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Monday, July 30, 2018

No Free Lunch?

Everybody likes a free lunch. Our company has quarterly staff meetings where lunch is served. We have other meetings where a meal is involved and paid for by the company. Nice deal when we can get it.

Some companies have corporate lunch rooms. While interviewing for employment with a well known private bank several years ago, I had lunch twice in the executive dining room many floors up. And I’ve had the pleasure of a few meals in the company cafeteria at Apple offices at One Infinite Loop. They have quite a set up. Employees pay, but it’s certainly reasonable.

The best of all company perks is the free lunch often found in Silicon Valley. Several firms offer their employees meals as a perk. Facebook is one such company. Three meals a day, five days a week, for free. Google, among others, offers a similar benefit.

Things in California may be about to change. USA Today recently reported that two San Francisco city supervisors have introduced legislation that would ban installation of “non-retail cafeterias in office buildings.” Why do such a thing?

Local eateries around the area provide the answer. Take Anthony Myint’s sophisticated eatery, The Perennial. It’s located relatively close to the headquarters of Twitter and Uber south of San Francisco’s bustling financial district. Knowing that many young, well-paid professionals live in the area, this seemed like an ideal spot to do business.

But both Twitter and Uber offer free meals to their employees. And Myint’s restaurant has had a difficult time making it. He’s frustrated, saying, “Around eight restaurants within two blocks of here, some with Michelin-rated chefs, have all closed, and we’re struggling to make ends meet.” He’d like a fix.

The new city measure would not prevent future startups from setting up in-house kitchens. BUT these businesses would have to charge employees for meals. This policy, government officials believe, would likely encourage employees to do more business with restaurants in the area. Maybe.

I don’t like this idea. New restaurants have a high failure rate anyway. It isn’t the government's job to figure out how to keep them open.

And speaking of policies about company-run cafeterias, here’s another one I read about that got my goat. WeWork is a startup that rents out co-working and office space. The have 6,000 employees worldwide. Recently, a company memo informed all team members that it won’t pay for meals that include red meat, poultry, or pork. Supposedly, this makes them more “environmentally friendly.”

This policy also makes them appear stupid. It’s one thing to have good, strong corporate core values. It’s another thing to tell your people what they can and cannot eat. What’s next? Do all employees have to use Tom’s environmentally friendly deodorant? Or require special shoes where you buy one pair, and a second goes to a “needy person?”

Limiting food choices does have biblical history, of course. Jewish people know the rules of kosher very well. Many still practice it today.

Jesus of Nazareth knew those rules, too. And likely abided by them. Then, however, He gave us a vital spiritual truth, saying, “It's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” (Matthew 15:11, NLT)

Then with His disciples, He expanded on this, saying, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 11:17-20, NIV)

No city supervisor or corporate policy can fix that problem. Spiritual changes require a new heart. Only God can make that happen.

And He reminds us of His power to do this in a meal He offers freely…of bread and wine. Take. And eat.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information:

Monday, July 23, 2018

Turkey Promotions

There are not a lot of television shows about radio. One very memorable one (and the only one I can recall) was “WKRP in Cincinnati.” During the first season of that show, one of the more hilarious moments involved a “killer” radio promotion. And it could have been a real killer!

For those too young to recall the show, or for those who have never seen this episode, the station manager, Arthur Carlson, had the brilliant idea to drop turkeys from a helicopter over a mall as a Thanksgiving promotion. Here is the show transcript as newsman Les Nessman describes the action:

Les Nessman: “Something just came out of the back of the helicopter. It's a dark object. Perhaps a skydiver. A second. A parachute yet. ...Oh my God, they're turkeys!…They’re crashing to the earth right in front of our eyes!…One just went through the windshield of a parked car! This is terrible!...Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! The crowd is running for their lives!”

Arthur Carlson later said, “I thought it would work. I planned it right down to the last detail. It was perfect! ...As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”


Over the course of my radio career, I’ve developed several successful promotions. But I’ve had a couple that need more than a little help.

During the run of the television show, “The Love Boat,” a few friends and I thought it would be terribly fun to organize a radio promotion we called, “The Penn Valley Cruise.” It was unique because there was no water involved. We set up three flat bed trucks (with guard rails), which would board passengers outside of the hotel where our radio station was located. There would be three “classes” of passengers. Three price levels. It would be about an 8 mile ride—one way only—to a pizza restaurant for “all the pizza you could eat.” How you got home was your problem. Note: no matter whether you paid more or less, you still got the same bumpy ride and the same amount of pizza. The first class truck sold out first. It was huge success.

So we tried it again. Only this time, one day before the “cruise”was to sail, the sheriff showed up at the radio station to attempt to impound the ticket money! Apparently, the pizza restaurant in Penn Valley was about to go belly up. Aauugh!

Quick thinking saved the day. We had to call all 80 “passengers” and tell them NOT to arrange for transportation back to the station. We would get them back. Then, I had another local pizza company set up to deliver food to the hotel.

