16 Things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. (Spoiler Alert: You’re 1 of them!)

Today is the day that we eat Turkey and give thanks. Those two things seem like strange pairings don’t they? I am going to be thankful for all I have, AND, eat a bird. It’s like celebrating Dads and Grads. They have nothing to do with each other, except they both happen in June, and they rhyme. But hey, sometimes that is all it takes.

As I prepare to ingest birds, cranberries and Grammy Beans, I am taking stock of all that I am thankful for this year. It’s quite a list. So in a particular order, here it goes.

Some Things I Am Thankful For in 2018

My Wife: I have always been thankful for my wife, Dawn. But when she fully supported my plan to leave a salaried job to bet on my ability to create a business that will support our family of 5, that made me crazy thankful. This lady is the best!

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Our family of 5, still eating and wearing clothes.

My kids: One of the greatest experiences for a busy business person is to go home and spend time with people who don’t care at all about what you do at work.

My Health:  I feel great. And according to the medical screening I just had, all of my numbers are right at the norm. Either that or I accidentally got some guy named Norm’s test results.

My Fellow Weapons We have hired more great people at The Weaponry this year. We now have employees in Milwaukee, Columbus and Atlanta. And we all work together, cross office, like one team based in Milumbta.

My Office The Weaponry has now been in our office space for a year. And we have made it feel like home. Next week we expect to sign a new lease. But we have to build in some flexibility clauses into our lease because we fully expect to outgrow our current space in the next few months. Which is a great problem to have.

Business Travel.  22 years ago I returned from my very first business trip the night before Thanksgiving. I had flown to El Centro, California with Dan Koel to photograph new tractors for Case IH in the irrigated California farmland just north of the Mexican border. I couldn’t believe how exciting it all was. Today I am thankful that I am just as excited about my career and the travel it offers. My trip to India in September was the pinnacle of work travel for the year.

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Me, Jake, Henry and Nina in India, during the couple of hours we had to go sightseeing.

Retainer Clients At the beginning of 2018 we didn’t have any retainer-based clients. So while we were growing at a healthy pace, we didn’t have much visibility into what was coming next. So our number one goal for this year was to establish retainer-based clients that would help build predictability into our machine.

Today we have 6 clients who pay us a monthly retainer. That has made it easier for us to commit to hiring more great people, and invest in other resources that allow us to deliver even better work for our clients. (Did you think retainer clients were the clients you get after your braces clients are removed?)

Heat The first time it got cold outside after we moved into our offices it was freezing in our space. Our building people sent specialist to seal our windows. Which helped some. But the biggest help was when we talked to our neighbors next door at DanceWorks, and simply asked them to turn up the thermostat. That worked like a charm. Go figure.

Hermann Miller No one has supported me over the course of the last year like Herman Miller. That’s because we have his really great Aeron desk chairs in our office. It makes a difference. Thanks Herman for building these. And thanks to Office Furniture Resources for helping us find these chairs lightly used, and at a good discount.

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Whoomp, chair it is!

Technology Thanks to technology, it has never been easier to launch a business. I am extremely thankful to a handful of resources that together create the central nervous system of our business. They are:

  • G-Suite
  • Asana
  • Slack
  • Gusto
  • Zoom
  • Dropbox

Insurance I am thankful that The Weaponry is able to offer our full-time employees both health and dental insurance. In 2018, our first year of offering such benefits, we were able to pay the full premiums on behalf of our individual employees. And it looks like we will be able to do the same in 2019. #Boom

My Commute  My drive to work is 17 miles. And it generally takes under 30 minutes. That is half the time I spent driving too and from work in Atlanta. I’m thankful for that every day. The only downside is that it now takes me twice as many days to finish an audiobook. That’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.

My Car My Acura MDX turned 10 years old this year. And I still love driving it. As my Grampy once told me, ‘A man with miles on his car has money in the bank.’ I am thankful to not have a monthly car payment. It is one less thing to worry about on my entrepreneurial adventure.

