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By George Foster, CEO, Foster Marketing
Last Sunday at a Christmas morning service the pastor related a story that immediately captured my attention. It was about a business owner (first perk up) … his name was George (second perk up) … and he was the last to leave the office (was he talking about me?).
He then related an inspirational story that had meaning not only for Christmas but also as we sweep out 2011 and welcome 2012.
It was Christmas Eve, and, as usual, George Mason was the last to leave the office. He walked over to a massive safe, spun the dials and swung the heavy door open. Making sure the door would not close behind him, he stepped inside. A square of white cardboard was taped just above the top most row of strong boxes. On the card a few words were written. George Mason stared at those words, remembering …
Exactly one year ago he had entered this self-same vault. And then, behind his back, slowly, noiselessly the ponderous door swung shut. He was trapped — entombed in the sudden and terrifying dark. He hurled himself at the unyielding door, his hoarse cry sounding like an explosion.
Through his mind flashed all the stories he had heard of men found suffocated in time-vaults. No time clock controlled this mechanism; the safe would remain locked until it was opened from the outside. He would have to wait until tomorrow morning. Then the realization hit him. No one would come tomorrow — tomorrow was Christmas.
Once more he flung himself at the door, shouting wildly, until he sank on his knees exhausted. Silence came, high-pitched, singing silence that seemed deafening. More than 36 hours would pass before anyone came, 36 hours in a steel box three feet wide, eight feet long and seven feet high. Would the oxygen last? Perspiring and breathing heavily, he felt his way around the floor.
Then, in the far right-hand corner, just above the floor, he found a small, circular opening. Quickly he thrust his finger into it and felt a faint, but unmistakably, cool current of air. The tension release was so sudden that he burst into tears. But at last he sat up. Surely he would not have to stay trapped for the full 36 hours. Somebody would miss him. But whom?
George was unmarried and lived alone. The maid who cleaned his apartment was just a servant; he had always treated her as such. He had been invited to spend Christmas Eve with his brother’s family, but children got on his nerves, and expected presents. A friend had asked him to go to a home for elderly people on Christmas Day and play the piano since George was a good musician.
But he had made some excuse or other; he had intended to sit at home with a good cigar, listening to some new recordings he was giving himself. George dug his nails into the palms of his hands until the pain balanced the misery in his mind. Nobody would come and let him out. Nobody, nobody.
Miserably the whole of Christmas Day went by, and the succeeding night. On the morning after Christmas the head clerk came into the office at the usual time, opened the safe and then went on into his private office. No one saw George Mason stagger out into the corridor, run to the water cooler and drink great gulps of water. No one paid any attention to him as he left and took a taxi home. There he shaved, changed his wrinkled clothes, ate breakfast and returned to his office, where his employees greeted him casually.
That day he met several acquaintances and talked to his own brother. Grimly, inexorably the truth closed in on George Mason. He had vanished from human society during the great festival of Christian fellowship; no one had missed him at all.
Reluctantly, George began to think about the true meaning of Christmas. Was it possible that he had been blind all these years with selfishness, indifference, pride? Wasn’t giving, after all, the essence of Christmas because it marked to the time God gave His own Son to the world?
All through the year that followed, with little hesitant deeds of kindness, with small, unnoticed acts of unselfishness, George Mason tried to prepare himself. Then, once more, it was Christmas Eve. Slowly he backed out of the safe and closed it. He touched its grim steel face lightly, almost affectionately and left the office.
There he went in his black overcoat and hat, the same George Mason as a year ago, or was he? He walked a few blocks, and then flagged a taxi, anxious not to be late. His nephews were expecting him to help them trim the tree. Afterward, he was taking his brother and his sister-in-law to a Christmas play. Why was he so happy? Why did this jostling against others, laden as he is with bundles, exhilarate and delight him?
Perhaps the card had something to do with it, the card he taped inside his office safe last New Year’s Day. On the card is written, in George Mason’s own hand: “To love people, to be indispensable somewhere, that is the purpose of life. That is the secret of happiness.”
