My unique spin on the coffee meeting has come full circle.

One of the great traditions of networking is grabbing coffee. When you meet someone for the first time you suggest grabbing coffee. When you see someone you haven’t seen in a long time, you talk about grabbing coffee. Coffee gets grabbed more than an aspiring actress at a Harvey Weinstein pool party. #timesup

I don’t drink coffee. Ok, that’s not fully true. I have now had 4 cups of coffee in my life. That’s about one per decade. But the coffee meeting is one of the most valuable elements of professional development. It is a useful tool for developing and maintaining relationships. It can be used for research, informal mentoring and for stay at home moms to have sanity-preserving conversations with full-sized rational humans.

Despite the fact that coffee tastes like burnt bark juice, I love using coffee meetings to catch up with old friends or get to know new people better. I just do it differently.

Barista, The Usual.

My go to beverage at the coffee shop is chocolate milk. I love that stuff. It reminds me of Fridays in elementary school. Which was the only day chocolate milk was served at school when I was a kid. Today, drinking chocolate milk still feels like a party.

 

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This is my friend Andy. We regularly grab beverages,where we compare and contrast the merits of different hair styles. 

Andy Salamone

One of the people I regularly grab chocolate milk with is my friend Andy Salamone. Andy is an amazing guy. He started a business called CarSpot right out of college. He developed a way of aggregating used car inventory from dealerships into a centralized, customer-friendly online shopping experience. Andy and his team developed innovative technology to transform and grow the business until AutoTrader made Andy an offer he didn’t refuse. He sold the business several years ago, and now enjoys the fruits of his exit.

It is fascinating to talk to Andy as he scans the landscape looking for the next great entrepreneurial opportunity. He sees businesses the way an engineer sees a machine. He can talk you through the mechanics of creating an efficient device to deliver a great idea. He has been a great influence on me and the way I think about my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

Recent Visit

Andy texted me last week and said he wanted to swing by and see The Weaponry’s new office. I was thrilled to have him see our space. He arrived with some really fun surprises. He had a gallon of Oberwies chocolate milk. Which is the chocolate milk equivalent to a Goody McGood bottle of Scotch. That alone would have been a great office warming gesture. Then Andy reached into the bag that contained the milk and pulled out four glasses with the five Great Lakes printed on them. On each glass there’s a heart printed right where Milwaukee sits on the shores of Lake Michigan.

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Cheers to friends, good fortune and frothy chocolate milk.

A Moment To Absorb.

Now picture this. As I poured my glass full of that chocolatey nectar of the Guernsey’s, I was sitting on a couch at the adverting agency that I always dreamed of creating. I toasted my good fortune with a friend and fellow entrepreneur. Then I set my new Great Lakes glass down on my custom-made The Weaponry surfboard coffee table.

My life was coming together just the way I had always imagined it would. Even my fellow Wisconsin Badger, Abraham Maslow would have grabbed one of my new glasses, raised it towards me and said, ‘Kid, it doesn’t get any better than this.’ #selfactualization.

A Toast

Make the time to grab a drink of your own choice with the people of your own choice. May you find your own version of The Weaponry, and chocolate milk and custom surfboard coffee tables. I hope that you look forward to going to work every day. I hope you get to design your life, your work and your tribe. May your days be full of great moments that are uniquely you. Here’s to feeling as if you are winning at life.

*To find out what happens in my life and business when I am not chugging chocolate milk consider subscribing to this blog.

 

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Our newest piece of office furniture is also the most unique.

If you like shopping for furniture you should become an entrepreneur. Because one of the by-products of owning a growing business is you need to buy products like chairs and table for your team. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, now owns 14 comfortable chairs, a couch, several tables, and one custom-made lamp. The lamp is probably considered lighting. But this is my blog and I’m calling it furniture.

The Coffee Table Quest

We quickly found options we liked for most of our office furniture needs. But there was one piece that we just couldn’t find in stores or online. We wanted a statement-making coffee table. In full disclosure, I don’t drink coffee. So I think of it as a chocolate milk table. But because the rest of the world knows these types of drink-stabilizing platforms as coffee tables, I will give in to peer pressure and act like I will enjoy coffee on them like everyone else.

Square Pegs.

Our office space is very square. The furniture in our casual seating area is very square too. So we needed a long table with a curvy figure to round out the room. A surfboard-shaped table would be perfect.

Desperately Seeking Surfboard.

Within 60 seconds of thinking, ‘A surfboard coffee table would to totally gnarly dude!’, I found a custom maker of surf furniture online. I was soon on the phone with Marker Six in North Carolina. Then the Weaponry whipped up six different design options and asked people to vote on their favorites. You can find the post ‘Surfing for a coffee table and we need your help.’ here.

If you didn’t play along then you can play now.

