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Danielle Galian: What's it like being at the center of this milestone anniversary of the most highly regarded magazine in our industry?
Mary Jo Martin: It's a tremendous honor to be part of this team and a small part of the history of this seven-decade-old magazine. There is so much tradition by the people who came before me to uphold — and continue their legacy of high-quality editorial content. I hope they would be proud of how we've continued what they started. Everyone on our staff is so dedicated and works extremely hard to bring you the finished product that lands on your desk every month. It is so rewarding when we complete each issue, and see what we have been able to accomplish together.
DG: Your skill and talent is a testament to the success The Wholesaler has seen in recent years. Did you have any idea when you first started that it would be as popular and successful as it has become?
MJM: I had wholehearted confidence in Tom Brown and his mission for The Wholesaler, but honestly I never could have predicted how the chemistry of our team would gel together and how our efforts would be embraced by the industry in such a remarkable way. It takes time to build a reputation of trust and integrity, and we've worked very hard to establish that kind of respect in the marketplace. Much of it has to do with the time and interaction that we've been able to have with readers and advertisers at events around the country. And in recent years, the benefit of being connected with everyone via social media has been priceless. Seeing a byline and picture in a magazine doesn't carry near the same weight as when you actually develop a relationship and people get to know who you really are as a person.
DG: What's your favorite memory about working for The Wholesaler?
MJM: Oh gosh. There's no way to pick just one. But how about if I divide that question into two parts?
The first, hands down, is the people. The people who make up this industry and the people on this staff. I look so forward to every single event or organization I am fortunate enough to cover, because I get to spend it with people I admire and have developed friendships with. This industry is my second family. Plus, I get to work shoulder-to-shoulder with a team of people at The Wholesaler who feel the same about the magazine and industry that I do.
The second, I'll call the most rewarding part. This industry is comprised of some of the best, brightest and most genuine people that our country has to offer. I absolutely love sharing their stories with our readers. I feel like it's a gift I can give them — to memorialize their story forever. It lights up my heart to walk into an office and see an article I previously did on that company framed and hanging on the wall. And it often brings tears to my eyes when I get heartfelt calls or letters from the people and companies I've written about, letting me know just what it meant to them, their employees and their families.
This all probably sounds like a giant "love fest" — but it's the feelings that are truly from my heart.
DG: I see and experience first-hand the inner workings of putting together a world-class magazine such as The Wholesaler every month. In your opinion, what is the #1 driving force for success in publishing?
MJM: Without a doubt, you've got to build trust and loyalty. It's that trust that ensures people want to give us their stories to tell. They want us to be at their meetings or events. And it's our true passion for the industry. We don't feel like we're just covering this industry. We feel like we're part of it. We are thrilled to see you shine, and to put a spotlight on you when you do.
The other part is — and there is no mincing words — it's hard work. This isn't a 9-to-5, Monday-Friday job. It becomes a huge part of your life. Developing unique editorial content each month — especially when our sales team does such a great job selling ads and we end up with the good problem to have of a lot of pages to fill — takes significant time and commitment both editorially and graphically to write and present the right way.
DG: Is there anything in particular you're looking forward to when it comes to the future of The Wholesaler?
MJM: Our new leadership team of Cate Brown, Dave Schulte and Brad Burnside is committed to the future growth of The Wholesaler. To that end, they've invested in additional talented staff members and new technologies. It's incredibly exciting to test these new waters and be able to connect with people on a whole new level. I'm also delighted that we have a new generation of staff members, including you [Danielle Galian], Sarah Cimarusti and Ashlei Williams, who are bringing new perspectives and energy to our team, and making it as fun as ever for me to be in this position.
I'm so excited about the future at The Wholesaler, and the opportunity to continue to do what I love to do.
DG: Give us a little glimpse at MJ, and any final thoughts?
MJM: I've never been on this side of the interview desk, so this is a new experience!
I grew up in a town of 4,000 people in rural Iowa that had one stoplight and no McDonalds, but a whole lot of good people with solid values. I was blessed with parents who gave me roots and wings, and encouraged me to fly. They taught me about the value of hard work, ethics, loyalty, love, faith and friendship. They grew up during the Depression and their biggest desire was to give me opportunities and exposures they didn't have.
They also made sure I got an education, and I graduated from the University of Iowa in 1986 with a degree in Sports Marketing. Plumbing was not in my plans; I was sure I would end up writing for Sports Illustrated! And while I enjoyed a number of years working in college sports, I thank my lucky stars that I answered an ad in an old Chicago Tribune classified 20 years ago that got me into this industry. From my very first convention I was smitten. So manyof you have taken an interest in contributing to my knowledge and growth during these past two decades, both personally and professionally, and have had a lasting, positive impact on my life.
I wouldn't be where I am if not for the opportunity given to me by Tom Brown. He put so much faith in me and trusted me with this job. Tom was a great leader and always supportive of my decisions. And now I am "triple" as lucky to work for our new leadership team of Cate, Dave and Brad. I'm also extraordinarily appreciative for the entire team that takes such pride in their work. I've spent a lot of years with Diane Spangler, Jim Schaible and Mark Bruno. And you, Sarah and Ashlei have blended right in and been great additions. We all know we can count on each other to do whatever is in the best interest of the magazine. And our columnists are experts in their fields. We sincerely appreciate the dedication they have shown in sharing their wisdom with readers.
It has been a true pleasure to serve this industry. I am eternally grateful to The Wholesaler's leaders, my colleagues, all of you and my treasured family and friends. Thank you for being the special people you are in my life. I couldn't have gotten to this point without you.