Know your cow and never lose it.

Milk is in my blood. In 1870 my Great, Great Grandpa Fred Albrecht came to America from Schwerin, Germany and began dairy farming in Minnesota. His son Hermann Albrecht, and grandson Alton Albrecht continued pumping out the white gold. Five of my Grandpa Alton’s sons, my uncles Jerry, Tom, Paul, Chuck and Tim Albrecht, spent their entire careers as dairy farmers. My father Robert Albrecht managed dairy farms. Then he oversaw the Dairy Herd Improvement Association work for the states of Missouri, Vermont, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Throughout my childhood, milk put food on our table.

A New Path

I did not continue the family tradition. I decided to go into advertising instead. I started as a copywriter, and worked my way up to Chief Creative Officer. Then, in 2016, I launched my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry.  

What I have discovered is that dairy farmers are really entrepreneurs. I have to believe that coming from a long line of farmers has somehow prepared me for entrepreneurship. I get up early, before the sun, and get to work, just like each generation before me. And just like dairy farmers produce milk, we produce new ideas everyday.

Taking Risks

Farming and entrepreneurship are both risky endeavors. I remember a farmer once saying to me,

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

Words of Wisdom

To be an entrepreneur, or a farmer, you have to be bold and take on risks. And sometimes things will go wrong. As I face the unavoidable risks of entrepreneurship I am emboldened by one of my favorite dairy-isms:

Don’t worry about how much milk you spill, as long as you don’t lose your cow.

Growing

As an entrepreneur I have faced challenges that have cost us money. And trust me, that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Kinda like a swig of milk from a cow that grazed in the onion patch. But it is part of the process. You learn, and grow and then head back to the barn the next morning, where the cows are anxious to be milked.

Key Takeaway

Things sometimes go wrong. Sometime you lose money. Or lose a client. Or lose your job. It may feel terrible in the moment. But don’t focus on the milk you spilled, or the money you lost. Focus on your cow: your skills, experience and know-how that provide great value to others. As long as you have that, you will always make more money. Because as I have seen for generation after generation, if you take good care of the cows, they will keep providing you with more milk, twice a day, every day. And they will take care of you.

Advertisements

Forget what you see on TV. This is what an advertising agency is really like.

I admit, I am a fairly loud human. As an extrovert I love to interact with other people. I like to talk, laugh, and not-so-occasionally sing. It doesn’t surprise people when they find out that I  work at an advertising agency. More specifically, in 2016 I founded an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Naturally, you would expect an agency to reflect the personality of the Founder. And indeed, it does.

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Reality Check

But right now it is deafeningly quiet in our office. There is no witty banter among colleagues. No loud music thumping. No pinging and ponging. No pinball machine dinging. No sounds of ball-smacking at the foosball table.

Just quiet.

Tour Disappointment

Many times during my career, in moments just like this, an agency executive would stride through the quiet office, excited to show off the totally cool agency to a client. And the executive would be clearly disappointed by the quiet.

They would often apologize to their tour mate with a line like, ‘It’s usually much louder in here.‘ Or, ‘We have a lot of people out right now.’ Or ‘We have to be careful since we got that last noise violation…’

This is all because ad agencies like The Weaponry are supposed to be loud, fun, energetic and entertaining, right?

And often times we are.

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I think this is a picture of thinking.

But other times, like now, we are as quiet as a library on Saturday night. Because creators gotta create. And we don’t need to get loud to do it. Quite the opposite (or is it quiet the opposite?). The harder I work, the more focused I am, the quieter I am. So are my fellow Weapons. Because the most important work we do is the mental processing we perform when we are alone. That is when we are finding the language to articulate our new ideas in words and images. It is when we are editing our thinking down to the simplest, cleanest, clearest expressions. And that takes quiet focus.

