Our 2024 Theme | Content Machine Ep. #50

Here at Adelsberger Marketing, we believe in themes over resolutions. I’ve done a whole podcast about this. I’ve written about this every year for a long time. Each new year has a new theme, which gives us a focus to cover for the entire year. Two years ago, our theme was, “Faster Alone, Further Together.” It consisted of our team’s capabilities and an admission of my limitations. I’m not able to accomplish all the things we need to do as a company. I am limited by time, but also skills and then the ability to prioritize things. We need a team to accomplish all the things that we have to do and to do them at the level at which we need to accomplish them. And for us to continue to improve our offerings, we need our team members to do that. We need team members that are specialized in different things and focused on those things. If we want to run this marathon called business, we can only do it as a team. Our team has done well and our business continues to grow. And the natural evolution of a growing firm is an increase in complexity. When complexity increases, clarity diminishes.


More team members and more clients equal less clarity and less preventative measures are taken. As a result, our theme in 2023 was, clarity brings power. We get everybody on board with a clear vision, and then we align everyone towards the same goal with the right direction. That’s going to increase our clarity and that’s going to allow us to win. So by providing clarity, it helps us to know all that we need to do and how we need to do it and allows us to go and do it. Heath MacMillan, one of my friends, and he works at the TCAT in Jackson, said to me that “Clarity brings power, but power brings action. When the spring is compressed, it has tremendous amounts of power and is ready to act. And if you have power, you are bound to release that in action.”  So our theme this year is to “Chop Wood and Carry Water.” Chopping wood and carrying water are two things that are no longer fundamental to the lives that we live. But in a different time in our society, that was what you needed to do to survive. It was the basics. It was the everyday activities that allowed for survival.


You had clarity about what you needed, and you went and got it. My hope is that over the last few years, the alignment of our team and the increasing clarity and the building of infrastructure in our company will be like that spring that has been compressed, now released into motion. Now it’s our time to act. We have been steadily building a head of steam over the last few months with new clients, and now it’s time for the business to run at full speed. We’re going to take the fundamentals that we’ve built into the work and practice them every day. Everyone, because of clarity, will know their job and know that it’s time to do the work. We’ve built the tools to do the things, and now it’s time to use them. I’m going to be working to remove roadblocks for the teams to be successful and increase our sales effort. We’ve been sharpening our acts, and now it’s time to chop down the tree. Chopping wood and carrying water isn’t fancy. It isn’t glamorous, but it’s vital to survival. It’s the building blocks to success. It is the fundamentals of business. We have power, and now it’s time to put it to work.


So we’re going to go work to make 2024 the best year in Adelsberger Marketing history!

Internship Diary #11 — Discipline is Harder When Things are Easier

A few weeks ago, I traveled home for Thanksgiving break. Like most college students, I was looking forward to using the time to rest and catch up on a few things that had fallen through the cracks at school while I was busy. A day before making the trek home, I messaged back and forth on Slack with Kevin, just discussing a few upcoming meetings, ways for me to get more experience, and how I could get a couple things done on the road. In truth, my mind was mainly focused on spending a week with no assignments due for any classes. 

Over the course of the break, though, I noticed something. For some reason, despite the fact that my schedule was wide open for the week, it was more difficult for me to execute little tasks for my internship. At school, I juggle a lot of responsibilities and a decently busy schedule. But I get everything done at roughly the same time every day, and usually at the same place. Classes end, lunch is over, I land at my desk in my room to hammer out internship work. Not so at home, away from the busyness. For me, and I suspect for a lot of people, discipline is harder when things are easier. 

I live in south Georgia, near-ish to Savannah, in a tiny little nothing town that no one has ever heard of. From Jackson, the drive home takes about nine hours. I love to drive — always have, ever since I got my learner’s permit. There’s somewhat of a running joke in the family about how I never give up the wheel to let anyone else drive, no matter how long the trip. That’s neither here nor there, except that I again insisted on driving home for break despite having several pressing bits of work to do. So, at a gas station next to a coffee shop somewhere near Murfreesboro, while my brother and sister were getting coffee, I pulled out my laptop in the parked car and posted several clips for the Content Machine. I’d been putting it off, wanting to retain control of the driver’s seat (and the aux). It took me no more than 10 minutes.

