On management: The people part of business
When Wiesner Publishing was about one month old, we decided we needed to move from the house to an office, which we rented on the second floor of Littleton Electric. The “we” was me and my wife, Janet (who would work on the development of our circulation lists using a new computer I bought, the Apple IIc).
And my cigars. I had recently quit cigarettes and replaced them with cigars. When we finally left that one-man office, my landlord refused to return my deposit because I had ruined his drapes with cigar smoke.
Slowly we made progress. We published a couple of magazines, we were running on something less than a shoestring and we had enough business to begin hiring a couple of people. We brought on two partners. One was an ad-sales pro (Phil Cook); the other an editorial pro (Jim Fahnestock).
Together we concocted the idea that got the company off the ground, the magazine Mobile Radio Technology. I think it was mostly Jim’s idea. Phil and I were sales types who had done mobile radio magazines before, and Jim was a tech-writer with a lot of experience. We sold $90,000 in the first issue and never looked back. Zoom!
What I realized for the first time in my life was that the real power in a company, even a little company like ours, was the combined power of the people who were HAPPY to be there! At this point we had four people who were happy to be where they were, and the result was incredibly positive and seemed like more than just four people. Jim had assembled a magazine that was new, exciting, the forerunner of many technical mobile phone magazines to come. Phil could not have felt better about what he was selling, and as a result he was at his very best.
So what was my job? This is when I began to understand that the No. 1 job of management everywhere, even in our little startup, is to provide an atmosphere where the people want to do their best work ever. So take the people who are happy in their work at your company and subtract the people who wish they were elsewhere, subtract another factor for the damage they do and … you will have a measure of what your company is capable of.
We now had a four-office “complex” in the basement of a building up the street from Littleton Electric, and I had quit cigars forever. Our fourth and very first employee was a lady named Carol who was typing her very first letter for me and she asked, “What’s your title?” I asked her what she thought. She suggested “CEO,” a new idea that I had heard instead of “president.”
“OK,” I said.
I really liked being CEO. It made me feel good, self-confident. Here I was, running a four-person company, in a four-office entity in Littleton, Colo., with just enough cash to make the next payroll … but I was a CEO, and I felt good about my chances. I always remembered this effect, and we always gave people the best title we could. For example: Senior Editor is better than Assistant Associate Editor. It’s a small thing perhaps but part of the attitude that supports the people who travel for your company.
We got bigger, peaking at about 150 people, publishing magazines and doing tradeshows, with offices in five U.S. cities. We depended on the concept of trying to make our workplace a good place for people to be successful in business. We had decided as a management group that the best way to do that was to 1) find out the goals of each employee and 2) make it clear that we will help them achieve their goals in exchange for helping us achieve ours.
Also, try to hire people you know will like your business. Then you will have employees who are happy because they like what they are doing and are happy because they are sure that you and the company have their interest at heart.