Friday, December 26, 2008

Why We Are Bucking the Downturn

Our certificate frame sales are up. Corporate buyers are shopping recognition and finding our unique, cost effective products. Companies do not want to give up recognition. But, as departments are asked to cut costs, alternatives are being sought out on the web. And who do they find? for employee recognition or award frames. The product is a nice breath of fresh air for those who traditionally use plaques. Our certificate frame products are 50-70% less than the cost of a plaque. We offer upgrades, but most corporate buyers are moved by lower price points and the fresh look.

Fusion Frames is diverse. Fusion Frames is a DBA. The parent company Berkeley Tandem, Inc. has been in business since 1995 with long-time established corporate program customers such as CarMax, American Red Cross, Southwestern Great American, and Boy Scouts of America. We are looking optimistically toward 2009 and will continue to put service first with an emphasis on trimming the production fat, analyzing inventory and optimizing our internet marketing. We covet our corporate buyer relationships. And thought we have tried to sell through ASI and other specialty product marketing avenues, we feel the product was always miss-understood and that the market our product appeals to was not shopping ASI catalogs.

We are unique, we sell direct, we make our product, we sell 10 or 1000+. We are made in the USA. We are environmentally conscientious. We are lean and mean and ready for more companies and organizations to discover us. Mention you read our blog, contact us directly at and we will be happy to send you a free sample. Join us, slice your budgets and continue to buck the downturn.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Our Certificate Paper Journey to Green

When deciding on a paper for your certificates what matters? Is it the brightness of the paper? Print ability? Recycled content? Weight? Price?

As a company we are implementing a sustainable initiative. And part of that initiative is to analyze frame components and if we feel we can make changes that are more environmentally family we do so. Our house certificate paper is Cougar by Weyerhaeuser. We have been using it for years and offer it in a bright white and a cream natural with various pre-printed designs and sizes. Is it the best sustainable choice?

While we continue to weigh our options, I can tell you about why Cougar has been working for us. The white is a 98 brightness. Corporate colors print beautifully. The natural cream is a nice cream, not too yellow and compliments our frame colors. It foil stamps and die cuts well. It is a very economical paper and available on the floor from our paper distributor. There is 10% recycled content and it is a Sustainable Forestry (SFI) certified paper. The quality is high enough for proper reproduction of corporate graphic standards and the digital is laser guaranteed.

Problems arise when choosing high recycled content to produce a certificate that the customer prints on, self-personalizing on office printers. 100% recycled can trash a printer and achieving brightness on non-virgin paper takes more bleaching chemicals. Many recycled papers are made from papers imported from countries that do not have our strict environmental regulations. I'm feeling better about that fact that 90% of Weyerhaeuser's paper is produced in the US and is produced chlorine free.

While I feel Cougar is a good choice, could we make a choice that is better for the environment, while holding down costs and providing great quality? We will keep looking. I would love to increase the recycled content while holding the paper brightness. I would like to know that the recycled content is not coming from industry by-products that are even more harmful to the environment. And I will look for the ECF or Elemental Chlorine Free logo.

Awareness is half the battle. If all manufacturing could be more aware, then we could make some serious progress toward sustainable, closed loop production.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Aggregating the Web in 2009

We are constantly studying how much of our market is going online to search for certificate frames. Marketing strategy with key words on Google, recommendations and posts on blogs continue to increase our exposure. 2009 will launch our new 2.0 version of our website with customer feedback and new media, such as video demos. Strong data points to the young executive in buying positions who’s buying habits always include a web search. This is the future of corporate buying. We will have our niche carved out and customers will keep coming back when they discover that our cost-saving certificate frames work for them and are stylish and easy to use.

We are aiming at Gen X and Gen Y with green eco-friendly certificate frame lines in the works. I will be attending the local AIGA sustainability conference in a few weeks to further connect us with local vendors. 2009 promises to be a year of focus, reaching out to new customers and offering new selections to our long-standing customers. Shopping Fusion Frames, you are getting the best price, straight from the manufacturer. Let us prove to you our quick ship, customer service and great products will be a welcome addition to any employee recognition program.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

We Will Miss You Rick

We mourn the passing of Rick Kinney, cofounder of and former partner in Berkeley Tandem, Inc. and resource partner for Fusion Frames. Rick died November 5th after a 3 year fight with cancer. He leaves his wonderful wife Sherrie and two step sons. He was the brainchild of the shadowbox certificate construction that started Berkeley Tandem in 1995, and it is that signature construction we continue to incorporate into our products today. He was a great friend and wonderful mentor. We will remember his salesmanship, his ability to be out of the box on product design and his tenacity that kept him trying to find new ways to sell recognition frames. We'll miss you Rick.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day Theme for 2008 is Poverty.

