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During high school and college I took some journalism courses and enjoyed them. My family had a history in the newspaper industry in Chicago with the old Daily News. My grandfather was head of the photography department and my father was involved in advertising sales. I guess print was in my blood. After college, I became aware that ad sales in the trade press was a good way to make a living and decided to pursue that line of employment. I was hired by McGraw Hill and went through their training program. During my eight years there, I was in sales for Modern Hospital, Architecture Record and Sweets Catalog.
In January 1971, I joined Ed Scott's publishing companies working on Domestic Engineering as a sales rep in the Midwest. During that time, I also became familiar with The Wholesaler.
Ed sold his company to Elsevier, a Dutch publishing conglomerate, in October 1986. At the time, I was working on three of his four publications and went with the deal. My fortunes there could be described as very erratic. During my 21/2 years with Elsevier, I was promoted, demoted and promoted — obviously they didn't know what to do with me. Finally, in July 1990 they decided they wanted to be free of my overhead and get rid of what they thought was a losing title: Plumbing Engineer.
I took a leap of faith and founded TMB Publishing, Inc. It was officially incorporated in July 1990, and brought to fruition my lifelong dream of being in business for myself. Plumbing Engineer was my only property for three years and it became a very successful commercial venture. We doubled the sales in that period and I became very interested in pursuing more publications. In 1993, Elsevier and Reed Publishing had merged, which meant The Wholesaler and Supply House Times were run by the same company. The management of Reed decided to sell The Wholesaler and began looking for a buyer. It was on the block at least eight months, during which I negotiated with them twice. I bought The Wholesaler in October 1993 and our first issue was the next month. I was able to retain the services of some of The Wholesaler's staff in the acquisition, and also hired some new people to help me run it. My philosophy regarding hiring has always been very simple — find the right people who are smart and capable and then get out of the way. Let them perform.
We got off to a rocky start as the publication had a whopping market share of 30% in ad pages. We worked hard, kept our expenses down, increased the advertising, and after about six months became profitable. In order for The Wholesaler to become a successful business venture it was mandatory for us to increase its advertising page counts and gain market share. To do that we had to market and sell aggressively which meant we had to attend all industry events and make a lot of sales calls. Not only me, but all members of our company who were developing their own industry profiles. Our customers, our readers and associated industry personnel all became our friends.
I was fortunate early in my career to have mentors like Ed Scott and Bill Peel, both of whom were very well known in the plumbing and heating industry. They made sure that I was introduced to everyone and both set great examples in different ways. Ed was a serious manager and ran the editorial side of the business, while Bill was a publisher who was the consummate ad salesman. They were a great team. Over the years, as the sole proprietor of TMB, I have often asked myself when faced with a problem how Ed would have handled it? Or what would Bill do? I consider myself very lucky to have had those two gentlemen as friends and business associates.
I have taken great pride watching The Wholesaler become the PHCP industry's most important news source. If a person is going to be up on what is happening in the PHCP Industry, he or she must read every issue of The Wholesaler. It has been rewarding to watch The Wholesaler become the PHCP industry's leading advertising vehicle — over 850 ad pages in 2014 and nearly 70% market share.
Hand-in-hand with that, I am very proud to have worked with some very special people over the years:
• Diane Spangler, our West Coast Representative, who has been with us from the start and represents The Wholesaler in a very professional fashion.
• Our Managing Editor Jim Schaible, who has also been with us from the start. Jim does a great job keeping us on schedule and keeping the design and format fresh-looking.
• Mary Jo Martin, who has become the pre-eminent Editorial Director in the PHCP Industry.
• Outstanding editorial contributors like the late Joe Schmitt and now Rich & Jen Schmitt, Don McNeeley, Steve Letko and my old pal and industry icon Morris Beschloss.
During the years when I was the owner of TMB, I was approached on several occasions by prospective buyers. I had gone through one buyout and that was enough for me. Once I had family members in the business and they demonstrated enthusiasm for the publications and the industry we served, I decided it would be much more fitting — and rewarding — to pass the business in the form of a buyout. In January 2013 the contract went into effect. I have remained involved in the business on a limited basis and I am very proud of their abilities to run it and serve the PHCP industry.
Cate, Dave, and Brad, congratulations on a terrific job. Keep it going!