Key Takeaway

If you stop by an ad agency when the people are really, really quiet, don’t be disappointed that you didn’t get a show. Stick around a few minutes to watch the work in progress. It’s usually, fast, focused and fascinating. During a break in the action ask if you can see the work hot-off-the-fingertips. When you see the freshly crafted art, read the  newly woven words, or ingest the just-birthed strategy, you’ll understand that silence is golden.

It’s where the real magic happens.

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.

Introducing the amazing shoes that help fight breast cancer.

I will never forget a phone call I received from my wife in 2001. I picked up the phone, and without any other greetings Dawn said, ‘My Mom has breast cancer.’ Those unexpected and unwelcomed words landed with more weight than any others I have ever heard telephonically. With that phone call I joined the not-so-exclusive club of people whose family’s have been invaded by breast cancer.

A Better Call

Fast forward to the spring of 2018. I got a call from my friend Harper Cornell at Mizuno. Harper shared that she was leading the marketing efforts for an exciting Mizuno initiative called Project Zero. Mizuno was partnering with Fleet Feet Stores across the country to raise money to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). Harper and her team were looking for a partner to work with to promote Project Zero. I jumped* at the chance to get involved. (*There was actually no physically jumping. But I definitely jumped in all the non-physical ways.)

Planning

Over the next couple of months our team at The Weaponry created logos, themes, scripts, videos, point of purchase displays and a brand style guide for the effort. We thought through budgets, logistics and calendars. We researched and explored great stories we could tell about runners who had been impacted by breast cancer. Then we brought it all to life.

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Kristyn ‘K-Lil’ Lilley and Sonia. K-Lil lead our design work, and directed interviews. Because she rocks. Sonia is an amazing advocate for other women dealing with breast cancer.

Filming

In August we traveled to Houston to work with Jennie Finch, the Olympic Gold Medal softball player, and Mizuno athlete. We spent a day at the Fleet Feet store filming a series of videos with Jennie promoting Project Zero. She was great to work with and a passionate supporter of the cause. I’m also thankful that she never balked or threw anything at me when I asked her for a long list of alternate takes.

Then we traveled to Atlanta to film four inspiring women who have battled with breast cancer, and six strong breast cancer supporters who have helped friends, mothers and wives through their fight with this menacing disease.

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We filmed in Houston, Texas. Which is where my sisters Donielle and Alison, and my nieces Norah and Celia live. So they were able to stop by while we were shooting.

Here Is The Deal

What Mizuno is doing with Project Zero is remarkable. If you buy a pair of special edition BCRF WaveKnit running shoes, Mizuno will donate $10 from your purchase directly to the BCRF, the largest nonprofit funder of Breast Cancer research in the world.

Simple and startling facts about breast cancer:

  • 1 in 8 women around the world will be impacted by breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • 45,000 women in the US and Canada are expected to die of breast cancer this year.
  • There are 3,850,000 breast cancer survivors in the US and Canada today.

The key to turning 1-in-8 women into 0-in-8 is research. That’s why the Breast Cancer Research Foundation is so important.

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Harper and Yolaine and I after wrapping. Not rapping.

Impressive Facts About The BCRF.

  • It is the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research in the world.
  • They fund 275 scientist
  • They fund research in 15 countries on 6 continents
  • They help explore causes, new treatments, prevention and early diagnosis
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Sorita is amazing. She owns a Fleet Feet Store in Reading, PA. She not only crushed breast cancer, she crushes triathlons too.

I am extremely proud that our team was able to contribute to such an important cause. Thanks to Jeanne Mayer, Kristyn Lilley, Matt Ackley, Kevin Kayse and Tony Sharpe for all of your hard work.

Here is a look at a couple of the 11 videos we created to support the cause.

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Gretchen and her family are truly inspiring. I was just happy to be in their world.

Key Takeaway

If you could use a great new pair of stylish running shoes, please consider stopping by a Fleet Feet store during October, or going to MizunoUSARunning.com. By the way, today my Mother In Law, Cynthia Zabel, is doing great, 17 years after that initial phone call.

Go Cynthia!

