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Penton CEO: ‘We Are Not Showing Growth’

Rowlands' memo to staffers.


Jason Fell By Jason Fell
04/28/2009 -09:46 AM






RELATED: Penton Cuts Workweek, Reduces Pay

Penton Media CEO Sharon Rowlands announced a workweek reduction from five days to four days this summer and a corresponding reduction in salary pay.

In a memo to staffers, Rowlands said a number of the company’s properties during the first quarter reported financial results that were “significantly below” the same period last year and “well below budget.”

Here’s is Rowland’s entire memo:

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to provide a brief update on how we did in quarter one and share with you some important steps we are taking to further control our expenses going forward.

The first quarter was the toughest in my business career. Not only did many of our properties report results that were significantly below a year ago and well below budget, but while we were reorganizing along the lines of markets, we were forced to eliminate a number of positions across the company. This isn’t uncommon in the world today especially for companies in the media industry and ones that have a heavy debt burden. We squeaked through the first quarter thanks to all of your efforts - but the next couple of quarters aren’t looking easy.

So we have to balance short and long term decisions in times like these. Some of these are really the right decisions for the businesses - like resizing audiences and identifying more efficient ways of doing things. Others may seem counter to what we want to accomplish long-term - like dramatically reducing the sizes of magazines or the amount of content. After all, if our content is so valuable, wouldn’t our readers need MORE of it right now? Sure, but remember that one of our Achilles heels is that we are mostly supported by advertising which has collapsed.

Speaking of advertising, it has not only collapsed in print, but as a company, we haven’t shown the growth we should on the web. Penton is really tracking a long way behind the industry in terms of percent of revenue that is digital, and we are not showing growth. The good news is we have great focus on changing this picture and longer term I am bullish on what we can do here, but it won’t change overnight.

We have some tremendous exhibition franchises that on the whole pulled us through 2008 and contributed a lot of our growth last year. There will be pressure on these businesses as customers are forced to cut back all their marketing spends. Even some of our strongest shows will show negative growth this year.

Despite incredible pressure on our businesses, we achieved a great deal throughout the first few months of the year - we reorganized our business into a market-facing structure; we delivered our audit significantly ahead of prior year; a number of our businesses delivered great financial results given the economy; and in response to my request, Penton employees provided over 150 ideas to help reduce our expense base.

While we are proud of these achievements in quarter one, the stark reality is that our overall revenue picture continues to rapidly decline. This is not a reflection of our efforts but the result of the widespread financial erosion impacting almost every business and importantly the industries we serve. I wish I could wave a magic wand and change the momentum to a positive one quicker, but it’s not possible, and whilst I continue to believe we have tremendous opportunities ahead and we will see this business flourishing in the future, today we still have a tough road ahead for a few quarters.

As you well know, over the past several months, we have attempted to offset our revenue challenges with proactive cost saving measures – as I listed above. These actions, coupled with your contributions in scrutinizing every expense, have lessened the impact. However, with no clear indication that the economy will turn in the short-term and with our revenues continuing to decline, further action is required to ensure Penton remains fundamentally sound.

Please know that the senior management team and I have carefully weighed the need for the measures I am about to announce. We consider our employees our company’s greatest asset. We are committed to doing everything possible to keep our company on track and to provide you with stable and rewarding employment. With that said, in light of the current circumstances, I have made the very difficult decision to implement temporary measures that will impact each employee’s pay.

We are instituting a reduced work schedule during the summer months. From the week before Memorial Day through the week before Labor Day, the Company will reduce its operations from a 5-day work week to a 4-day work week. For many of our businesses this will involve closing our offices on Friday. Other businesses may need to take the reduction in blocks of days. The end result will be the same for every employee at every level however - it will equate to a four day work week and a corresponding reduction in pay to reflect this reduced work schedule.

Whilst the reduction in work week will be contained only to the summer months outlined above, we will spread the pay reduction in smaller increments throughout the end of the year to reduce the immediate financial stress on you and your families. Special rules may apply to employees in California and to non-exempt employees, and we will be reaching out to these employees and their managers with information and specific instructions.

This revised work schedule will not impact your benefits. In some states, you may be eligible for unemployment for the unpaid leave. If you are interested, please contact your local unemployment office. We have prepared a set of Frequently Asked Questions regarding this revised work schedule, which you can find posted on the Pulse. In the next few days, your local leadership will organize group meetings, and there will be follow-up communications from your HR reps giving you more detail.

I understand this is difficult news. Thank you for your understanding and continued dedication. I am confident that if we continue to keep our focus on our customers and commit fully to delivering solutions that drive results, we will not only overcome these short term challenges, we will be better positioned to achieve new levels of success in the years to come. I urge you to try and find some upside in this temporary change and use the extra time for yourself, your family, and your friends – time can be a gift. I don’t say this to belittle the financial impact – I know that this is a big deal. I also want to reinforce that I am determined we will come out of this recession strongly and will go on to do great things. We have some tremendous initiatives across the company that this note isn’t the right vehicle to discuss and plan to share my thoughts with you through a video communication that you will see in the next 10 days. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your manager, any member of our Human Resources Team, or me directly. And thank you again.

Regards,
Sharon

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