Why it is so positive to focus on the negative.

I am a naturally positive person. I like to start with the positive. I like to end on the positive. And I like to fill the middle with as much positive as I can. Yet, I don’t claim any responsiblity for my positivity. As Lady Gaga once said, Baby, I was born this way.

Team Meetings

On Tuesday mornings I meet with my entire team at The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I launched in 2016. I share updates on our clients, people, and growth opportunities. We discuss our long-term vision for the organization and our progress towards that goal. And yes, it is a positive experience.

The Good

This Tuesday I gave an update on our latest developments. The headline was:

In the past 3 months we have added 8 new clients in 5 different states.

I walked through the new additions, gave an overview on what we are doing for each of them, and mentioned the people who had either helped us secure the business, or who were already working on the accounts.

The Bad

After sharing the good news of the week I asked the team to keep looking for the peas under the mattress. I want to make this agency the perfect place to work, and the perfect partner for our clients. The only way you get to that point is by removing the elements that cause discomfort. I want to find the pain points and confusion. I want to know what is causing slowdowns and bottlenecks and head scratching.

Why So Negative?

It is easy to ignore your problems, especially when things are going well. But if we do, we won’t improve our machine. And if we don’t improve our processes, procedures, structure and people, we will never achieve the elusive goal of creating the perfect agency.

The Paradox. (Or is it a Pair of Docks?)

Admittedly, it is a little odd, especially for an optimistic, can-do, positive organization like The Weaponry to focus on the blemishes, weaknesses and flaws. But, Mama, that’s where the fun is.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of growth is eliminating weakness. By shoring up our weakest points the machine gets stronger and stronger. The entire team can feel it when a reoccurring problem goes a way. And when it does, we can then focus on the next issue up. There will always be a next issue up. But just as with technological advances and innovation, as challenges are solved, the new challenges that take their place are smaller and smaller issues.

Key Takeaway

If you really want to be great, don’t just acknowledge or admit your flaws. Seek them out. Root them out. Mark them in highlighter. Then develop a plan to eliminate them.  We use the EOS Rocks system, as outlined in the book Traction by Gino Wickman to take on our issues, gain traction as an organization, and continue on our path of organizational improvement. We are not perfect. But we want to be. And we are committed to getting as close to the dream as we can.

*I’d love to know your thoughts on either of the following questions:

  1. Do you feel that your organization makes a priority of discovering and eliminating your organizational and operational flaws?
  2. Do you try to proactively identify flaws in yourself, your outlook, your processes, your knowledge or your procedures in a quest for self-improvement? Or, do you beat yourself up over your shortcomings?
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5 ways for startups to win the cash flow game.

When you set out to start a new business people give you lots of encouragement, advice, warnings and worried looks. Even so, you don’t really know what lies ahead. You wonder what will be worse than expected, what will be easier than expected and what to expect when you are expecting (unless you already have that baby book).

Cash Money

A topic that everyone warned me about when I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, was cash flow. The basic issue is that you get paid for your work, and you have to pay bills, like salaries, rent and insurance. The problem is that you don’t always have an equal amount of money coming in as you have going out. Which means that you must have enough cash on hand to cover slow payments, slow months of work, or larger-than-usual expenses.

What I’ve learned

Cash flow challenges aren’t necessarily a result of a customer being delinquent in paying invoices. The challenges can simply be a matter of timing. Your projects, or deals, may take longer to complete, so it takes longer to bill, and thus longer to get paid. If you are delayed in sending out your invoices, that can funk up your cash flow too.

Avoid At All Costs

But regardless of the reason, running out of cash on hand is a common cause of death for businesses of all sizes. It is a lot like humans running out of oxygen, or blood. Which I’ve never done. But I know some people who have, and they wanted me to tell you to avoid it at all costs.

If you are thinking about starting a business, or already have a business and could use some advice, here are a few tips to keep the cash flowing and your business going.

5 Cash Flow Tips

Don’t quit your job until you absolutely have to.  A salaried job helps the cash flow in your startup in two ways. 1. It ensures that cash keeps coming into your world. 2. It decreases or eliminates the need to draw a salary from the business in order to pay yourself. This enables cash to build in your business. Like water behind a dam baby!

Start with more cash on hand than you think you need. Don’t start a business without a reserve. Inevitably you will need it. And if you can’t float an expense because you don’t have the cash around, you clients, suppliers, partners or employees will question your business-hood. And you don’t want your business-hood questioned.

Send your invoices as soon as the work is complete. Entrepreneurs have a lot of demand on their time. So it can be easy to let your invoicing slide while putting out fires and keeping plates spinning. But you have to keep your invoices flowing if you want cash to flow into your business. A good bookkeeper, aka God’s Gift To Entrepreneurs, and a repeatable invoicing process can help ensure that you don’t fall behind on this process.

