A Good Run
It all began in June 2003 when Pirates of the Caribbean first exploded at the box office, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was creating a buzz and Apple had just opened its iTunes store.
Behind the scenes, I had just gotten the go-ahead to begin working on a new magazine for The Council, what would soon become Leader’s Edge.
The Council’s president and CEO Ken Crerar and I put our heads together to come up with a plan. He thought up the name, we agreed on a concept, and he gave me six months to pull it all together.
Starting next month, my tenure as editor in chief of Leader’s Edge will end, and Sandy Laycox, our associate managing editor, will take the helm. To ensure a smooth transition, I’ll be working with Sandy and the staff until the end of the year. In the meantime, I’ll have the chance to do some writing for the magazine—something I haven’t been able to do for 15 years.
But come January, I will shift my focus to other forms of writing, namely books. I started writing novels in 2011 and have enjoyed it more than I could have ever imagined. Currently, my third thriller is scheduled for publication in September, and I’m working on a fourth. I will no longer need to rise at 5 a.m. to write for a few hours before leaving for the office, although I’ve discovered it’s a nice, quiet time of the day, and it’s a habit I might not want to break.
I’ve been a journalist since 1978. I started at a small weekly in Springfield, Virginia, and then went on to dailies and news services, finally ending up in the magazine business. I’ve started two magazines during my career, and believe me, it’s a lot more fun using other people’s money. I’ve worked at The Council longer than anywhere else—15 years. During that time, I went from being one of the younger staffers to one of the oldest.
Pat Wade was my first colleague when we started Leader’s Edge. She became our business manager. Today, she still sits by my side in the office as my co-pilot of the ship. For a while, it was just the two of us. I hired freelance writers, artists, advertising salesmen and even a printer—well, several printers until we finally found our perfect fit in Royle Printing of Madison, Wisconsin. Pat figured out how to deal with postal regulations, invoicing, advertising insertion orders, a circulation list pulled from our membership database and finally the annual circulation audit for advertisers—a real beast. She is a saint. No other word adequately describes her.
Jacquetta Williams later joined us as ad trafficking manager. Both had other duties at The Council for many years until we grew to the point where they became full-time magazine employees.
For nearly 13 years, I was the only full-time editorial employee. To say the least, Ken prides himself on running a tight ship.
During the past 15 years, we’ve angered some readers and received many accolades. We fought with the Post Office over obtaining our periodical postage permit. It took so long, that when we finally received it, the Post Office owed us six months of free postage. I guess that was a good year financially for the magazine, but it put Pat through hell to get there.
We wrote about everything from corrupt state regulators to the havoc wrought by Eliot Spitzer on innocent people to further his political ambitions. We published stories about some of the nicest, most charitable people I’ve met—our readers. We recognized the first 100 game changers in our industry during The Council’s 100th anniversary year. And we continue that tradition every December.
And as your world changed, we changed with it, focusing more on technology, leadership, benefits and looking forward trying to figure out what will be the next incoming salvo to hit our industry. Somehow, our readers always manage to find the answers. And for all of the comments about how staid and boring insurance is, change in this business really is the one constant.
We’ve gone through many changes in staff during our journalistic lifetime at the magazine, but several have stayed with us throughout. Maureen Brody, our news editor and copy chief, came with me from my previous tour at Independent Agent, as did our humor columnist Jonathan Hermann (aka Jonathan Spence). Others who have been here from the beginning include Michael Fitzpatrick (Tech-No-Savvy), Leslie Hann (editor at large), Adrian Leonard (foreign desk chief), Scott Sinder (legal column) and Joel Wood (politics). Two designers remain with us, Brad Latham (creative director) and Ted Lopez (associate art director), as well as our panel cartoonist Ted Goff. In a transient world, it’s hard to believe so many talented writers and artists have been such steadfast friends and colleagues.
We couldn’t have done this without our Royle printer representative, Steve Szoczei. He helped us with a lot of creative printing ideas. Remember the face on our tech issue that was cut out with a laser? Or how about our feature story that folded out like an accordion? Remember that translucent page that changed messages when you flipped it? All of that may look easy to produce, but there was actually months of planning to pull it off.
In a media world that has struggled to survive, we are happy to report our advertising sales have been among the best in the industry. Revenues have grown almost every year in recent years. We have our advertising directors, Dave Bayard and Scott Vail, who work diligently with our industry, to thank for that.
Most of all, though, I’d like to thank Ken. It took a lot of guts to hand over his vision to someone else. We weren’t strangers at the time, but we didn’t know each other well. Yet we saw eye to eye from the beginning. Remarkably, when Ken would—how should I say this—“vigorously” point out some flaw in our coverage over the years, I would remind him how we agreed on 95% of the magazine’s contents. Sometimes reluctantly, he would shake his head and concur.
So it has been a shared a vision for 15 years to create something starkly different from what was already out there. We wanted something bright and new that highlighted our business for what it really is but did so in an engaging fashion.
Now it’s my time to start the process to disengage and let Sandy take her turn at keeping the vision alive. I recently interviewed Steve De Carlo, who just stepped down as chief of AmWins. He said we all need to understand when it’s time to move out of the way and let others take over. He set a great example I hope to follow.
For my part, it’s been a good run. I hope you found as much enjoyment out of reading Leader’s Edge as we did creating it.
Thank you to my staff, The Council staff and especially our readers for your support over the years.