There is a road for anyone who is feeling trapped or stuck. But, before that road can be traveled there must be destruction of the old. The old George Mason had to die before the new George Mason could travel that new road.
Our lives are like that. We want newness but are we willing to bury the old? George Mason was trapped until he rid himself of his indifference and selfishness. Unfortunately it took being locked up in a safe in order for him to see himself as he really was.
We don’t have to spend two days in a safe to travel a new road. There is a new highway for all of us when we are willing to allow our old ones to be destroyed. New relationships, new understandings, new opportunities can all be realized when we let go of the old ones which are keeping us from being fulfilled or experiencing the joy of life.
Happy New Year from Foster Marketing!
The Pursuit of Happyness is a 2006 film and true story about a struggling, on-again, off-again homeless salesman who takes care of his 5-year-old son while trying to make something of himself as a stockbroker. In the movie, Will Smith played Christopher Gardner, now a successful stockbroker and entrepreneur.
In a voice over, Gardner describes some of his more troubling times as: “This part of my life … this part right here? This part is called ‘being stupid’.” Later he says, “This part of my life is called ‘internship’ as he learned the investment business; and finally as he succeeded,” he said, “This part of my life … this part right here? This is called ‘happyness’.” In the film, “happiness” is misspelled as “happyness” outside the daycare facility Gardner’s son attends.
Happiness a Hot Topic
These days happiness and its pursuit are hot topics. It seems like every day I see an article on happiness. Titles include: “Surprising Secrets from the World’s Happiest People”, “6 Ways to Feel Happier, Be Healthier”, “Can You Learn to Be Happy?” or, just, “Are You Happy?” And, at church recently, the pastor announced an upcoming series of sermons titled Happy People. Happiness is hot!
How does being happy affect us as marketers, business owners and employees? I’ve always told employees that we want happy campers working for Foster Marketing. Additionally, we want happy clients. Ultimately, however, we can’t make clients and employees happy. We can satisfy them or please them, but happiness comes from within — an inherent quality in ones’ being. It is actually the pursuit of happiness that unconsciously implies that we are not happy and so dissatisfaction with ones’ perceived sense of unhappiness arises.
Research conducted by Harvard professor Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar showed that “happiness largely depends on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. It depends upon what we choose to focus on (the full or empty part of the glass) and on our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic or do we see it as a learning opportunity?”
He goes on to say that, “one of the most common barriers to happiness is the false expectation that one thing — a promotion at work, a prize, a revelation — will bring us external bliss.” Pursuing a list of things/desires that you think will make you happy (something you already are, regardless of whether or not it’s realized) will only provide you with a very temporary sense of pleasure or happiness.
So, What Makes Us Happy?
Dr. Ben-Shahar says “we must first accept that this is it! All there is to life is the day-to-day, the ordinary, the details of the mosaic. We are living a happy life when we derive pleasure and meaning from spending time with our loved ones or learning something new.
“The other significant component of happiness is that helping oneself and helping others are intertwined. The more we help others, the happier we become … and the happier we become, the more inclined we are to help others.”
Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
While happiness comes from within, there are many common things a person can do to improve his or her state of happiness according to the experts:
- Simplify. We try to squeeze more and more activities into less time, says Dr. Ben-Shahar. Dan Buettner, who wrote the book Thrive, spent five years talking to people in areas identified as the world leaders in happiness — Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula; Singapore; Nuevo Leon, Mexico; and San Luis Obispo, Calif. His advice: own one TV, no more; and, stop shopping as the satisfaction we get from buying things wears off in 14 months.
- Get involved. Spend time with family and friends. Make new friends. Each new friend that you make (assuming that they’re upbeat) increases your chance of being happy by 9%, Buettner says. Volunteer and help others as mentioned earlier. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, men and women who volunteer report greater life satisfaction and better physical health than non-volunteers.
- Appreciate life. Head for the great outdoors. Physical exercise and increased stamina associated with being outdoors yield important benefits as people get more sedentary. People in sunnier climates are consistently happier than those who live in northern countries. Finally, keep the faith. Religious people tend to be happier than those without faith.