Delay adding salaried employees until you have a 3-month runway.  We began The Weaponry with a freelance workforce. I wanted to be able to see 3 months of sustainable work ahead in each discipline before I committed to hiring a full-time, salaried employees for that role. The 3-month rule has been a very good guide for us. For other businesses the timing may vary.  Regardless, develop your own rule of thumb, and enforce it.

Keep 3 months worth of salary in reserve at all times. You never know when the demand for your product or service will go dormant. It doesn’t mean it won’t come back. But you have to be able to weather the winter in order to be around when the demand springs up again. Having the cash reserve on hand is like a squirrel storing nuts. A three-month reserve is good. A six-month reserve is better. A billion-month reserve is best.

Key Takeaway

Starting your own business is extremely rewarding. But to keep the rewards coming, you have to keep the cash flowing. It is important to understand that cash flow isn’t just a part of the entrepreneurial game. It is the game itself.

*To learn more of what I have learned through my entrepreneurial journey, please consider subscribing to this blog.

Today is the best day to declare your independence.

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. Even when it falls awkwardly on a Wednesday. Today I will hit two parades, watch fireworks, have a cookout, and tune in to watch a professional scarf down enough hot dogs to feed all the Pilgrims on the Mayflower for a week. #Murica

 

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Me and my family getting our 4th of July parade on. Notice the sign my daughter chalked in front of us.

The thing I love most.

As much as I love celebrating the 4th of July, I love what it symbolizes even more. Independence. It’s the not-so-secret ingredient that makes our country a powerful global magnet. Independence is what attracts those looking for a better life of their own making. I love that our country is powered by a population that left their native lands with the courage to say, ‘We think we can do this better on our own.’ That is so badass! Of course, Australia is built on a population of criminals. That’s pretty badass too, mate.

Career Independence

As we celebrate America’s independence I am also celebrating all the Founders who have declared their independence by taking charge of their careers. I admire the entrepreneurs who have the courage and confidence to do what our nation’s founding mothers and fathers did in establishing this country.

I am thankful for the inspirational stories and examples I’ve heard and read from Founders across the country. I love the consultants, freelancers and solopreneurs who have decided to bet on their own skills and abilities. It is the safest bet there is.

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Is it time for you to fly your own flag?

My Independence.

I declared my independence when I started by own advertising and ideas agency, The Weaponry, two years ago. I always felt I had the ability to attract great clients and extremely talented creative thinkers and doers. I was willing to bet my financial wellbeing on that belief. Today, The Weaponry is thriving. Which makes every day feel like Independence Day (no, not the creepy alien movie).

Embrace your independence.

But you don’t have to start your own company to declare your independence. Because independence is a mindset. You must believe that you are a rock star at what you do, and that you could do it wherever you want. Just as Lebron James decided to take his talent to South Beach, then back to North Beach, and now to West Beach, you need to know that whether you are a business executive, a salesperson, teacher, professional creative, or burger flipper, you have the freedom to take your set of skillz anywhere that makes you happy. Even Cleveland.

Key Takeaway

Our foremothers and forefathers founded this country with the belief that they could design a better life for themselves and for all of their cute little red, white and blue-wearing offspring to come. By doing so, they have empowered you to design your own life in a way that makes you happiest. Never forget that. Recognize and take advantage of the great opportunities that come your way. Or create your own opportunities. You always have the freedom to choose what is best for you. Nothing is more American than that.

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Happy Independence Day!

Why you should give it away, give it away now.

A year and a half ago I was in a fender bender. I was hit by a woman who was hit by a distracted driver, who didn’t realize that everyone else on the road stopped at a railroad crossing. I wrote about the experience in the post, Could You Pass The Fender Bender Test. While waiting for the authorities to show up, Laura ‘The Bumper Thumper’ and I began talking. We quickly struck up a friendship. It turns out that Laura has her own marketing business too.

Chapter Two

A couple of months after the incident I got a call from a potential client about a new marketing challenge they were facing. We agreed to meet face to face, and I invited Laura to bring her face to the meeting too.

The client was dealing with a new law that was dramatically changing the way they could market their service. More bluntly, their primary way of finding customers was now illegal. (So tawdry, I know!) The change posed a monumental threat to their very existence. They needed to quickly replace their old marketing approach with a new one, or there would be no business. (dun, dun, dun)

Laura and I met with two of the partners for two hours. We discussed numerous potential solutions to the problem. As I had imagined, Laura was a valuable asset. She asked a lot of smart questions. She had a very good understanding of the industry, and the major players in the market. Best of all, she didn’t hit anyone with a car.

When we left the potential client’s office, Laura said,

‘You really give a way a lot of ideas for free.’

She’s right. I do.

Here’s why I give ideas away for free.