Ideas My business and my career are based on new ideas. I guess this blog is too. I am extremely thankful that the ideas keep coming. Because truth be told, I have no idea where they come from. And like a drunk at bar time, I am afraid of being cut off, because God knows I have been over-served.

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Me with old and new friends in Atlanta last week.

New Friends I love meeting new people. I am a collector. I think you can never have too many friends. Unless you are trying to hide in the witness protection program. Then too many friends could totally blow your cover and get you killed. But because I am not in that program, yet, I like having as many people on my team as I can. In the past 10 days I have met, and had significant conversations with the following new people:

  •  Jim Lucke
  • Stephanie Orman
  • Scott Jenkins
  • Reed Connor
  • Taylor Amann
  • Clay Raterman
  • Nate Davis
  • Anne Krueger
  • Eric Wilson
  • Alok Data
  • Larry Compton
  • Peter Kirchof
  • Jasmine Butler
  • Patrick Howe
  • Spencer Reed
  • Josh Schlabach
  • Bill Johnson

My Blog Readers I am extremely thankful for all of you who read, like, comment or subscribe to this blog. I know you have a millions other things you could read, and an endless number of other ways to invest your time. I am appreciative and humbled every time someone tells me they read something I wrote. So thank you for reading all the way to the end of this post. You are so much better people than those who bailed after that Dad’s & Grads observation in the first paragraph.

Key Takeaway

There is so much to be thankful for that I can’t capture it all here. As you count your  blessing, I hope you count really high. I hope you get tired, and lose your voice from all your counting. There are so many things for us all to be thankful for that there really ought to be a day for us to just stop and be thankful. And eat a bird. Yep, that still sounds weird to me.

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Are you as thankful as a farmer?

When I started my career in advertising my very first account was Case IH farm equipment. Case IH makes the red tractors, combines and implements that dot the American countryside. I was hired to work on the account because I have a farming background. In my job interview I shocked the ad agency leaders with my knowledge of PTOs, disk harrows and 12-row heads. I know these things because I come from a long line of farmers. My mom is one of nine farm kids. My dad is one of twelve.

As part of that first job I did a lot of research, talking to farmers about their wants and needs. In one of those conversations a farmer shared a quote with me that I will never forget. He said,

You will never find a farmer in Vegas. Because we are gambling out here every day.

A Farmer’s Reality

Farmers are gamblers who bet on themselves. They are the ultimate entrepreneurs.  They eat and breathe their work. Literally. They work from sun-up until sun-down. They reap what they sow. But to farmers, these are not clichés. These are the facts of life.

But here is the scariest reality of farming:  A farmer can work tirelessly every day, follow the best formula for success, never make the same mistake twice, and still go bust.

This is because a farmer does not control his or her own fate. They are at the complete mercy of Mother Nature. And Mother Nature doesn’t play fair. She doesn’t care how hard you work. Or that you’ve invested every dime you have into this year’s crop. And no one is immune to the whims of Mother Nature (except maybe the people who live in San Diego).

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Me and my kids visiting my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Karen’s dairy farm.

So the farmer can do everything in his or her power to grow a bumper crop, and then there is no rain. Or too much rain. Or a killing frost. Or flattening wind. Or hail. Or an eff-ing  grasshopper plague.

So this time of year, when the frost is on the pumpkin and the hay is in the barn, farmers are more thankful than you could ever imagine. While all Americans are thankful today, they are not as thankful as farmers.

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My Uncle Jerry’s farm, ready for the fall harvest.

Idea Farming

The moment I started planning to launch my advertising agency, I felt like I was getting back to my farming roots. Because I was betting everything on my ability to grow my own crops. But instead of producing corn, soybeans and milk, I would be growing creative ideas. And the hard thing about growing creative ideas is that you can’t buy the seeds from Monsanto.

Today, I am experiencing farmer-strength thankfulness. The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency that I started in 2016, has transformed from a dream with a plan to a physical business with walls, doors and desks. We have world-class employees. We have great clients. And we are cranking out ideas like Iowa cranks out corn.