That’s how things tend to go for me. I imagine a problem — for instance, I want to drive but I also have a little work to do — and then stew on it until I have no motivation to do the thing I need to do. In truth, getting work or homework or chores or whatever done is usually not that difficult. But, for me, it requires creating discipline during times of ease, breaks, and comfort. It’s easy to have a strong work ethic while I’m busy. After all, I’ve already got a lot to do, what’s one more thing? When I’m on break or have a lull in responsibilities, though, all of my mole hill tasks turn into mountain-sized tasks. 

I’m not saying I’m going to start getting up at 5 a.m. on Saturdays or working through all my breaks. I believe strongly in letting down time be down time. The ebb and flow of days and weeks, though, will naturally include both the hectic and the easy. I just don’t want to get lazy when the easy days come.

Book Review: Traction | Content Machine Ep. #49

Classic problem. Business owner or leader is so caught up in doing the things that the business does that the business owner or leader fails to work on the business and fails to improve it over time, and that has consequences. It’s hard to do to work on the business instead of just in the business. As an owner or a leader, you have fires to put out. You have customers who need to talk to you. It’s the classic urgent slash important grid, and you stay in the urgent grid. But how do you move to the important things? Many people regularly fail to work in the important grid. The urgent is bright and shiny, but the important changes things in the long term. And can be the key to success or failure. So how do you do this? How do you focus on the long term and important changes you need to look at in your business? Let me introduce you to Traction by Gino Wickman, which is the book behind the EOS or the Entrepreneurial operating system. This book is a step-by-step manual on how to get, as they say, a grip on your business.


Some business books are largely theoretical or stay at a 50,000-foot view. Traction does not do that. Traction takes you from day one all the way through implementing an entire operations system in your business that will allow you to make plans and execute those plans too, above the hustle and bustle of everyday work. This book tackles everything from mission statements to 10-year vision casting. It has become one of our most common recommendations to people when we’re speaking about how to run a business. We ran a business for approximately eight years before we introduced ourselves to EOS, but I think it’s going to be a huge difference maker in the road ahead. Eos breaks a business into six key components: vision, data, processes, traction, issues, and people. Each one of these components are things that you’ll work on during the course of implementing EOS and running EOS throughout your entire company. Vision is the overall picture of where you’re going. It’s the 10-year picture of what you want to accomplish. People is making sure that people on your team are in the right seats on the bus, and frankly, that they’re on the right bus. Data is what you look at to know how you’re doing as a business, what you should score, and how you’re scoring, and how to improve that metric that means the most to your business’s success.


Issues are things that come up that need to be discussed with the team and have to be improved on and you get to talk about them weekly. Processes are the way that you do business, and this is going to be an area that you look at your systems and improve your systems. Traction is where you take the vision, the processes, and the issues, and you turn them into action steps that make a difference in how you run your business. This book does a great job of going from a 10-year vision to details like how to run a meeting to get to the 10-year vision. It is clearly written by someone who’d been in an entrepreneur’s shoes but had figured out how to structure things in a way that made progress to get traction, or as they call it, to go from vision to traction. One thing is that you’re going to think that you know about your business until you start EOS. It’s going to reveal things to you that you didn’t know about or things that you thought you knew about your business that are wrong. This book may need to be on my reading list every year.


In the next episode, I’m going to talk about our first year with EOS, what we’ve learned and how it’s worked out, and hopefully what we’re looking forward to in the next year as well.

Internship Diary #10 — Little Crumbs of Payoff as I Get Better

A few weeks ago in this ongoing diary of my internship experience, I talked about a valuable piece of advice I received from my writing professor: “Say yes to every writing opportunity.” Part of my takeaway from that lesson was that, despite the fact that he meant it very literally, the actionable piece for me was to simply write any kind of thing until I became comfortable with it. Obviously, as a college student, a lot of the legwork in that department is done for me. My classes often present me with assignments in areas of writing I’ve never done before. Last year, for my major, I was required to take a Public Relations Writing course. This is not a genre of writing that especially interests me (I’m not convinced that it especially interests anyone), but the experience made me better. What’s more, my newfound comfort with PR writing landed me a few small-time freelance gigs. These were never much at a time, but $50 is $50. Seeing skills translate into money in real time is nice. As anyone who has any sort of semi-specialized skill knows, once other people find out about it, you become that guy in every group you’re part of. My brother, for instance, is “the video guy.” I’m the writing guy. 