- Get a pet. Pets provide more than companionship and a warm welcome home. They lend a willing and helpful ear — even if they have fins or feathers instead of fur. An astonishing 97% of dog and cat owners reported they talk to their pets, notes Alan Beck, director of the Center of the Human Animal Bond at Purdue University. “The other 3% lied,” he quips. I can attest to that as I run my newsletters past Billy Ray Cyrus, the Cairn terrier that I rescued last December.
The ideas above can help make the world look better. Add them to your life, and odds are you’ll feel both happier and healthier.
Foster Marketing can help you simplify your life by taking the weight of your marketing efforts off your shoulders. We work as proactive partners with our clients to meet all deadlines and achieve results.
By George Foster, CEO of Foster Marketing
In June, Foster Marketing employees participated in our 14th Annual Foster Fest summer retreat in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Through the years we’ve taken our staff and significant others to some pretty nice locales. From our first retreat at a plantation home in St. Francisville, La., we’ve now met in Niagara Falls, Chicago, Cozumel, New Orleans and taken numerous cruises out of New Orleans and Galveston.
As our team has grown it has become more expensive for this enterprise and a budget challenge for our President, Tiffany Harris, who plans these meetings. However, I wouldn’t trade these four-day events for anything.
We always talk about spending 50 weeks working in the business, i.e. working on helping our clients grow, but we only spend a couple of weeks working on the business, i.e. helping Foster Marketing get better. On a retreat, you actually work on your business.
Many firms take just their management-level staff on a retreat. I’m a strong believer in taking all the staff – it’s a team. Additionally, we ask every staff member to make a presentation on something of importance to the agency.
Melissa Laughon in a recent blog on www.catchyourlimit.com addressed this very topic To Retreat or Not to Retreat? That is the Question. She listed the top five reasons why firms are not retreating in 2011 and five on why they are. It’s a lengthy post. You can visit her lists, but here would be mine. First, some reasons not to have a retreat:
•We’re too busy.
•They’re too expensive.
•The follow-up is lacking after the retreat.
And then why retreats are essential:
•We need to pause and work on the business.
•It gets everyone involved in the success of the business.
•Great for team building.
•Great spouse/significant other interaction.
•Great recruiting/employee benefit tool.
Laughon says at a retreat the future is in your hands and quotes Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant: “The only way to predict the future is to create it.” My rationale for having a retreat also is based on a Drucker quote: “Adequacy is the enemy of excellence.”
Planning the Retreat
There are many things to think about when planning a retreat, but basically there are five key things to consider – know your purpose, pick a date, select an off-site location, develop an agenda and use what you learn.
At Foster Marketing, we have several goals for our retreats – basically those indicated above on why we have a retreat. To pick one goal in particular, I’d say getting everyone involved in presenting solutions is most important to me. Getting the Office Administrator to discuss HR or our Controller to discuss finances or our Trade Show Coordinator and Public Relations Account Executive to discuss their specialties is exciting.
In addition to our summer retreat, we have quarterly meetings at Foster Marketing, usually at our office in Lafayette and basically with the same goals. However, our summer meeting, or Foster Fest, has historically been off-site and we’ve been blessed to be able to afford taking our staff out of town. It is an expense, but Tiffany Harris does a great job of finding affordable deals whether by land, sea or air. We’ve done ’em all. The ideal meeting spot should provide a comfortable and unique experience, the necessary working space and equipment, facilities and meal options.
For the agenda, we try to have every staff member (now numbering 13) take 30 minutes to present and discuss a pre-determined subject of interest. This is usually a PowerPoint presentation with lots of give and take (many times mine). Invariably, we come out with great ideas.
At Foster Fest in Playa del Carmen, we implemented a concept we had used successfully at a prior Foster Fest. We solicited topics/issues from employees to discuss using the Creative Whack Pack by Roger von Oech. The Creative Whack Pack consists of 64 cards, each featuring a different strategy. Some highlight places to find new information. Others provide techniques to generate new ideas. Some lend decision-making advice. And many give you the “kick” you need to get your ideas into action. We used the cards on each topic/issue. It was a great exercise and we came out with an exceptionally large number of ideas.
