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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

ORDER IN THE COURT, HERE COMES THE JUDGE

If you've been following the saga of the slipping salesman, he did get my message. Days later I found a letter of resignation on my desk. I wasn't surprised. But a week or so passed, and I was served with legal papers. Emidio Gaspari was suing both yours truly and Dun & Bradstreet in Illinois and Federal Court for "constrictive restrain". At the time I had no idea what that meant. Two lawyers from our parent company appeared in my office to explain the term. It usually is used in arrests without cause, but it can also mean badgering an employee to a point he or she cannot bear it anymore and is forced to resign. The lawyers asked me to recount the past history and I did. "Do you have any back-up material?" I said I did, and asked Diane Ruggeri to bring in "the red file", as it was affectionately called in the office.

I hadn't seen it in a while. It was now a least three inches thick and contained dozen of memos giving suggestions to Gaspari on how to improve his sales efforts. It contained share of market reports which illustrated how his was on a downward slide. It contained the memo regarding his abuse of his expense and on how he was banned from including any expenses for meals at The Palm Restaurant. There was the one indicating that I was upset over his unwilling to take the sales quiz, and finally the memo I had written summing the fact that he was aware of his excess bonus payment and said nothing. But I was giving him a final chance to recuperate from his recent poor performance.

After about a half hour of silence, the lawyers, who  had been passing the aforementioned paper work between each other, spoke only one word in unison. "Wow". I asked is that a good "wow", or a bad one. "You have done a great job in documenting the total history. We usually don't have such a solid case," they remarked. To tell the  truth, I had been rattled by the legal attack before they came into my office. But relieft washed over me after their assessment of  the situation and their reassuring words about the "red file". I felt like a ten ton weight and been lifted of my back...and a month or so later, when they called to tell me that the suits had been thrown out of court both in the state and federal courts, I found myself breathing again.

Now it was time to develop our approach to PRINT '85. Beth Hogan and I discussed how we could get the best exposure out of the exhibit. Our sales people had instructions to attend all of their advertisers' press conferences with one of the editors. Once we had that schedule, we assigned booth duty so the two staff members were in the booth at all times. We ordered 1000 model kits of the Gutenberg press with a price tag of $40. We would net $33,000 if we sold them all. Beth would earn  5% on each sale. We also decided to offer mugs at $10 each. The front of the mug carried the  GAM logo and the back side, a cartoon of an attendee leaving with one of those canvas bags strapped to his bag and carrying tubes of posters that had been printed on the show floor. The caption read, "I DID SURVIVE PRINT '85. We also designed a sign that indicated for every mug sold we would donate $1 to the printing program of the buyers' choice.

When I arrived at the booth on setup day, Beth was very excited. Linotype's CEO, Bob Trendkamp, was walking the show floor and liked the mugs. He wanted to buy 200 to distribute to his people working their exhibit, but wanted a quantity discount. We settled on $8 a piece and she made the sale I suggested that she solicit other exhibitors, and by the fourth day the 1000 mugs had been sold. The retailing effort gave our staff the  opportunity to interface with the attendees, and paid for a celebratory dinner on the final day of the show. We also contributed $800 to the RIT and Carnegie Melon printing programs.