It's January and you are already behind budget.
The strategic plan you finalized in December is obsolete. And oh, that cash flow thingee you discussed right before Christmas? Santa declined to make it go away.
Welcome to the start of a new year in the regional publishing world. Of course I am being facetious for dramatic effect, but one thing I have learned after 20 years in the regional publishing business — whether you are on a calendar year or not — usually a new year brings brings more of the of the same. That means too little time, capital and priorities to step back and assess without losing your place on the “hamster wheel” from the year prior.
Having worked for larger media companies, this became painfully obvious when I became an entrepreneur/owner of a regional publishing business almost nine years ago.
Usually the year-end financials went to corporate for vetting and we’d wait for the papal-like white smoke to affirm a good year from a bad year. This was usually preempted by a mad rush to get every possible and appropriate expense loaded into the prior year, building corporate mandated budget increases and expense reductions as part of our “obligation to build shareholder value” knowing full well we were doomed to fail or endure a living hell right from square one. Because the fact is, regional magazines operate on sometimes the thinnest of EBITDA’s — meaning expenses and revenues are counted in nickels and dimes.
Now, as an independent owner, we do much of the same, albeit on a more realistic, but GAAP accountable, process to build modest increases in the year ahead.
Since most mid- to smaller regionals rely on the local Main Street businesses, any commerce (related to advertising sales) during the past 30 days of "It’s a Wonderful Life" rebroadcasts has been nonexistent. Which means the other challenge is to jog the organization into high gear when most are returning from sugar-induced-coma-like time off. It isn’t easy.
But the decorations are down, the sparkly tinsel vacuumed up. The new year abounds with new initiatives, enthusiasm, and resolutions.
However, turning the page on a new year can feel like “The Never Ending Story.”