What I have learned about blogging after 200 posts.

I always wanted to write a blog. Ok, that’s a total lie. The term weblog wasn’t even born until after I was out of college. But ever since I first heard about blogs I knew I wanted to write one. But like a lame shopping mall, I didn’t have a hot topic to write about.

That all changed when I started planning the launch of my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.  I knew my entrepreneurial journey would make for an interesting story to write about. I just didn’t know if it would be more comedy, tragedy or a bit of both.

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I launched the blog The Perfect Agency Project to share my entrepreneurial experience, and to serve as a personal journal of the adventure. Since the fall of 2015 I have written regularly. I have also written posts when I was irregular*. (*Not true, but I don’t have an editor to stop me from writing such nonsense. Which is one of my favorite things about blogging.)

It’s A Hard Blog Life

But writing a blog is hard. It is an elective that can take up as much time as your required coursework. Maintaining a blog requires a dedication to writing and editing. It requires a commitment to learning, observing and listening to the feedback you receive.

Mr. 200

This, my readers, is my 200th post. I am extremely thankful for all of you who have taken the time to read any of my writings. This feels like a good time to reflect on the experience so far, and share what I have learned from my first 200 posts.

17 lessons I have learned from writing my first 200 posts.

 

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#1  Starting is the most important step. I talk to people all the time who tell me they want to start a blog. And my response is always, ‘You should.’ And ‘The best way to start a blog is to go to wordpress.com and start writing a blog.’ It is really that easy to get started. Remember in A Social Network with Fake Mark Zuckerberg said, “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented facebook.’?  The same holds true here. If you want to write a blog, start a blog. (And how cute is that little Chariots of Fire Duckling pic above?)

five-706893_960_720#2  Write and publish 5 posts before you share any with others. This 5-post commitment ensures you are serious about blogging. It also offers your first visitors an established base of content to peruse on their first visit. This helps entice them to come back for more. The 5-post commitment also works for building fences.

 

SUPER BOWL XXXIX.  FOX Sports presents Super Bowl XXXIX, live Su

#3  Posts Don’t Have To Be Long.  Seth Godin’s blog posts are often very short. Often a paragraph or so. These are easy to read and easy to write. In our attention-deficit world people like a quick blog hit. If writing shorter keeps you writing, write short. And remember, if you dare wear short shorts, Nair for short shorts.

 

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#4  Make people laugh. One of the most important reasons people look forward to my writings is that I try to sneak funnies, or ridiculouses into my posts. I think humor is key to keeping people coming back, like the Costanza hat. But if you don’t do funny well, try profound, or smart. They offer value too.

 

#5  500-word rule of thumb. I like a 500-word average for my posts. That seems to be a good length that lets me share a full thought, but not so long that it starts to drag. For perspective, we just hit 500 words in this paragraph. And maybe I should stop here. But not today! Today, we’re going Ludacrous Length.

#6  Use the Headline Analyzer.  I often type my headline into the headline analyzer at coschedule.com. It helps me tweak the headline for maximum interest. It will show you what is likely to help your headlines draw more eyes and clicks. It gives each headline a score between 1 and 100. The headline on this post only scored a 69. But I snickered and thought that was good enough. Aim higher than I do.

 

man wearing sunglasses reading book on body of water

 

#7  You never know what topics are going to resonate with readers. Everyone comes to my blog from a different mindset. So different topics, perspectives, and quotes are more relevant to some readers than others. I am often surprised when readers tell me that a recent post was their favorite thing I’ve written so far. So keep writing. You never know who will benefit from it. There are a handful of random blog posts that have had a major impact on my thinking. Your wisdom could have that kind of impact too. Which is better than an impacted wisdom tooth.

 

#8  A photo is important.  The featured image seems to have a significant impact on readership. WordPress has a library of free images to use. Use them. They help. Apparently humans are visually stimulated. Who knew? (#ThePornIndustryKnew)

 

#9  Tuesdays and Thursdays work. Every community has specific days and times that work best for post readership. Although I have published posts on all 31 days of the week, Tuesday and Thursdays get the most love. I don’t know why. Experiment to find days and times that get the best response for your blog.

