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Posted: February 01, 2014

From just over the hill: Today is always the beginning

Modern business must grow, transform and better serve to survive

Pat Wiesner

One thing I can claim without challenge is that I have been around business for a long time. I had my first job in 1951 as a soda jerk in Benson’s drugstore in Buffalo, N. Y.; the first president I remember is FDR, and the first one I voted for was JFK. My first real job out of college was as a sales engineer for a company selling laminated phenolics, and my first car was an old yellow ‘53 Plymouth I bought in ‘58 after graduating from college in ‘57.

 For me the most fun part of those 60 years in the work force has been the constant change.

The line in the title of this column, “Today is always the beginning,” is painted on the tunnel wall of the Castle Rock rec center, at the entrance to the track – a place I frequent to help deal with some back problems. (I wonder if the rec center knows that the line is attributed to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.)

I like this sentiment because I believe that in business, change is every bit as important as sales, management, leadership and finance.

Typical of the kind of changes in this paradigm was the advent of the Motorola “brick” mobile phone some 30 years ago and its impact on the traveling salesmen. I had sold advertising space all over the country, calling on customers while getting around in rental cars. Every hour of the day was peppered with stops at gas stations to make calls, get appointments and check tomorrow’s plan. The “brick” changed everything and eventually led to the elimination of practically all phone booths at airports, along the streets and at gas stations.

We started Wiesner Publishing on an Apple IIc and a floppy disk system that could hold only 1,000 circulation names per disk. Imagine alphabetizing these names across 20 disks. But we would have had a nearly impossible job without that computer.

So here we are in 2014 with some new ideas to match up with more change. Publishing is a tougher business than ever. There are scores of other sources of information that businesses need to compete better, all of which was once presented almost exclusively in magazines. Quality information brings quality readers, which is exactly what advertisers want. Now there are many more entities competing for the ad dollars, which haven’t grown as fast as the places to put them.

But we have some strengths as a group that remain unique. First, the noise level on the Web is high. Blogs and commentary can come from anywhere. Good magazines and newspapers pay writers and editors to report on material without an axe to grind. Material that readers trust and seek out.

Secondly, magazines can target circulation to readers who have genuine interest in your product, which makes advertising more efficient.

You will find our Web presence strengthened and our features stronger. We will sponsor outside events that will help you in your business.

In short, good magazines and newspapers will survive in a way similar to how radio found its niche in spite of TV.

Along with you, we are constantly analyzing and improving our business to serve our customers better. Our business, like yours, is constantly changing. And today is always the beginning.

Pat Wiesner is the retired CEO of WiesnerMedia, publisher of ColoradoBiz. He still leads sales training for the company. E-mail him at pwiesner@cobizmag.com.

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