Richard Foster is true serial entrepreneur. He has a passion for new business development and corporate M&A transactions largely focused in the manufacturing and general contracting fields. His entrepreneurial spirit has taken him down many other roads as well, holding seven U.S. Patents for the creation of his line of sports-themed clocks, “TIME for SPORTS”, which have been distributed in fifteen countries around the world.
Richard Foster has been named the “Youngest Entrepreneur” by the New York Times as well as appearing in a wide variety of radio, TV, and print nationwide. Foster currently focuses his time serving as President of his New York based construction management firm, Foster Construction Management, LLC, an organization that focuses on the strategic acquisitions & management of general contracting companies. Foster’s most recent under-taking is serving as Managing Director of The Elenar Group, a three-dimensional think tank; focusing on developing products and services in a creative, innovative, and practical manner.
MO: You have an extensive background in entrepreneurship. How do you manage your time between so many different products?
Rich: Not easily; I typically work roughly 20 hours per day to keep everything running. Every day is a constant battle of properly prioritizing to ensure everything keeps running efficiently. One of my strong points is definitely delegation, and that is how the bulk of all my firms’ activities get done on a daily basis. I have a dedicated management staff that has been with me for years and understands how to get the job done!
MO: Tell us more about the TIME for SPORTS clocks, what inspired you to create these and how did you know that you needed to get the patents for them?
Rich: This company was really a bit of a “fluke” in a sense. I used to take private tennis lessons and one day decided I wanted to make my tennis coach a gift: a tennis clock! Next thing I knew people at the club started ordering them and then, in came requests for golf, baseball, and many other sports; I was officially in business and TIME for SPORTS was born. I then began marketing the products on a far larger scale through sponsorship agreements with a variety of ATP, WTA, & PGA tour events. As far as the patents, it must’ve just been the “entrepreneur” in me (or perhaps my parents, since after all I was only 14 at the time!).
MO: I am most interested in your newest under-taking serving as the Managing Director of the Elenar Group. Can you tell us more about this think tank?
Rich: I formed The Elenar Group with a customer turned business partner not even a year ago. Our goal from the get-go was to capitalize on opportunities, largely opportunities that I might not have been able to capitalize on without a partner. In the time since we formed The Elenar Group, we acquired a NYC kitchen and bath design firm (forming Elenar Renovations), acquired a 50% stake in New Amsterdam Advisors a NYC based consulting firm where I now serve as Managing Director & Chief Investment Officer, and recently became majority stakeholders in 2 other concepts that we’re hoping will revolutionize the mass transit advertising industry. Of the opportunities we’ve embarked on, I think I am most excited about New Amsterdam Advisors; a business consulting firm that truly takes an “entrepreneurial approach” with each of it’s clients. Our team has over 40 years of experience in business development, sales, creative design technology, accounting, law, entrepreneurship, and capital advisory services. We welcome alternative fee arrangements such as equity compensation, for startups that wouldn’t otherwise have the funds to hire a consulting firm and help to see ideas through from startup to funding and beyond.
MO: You seem to be a person with a lot of ideas. How do you decide which ideas are worth pursuing?
Rich: About as easily as I manage my time. I typically act very quickly when I’m really into a new idea. If I don’t jump on it within the first week I know I’m not serious about it or I don’t really have faith in it. At the end of the day, cash is king, and if I think it is something that will make money; I’m all in. If not, then I’ll let someone else lose his/her fortune in that industry. When it comes to ideas other people bring me, it’s a pretty quick few questions that decide if an opportunity is worth it to me: A) Does this person have what it takes to run this business? B) What is the estimated cash flow I’ll generate from this relative to the opportunity cost of my involvement? C) How much of my time will this business take up? D) Will this business provide any economies of scale effect relative to my current holdings? If not, how will this business integrate long term into my portfolio?…From those questions I can then quickly gauge is an opportunity is right for me or not and if it is, then it becomes time to negotiate.
MO: I really like the quote you provided, “It’s always worth a conversation”. Can you give an example of a time that this was the case for you?
Rich: This is a tough one to give an example of, since whatever example I give the person I’d be referring to you is bound to eventually read this article and then realize I probably never really wanted to talk to him/her to begin with. I’ll bottom-line it like this: you don’t know what will happen when you talk to someone new, but you’re sure to find out. However, the unturned stone could end up being the diamond in the rough; so take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. I have heard countless times people say to me “so-and-so isn’t worth having a meeting with”. 90% of the time that is true, but the other 10% I’ll get a great client or referral out of it. People live too much in a quid pro quo world these days, too concerned about “what have you done for me lately” instead of “how can we help each other in the future”. It’s those who sit down for the conversation with the latter mentality that will be successful in today’s networking based society. I never want to be known as the person who doesn’t want to hear new opportunities or who is too closed minded to sit down with someone new because I’m unsure what he/she will try to offer or sell me, but at the end of the day everyone is a potential client, and while selling is far from my strongpoint, there is still nothing better than an in-person meeting, and a conversation.
MO: You are currently very involved in construction. How did you get your start in construction, and what is the biggest lesson you have learned in this industry thus far?
Rich: I always had a passion for construction. Since I was very young I enjoyed watching home improvement and construction television shows and I always knew it was a business I’d end up in because it was something I’m passionate about. I got my start in construction at age 7 (yes, 7) when Richard Foster Construction was founded and I refinished my first wood floor. From there it was on to slightly larger home improvement projects, then a stint in the custom furniture/millwork industry to fine-tune my craft, next came the clocks, and before I knew it I was doing full commercial and residential construction projects throughout the tri-state area! Clients of mine now include many international retail chains as well as hundreds of private, satisfied homeowners! As far as lessons in the construction industry; I don’t think there is a long enough article for that! If I had to pick one (that is G rated) I’d have to go with something moderately trite: always watch your bottom line. As I’ve purchased construction companies I’ve had the opportunity to see why companies succeed and fail and at the end of the day, like any business, it all comes down to money.
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