 

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#10  Read your blog out loud before publishing. All of my posts are read out loud (ROL) before I push them live. You should do this too. It helps you find errors and omissions that you may not have found otherwise. For instance, by ROL-ing I might have realized there are 7 days in a week, not 31.

 

#11  6 is the magical monthly number. I talked to a mathematician who did statistical analysis on blog posts and readership. He found that posting 6 posts per month or more had a much greater impact on engagement and memorability. I have found this to be true. As soon as I made a habit of hitting 6 posts or more per month my average monthly readership doubled. Which doubled the pleasure and doubled the fun.

 

#12  Create a writing habit. I start each weekday morning by writing for about an hour from 6am to 7am. This has become a regular routine. It’s a positive habit that allows me to publish 2 posts per week. Establishing the writing habit is the key to making the blog work. My friend Jeff Hilimire, who blogs regularly, said that he frequently uses a 20 minute rule. He writes for 20 minutes, and publishes what he has when the dinger dings. I actually don’t know if there is a dinger. But the point is to find your habit and grab it like a rabbit.

 

#13  Run Spellcheck.  WordPress and other blogging platforms have a spell checking feature. Use them. They will catch things you don’t, like Odell Beckham Jr. You will have the occasional error sneak through. My readers will often shoot me a heads up when I pull a Billy Buckner. I appreciate this. It takes a village to raise a grammatically proper post.

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#14  Start a draft whenever you get an idea.  Inspiration for posts can come from anywhere. When inspiration strikes, write the basic idea into a quick draft on your phone or computer. I currently have 195 unpublished drafts. In fact, my blog is so drafty it needs weather-stripping. Your ideas are likely to disappear if you don’t write them down. Having several drafts started gives you plenty of options to work with on days when you are less inspired to write something new.

 

#15  Posts are a great way to recognize others.  I have written many posts about the people who have inspired, impressed and supported me. The posts offer a great way to say thanks, or show your appreciation or respect for others. In fact, my most popular post to date is my tribute to my friend Steven Schreibman. I have written about friends, family, clients, coaches, rappers and a strange woman I encountered at the Piggly Wiggly. They have all been popular posts. Granted, some of them had nothing to do with advertising or entrepreneurship. But it’s my blog, I can write what I want to.

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#16  Posting brings good things.  Every time I publish a post something good happens. I get an opportunity or an introduction. I hear from a friend or family member. Or I get a kind, thankful or supportive comment from a reader. Or I get asked to emcee a charitable luncheon by my friend Stacy Sollenberger, where I meet a future employee who helps bring great new opportunities to The Weaponry. Or my friend Tim McKercher forwards a post to Vanilla Ice, who tweets the post out to the world.

 

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#17  Don’t get caught up in readership numbers.  I would prefer to have one person read a post and really take something away from it than have a million people read it and forget it. Write for the one person who needs to hear your message that day. Not for the massholes who don’t care. Write good posts that offer value. That is all you should ever care about. Well, that and human rights.

Key Takeaway

The Perfect Agency Project has been the perfect writing project for me. It allows me to write a bit everyday. It forces me to think more about my life, my career and my observations. Nothing I have ever written feels truer to my style of thinking, writing and self-expression.

You have something to share too. We all do. I hope you consider sharing your thoughts, feelings, observations and learnings in your own blog. You never know who you might help along the way. Or who may help you. Life is funny that way. I hope to keep writing about this funny life adventure we are on for another 2000 posts.

**If you read this far (you are 1612 words in) you probably would enjoy subscribing to this blog. Please consider signing up to get each post emailed to you.

3 amazing things our team did in one exciting weekend.

