After 12 weeks in four departments at Advantage Media Group, intern Josh Coleman reflects on his experience and all he’s learned about what it means to work hard.

Michael Phelps trained seven days a week for 365 days a year from the time he was 14 years old until the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His thought being he’d receive an annual 52-day advantage over other athletes who only trained six days per week. I won’t attempt to compare myself to Mr. Phelps, however, I do share his work philosophy.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day and everyone’s week is seven days long. I chose to spend my time this summer interning with Advantage Media Group. Advantage was founded in July of 2005 by Adam Witty and continues to lead the field in helping their Members share their Stories, Passion, and Knowledge with the world to help others Learn & Grow.

Adam has been a vital mentor to me for the past three years. Over the past four months, as I worked with Adam more closely he gave me a few key insights into what moves a company from being average to astounding. I recap these nuggets of knowledge in order to pass on the spirit of entrepreneurship to others who are eager to learn and grow. I also use this blog to keep record of what I learned so that I can look back on it in the years to come.

Immediately upon starting at Advantage, there was a palpable vibe pulsing through the office. The walls were beautifully decorated with accomplishments and accolades as well as a colossal painted map of America. On this map were hundreds of pins, each signifying an individual Member. It was apparent that Advantage put people first.

Adam told me that every company will have a culture, and as a CEO you have a hand in guiding where it goes. Culture springs up whenever a group of people interacts. Your company will invariably grow its own culture. Be deliberate about creating it, instead of just watching it manifest itself. What I thought was different about this company was the fact that everyone from the CEO down understood the culture they were trying to build.

During my time at Advantage, I was able to hear Adam speak to an evening MBA program filled with young professionals. Eloquently, he began to tell the story of his business’ successes. A particular point he hovered over and expounded upon was the importance of hiring the right people. In order to build the right culture, I learned you must hire those you need to build dynamic growth and future success over those you can simply afford.

Adam is a big believer in not being the smartest man in the room. Teams assembled at Advantage Media Group are meticulously crafted to only contain A players or those with the potential to become one. Adam stressed the importance of adhering to this philosophy early on in a company’s life. Although salaries are often the highest consumer of profit, they are no place to cut cost. Spending the money to put the right people in the right positions allows a CEO to more efficiently spend his or her time working on strategy and “big picture” ideas.  

Advantage further invests in their Team Members after the hiring process. Each one is required to complete at least 120 hours of professional development annually. In addition, Advantage funds each person with a $1,000 grant each year to pay for classes, learning materials, webinars, and even conferences.

Virgin CEO Richard Branson once said, “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” Adam Witty has capitalized on this principle by implementing programs like the ones listed above. Company culture is crucial and can be the defining factor in profit or loss. Advantage has designed a culture that is aligned with the hyper growth they are striving to achieve.

Adam can often be overheard asking the question, “If you don’t measure the output, how can you determine the growth?” Plastered within each department are their metrics for success. Everywhere you look, there are flatscreens constantly updating the crew on their efforts towards various quarterly and yearly goals. Adam took this a step further by personally administering an anonymous online employee feedback tool called TINYpulse. Weekly, he presents the company with a question intended to keep him updated about the “pulse” of his Team Members. Replying to nearly every question or comment, Adam ensures that each voice is heard.

Instilling metrics is key to any business that craves growth. This gives Team Members even further confidence in the Leadership Team’s decision-making processes because they can be reassured that important decisions are based on facts and figuresnot gut intuition. Furthermore, metrics make it easy for everyone to see how they stack up. It spurs competition and friendly rivalry within the organization. Seeing a company dedicated to metrics forecasts shows that they are serious about what they do and where they are going.

During my time at Advantage, I also learned that it is vital to know what business you’re in. Don’t laugh; many find this question harder to answer than expected. From 1947 to 1967, the Adolph Coors Company grew 1,500 percent by selling only one beer. In doing that, they proved that they knew what their business was providing simple, light beer. Apple, though constantly evolving through new product lines and technology, has a firm grasp on what their business is.

Advantage understands that their business is helping entrepreneurs, business leaders, and busy professionals share their Stories, Passion, and Knowledge. Moreover, Advantage highlights it’s core strength in the publishing of books in order to help professionals crown themselves the leading professionals in their industry. Adam’s philosophy is poetically summed up in a phrase he often says, “The riches are in the niches.”

It is instrumental to not only identify your core business but also your core influencers. Albert Einstein’s core influencer was Max Talmud, who tutored the genius every week for six years. Alexander the Great was tutored from a young age by Aristotle and Pyrrho. Adam Witty is one of my core influencers. His mentorship has led to a more deep-rooted growth in my business career than any college course I’ve taken. Having the opportunities to attend author seminars and network with key industry leaders, intern and work with one of Inc.’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies Two Marines Moving, and ultimately intern, and now work, with Advantage Media Group have all blossomed from one conversation.

Knowing your key business and influences allows for maximum potential from your core efforts. Stemming from Pareto’s Principle and more recently summed up in Richard Koch’s book The 80/20 Principle, the minority of inputs and efforts lead to a majority of the outputs and rewards. Instead of focusing all your energy on improving upon your weaknesses, highlight the few things you do better than anyone and capitalize on those.

During a commencement address to a graduating body of undergraduates, Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed that one of his six rules for success was, “Work your butt off.”

“You never want to fail because you didn’t work hard enough. I never wanted to lose a competition or lose an election because I didn’t work hard enough. I always believed leaving no stone unturned,” he said. “When you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning.”

My final and overarching lesson in all of this is work hard. To accomplish what others don’t, one must do what others won’t. Believe in yourself. Understanding that success is achieved before 9am and after 5pm has spurred me to work hard. Going the extra mile is what will ultimately define your station in life. I choose to have full control over my station.

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