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Pick your favorite (or remember your favorite from the first time you voted). Then check below to see if we have similar tastes.

The Votes Have Been Tallied

After we had sufficient feedback from our social networks we ordered our custom designed table. Then we waited.

It’s Here!

After about a month, and some unfortunate weather delays in the epoxification process and FedEx’s delivering-during-a-snowstorm process, our new table showed up yesterday.

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The surfboard top came packaged like this. The box underneath it contained the legs. We didn’t read the instructions and thought this was how it should go together. #seesawtable
This is the revere angle of what our table top looked like covered with a cardboard prophylactic. 
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This is the cardboard cocoon our table emerged from. Its duty was heavy, but still medium.
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Rick from Marker Six, the makers of our coffee table, was listening during the ‘Use Protection’ talk.  He used layers of cardboard, pipe insulation, paper and styrofoam to protect the wood.

 

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Ta Da! Number 3 is the winner!  It’s a fun conversation piece. Even if I am just talking to myself. In the background you can also see our custom-made pen lamp from David Laro.
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This is a great place to surf the web.

What’s Next? 

The next step is for you to stop by to enjoy a tour of our office and a beverage on the board. Make The Weaponry part of your next swing through Wisconsin. If you live in Milwaukee, stop by and let’s have some chocolate milk, coffee, tea, beer or a juice box in our newly completed board room. We’re expecting you.

*To follow the good the bad and the gnarly of my entrepreneurial adventure please  consider subscribing to this blog.

 

The best thing about our new stickers is hidden on the back.

There are some business secrets they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School. Like the fact that every great business needs a great sticker. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, now has a great sticker. It comes from Sticker Robot.  Which I think is where The Jetsons and R2-D2 get their sticker supplies.

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Sticker Robot makes the best silkscreened stickers in the business. But if you want some for your business you should order them the same day you establish your legal business entity. Because they take a loooong time to produce. We ordered ours back in November.  They finally arrived on January 16th.

A video on how Sticker Robot make their world-famous stickers.

The Modern Branding Iron.

The whole concept of branding originated from ranchers who branded their livestock with a hot iron to identify their little dogies. Today I find very few people who will let me sear them with a red-hot iron. So we use these 2.5 inch X 2.5 inch vinyl stickers instead. I have already placed one on my computer, my Yeti tumbler, my car and all three of my children.

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We ordered 1000 stickers and got 500 free.
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I’ll tumbler for you.

Check out that backside… (It’s stickerlicious!)

But what I really love about them is their backside. Sticker Robot allows you to print a message or design on the back of the sticker. So we added some of our philosophy. And some of our philosophy about our philosophy. And we added a call to confusion. Which is like a call to action, if the action actually leads to more confusion, like our website does. Visit theweaponry.com to see what I mean.

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I love sharing our philosophy on the back of our sticker. Don’t overlook the little opportunities to share your brand message in unexpected places.

Then we also added a note about the importance of proofreading.  See the *note below? I’ll wait while you review.

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Did you find the typo? Did you look carefully?

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The Typo

If you didn’t find the typo it is probably because there is no typo. We just thought it was a funny addition. And perhaps it would increase engagement. Who reads the back of a sticker two or three times?  Well, if it’s a sticker from The Weaponry, and you feel challenged, maybe you will. Then, maybe you walk away with a story about how you spent 60 seconds looking for a typo that wasn’t really there.

This sticker sums up The Weaponry pretty well.

  1. We believe in the power of a consistent brand look.
  2. Red reflects our enthusiasm.
  3. We believe the most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind.
  4. We believe that business is war.
  5. We believe we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.
  6. And we believe in finding fun ways to increase engagement.

Your takeaway.

If you would like a sticker just ask (I now carry them with me everywhere). Or leave a request in the comment section below. You can also stop by The Weaponry to pick one up (1661 N. Water Street In Milwaukee). If you are looking for a job, an internship, a chance to network or just a good excuse to come for a grand tour of The Weaponry’s World Headquarters, a sticker request is a good in. And we have a sticker with your name on it. Well, actually our name is on it. That was just a figure or speech.

*If you would like to stick around to learn more about The Weaponry and my entrepreneurial journey please subscribe to this blog. You may even find some real typos.

 

How do you measure your professional growth?

When I was a kid I loved being measured. It was a great way to track my growth. I loved standing against the wall and measuring my height to see how much I had grown since the last time I stood against a wall. But I have not grown a millimeter since I was 14 years old. I topped out at 6 feet and 1/4 inch. But I was thrilled to be 6-something and not 5-something. (No disrespect 5-Somethings. #heightgoals)

Weight

I used to love stepping on a scale to see how much weight I had gained too. While I didn’t get any taller after my freshman year, I did gain 65 pounds during high school. In the 20+ years since then I have never been more than 10 pounds above my graduation weight. But like most adults, I am no longer excited to see growth on the bathroom scale.