Now, the kicker: A retreat can only be effective if you apply what you’ve learned. Our list from our last Foster Fest is long. The proof of the retreat’s success will be in the pudding of results.
Foster Marketing is ready to help energize your marketing programs. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing efforts.
By George Foster, CEO of Foster Marketing
On my way to OTC from Lafayette, I passed a billboard on I-10 that proclaimed that the Day of Judgment is near. The billboard paraphrased Ezekiel 33:3: “Blow the trumpet…warn the people.”
Save the date: May 21, 2011. Save the time: 6 p.m.
If preacher Harold Camping, founder of Family Radio (www.familyradio.com), is right, that’s the exact date Jesus will return. Camping determined the exact day, May 21st, through a series of Biblical calculations. This isn’t the first time he’s predicted Jesus’ return. Originally, he proclaimed that the End Time would come on Sept. 4, 1994. When the Rapture failed to occur on the appointed day, Camping said he had made a mathematical error.
Camping is not the first to proclaim the return and there have been more than two dozen predictions on the Second Coming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Coming_of_Christ). However, no one knows the exact time of Christ’s return – not even Christ himself as proclaimed in Mark 13:32:
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Our fixation with the future, whether it be religious, economic (the price of oil and gas and healthcare reform) or even our communities (“the future is where our children live” one person told me), consumes our thoughts.
Recently, Andy Hines, a lecturer and executive-in-residence at the University of Houston’s Graduate Program in Futures Studies, spoke to a group of advertising agency principals at a meeting I hosted in Lafayette.
Andy heads Hinesight (http://www.andyhinesight.com) and has written several books on the future – or maybe more accurately forecasting the future. He doesn’t try to predict the future but attempts, through a process, to help companies better forecast their futures.
His topic was “Thinking [Better] About the Future: A Hands-on Approach to Applying Foresight”. Download a PDF of the presentation.
Why foresight? Companies can apply foresight to:
• Uncover new opportunities
• Detect threats
• Craft strategy
• Guide policy
• Understand emerging customer needs
• Explore new offerings, markets, products or services
This is applied through a thought-provoking process that’s broken down into a framework — framing, scanning, forecasting, visioning, planning and acting.
Framing: As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” First, you need to know your audience, map the landscape and set a time horizon for completion. For example, the life cycle of a computer chip is 18 months; an offshore oil platform 30 years. Finally, determine your degree of stretch. In other words, a competitor introduces an innovative new product in your space. How do you respond?
Scanning: Collect information. Find opportunities before the competition does. Look for changes “outside,” talk to people, explore unfamiliar territory, capture insights and create a trend inventory.
Forecasting: What are the attractive spaces? Cluster potential trends into drivers; identify “insights” around which to build opportunity spaces; identify key uncertainties; challenge assumptions (a vital part of the process); look for potential discontinuities; create scenarios; and summarize the opportunity spaces.
Visioning, Planning & Acting: Develop a Futures Wheel, placing your “most interesting” assumption reversal in the middle. Visioning and planning make up 17 percent of the foresight planning process. Acting represents 23 percent and consists of catalyzing action and change; building alignment, commitment and confidence; and building a learning organization.
This is just part of the foresight process. I would encourage any company who wants to look into the future to consider working with Andy. It would be well worth the effort.
Now, if you believe Camping, that’s a moot point. The end is a short few days away and counting down on his website. To that I say, I don’t know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future.
Let us help you plan for 2011 and beyond. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing efforts.
The Future is Now!
By George Foster, CEO of Foster Marketing
Since 1985, I’ve been a member of a small group of ad agency principals who meet twice a year to discuss their individual businesses. It’s called the Innisbrook Group, after Innisbrook, Fla., where the first meeting was held in 1982. We share financials (balance sheets and income statements), operational and personnel issues, creative and personal stuff and usually have several speakers.