And we created an elaborate scheme with our office admin to sneak baggies of oregano and sugar into the pocket of a passenger she knew. As our trucks went half way to Penn Valley, a “customs officer” stopped us to do a random drug search. He picked the right passenger and much to the shock of this poor man, the “goods” were found in his pocket. Mr. Customs made us turn around and we headed back to the hotel for the party. People LOVED this whole ruse. I was sweating bullets.

I’ve had a couple of other promotions that didn’t work out quite so well as I’d planned. One involved a fake kidnapping. Bad idea.

Generally speaking, it is wise not to deceive people. The Bible records a story in Genesis 27 where Jacob tricks his father to get the family blessing that his brother Esau rightfully should have received. And it was Jacob’s mother who came up with the scheme!

And Jesus told a parable that leaves many people puzzled today. It’s called the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. You can read that story in Luke 16. Interesting lesson.

This week’s blog is a follow up on the promotional goof by Build-A-Bear. A promotion that drew so many customers, they shut it down and made for a lot of unhappy people. It was, to say the least, embarrassing.

But better than dropping turkeys out of helicopters.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Un-Bear-Able Build-A-Goof

True confession. I have a “love-hate” relationship with Build-A-Bear. Any enterprise that can figure out how to market overpriced stuffed creatures with even more overpriced outfits and become hugely successful is worthy of admiration in the marketplace. So I love their skills at pulling that off.

My “hate” side of that relationship is when it costs us—Nana and Papa—to buy into this marketing scheme for our grandkids. You see, one Build-A-Creature will never do. You have to keep going back to buy new ones. With new names. New outfits. New backpacks. And new debit card charges. I just shake my head.

Well, Build-A-Bear outdid themselves with a promotion recently. I’m sure it started out well. To help develop brand loyalty, thought the creative marketing team, let’s create a “Pay Your Age Day” promotion in all of our workshops! It worked like magic! You could create a bear for your little tyke for as little as $1!!!

Guess what. Customers poured into their stores last week. So many, in fact, the the company had to shut down the promotion after creating hours-long waiting lines. As the Chicago Tribune reported, “The crowds across the country were so overwhelming that the chain said it either closed stores or cut off lines at its stores in the U.S. and Canada “per local authorities…due to crowd and safety concerns.”

Now you have unhappy kids crying. Now you have unhappy parents and grandparents who’ve stood in line and can’t get the goods. Now you have harried employees and managers trying to calm the situation. And somewhere in the marketing stratosphere of Build-A-Bear, there was probably a boss yelling, “What were you thinking???”

This sent Build-A-Bear employees scrambling to try and figure out how to salvage relationships. And then comes their big question: how do we recover from this? And will it hurt the company long term?

Timothy Calkins is a clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He told the Tribune, “Instead of Build-A-Bear being a place of happiness or joy, it became a place of frustration and disappointment. It really is a disaster for Build-A-Bear. You desperately want your brand associated with happy parents and happy kids.”

There is no perfect solution. But here’s what Build-A-Bear did. The company decided to issue vouchers for a future purchase to customers who remained in these long lines. The $15 off vouchers could be used through August 31st. Well, good try. But it doesn’t quite make up the difference for the kid who could have created a bear for as little as $1. Or cover the time spent unprofitably in long lines.

Sometimes the real world of your popularity can create unexpected consequences. Jesus of Nazareth become unbelievably popular for several reasons. The big one: He healed people. But massive crowds also followed Him because they had never heard anyone teach like Him. He was nothing short of amazing.

But on two occasions, throngs gathered where there was no food. His disciples panicked. Jesus didn’t. He commanded the people to sit down. He took a few loaves and fish and fed thousands. Don’t try this at home. It was truly miraculous. Know this…Jesus did what was necessary to take care of His followers. (You can read one of these accounts in Matthew 14:13-21.)

There’s an important lesson for business here. You may not be able to do miracles, but you can go the extra mile to take care of your customers. Build-A-Bear made the effort, but it fell a bit short. They should have gone that extra mile. I’m sure this will become a teachable experience in future marketing courses.

It’s always important in teaching public relations to plan for the downside. A way to bring the customer back when things go awry. And as we learned last week, it’s best to do that before life becomes…un-bear-able.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

P.S. Next week, some personal stories of radio promotions gone awry.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Asleep at the Wheel

Have you ever fallen asleep on the job? My beloved wife Rhonda had a job many years ago that required her to do a “sleep over.” Sort of. As she describes it, “I was a behavioral assistant at a halfway house for teens. The job required me to spend the night, which meant I had to be somewhat awake.”

A number of jobs allow or require some type of sleep accommodation. For example, those staff involved in overnight care in a health care center or assisted living homes have job descriptions that clearly state that the staffer can sleep as long as the patients are resting. Consumer Reports staffers are paid to test mattresses to evaluate the finest bedding.

And one of my favorite stories in this regard is Mark Gorkin. This guy is known for seminars as The Stress Doc.  In the middle of his all day workshops, he frequently takes a short cat nap. States Gorkin, “I want them to see me ‘in action.’ I see myself as a role model, and invariably my napping stimulates discussion among participants.”