Why would a business blog about certificate frames touch on poverty? To quote, “Bloggers are free to interpret this as they see fit. We invite bloggers to examine poverty from their own blog topics and perspectives, to look at it from the macro and micro, as a global condition and a local issue, and to bring their own ideas, views and opinions on the subject.”

Part of our business model at Fusion Frames is to discover, refine and utilize the internet as not only as a selling tool but, as a way to broaden conversations. Meaningful conversation, just like meaningful recognition can be engaging and influential. So why not blog about poverty and raise awareness? To say poverty does not touch Middle America or Fusion Frames’ employees is to turn a blind eye.

Fusion Frames is a typical specialty product company with a focus on direct selling and wholesale, business-to-business. Our retail space is the web. Our physical space is a warehouse where we store and assemble orders. Many of our employees are part-time flex, working “piece rate”. To further explain, you are paid by how many pieces you build, not how many hours you work. Piece rate potential can earn you up to $18 an hour, which is a good wage for assembly in Middle TN. For the typical part-time assembly worker at our company, flexibility is the key for them to be able to work. We find offering flex time lowers stress and builds appreciation.

Many part-time assembly workers in America are women with children. Childcare is where we see the most hardship. And it is the primary need for flexibility in hours. Other hardships include large healthcare expenses and car maintenance. The reality of poverty is that it takes every dollar you make to live. One major illness, one car accident, one large bill is not a possible to absorb in a household budget that lives month-to-month. Debt management is the long-term reality, precluding even a raise to offer debt relief.

I see debt management as a form of servitude. Being a servant to your debt creates a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one's course of action or way of life. Until we change the culture of debt management and consumption in the world to a culture of resource management and conservation, this cycle of being stuck in poverty will continue to spread.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Sky is Not Falling

Opportunity is ripe in down economic times. Product options abound for employee and donor recognition choices over the net. As budgets tighten we are certainly seeing a move toward our lower priced product. But, recognition is even more important now in order to boost morale and say thanks for a job well done, show confidence in your workforce and display company financial health. The little things still matter.

We will all weather this economic climate. Fusion Frames feels the ecommerce side of our business is a great example of how global and national economies are strongly linked. The internet does not build a brick and mortar industry in a community, but spreads that wealth out in a ripple effect world wide. Everyone will adjust to this new economy. We are far too resourceful not to come out ahead again.

What is Fusion Frames working on? I hope you will see a re-vamp of product lines. Maybe even a bargain basement category to move inventory that we have in small quantities, allowing you to take advantage of great prices. We feel offering great value will be important in the months to come.

Here at Fusion Frames we are constantly using technology to re-invent ourselves with the goal to best serve the national and international business community with our unique award products, certificate frames and customer service. The sky is not falling. Though my 401K is.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Biggest Motivation-Killer

An article explains THE motivation-killer in the workplace. Employee cynicism is the answer and the article does a good job suggesting how to shake it. One of the ways mentioned is to recognize an employee’s cause they believe in, either in or out of the workplace.

Employees are spending 1000’s of hours of their own time volunteering for causes that mean something to them. And how can recognition of that volunteerism give way to less cynicism in the workplace? We see this trend in our business through the “volunteerism phenomenon”. And, most commonly, matching donor funds are the way companies help employees give back to the community

What are other ways to draw attention to good deeds accomplished by employees? Our case study/example uses Asurion’s model for praising employee’s volunteerism. They use our certificate frames for their “Employee Wall of Fame” that recognizes employees that are volunteering in the community.

The model comes full circle when your business asks your employees how their volunteerism can directly affect your customer? How could your employees improve your customer’s lives in some way? Then the synergy comes full circle, not only affecting morale, but affecting sales as well by building relationships with customers and your employees.

See the full article.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Recognition in the “Chaordic Age”

How can “Chaordic” relate to recognition and certificate frames? I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this book (written in 2000) and the buzzword “Chaordic” which can be briefly described as the chaos of competition and the order of cooperation coexisting though meaningful connections.

“A chaordic organization is formed by attending to six elements in the proper order: Purpose, Principles, People, Concept, Structure and Practice.” – Dee Hock Birth of the Chaordic Age

Note “purpose” is first. Everyone wants purpose. High business success correlates one-to-one with the genuine purpose of the product you sell or the service you offer. Recognition with empty, generic, purpose lacks the fundamental congruence to connect with employees to make them feel really appreciated.