I’m hosting this spring’s meeting in Lafayette and the theme of the April meeting is “Looking to the Future.” For this meeting we’ll have a CPA discussing financial planning; a senior intelligence analyst for Blue Cross discussing healthcare (our biggest business unknown); and Andy Hines, a Lecturer and Executive-in-Residence at the University of Houston’s Graduate Program in Futures Studies, and a Futurist.
He heads Hinesight (great name for a Futurist) and has written several books on the future. His website is www.andyhinesight.com (more about Andy and the April meeting in the March Fostering Ideas newsletter.
I’ve always looked to the future and never been one to dwell on the past. However, I have a healthy respect for history. As the Spanish American philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
My first awareness that there were people who would predict the future, or “Futurists”, was in the early ’90s when I discovered Faith Popcorn’s book, The Popcorn Report. First published in 1991, some of her predictions are rather remarkable now 20 years later.
Ms. Popcorn (www.faithpopcorn.com) very presciently describes email and e-commerce, calling them “screenmail” and “infobuying” though neither had yet been invented and it would be three years after her book was published before anyone was even talking about “The Information Super-Highway.”
Her predictions for 2011 are interesting as well as she predicts that we will enter an unprecedented period marked by the end of our traditional gender divide, or as she calls it EN-GEN.
Women are becoming more influential, powerful and in control of the culture. And, men are becoming more sensitive, collaborative and connected. As Mars becomes more Venus like — and Venus-versa — we’re far less combat ready.
Consider some of the numbers about women:
• Women hold 51% of managerial and professional jobs
• Four in 10 mothers are primary breadwinners; working wives are coming close to bringing in half of household income
• Single, childless women under 30 earn 8% more than their male peers
• The number of women earning six figure salaries has increased 14% in the last two years
This is certainly true in the marketing communication industry where women are growing in numbers and responsibility. Bright, talented and tenacious young women have been vital to Foster Marketing’s success.
And, how about these male patterns (in my case, not baldness):
• The emergence of the stay-at-home-dad, which according to the most recent U.S. Census (2008), had increased by 62% from 2003
• 40% increase in male time devoted to household chores
• A three-fold increase in average male time devoted to cooking
I can relate to all of the above. Although the sad state of male employment is well-known, what haven’t been analyzed are the gender impacts of this “forced feminization.” Economic pressures are acting as an accelerator to the En-Gendering of America.
There’s a lot more. For the whole picture, go to Ms. Popcorn’s website for not only this year’s predictions but also previous efforts (www.faithpopcorn.com/ContentFiles/PDF/FPBR_2011 Predictions.pdf). More next month.
Let us help you plan for 2011 and beyond. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing efforts.
Move Making the Most of Your Marketing Efforts to the Top of the To-Do List for 2011
By Tiffany Harris, President of Foster Marketing
Whether you are a deepwater drilling company or a wind turbine manufacturer, no energy company supplier starts the year saying, “We did well enough last year; we can let our competitors increase their market share this year.” … At least, not if they plan to still be in business in the future.
Acknowledge that the status quo is, in fact, losing ground and create a clear vision of the possibilities ahead for your company by improving your marketing efforts. As you develop your plan for 2011, add making the most of your marketing efforts to the agenda. Here are some tried-and-true methods that can increase market share, build brand awareness and ultimately bolster your bottom line.
• Set objectives. Would you start running a race without knowing the distance or location of the finish line? To get to your finish line and truly see a return on your time and financial investment for marketing, you must set mile markers so you can ensure you’re on the right track. Common objectives for businesses could include entering new geographic markets, increasing awareness or developing new sales tools, such as a brochure or website.
• Identify key target markets. Along with setting marketing objectives, identifying your key target markets helps guide your path. Key targets can be geographic, demographic or product/service specific.
• Develop a budget. Keep in mind, lofty objectives require a monetary commitment. So, plan accordingly. Having a spending plan also can help you define how much you can accomplish this year and what will become a priority next year.
• Develop a plan. An effective marketing communications plan should pull your objectives, targets and budget together into a single plan of attack. This can also include a timeline to help keep your efforts focused because a project without a deadline can easily turn into a wish.
• Work the plan. With the prize in your sights, you can begin integrating your efforts to maximize the return on your time and monetary investment. Using a mix of marketing tactics such as branding, public relations, research, advertising (print and digital) and trade shows is an effective way to reach your goals. Identify and push your positioning statement and hone your message as you work your plan.
• Monitor. Be sure to check the pulse of your efforts along the way to determine if you need to push harder or adjust your plan. Building tracking methods into your marketing efforts allows you to track your progress.
Using these tactics in your marketing efforts can mean great gains for your company and lend support to a 2012 plan of attack that is even bigger and better.
Let us help you plan your 2011 marketing budget. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing program.
As we near the time when families and friends gather and seasonal celebrations will begin, Foster Marketing wishes you the gifts of joy, health and prosperity in the coming year!
We hope you enjoy this holiday season celebrating with family and friends. If you need some inspirational music to count your blessings then click here as Foster Marketing CEO George Foster counts his blessings in this video message from November.
As we finish our 30th year, we wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, remembering that Jesus is the reason for the season! As always, the Foster Marketing team is here as your partner in all your marketing, advertising, public relations, digital, trade show and event endeavors. Here’s hoping 2011 will bring bright and prosperous times!
— From the Foster Marketing Family
By George Foster, CEO of Foster Marketing Communications
The month of November is one of my favorites. The weather is fantastic, fall colors abound and the food is phenomenal.
And, as a sports nut, you’ve gotta love it – the start of college basketball overlapping with the big rivalry games in college football and the pros on Thanksgiving Day. This year it’s the Cowboys and Saints. How about that with a big turkey, country ham, Louisiana yams, green bean casserole, cranberries and a nice Beaujolais Nouveau. Not to mention pumpkin pie and my favorite, mince meat.
But more important is that Thanksgiving is a time to pause, reflect and give thanks for the many blessings we have. Recently I received an article by Jack and Marcia Kelly listing several of their favorite mealtime graces among the more than 300 in their collection. I thought I would take a few of them and reflect on our reasons for Thanksgiving.
Thank heaven for this food and for this company. May it be good for us.
– Greek prayer
This year we celebrated our 30th anniversary in business with parties in both Houston and Lafayette. The years have flown past since we opened The Foster Agency in 1980. We’ve had great employees, great clients and great vendor partners. We had events celebrating both our 15th and 25th year anniversaries and invited our clients, former clients and prospects, our vendor partners and even former employees. We are so blessed that this wonderful company could have such a great impact on so many people through the years.
May we be a channel of blessings for all that we meet.
– Edgar Cayce, American spiritualist (1877-1945)
I’m continually reminded that our business is all about relationships. Many firms can develop an ad or a news release, a brochure or a billboard (although we think not as good as us). However, for us, it’s the personal service and the relationship developed that is essential; and, we’ve built tremendous relationships through the years. After 30 years, many of our client and vendor friends have retired, and some have passed away. Although they’re missed physically, they are always in our thoughts. May we be a blessing for all those we meet.
God of Pilgrims, give us always a table to stop at where we can tell our story and sing our song.
– Father John Giuliani (1932- ), Benedictine Grange, West Redding, Conn.
Since we started this online newsletter more than a year ago, it has been a great vehicle for us to share our stories, our successes and, hopefully, beneficial information for all who read it. We enjoy developing them and hope you enjoy receiving and reading them. At one time we thought the art of written communication was dead. Now, with email, Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels the written word has taken on a new life. For us journalists, it’s heaven. And, with YouTube you can even sing a Thanksgiving song (see video message on www.youtube.com).
For each new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health and food, for love and friends, for everything Thy goodness sends.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Unitarian minister, poet and essayist (1803-1882)
This is my favorite grace on the Kellys’ list and it sums up my appreciation for life and liberty, friendship and food and my undying faith. Foster Marketing wishes you and yours a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!