There are times when it’s best to stop working and take a sleep break. Drivers of trucks or paid delivery services that involve long distance travel are best served to pull over and rest a bit if they are falling asleep at the wheel. Medical people on long shifts during emergency times should definitely take rest or sleep breaks to be alert for surgery or important care. Let’s not forget pilots. Who wants a weary captain nodding off at the controls?

Many semis are now equipped with beds. So do some aircraft. Think of those 13 hour flights!

Studies have shown that lack of sleep impacts productivity. Harvard Medical School determined that one-third of American workers lacked sufficient sleep to function at peak levels. As a result, chronic exhaustion costs billions of dollars in lost productivity. A second study by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated around 40 million American workers lacked sufficient rest.

The Wall Street Journal reported a few years ago that managers at a growing number of companies have been “investing in programs from sleep-hygiene courses to melatonin-regulating lighting to help employees improve their slumber.”

And for about a decade, employers at Google have been providing napping spaces for employees. Sara Mednick, who wrote a book on the benefits of napping, was quoted as saying, “The idea of napping in front of people while they’re all working really hard—there’s not a lot of respect for that.” But times definitely are changing.

This past week, the Chicago Tribune highlighted a new approach: high tech sleep pods. The Europeans have a jump on this. Two manufacturers unveiled new nap pods last month at the NeoCon commercial interiors show in Chicago. The Trib highlighted Silence Business Solutions, which sells "The Dream Box”…a "recovery cocoon" with 12 light and sound atmospheres and a 15-minute program designed for power-napping. (see link below)

One thing you don’t want to do: catch up on sleep when the boss really needs you. Those familiar with the life of Jesus know that happened with His disciples. We find the story in Matthew 26:36-46. To summarize, on the night of His betrayal before His crucifixion, Jesus takes His disciples to Gethsemane. His soul is in anguish. He needs to pray. He asks His disciples to keep watch. They fail twice in their efforts to stay awake.

Jesus recognized our human frailty. He wisely states in response to the disciples, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (verse 41, ESV) Try as we might to stay awake, sometimes the need for bodily rest just takes over!

Keep in mind that even a good power nap can help you be more productive. So go for it when you can! And now you know…the “rest” of the story.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Livin’ the Dream

Today is my oldest son’s birthday. Marshall is turning 41. It is around this age that many men start getting an uneasy feeling that life is passing them by and they haven’t really lived. It’s generally called the “mid-life crisis.”

Marshall isn’t one of those men. Make no mistake. Marshall and his bride Lara have had their crisis experiences. Especially the loss of a 17-month-old child. And a job or two that didn’t quite work out as hoped. But in God’s providence, some of these experiences led him to one of his “dream” jobs several years ago.

His work is based out of Silicon Valley with the computer giant Apple. His fondness for that company began when I brought home an Apple Macintosh in 1984—the year the Mac was introduced. So easy to learn and operate. It captured my son’s interest and off he went toward a life in advancing technology.

I thought about Marshall today in light of a recent interview I had with one of those young men who is an unusual specimen of business talent. His name is Dale Partridge. His most recent book is titled Saved from Success: How God Can Free You from Culture's Distortion of Family, Work, and the Good Life. More on that in a moment.

Dale also wrote a blog type piece on “3 Critical Questions to Confirm Your Purpose.” This is where I connect his thinking to my son Marshall. As Dale notes, every soul wants to live a life of purpose. Yet many wander through their days and never find fulfillment in their dreams. What path will bring those dreams to reality?

Partridge sends those seeking purpose to look at these three questions:
  1. What are you most passionate about? Dale lays it on the line: “If your passion is not your profession, you have a problem. We spend the majority of our lives working; and if you dislike your job, you often dislike your life.”
  2. Who’s most important to you? In short form, who really matters to you? That’s the one who “makes you better, loves you fully, and brings joy to your life.” Dale’s message is that if you’re on a separate journey, perhaps a path change is in order.
  3. What is your favorite place on earth? In one sentence, “If your heart desires a destination in which you believe you can thrive, then it's time to begin planning.”

So who’s pulled off this kind of life? I think the birthday boy, Marshall, has. He’s working in his field of passion. He’s a man who values friends and makes time for important relationships. And he seems to love those cooler temperatures of the Bay Area. Note…he was born in California.

The life story of Dale Partridge certainly meets his own criteria. He’s living his dream on a farm in Oregon and his priorities in life have never been clearer. But his path to get there had a variety of crises. That’s why he wrote his latest short book on Saved from Success.

Partridge had a stunning rise to early “success.” He started his first business at 17. His ability to make an enterprise work and then sell it profitably landed him on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine. Mark Zuckerberg invited Dale to address the entire Facebook team on how he built an amazing non-profit.

But his life crashed. And spiritual renewal was what he needed most. And found. His career path now directs him to mentor others on what’s really important in life. Here are a couple of his thought starters:

  • “Culture’s distorted definition of success will leave you vacant, broken, and washing up against the rocks of an empty glass.”
  • “Is culture’s definition of success something to seek after or something to be saved from?”

I encourage you to read and share Saved from Success by Dale Partridge. Great stuff. Laden with Scripture. Read it…and start livin’ the real dream.

But here’s what bugs me. This fountain of great wisdom is all of…33. Wow.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: