A bite out of the Big Apple

1979: I learn that I have been undervaluing myself

This is a series I started in January: “Six decades of business lessons.” I’m shoring the experiences that helped hone my managerial and marketing skills.

I was six months short of receiving my gold watch for 20 years of service with Vance Publishing when we agreed to disagree. I don’t know how much that watch was worth, but I really didn’t care. I needed a change after nearly two decades with the same company. It was time to find a new position, so I put together a presentation of more than 20 pages. It included charts and graphs of my performance as a salesman and a publisher, with bottom line results. It also included letters sent by presidents of the major paper companies commenting on my well-read editorials, letters from beauty industry executives thanking me for my help, as well as a letter from Dale Hughes, president of Hughes Printing, telling me I was in the top three of all print buyers with whom he had dealt. I had met and become friendly with many top executives from the major business magazine publishers while attending ABP’s spring meetings.

Because I had a six-month severance package, I was in no rush to find a spot. Looking to publish a magazine with revenues of at least $5 million, I set my criteria rather high.

I sent out 24 presentations and had 24 interviews in New York City. Though I had a number of job offers in the first couple of months, not one of the positions met my standards. I did have a nibble from Jack Abely, who was president of Technical Publishing, one of the top five companies in the field. Abely had been a salesman on the laundry and dry cleaning magazines when I was with R. H. Donnelley in the late 1950s. He said he had a spot but it might be a while before it would he onen. I called him even’not. At North American, I found six that wouldn’t pass my “gust of wind” test. Our meeting went well, and I was scheduled to take a psychological test at a New York City testing firm.

Return to New York

When I arrived home from Philadelphia, there was a message from Abel>’. He wanted me to come in for an interview. I sat in the reception room and studied the 20 publications on the table. Most were engineering publications, and after my experience with Paper Trad’e Journal, I had had enough of

technical magazines. There were only two which I would have liked to publish. One was Datamation, a rather hefty magazine for the management information systems business, and the other was Graphic Arts Monthly (GAM).

Abely welcomed me into his office. We had seen each other at those publishers’ meetings and had played an occasional game of backgammon, but it had been 20 years since we had worked together. We reminisced about the old days, and he explained that he was considering moving the GAM publisher to the York Medical group, an assortment of books for doctors of varying disciplines. I might have been drooling at this point, but I tried to stay calm. Abely told me he’d get back to me in a week or so. Time was now of the essence.

Proof of sanity

A week later Borowsky called me to tell me I was sane, based on my psychological test, and we set up a date for the next Tuesday. I didn’t want to move to Philadelphia, but I needed to get back to work. My severance had only two months left. On Monday, Abely called to set up a same-day appointment. I dropped everything and raced to his office. His first question was, “When can you start?” My jaw dropped. I said, “We haven’t even discussed compensation.” He responded, “What do you want?” I added 15 percent to my last salary at Vance Publishing and gave him a figure. Too quickly, he said “You’ve got it.” It was then that I decided I was undervaluing myself.

Several weeks later, a group of publishing execs, mostly presidents, were hanging out at the New York Hilton during a meeting break. Jack O’Neill was among us, and I whispered, “Vance never paid me what I was worth.” He told me I was right. One of the others asked me why I left Vance. “He fired me,” Is said pointing to O’Neill. The group looked at him for an answer. He responded curtly, “It was him or me”.


A bite out of the Big Apple