So then how can we apply the chaordic to recognition directly as a methodology for new recognition products or a recognition program structure? In its MOST simple form I see the Six Chaordic Elements as the guide. The PURPOSE of recognition is to honor, and promote good work resulting in motivation to do more good work. PRINCIPLES honor competition to earn recognition. It is all about PEOPLE and recognition is personal. Rather than giving something generic, make it personal in CONCEPT, creating a memento that allows reflection on that specific moment of good. Concept brings specific content to that recognition product that creates connection. STRUCTURE guides us to define real goals for recognition. PRACTICE represents the follow-through to consistently monitor and present recognition for those goals or good deeds in a timely manner.

Congruence between all six elements applied to recognition takes an award or thank you to the next level, forming connections. A Fusion Frames case study describes a great example of this congruence in action. Poster size certificate frames created for the American Red Cross to recognize 2007 corporate donors for the California Wild Fires used actual photos from the disaster, creating a connection between the donor and recipient. The use of corporate logos on the posters also connected and marketed the corporate philanthropy, all within the recognition structure of Red Cross recognition levels. The concept and practice was applied all the way down to a simple paper certificate of thanks, achieving a real connection to the generosity provided from the largest corporate donor to the single volunteer.

Real, meaningful recognition is the hallmark of a successful recognition program. Meaning through chaordic methods can be the calling for all employees to feel good about success and all volunteers and donors to feel good about giving.

ADDENDUM: I cannot say that this blog post does justice to the complexities of Hock’s book. It is meant to be a brief glimpse of practice and food for thought in our little recognition niche.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cheaper, Better, Faster

How can you save money and extend your company’s brand while boosting morale with a certificate frame? In today’s price sensitive economy a certificate frame provides a great alternative to a plaque in your recognition program. Priced at more than half the cost of a wood plaque, Fusion Frames’ shadowboxed framed presentations coupled with the fast digital flexibility of certificate printing can open up all possibilities to graphically nail your companies brand without a lot of hassle. Non-profits and military love the graphic punch and dimensional, corporate presentation our frames give. There are few limits to artistically representing achievements with corporate marketing in mind when printing and foil stamping on the mat as well as the certificate. And our products are made in the USA, so in-time delivery with small, custom quantities are affordable. Our certificate frames are a win, win.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Trends in Employee Recognition

An April 2008 WorldatWork Survey shows recognition in the workplace still strong with certificate frames and plaques the top choice for recognition at 78%. The second choice award given is cash. The survey stats show 42% of award ordering is done online with 58% of businesses and organizations choosing the HR department to administer their award program.

Employers are using their total rewards toolkit to differentiate themselves as an employer of choice and/or solve for a variety of business challenges. The survey states that nearly nine in 10 responding organizations have employee recognition programs in place and only 7% are doing less recognition today than they were one year ago.

Source: WorldatWork via LinkedIn Connection

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

We Have a New Certificate Frame Affiliate!

Marketing Assistants' site was created to provide an affordable source of materials and information that member hospices, across the U.S. and Canada, can utilize in their efforts to educate their communities and raise awareness of the hospice concept care and the invaluable services that are offered. carries a complete menu of products and services designed to serve marketing/public relations and fund development departments of hospices nationwide. These services include certificate designs used to recognize donors, volunteers and nurses. These certificates are available for download on the Marketing Assistant site. Fusion Frames is honored to have Marketing Assistants' referral and we hope our certificate frames and awards provide a stylish presentation to honor all those who give of their time and talents to hospices.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Certificate Frames as Employee Recognition Solution

When was the last time you updated your Employee of the Month Plaque? Timing is key to great employee recognition. We'll give retailers immediate results with our system. Fusion Frames has a unique certificate frame award product that translates perfectly into a complete year-long employee recognition system. Our Shadow Star certificate frame is modified with a panel that allows the special certificate insert to be personalized with an employee photo or company logo. The EOM kit comes complete with replacement certificates. No more waiting on engraved plates. No more expensive plaques. Re-use the frame year after year for the best value yet. We'll supply the replacement certificates. Discounts apply if you order individual employee awards. Our certificate frame product is a great solution!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Back of the Frame Matters

As a framer of awards we have learned that the back of the frame matters almost as much as the front. Some customers have let cost conscious choices drive a simple cardboard back. But, in the end, what is not seen does matter when you are at an award ceremony. You are passing the frame like a plaque or trophy. To see a cheap brown cardboard back is not what the recipient wants to see. It is not attractive.

We are re-tooling the back presentation of our wood products to standardize our products. All backs will be flush black chip board or a professional craft paper dust cover similar to a custom framer. If a wood frame is used, the door back will need to cover the wood frame or the frame molding will need to be painted at the same quality as the front. Our molding manufacturers are game to make the change. And we are excited about adding another level of quality to our wood frames. Our metal and poly wrap frames already come with clean black flush backs. I'll be glad to see the hardwood frames have the same look and feel.