I love free samples at the grocery store. Nothing sells me on your southern ham, spicy cheese, mango salsa or Fruity Barky Bites like tasting it myself. That tiny plastic cup worth of your product gives me everything I need to know to purchase more.

My business does not make Fruity Barky Bites. At least not yet. We produce ideas. So when I meet with people about their marketing challenges, I dig in. I start thinking through solutions with them. I offer up initial ideas worth considering. I get excited about solving the problem. They get excited about having the problem solved.

People don’t like to be sold to. They want to be in a position to buy. So rather than sell a client on why they should work with The Weaponry,  I like to offer people a sample of what they would get if they work with us. If they like it, they will want to buy. If they don’t like what they hear, they will pass. And both sides win.

Key Takeaway

I believe you should always add value before you try to extract value. Prove your worth. Make new clients and customers feel as if they have received more value than they have paid for. Give them a test drive so they can imagine the future. Once they decide to buy, don’t slow down. Keep over delivering. Always make them feel like they are getting more than they are paying for. Even when they are paying a lot.

*If you found value in this post, and would like more free samples, consider subscribing to this blog.

This is where I encourage you to pitch your elevator pitch.

In 2015 I decided to launch a new advertising agency. I already had a vivid image of the agency in my head. So I began mapping, sketching and listing every detail of the company. I considered the business from every angle. I even created a Life Stage chart of the yet unborn business. It was like What to Expect When You Are Expecting. Except I was expecting a bouncing baby business.

The Elevator Pitch 

However, there was one detail that start-ups typically obsess over that I skipped entirely: the Elevator Pitch. It is supposed to be the centerpiece of a startup’s marketing efforts. If you’ve never heard of an elevator pitch, the idea is that you have to summarize the essence of who you are, and what you do, in a short statement that you could deliver to a captive hostage on a brief elevator ride. Apparently, lots of entrepreneurs stalk high-powered executives on elevators, thinking it would be a great strategy for winning their affection.

I’m not buying it.

I hate the whole concept of the elevator pitch. I think it is the most overrated, over-discussed element of salesmanship. And entrepreneurship. And elevatorship.

Sure, it is important to be able to succinctly talk about your business. Your Great Aunt Petunia doesn’t have enough time left on Earth to waste it on your full story. But I have never bought anything or hired anyone because of a brief discussion I had on an elevator, escalator or Wonk-avator.

In fact, I have been in business for two years. And not once have I found myself in an elevator with someone who told me I had 10 floors of verticality to perform the sales pitch of a lifetime.

My Approach

Instead of scripting and performing an elevator monologue to an audience that never shows up, which feels a little like writing an acceptance speech for an award you didn’t win, I take the opposite approach.

The Quiet Game

I play the quiet game. You know, it’s that game where you see how long you can go without talking. I was terrible at the Quiet Game as a child. Scratch that. I was the Cleveland Browns of The Quiet Game. But today, as an entrepreneur, I am quite good at it. When I meet a marketer, I don’t whip out a polished sales pitch and throw it at her. Instead, I listen.

I want to hear what potential clients talk about. I want to hear what challenges they are facing. I want to know where their pain points are. I want to identify their greatest unmet needs. I continue to grow and transform The Weaponry in response to the unmet needs of our clients. Because we are focused on solving client problems, we grow in the direction that our clients’ needs dictate.

Key Takeaway

If you want to collect more great clients and grow your business, don’t practice your elevator pitch. Practice listening. Play detective. Or doctor. Listen for the discomfort, the bottlenecks, and the solution-less problems your clients and potential clients are facing.  Discover their unmet needs. And you’ll have found your next opportunity.

*If you found anything of value in this post, please consider subscribing to this blog. You’ll receive two fresh-baked posts via email each week. Oh, and you may also dig this post I wrote about My Vanilla Ice Philosophy. Vanilla Ice himself liked it. And Tweeted it. And hung it above his bed (ok, that very last part might not be true).

 

How to warm up your entrepreneurial spirit.

Admit it, you would really like to own your own business. Most of us would. But getting started is a gnarly tangle of question marks.

  • Do I have what it takes?
  • What do I do first?
  • Do I have the appetite for risk?
  • Should I find a partner?
  • If my business doesn’t take off quickly do I give up food, shelter or clothing first?

Curious-but-careful types turn to books for answers to these questions. While you can read about entrepreneurship all you want, you can’t actually become an entrepreneur without taking action. Which means the best thing to do to warm up your entrepreneurial spirit is practice taking entrepreneurial action (without spending or losing money in the process).

The Challenge

I offer people enamored with the idea of entrepreneurship a simple one week challenge. If you bail on the challenge in the first day, it is a sign that you should not be a sailor on the entrepreneur ship. But if you complete the challenge, not only have you exercised the right behavior, you’ve primed the pump for the next step too.

