Hot ImagesHot ImagesHot ImagesHot ImagesHot Images
Hot ImagesHot ImagesHot ImagesHot ImagesHot Images

Monday, March 18, 2013

DELIVERING A MESSAGE THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

As we welcomed in 1985, Charlie Moritz took over the reins at Dunn & Bradstreet, and DuPont announced the newest in a series of executives to manage the company's Graphic Arts unit. His name was Jerome Smith. He was the fourth general manager of that division in five years. Each time a new guy would come in, the ad manager would call  and ask Tom Melchers, who handled the Wilmington Delaware company, to bring me down to break in the new person. I felt like a college professor with a new student. It was only my fifth year in the industry, but I guess I knew more about the company's distributors and its customers  than the new executive did.. Our visit always gave us the opportunity to cement our position as DuPont's number one media choice in printing. I warned Jerome that he was the last executive I would tutor and that he'd need to last four years and graduate. He did. As we left his office we were introduced to Mark Suwyn, whom I was told,  had the inside track to become the next chairman of DuPont. Mark didn't get the spot, but several years later showed up at International Paper. (That story will be told in a future blog.)

Satisfied with what we had accomplished, we settled in for the drive home. Tom, a solid citizen,  brought up the bonus over-payment problem in 1984. His was so inconsequential, he didn't even notice, but he knew that both Ron Andriani and Emidio Gaspari were significantly overpaid. The entire sales staff was evidently talking about the screw-up. He began to reminisce about several of Emidio's shenanigans, which I had blocked out. Prior to one of our first sales meetings, held on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, Emidio shipped a bicycle so he could ride around the ship. After complaints from other guests, management suggested Emidio use his transportation elsewhere. The next year, hoping to unite sales and editorial into a cohesive team, I provided the entire staff with  baseball caps.     The letters "GAM"  were embroidered on the front of them. Only Emidio refused to wear his. But the following year's meeting puzzled me the most.

The industry was in the midst of a technological revolution and the editors were writing about prototypes and beta tests of products which would forever change the shape of printing. In a effort to get the sales force to more closely read the magazine, and be aware of these new companies, I informed them I would give a test on the upcoming issue ."Make sure you read it closely. You'll probably find one or two new companies in your territory that will be advertisers next year," I wrote in a  memo written prior to the sales meeting..  Before hand, I secured seven new  $!00 bills, which I put on the conference table. "The winner gets $400, second, $200 and third $100," I explained. The questions were simple; What was on the cover? What was the subject of the editorial? What was the subject of Publishers' Perspective? What did  the feature spread cover?  And did you find one new prospect and who was it? Emidio refused to take the test. Obviously he hadn't done his homework. (Tom Melchers finished first, Ron Andriani, second, and Paul Holder, third.if you were curious.) When Emido'a market share slipped from 50% to 40% in 1984. GAM overall market share had passed 60% even though his was on a downward slope. I expected  continued  trouble brewing, but would not reveal that to Tom.

Tom asked how I was going to deal with the situation. I hesitated, choosing my words carefully. I knew what ever I told Tom would be passed on to Ron (they shared an office) and then to Emidio.  It would be like talking on a telephone with three parties listening in. After a couple minutes, I answered. "Well, he deserves another chance. I'm really pissed that Ron and Emidio accepted the over-payment without a saying something. I'll send him a memo telling him this year his market share will be closely scrutinized and I'll give him all the help he needs. All he has to do is ask." The implied message I was sending was that if there was no improvement, I'd have to make a change. There was no question in my mind that it wouldn't take a day for my words to get back to the Chicago office.

I wrote the memo reiterating what I had told Tom and sent it to the Chicago office. but never had a response form Emidio. Not a phone call. Not a return memo. There was nothing I could do except monitor his activity very closely. In the meantime, I had to develop strategy for our exhibiting at PRINT '85, the first international show in America since PRINT '80. The issue before the show would determine whether the year would provide the continued growth I was looking for. (The story continues in tomorrow's post.)