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My boys and my Uncle Jon, keeping things under control at my Uncle Randy’s farm.

6 things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

  1. Today I’m thankful for my wife Dawn, who has demonstrated unwavering faith in my ability to feed, clothe and shelter our family.
  2. I’m thankful for my kids who share my love for ideas, adventure and creation.
  3. I’m thankful for my team of smart, self-driven creatives who produce valuable ideas every day.
  4. I’m thankful to my clients who have trusted The Weaponry to help them create the strategies and ideas they need to grow and thrive.
  5. I’m thankful for all of my friends. For handshakes and hugs. I’m thankful for those who will take my phone calls and reply to my texts. For the friends who have joined me this year for chocolate milk or a meal. And to those friends who like, comment or share something I post on social media.
  6. And on this day that we give thanks for the harvest I am especially thankful for my large farm family of Albrechts and Spraus. Our rich farming lineage has provided us all with a tremendous work ethic, a strong self-reliance, and a great appreciation for all that we have. Today we are working hard to pass the character traits that grow strong on farms on to our children. So that even though our offspring may never live on a farm, they will benefit from our family roots that reach deep into the rich black soil of Minnesota.

Summary

As you enjoy your Thanksgiving feast with friends and family take time to count your own blessings. As you pass the plates around the table remember where the food came from. And please say a little thank you for the farmer. Because surely they are saying thank you for you.

*If you decide to subscibe to this blog I woud be extremely thankful too.

How to get smarter every time you get in a car.

If you are like most people, you are on a long intellectual decline. Sure, you absorbed a lot of knowledge in school. But once you left high school or college or became a beauty school dropout, you stopped learning. Ok, ok, so you still ‘learn something new everyday.’ Maybe you pick up a little trivia under a Snapple cap. You learn that the very first touch tone phones didn’t have pound or star symbols. Or you learn that Americans invented Mexican, Italian and Chinese food.  But that’s not exactly growth learning.

True growth learning is extremely important to me. Because I learned at an early age that the stock version of Adam Albrecht was pretty ordinary. I have a vision of myself as a much better, smarter, stronger, funnier, nicer, braver, more capable human than I am today. Therefore I’m always trying to close the gap between the me in my head and the me on my couch.

One of the best habits I have developed to create a better me is listening to audio books while I drive. I stumbled onto my audiobook interest accidentally.  In 2009-ish I attended the Hachette Book Group’s annual book sale, just north of Indianapolis.  For one weekend in June everything is on sale for a dollar. So I bet a dollar on Ted Turner’s ‘Call me Ted’ audiobook. I loved the book. But more importantly, I learned from it.

  1. I learned how a kid who didn’t apply himself well in school could become among the wealthiest people on the planet by applying himself at life.
  2. I learned that to make wild leaps in your accomplishments you sometimes need to take wild risks.
  3. I learned that meeting room antics can make you highly memorable.
  4. I learned that pursuing your passionate interests can change the world.
  5. I learned that through mergers and acquisitions you can get tossed out of your own company.
  6. I learned the immense impact of philanthropy.
  7. I learned the value of keeping your eye on the future.
  8. I learned that the first Ted’s Montana Grill was in my former hometown of Columbus, Ohio. (ok, so this is a little more Snapple cap-esque)
  9. I learned how the right people and processes can turn losers like the Atlanta Braves into World Series Champions.
  10. I learned that Jane Fonda is a pretty great lady to have on your arm when you walk into a party.

So I sought out more audiobooks. I listened to biographies and self-help books. I listened to history books and books about the future. Now I pick up nuggets of knowledge and pearls of wisdom every day when I drive. I will often stop the audiobook and ask Siri to take a note for me, repeating a quote I heard, or paraphrasing a lesson so that I can review later.  It’s my way of highlighting the key passages as I listen. Just as I did in college.