A few years ago I was having a serious conversation about my career with a close friend. I was talking about a job opportunity I was contemplating that would involve me and my family moving to one of the major cities in the United States. Chad, my son Magnus’ Godfather, asked why I was considering such a move and the impact it was likely to have on our family’s quality of life. Not to mention the impact it would have on the Christmas Eve tradition our families enjoyed together.

I told Chad that I was curious to know what my career might hold if I was in a major market. Chad took a long pause. And then he said slowly, in words I could easily understand,

I don’t think your career has ever been limited by your location.

Chad was right. My career has been full of interesting opportunities and adventures that have outsized the markets that I have lived and worked in. But without Chad’s comment I may not have recognized that myself.

I was reminded of Chad’s statement last week because my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, had a particularly interesting weekend. Here are the 3 big things that happened.

#1   Two of our Weapons flew to the other side of the planet to film a video about an impressive business in Bangalore, India. It was a trip that helped alter my world-perspective.  I met amazing people, saw incredible sights and ate incredible food. And, now that I’ve seen the first rough cut, I can say I helped capture a really great video.

#2    A team of our Weapons were working with a former President of The United States. We sent a crew to the Plains Peanut Festival in Plains, Georgia. A major part of what our team did in Plains was work with President Jimmy Carter. Our team filmed President Carter, photographed him and his family and friends at various activities that weekend. Our team also wrote The Peanut Proclamation, on behalf of The Peanut Institute, which president Carter signed. Working with President Carter was a pretty great consolation prize for our team members who didn’t get to go to India. A trip to India was a good consolation prize for those who didn’t get to work with President Carter.

#3   At the same time as the international travel and the Presidential peanut-ing, our team was launching a new campaign for the sporting gear brand Mizuno, and their support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation during Breast Cancer Awareness month.

The work we created included 11 videos, which featured Olympic Gold Medalist Jennie Finch. Jennie is not only the face of American softball, and a business woman, she is a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model, a contestant on the most recent season of Dancing With The Stars, and a wonderful human being. The videos also included profiles of 4 women who have been battling breast cancer, and 2 women whose mothers have battled breast cancer and won.

Key Takeaway

This was not a bad weekend for an advertising and idea agency headquartered in Milwaukee. That’s because we refuse to be limited by our geography. What I have found over and over again is that if you do great work, are great to work with, and live up to your commitments, great work will keep coming your way.  So don’t think you need to live in the largest, most crowded, most expensive, most traffic-infested cities in the world to do great things. You just have to do great things, and the opportunities will find you.

Which of your beliefs will make you legendary?

Last week I visited a fascinating company in Bangalore, India. My team at The Weaponry was hired to tell the story of this impressive organization that has grown from 50 people to 5000 employees in just over 12 years. This kudzu-style growth fascinated me as a business owner. And I was determined to learn all I could from studying this organization.

The Campus

The business has a beautiful, 500,0000 square foot campus that includes multiple interconnected buildings, two giant cafeterias, a walking path through a forest garden, a rainwater reclamation system, large art installations and a transportation system that moves employees between home and work that operates like a school’s bus system, but for business. And presumably without spit balls.

The Posters

Throughout the campus of this remarkable organization there were posters of the grandfather of the two Founders. Each of the posters highlighted one of the Grand Patriarch’s core values. This iconic businessman was born in 1903, before the airplane, television and computer. He died 25 years ago. Yet his approach to life and business is very much on display as a source of inspiration to this progressive organization’s employees and visitors. And none of the posters simply said ‘Hang in there Kitty!’

As I read each of the posters I kept asking myself:

Which of your core principles could inspire great success in your grandchildren and the organizations they run 100 years from now?

Something to think about.

Do you have such principles, values or beliefs? Have you identified them, written them down and shared them? I think about my beliefs and philosophies often. But I had never thought about capturing them as a source of guidance and inspiration for future generation of my family, and future generations who will work in my business.

Key Takeaway

In light of what I saw in India, it seems like a great idea for us all to identify our core beliefs and share them with our children, friends and team members. You never know what you may inspire.