Keeping All in the Loop - Financial and Otherwise - Can Pay Dividends

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"Financials are open to everyone in the company. You can ask about anything in the business except for other people's salary."

That quote came from Dan Oswald, CEO of Business and Legal Resources (BLR), in a talk that opened SIPA's recent all-day event in San Francisco—New Marketing and Sales Strategies for Customer Acquisition Conference (sponsored by the Specialized Information Publishers Foundation).

Oswald spoke about the importance of employees feeling invested in the company, and thus knowing the numbers if they so choose. He also talked about a Daily Flash Report they have that "breaks down all the orders we received the last day.

"One thing that we're trying to build towards is getting sales people to project this month's closed sales. The best people close much more [than they predict] and the worst people close much less. You never get an accurate depiction."

Mike Grebb, publisher, Cablefax Group, an Access Intelligence division, recently touched on that idea of the benefits of employees knowing more about their company's financial workings.

"What's made it better for us is the [open] way it's done across the company," he said. "You get the sense that editors are generally well-versed in the financial part of the business. We try to keep everyone abreast, not segmented off. I've worked at other companies—I came from the editorial side. As a straight editor or reporter, I never knew what was going on or how revenue was generated.

"[Here] I run a weekly meeting and bring the entire staff in—ad sales, subscriptions, marketing, events and awards as well as editors. "We share as much information as we can every single week. We don't get too much in the weeds on revenue, it's more, 'How's that conference doing?' 'How's the next awards program doing with nominations?' Editors are constantly aware which are doing well and which aren't."

Grebb added that "generally, that sort of knowledge, even though it's not directly part of their job, is good knowledge to have because I think they just have a better understanding of what the business is—say the necessity of working with sponsors. And they have to be part of the fold if it's an event."

Staff today wants to know more about the bottom line because—with less silos—they can have more of an effect on it. The digital transformation has also meant much better analytics. Whereas in the print past we had only a vague idea how many readers an article had, today we can see that plus any side clicks on events, webinars, social media shares, etc. that may impact revenue.

The desire for openness goes for other departments as well. "Bring technical people in early to any kind of discussion," Greg Krehbiel, director of marketing operations, Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc., advised in his talk that followed Oswald on The New Frontier: Melding Marketing Creativity with Technology Muscle for Increased Results. "What are the big issues, requirements that are needed? Get everyone in early."

IT and operational people also want to see financial success, and the best way they can support that is to be in on the planning, whether it's awards, gamification, special promotions, or especially new products. Krehbiel said that Forrester Research reported that fixing an IT issue post-launch is 30 times more expensive that fixing it during the design phase. Talk about your bottom line.

"The lesson is to bring in the people who know the details, and do it early," Krehbiel said. "...And learn what you can, but stick to your role. Don't tell the technologist how to do things, and vice versa. Respect other people's expertise.

"For meetings, let people know what you're going to discuss ahead of time and let them sleep on it. Require them to interact with the agenda before the meeting. Nobody should come to the meeting expecting to wing it."

Finally, Krehbiel urges you to look forward. "Consider the possibility that somebody else is eating your lunch because they're working on tomorrow's business model and you're looking at yesterday's."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…