So here is my challenge to you:


Adam Albrecht’s Unpatented One Week Entrepreneurial Warm Up Exercise.

  1. Pick a good starting day that offers flexibility in your schedule. Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays work well.
  2. Every time you think of someone, reach out to them. Send an email,  text or a call them. Shoot them a message on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Write the impulse down if you can’t send a message at that moment. But send the message that day. If there is a reason that person popped into your mind let them know. *only contact each person once, even if you think of them multiple times during the week. You don’t want to creep them out.

3. Write down the number of days in a row that you completed the mission.


The 3 Reasons You Should Try This Exercise:

1.Entrepreneurship is about turning thoughts into actions. Everyone has thoughts, ideas and impulses. But most of the time these impulses dissipate before they become actions. This exercise helps you transform your moments of inspiration into actions.

2. Entrepreneurship also requires you to actively maintain your network. That means investing time, thought, action and care into other people. It also involves expanding your network. Which could mean reaching out to people you don’t know, or don’t know well.

3. Entrepreneurship requires persistence. You have to keep at it day after day. Even if you really enjoyed a day or two of this exercise, don’t try to launch a business until you can string together a full week of successful impulse activation. 

5 Things You Will Learn From This Exercise:

1. What it is like to activate your thoughts.

2. Whether or not you can activate your thoughts with consistency.

3. Your connections with others will grow stronger.

4. The recency of your communications with make others more likely to think of you again in the near future.

5. Human interactions often set off a chain of interesting positive events. 

Key Takeaway

In entrepreneurship action is everything. In order to invent Facebook you actually have to invent Facebook. And it starts by doing the things you’ve thought about doing but haven’t done. Entrepreneurship requires you to spend a good chunk of your time outside your comfort zone. So practice getting over that discomfort by reaching out to friends and family you haven’t contacted for quite some time. By the end of this Unpatented One Week Entrepreneurial Warm Up Exercise, you won’t have spent any money on your business idea. But you will have created a more fertile environment for it to grow.

Are you really in control of your career?

It was December of 1999. The world was facing a possible Y2K apocalypse, and I was surrounded by cranberries. I had written a national TV commercial for Northland Cranberry Juice and was now preparing to shoot the spot in their hometown, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Rapids (just in case you’ve never been there) is to cranberries what Nashville is to country music.

The premise of the commercial we were shooting was that the honest, hardworking people of Wisconsin Rapids put 100% into everything they do. So they would never consider putting anything less than 100% juice into a bottle of Northland. The same could not be said for those villains at Ocean Spray. Their cranberry cocktails ranged from just 17% to 27% juice. Cut to the close up of the Ocean Spray ingredient label, and cue the horror movie music.

The Director

But this story is not about juice. It is about the director. Ashley Lazarus. While Ashley Lazarus is one of the most beautiful names I have ever heard, it belongs to a bear of a man. A South African man. A man best known in America for launching the Saturn car brand with the iconic Spring in Springhill commercials. In other words, Ashley had mad directing skillz.

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Ashley Lazarus and a camera that won’t fit in your pocket.

Location Scouting

My first two days with Ashley were spent scouting for locations to shoot the commercial.  We were looking for the most interesting locations in and around Wisconsin Rapids to capture on film.

The conversation

While driving between locations in the Wisconsin countryside, Ashley, who was in his 60s, turned to me and slowly asked in his deep, South African accent, ‘Adam, how old are you?’

I replied, ’26’.

Not only will I never forget what he said next, it helped steer the course of my career, and my life.

Ashley continued,

‘Adam, eventually you must open your own advertising agency. You will be promised great positions in your career. You may even be offered them. But eventually all creatives are either passed over or forced out of agencies. The only way for you to remain in control of your career is to own your own agency.’

I had dreamed of owning my own agency since I first started my career three years earlier. But now, at 26 years old, I was told I had no choice. If I wanted to be in control of my career and my life’s path, I would have to start my own advertising agency and create my own opportunities.

That advice stuck in my head like a cocklebur to corduroy. I believed Ashley was right. Over the next 15 years I was promoted from Copywriter, to Senior Writer, to Associate Creative Director, to Creative Director, to Executive Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. But I never forgot what Ashley said. And I wanted the ultimate control over my career path.

The Weaponry

In 2016, when I was 42 years old, I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I also launched this blog to chronicle the entire journey (if you’d like to follow along at home consider subscribing). Today, I’d like Ashley to know that I listened, appreciated and followed the advice he gave me in the back of that SUV in Wisconsin, Rapids in 1999.

Key Takeaway

What Ashley said about my career holds true for you too. Your career path, and your life path will be determined by someone else if you don’t take control of it. You too should start your own business, or side hustle, or consulting gig. Prepare your own plan B before you need it. It’s the key to writing your own script with your own happy ending.