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Manager strikes back.

I couldn't help but respond to one of your recent articles about the makeup of the NEPA board and the owner vs. publishing executive ratio ("Evolving NEPA board makeup--not to everyone's liking--crystallizes the association's future," NL/NL 7/16/03).

And I have to bang on some of the implied myths in the article. Here are a few statements I offer in response:

1. Publishing executives do not have job security. The fact that they don't "meet their own payroll" does not mean that they can sit back and collect their next paycheck regardless of their business unit's performance.

2. "Meeting your own payroll" does not in itself make you more creative. Some publishing executives:

* Want to grow their businesses out of pride,

* Want to grow their businesses in order to enjoy financial rewards tied to growth targets,

* Must grow their businesses--and accurately forecast that growth--or expect to find themselves out of a job.

To grow they must be creative or nurture creativity. Some of the least creative people I know are meeting payroll. The notion that paying people is the only factor that makes you creative and hungry is absurd.

3. For a sole proprietor "meeting your own payroll"--or not meeting it--generally means not paying someone else (i.e., an employee). Owners generally cut other expenses before touching their own compensation, unless circumstances get extremely dire.

For a publishing executive, not making enough revenue to pay employees means their own position and their own compensation are threatened. I am not implying that owners should cut their compensation, and I defend anyone who has the guts to start their own business. But there is a huge difference between cutting someone else's compensation and watching yours go to zero.

4. Ideas, tactics, strategies, best practices, tricks, etc. that apply to publishing executives generally apply to an owner, and vice versa. There are differences to be sure, but differences in publishing models and types and what we can learn from each other--and our willingness to share and participate--are what make NEPA such a rich and valuable organization.

The fact that the NEPA board comprises more non-owning publishing executives than owners is merely a reflection of the industry we serve, and owners will continue to learn and benefit from the organization, particularly if they remain an active part of the organization.

(Suggestion: If there are owner-specific issues that call for routine discussion, a working group could be formed.)

5. The original members of the association didn't learn just because they owned businesses; they learned because they shared their insights and helped direct the association based on their needs. Owners and non-owners need to continue to participate. Sitting back and waiting for wisdom was not the approach of the successful owner-members I knew. It didn't work then and it won't work today, regardless of whether you own a company or work for someone who does.

--Tom Hagy, vice president and general manager. LexisNexis Mealey Publications & Conference Group, King of Prussia, PA, and member, NEPA board of directors
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Author:Hagy, Tom
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Aug 16, 2003
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