Soon, the audiobooks made me feel like I was winning at life. Because I realized that by listening and learning on my commute I would arrive at work smarter than when I left home. Later that day I would arrive home smarter than I was when I left work.

Since I left the University of Wisconsin, no other activity has so clearly added layers of depth to my thinking, new lenses through which to view the world, or examples of how to choose my own adventures like my audiobook lessons. Today, The Perfect Agency Project owns a library of audiobook titles that our team can checkout anytime they want. Which is the easiest way I know to grow a stronger and smarter team without adding new people.

Many of you will be flying or road tripping over the next few days for the Thanksgiving holiday. I encourage you to stop by your local library to check out the audiobook section before you hit the highways or flyways. I bet you’ll be surprised  by the range of titles and topics. And it’s all free (unless you count the taxes you already paid that bought the books). Of course, there are also plenty of digital resources, like Audible and Amazon. When you find something you like, shoot me a message. I am always looking for great new reads, or listens, or learns, or whatever we should call them. If you’re interested, I’m happy post a list of my recommendations too.

Happy Thanksgiving. Safe travels. And I hope your thinking expands as much as your waistline.

 

5 things I’m thankful for at work.

Like my fellow Americans, today I’m reflecting on my blessings. I enjoy a very full and well rounded life (although I expect to be even fuller and rounder in a few hours).  I have so much to be thankful for I can’t possibly mention it all. So here is a quick overview of 5 things I’m thankful for this year at work.

1. I don’t have to wear a collared shirt with my company’s logo on it. 

logo shirts

The relaxed advertising agency dress code is one of the top reasons I chose this profession. I was reminded of this yesterday as I had lunch next to four guys who work at the local John Deere dealership. I know this because they each wore a shirt with the name of the dealership embroidered on it. I expect the shirts make them feel as if they are part of a team. But I’m thankful to be on a team that promotes individual self expression. (Plus, I know that logo shirts are ad units which warrant compensation in exchange for prime placement.)

2. Our Coke Freestyle Machine.

When I was a kid I remember going to my Dad’s office and thinking it was so cool that they had a vending machine that sold Cokes in glass bottles. My office now has a Coke Freestyle machine that lets you create over 125 different drinks whenever you want. The drinks are all free with employment at Moxie. Which makes my kids think I have the coolest job ever. Even thought we have grown used to it I certainly don’t take this boyhood-dream-come-true for granted.

3. Video Chats

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For the past 8 years I have managed a team spread across multiple offices. Many managers and teams struggle with the distance. One of the most valuable tools I use to bridge the space between our offices is video chat. I use it almost everyday, often multiple times a day.  It offers valuable, face to face communication that allows me to recognize nuances in communication that you just can’t detect through email, IM, text, phone calls or smoke signals. Note: I also get a lot of strange looks from coworkers when they pop into my office and find me telling stories to my laptop.

4. Frequent Flyer Miles.

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I have a lot of frequent flyer miles from work travel. This fall my Mother In Law was diagnosed with cancer. Those miles made it easy for my wife to fly home to Wisconsin to see her mom and be there as she went through surgery and treatments. The miles are a nice bit of compensation for all the time I’m away from home. And they made it easy to support our family members when they needed it most.

5. Moleskine Notebooks

2015 was an unprecedented year in my accumulation of these amazing notebooks. I had numerous meetings and conferences this year where these books were part of the swag. I have a hard time turning off my thinker. These notebooks are the perfect receptical for me to store the thoughts and ideas that pop in my head before they disappear into the ether. Sure, I use Notes on my phone and Evernote and other digital tools. But nothing gives me the satisfaction of holding a hard covered book full of my own words, sketches and ideas.  I have a vision of my offspring making a fortune off of the ideas they find in my notebooks after I die. Or at a minimum they could set up a cart selling corny t-shirts and bumper stickers to pay for their therapy.

I hope you all enjoy your time off and recognize all you have to be thankful for at work. Even if somedays it feels like you’re surrounded by turkeys like me.