Taking New Measurements

Today I measure my growth in other ways. In 2016 I decided to undertake a personal growth challenge and start an advertising and idea agency. I knew this entrepreneurial adventure would push me to grow in a great number of ways. But when I first began my journey I’m not sure I could have identified those many areas of growth. Or perhaps more importantly, how I would recognize the growth when it occurred.  After all, there is no scale to step on to measure the size of you Entrepreneurium.

Last week I saw it.

Late last Wednesday afternoon I left my office and climbed into the driver’s seat of my car. I took a moment to reflect on my day. There, in the quiet of my car, I could measure my own growth as clearly as I could when I was a kid standing against the wall or stepping on the bathroom scale.

The New Growth

Here are a few things that happened that day that showed me how far I had come in my entrepreneurial journey.

  1. I went to my office at The Weaponry. What had started as a business idea in my head in 2016 is no longer just an idea in my head. It’s a real, physical space with walls, doors and windows. It’s located at 1661 N. Water Street, Suite, #206 in Milwaukee. Stop by when you have a moment.
  2. I spent an hour dealing with our employer-offered insurance. We now offer health and dental insurance to our full-time employees. I had to chase down information that morning to get our new group ID numbers. I then put on my HR Director hat and held an impromptu meeting to update our employees who have enrolled in our insurance. Then I distributed temporary ID cards. Even typing this feels like a big step forward. I will have a whole post on this process to share soon.
  3. I participated in my monthly CEO roundtable discussion. I meet with a group of six business owners on the second Wednesday of every month. This group is part of the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE), organized by the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). I encourage you to click that link just to see how beautiful their picture of Milwaukee is. Milwaukee is a great city on a great lake. And I am thrilled to be here. But the discussions I participate in at these monthly meetings are a clear indicator of my professional growth over the past 18 months.
  4. I ended my day with a 45 minute discussion with our IT consultant. We are implementing upgrades to our IT infrastructure to meet the stringent security standards of the banking industry. There will be more to come on this in a future post. But when I stop and think about my expanded vocabulary in this space alone it is impossible not to recognize the growth. I’ve come a long way since I was a young copywriter penning headlines like, “It’s so responsive it knows which butt cheek you’re flexing.’  

Take Away

I don’t need a scale or measuring tape to document the growth spurt that I’m experiencing now. It is clearly evident in my daily actions, my language, and the growing circle of impressive people I spend my time with. This is exactly what I was after when I first experienced the urge for more growth, both personally and professionally. I know there is much I don’t yet know. But I am working on it. And that makes all the difference.

*To follow my journey please consider subscribing to this blog. If you’ve never subscribed to a blog before, consider this part of your personal growth. Yay you!

 

 

The writing is on the wall, and I love it.

I don’t have any tattoos. I probably never will.  But I do have an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. And ever since we moved into our new office space I can understand the passion for tattoos. Because The Weaponry office now offers a blank canvas to adorn with meaningful words and images that are profound to us. I find myself giddy over the new ink we could apply to our empty spaces. Yet I don’t worry that my Mom and Dad will keel over dead, wondering where they went wrong as parents. #winwin

Our Latest Sign

Every time we personalize our new space it feels even more like The Weaponry.  More like home. More like us. Yesterday was really fun for me because we had a new sign added to the wall behind my desk.

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I love having this statement in my office as a constant reminder as I work. I also love the white wall and the Cream City Brick in our office. Fine, I love everything about working at The Weaponry. There, I said it.

I love this statement. It is a constant reminder of the power of the human mind. It offers us the power to create anything. It can solve any problem. And it is the greatest resource any of us will ever possess.

Here is a time-lapse video of our new sign being applied.

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I love this wall. And I love The Weaponry shield as the punctuation at the end of the statement.

Your Takeaway 

If you find this statement as powerful as I do let me know. I would be happy to share an image you could use as a lock screen on your phone or a background image for your computer. Maybe we’ll even put it on a sticker, poster, button, t-shirt or temporary tattoo. But if you want to turn it into a permanent tattoo, not only will I send you the artwork,  I may pay for it myself.

*If you want to see the other sign we installed yesterday consider subscribing to this blog. I’m sure there will be a post about that soon too.

How to be more courageous in the new year.

What would you do if nothing scared you? Would you wrestle a rabid alligator? Be the first person on the dance floor?  Jump out of rocket ships? Invite a family of termites to your log cabin for a long weekend? Or would you do something even scarier, like change career paths in your prime?

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Fearless you would be unstoppable. Unfortunately, fear is the greatest tranquilizer on Earth. It can stop a talented human like you in your tracks. Fear can prevent you from becoming the amazing person you were born to be. I hate that.

