, ‘Founder.’

As a successful entrepreneur, his only interest was in starting businesses and in being an entrepreneur. He found no appeal in helping the company who bought the company that bought the company that he started.

But what about me?

I also had a great desire to start my own business. But unlike Jeff, I didn’t have experience starting my own agency from dust and growing it into a thriving success. So in between bites of my oversized Adam Albrecht Burger from Five Guys, I asked Jeff for advice on how I should get started on my entrepreneurial journey.

Jeff said, ‘The first thing you need to decide is where you want to start your business. Find a job in that market, move there, and spend two years developing your network there, while working for someone else.’ He said that after two years of serious networking, you should have the base you need to go out on your own, and start your own agency.

What I Did

This was really good advice. But I didn’t take it. Instead, I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016 in Atlanta. But then, for family reasons, decided to relocate my family to Milwaukee. And of course, the business had to move too. Which means that I did the opposite of what Jeff suggested. I started a business, and then moved it to a new city, where I hadn’t warmed up my network at all.

From the beginning, my strategy was different. My network is very broad, with strong and valued friends and connections across North America. So I was determined to develop The Weaponry to be geographically agnostic. Technology has enabled us to live into my vision, and serve clients across the United States and Canada.

2 Years Later

This week marks the 2-year anniversary of our move to Milwaukee. So I couldn’t help but reflect on Jeff’s advice. The Weaponry is thriving, with great clients from coast to coast. But there is something special happening now. There is an interesting momentum building. We are being talked about when we aren’t around. We are contacted more than ever. People are stopping by, and inquiring about us, and wanting to talk to us, and get to know us at a distinctly different pace today.

I believe this is 2-year momentum. We are building on the 2-year base that Jeff originally recommended. It is an incredibly exciting time for us. And we no longer feel like a start-up. We feel like a confident collection of Weapons that know exactly how to handle whatever our clients need. Kind of like the A-Team, without Mr. T (aka B.A. Baracus, aka Mr. I Pity The Fool).

Key Takeaway

There is no one right way to go about launching a business. The key is to get moving. If you have been considering starting your own business, or making another significant change in your life, I encourage you to set your 2-year timer now, and start the process today.  Two years will give you plenty of time to go from that first step, to a confident swagger. Be persistent, be patient, and let’s talk about this again in two years.