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Monday, February 4, 2013

A NEW HOME OFTEN REQUIRES HOUSEKEEPING

My predecessor at Graphic Arts Monthly was right about one thing, The publication's editor, Bert Chapman, needed a careful eye. I discovered, after the magazine was relocated from Chicago to New York, he had written an editorial berating the company for moving them without considering the feelings of its employees. Fortunately, a production manager caught the tirade, and it was replaced with one paragraph from the publisher. In  my meeting with Chapman I told him, based on that incident, I would preview his editorials, and that I would be writing a monthly column,"Publisher's  Perspective." He didn't take kindly to the news, and I knew he'd be a thorn in my side. But, for the most part, the editorial staff, which consisted of six others, seemed competent. The two salesmen, Ron Andriani and Tom Melchers, appeared to be winners. The next day I passed a small office, and spotted an older gentleman doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. " Who's that guy?". I asked Gloria, the secretary I had inherited. She sullenly answered, "Ruby Berliner". "What does he do," I asked, and she shook her head. She didn't know.

I called Ruby into my office and asked what his job was. His biographical sketch lasted nearly an hour. Ruby had gone to law school, graduating at the height of the depression. He served summonses, and eventually became the first ad salesman for GAM in New York. He was now 70, and the former publisher had put him in charge of classified ads. The classified section in the back of the book totaled 26 to 30 pages, run in black and white or two-color. He had an assistant, Brent Eckhardt, a young college graduate, who wanted to be a novelist. His father Bill, owned the biggest bindery company in Indiana. After he left my office I began reading hundreds of memos filed in my desk. One from Bernie Gordon, a vice president in Chicago,  dated 11/16/75, was addressed to Bob Braun, the former publisher, was written four years earlier. It read, "We'll retire Ruby Berliner at the end of the year." Yet Ruby was still there doing the Times crossword puzzle.

My to do list included calls to our other sales people. GAM had two  in Chicago, Emedio Gaspari and Mike O'Hara, as well as one in Cleveland, Paul Holder. Technical also had company reps in Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles,  and I called them to introduce myself. The conversation with Emedio was very disturbing. He said  his  commission check was screwed up and he was short changed. I buzzed Gloria, who was responsible for the data sent to accounting, and asked for her reports and the market share statistics, which compared our numbers to our competitors' pages. Making a thorough review of that material, and recounting ad pages in our competition, I literally found dozens of errors, and I realized major changes had to be made.

By the end of the week, I had a firm handle on areas ripe for change. I called the president, Jack Abely, to schedule a meeting. I had a stack of well organized papers ready to prove my case. He immediately queried about Bert Chapman. "He's not the biggest problem. I'd like to wait and solve the others first. Here's a memo from 1975 regarding Ruby. How could we let this slide?" I outlined my plan. "Since he has no pension from the former owner, I'd like to give him $15,000 for three years, along with expenses of $10,000 to prevent him from going to a competitor." I got a quick okay. "Next, I must replace Gloria, and bring hire my former secretary, Diane Ruggeri. I've been working with her for five years and she's amazing." He asked how much that would cost, and I threw out a number... $17,000. He sat up and said his assistant only made $15,000. "Give her a raise", I suggested. I also  informed him Brent Eckhardt would be promoted to classified ad manager. He said yes to the entire strategy. Since he was in an agreeable mood, I added one more thing. "I've asked Dick Lewis, the associate publisher, for a job description. I do't know what he does and neither does he. If I don't get it in two weeks, I going to terminated him. I don't need an associate publisher." Abely sat back and said, "It.s your decision." As I left his office,I felt like Rick from Casablanca, as I mused, "Jack, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship." And it was.

The results of that meeting were interesting.  A month after his retirement, Ruby accepted an offer from American Printer to sell classified ads. Our agreement stated that he would lose the income if he sold  for another publication, and we saved  $25,000 a year.  Gloria was transferred to another publisher who fired her after one week on the job. And one more thing, Jack's secretary, Carol, called to thank me for her $2000 raise,  and I realized I had now made two friends in high places.