Fear vs Courage

I’ve had several conversations this week about fear and courage. It becomes a central topic this time of year as we aim to renew ourselves each January. So I’ve turned to one of my favorite quotes on the topic from Cus D’Amato. Cus was one of the greatest boxing trainers of all time. He used to train World Heavyweight Champion, Mike Tyson. If anyone knows about fear, Cus does. Here’s what he says:

I tell my kids, what is the difference between a hero and a coward?  What is the difference between being yellow and being brave? No difference. Only what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The man who is yellow refuses to face up to what he’s got to face. The hero is more disciplined and he fights those feelings off and he does what he has to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel.  -Cus D’Amato

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Whoa!

The key is not being immune to fear. Because everyone feels it. The key is to keep moving and keep doing despite the fear. What you feel is irrelevant. What you do makes all the difference.

Me and Fear

Since I founded the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have been meeting fear on Main Street at high noon every day.  I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know what the second quarter of the year looks like. And I don’t have a back-up plan.

But I show up every day. I put one foot in front of the other. I keep moving forward. And I keep winning. I keep living into the life I want and traveling the career path I created in my head. If it all ended tomorrow I would be proud to have been brave enough to try. Brave enough to leave a predictable path for the potential of a greater reward on many levels. The fear just makes the victories sweeter.

Key Take Away

At the beginning of the year you should have big plans and goals for yourself. You should want to become a better You. But perhaps the most important goal you should have is to simply step towards the fear and fight through it. We all feel fear. It is hardwired into us. Bur fear is just a yellow traffic light. You get to choose whether you treat it like a red light or a green.

*If you know someone who you think needs a little push to get them to step towards their fear, please share the Cus D’Amato quote with them. When facing fear it helps to have all the ammunition you can get.

 

I’m working this week for the first time in 18 years.

I’m heading to the office today. I was there yesterday. And I’ll be there tomorrow too. While this might not seem significant to you, it is to me. This marks the first time since I partied like Prince that I have gone to an office between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Before I launched my own business I worked at an adverting agency that shut down during this span. Before that, I saved my vacation days to enjoy the entire holiday week off. Before that was 1999, the last year I was in the office. Back then I was worried about the havoc Y2K was going to wreak on my Blockbuster account.

Today

I couldn’t be happier about going to work today. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and spending time with Dawn (my wife partner) and 3 children. But I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, because I thought it would be the best way to ensure stability for my family. Today, The Weaponry is extremely busy. And I have things to take care of.

This week I have three precious days to focus on The Weaponry’s past, present and future.

The Past.

We are busy tying a giant red bow on 2017.  It looks like we will double our revenue from 2016. But we have financial matters to complete before we arrive at the final numbers. This week we have invoices to send and expenses to expense. We are also investing more in infrastructure before the close of the year. On our shopping list:

  • Large TV/monitor for our conference room
  • 6 high stools for our recently ordered 48-inch x 96-inch high-top conference room table (it is red!)
  • Giant signs for 2 walls.
  • A refrigerator
  • A new printer/copier/fax machine/ smoke signal sender/ Carrier Pigeon launcher
  • Surf Board coffee table (you can read about it by clicking here)

The Present.

We are very fortunate to have a lot of work going through the agency right now. In fact, we will have four client presentations in the first week of 2018. Here’s a glimpse of what we are working on:

  • A major website redesign that will launch in early February
  • Several ads for various print campaigns
  • Ads for a Facebook paid media campaign
  • 2 completely new brand logos
  • A new brand name for a client (following a series of major acquisitions)
  • A brand repositioning project
  • A fun t-shirt design for a client that we just sent to the screen printer
  • A choreographed new business dance routine spectacular that we will perform in every new business meeting in 2018 (If you want to see it just invite us to come talk)

While our clients are enjoying a well deserved break, we are stealing some time to finish painting our office. Yesterday we finished painting another individual office. We finished painting our hallway, and started on our conference room. Today we plan to finish the conference room and then hang up the rollers and brushes until we expand into more space.

The Future.

We are busy preparing for 2018.  This is an extremely exciting time for us. Starting on January 1st, The Weaponry will be providing health and dental insurance to full-time employees. I am extremely proud of this milestone and will share more about finding insurance in a future post.  We are also considering adding a couple of new people to our team. We are exploring office options for our employees who live outside Milwaukee (specifically in Columbus and Atlanta).  I feel very fortunate to have to deal with such issues.

Thank You

I sincerely appreciate you following this journey by reading The Perfect Agency Project. The readership of this blog doubled from 2015 to 2016. And it doubled again in 2017 thanks to readers like you. To make sure you never miss an update please subscribe to receive each post via email.  I’ll even spring for the postage.