These steps in our development produce little crumbs of payoff, even from the outset. After learning how to do PR writing, opportunities for it seemed to be everywhere. My fraternity was conducting a fundraiser, and since I was the writing guy, I wrote the fundraising letter. So on and so forth the process of learning and then doing continued. 

Another little crumb of payoff arrived last week. A non-profit organization that works with Adelsberger asked for a series of fundraising letters to be written on their behalf. Kevin saw fit to let me take the reins on the project and write each letter. If you’re anything like me, you know what it feels like to be asked to do something you’re sort of good at, only now in a higher-stakes setting. All of my fundraising and public relations writing to this experience had been low key. Fraternity brothers are not exactly the New York Times editorial board when it comes to critiquing my work. Now, I won’t pretend writing a letter asking for money is rocket science. Obviously, it’s pretty straightforward. I’m prone to anxiety, though, and there’s nothing more anxiety-inducing than staring at a blank document without a clue if anything you write on it will be correct. I believe this is called overthinking. The point is, my anxiety was quieted, at least a little, by the knowledge that at least this wasn’t entirely foreign. The stakes were raised, but the ground was familiar. 

I wrote the letters. I had plenty of questions to ask, and as usual, Brittany was kind and helpful in answering them. And I checked another box off, another opportunity said yes to, another skill at least a little more developed. 

Internship Diary #9 — Creativity As A Habit

Creativity as a Habit

There’s a dichotomy that anyone who is professionally creative has faced. On the one hand, creating as work relies on, well, being creative. It requires imagining and making something where nothing existed before. On the other hand though, to do anything professionally requires regularity and routine. It’s something you do every day, a schedule, a habit, and an exercise. These two ideas butt heads in the mind of the creative consistently, or at least they do in my mind. (If you’re a creative and you’ve never experienced this dichotomy, please teach me whatever secrets you’ve learned.) Imagination and routine are not compatible ideals. At least not without practice. So then, this is the rub: how do you build a way of working and living that allows creativity to become a habit? 

As a marketing firm, creativity flows through the channels of work at Adelsberger constantly. Alex creates videos, Tamara creates images, Brittany creates clean and compelling copy, Ricky and Katie create graphics, and so on and so forth. Creativity has to be a habit, as it does for everyone in every similar job anywhere. 

On the first day of classes, back in August, I sat at a conference table for syllabus day in a writing course. The professor walked in, looking exactly how you want a man who is going to teach you about short stories and poetry and great authors to look. He had glasses and a white beard and a pleasant way of talking that seemed constantly amused by the world around him. The first assignment he gave us was one that would last all semester: get a small notebook and your favorite pen, carry them with you every day, everywhere, and jot down anything at all that interests you. There are a lot of pages in that notebook filled with useless, silly things that I’ll forget. But there are also ideas that became several stories, a magazine article, and several entries in this internship diary. The world produces creativity, and you only get creative by being in it, just as you only get strong by going to the gym and not by sitting at home wondering why you’re not feeling strong today. 

Right now, I’m only an aspiring professional creative. We’ll see where that takes me. But I’ve learned from people a lot smarter and a lot more experienced than me that if you want a productive imagination, you have to build a little haven for it. Anybody truly great has had their haven. Thoreau had his cabin on Walden Pond, Roald Dahl had his desk in a shed overlooking his garden, and Haruki Murakami has his tidy desk in an office nook. For right now, I have a desk in a dorm room. On the top shelf sits a plant in a disposable cup that I saved from a coffee shop just outside the public library in New York City. I saved the cup because the logo is a little guy with glasses who sort of looks like me. A collection of old records by the likes of Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, and Hall & Oates hang on the wall above. A cheap faux Japanese lamp casts a softly warm glow from its perch on top of a collection of books. This is my haven, the place that lets me write my stories and all of these internship diaries. This is the place that makes creativity a (mostly) joyful habit for me.