14 The manager of the ABC

14. The manager of the ABC

Like any organization, an ABC is as good as its staff. So, hire the best people.

Well-established ABCs will tend to have more employees responsible for particular areas of strategy or operations – specialization. The western ABCs have dozens of people fulfilling the ABC mission day by day: managing directors, directors of different audit fields, auditors, assistants, marketing specialists, production people, etc.

Given the scope of this guide, I will focus on the central figure of a newly established ABC – the director of operations and manager of the organization.

ABC members need to understand that they should hire a director who will be dedicated long term to the mission. A young ABC must avoid hiring a career ladder climber, someone who is more bent on advancing his/her career instead of being dedicated to the greater benefits that an ABC will have for the media sector over time.

The members of an ABC operate their own businesses; therefore they will not have the time, nor the competencies to run the ABC. After all, no publisher would like to see any of its competitors running the ABC. When hiring a director, like a long term commitment, the director must thrive on being independent and disinterested/objective in handling hot-button issues. The director must be ready to work long hours, not just full time but lots of overtime.

This new person will have to be hired based on a clear job description and profile.

The managing director will be supervised by the board of directors and/or the chairman of the ABC.

An ABC could consider hiring for the director’s role a well-established, experienced professional. However, such an approach has a huge disadvantage of costing more.

Furthermore, in a developing democracy and free market, this person may have baggage – he/she may have other vested interests that would compromise his/her ability to act independent and neutral on hot-button issues.

In the countries where I worked to establish ABCs, it was also difficult to find someone who was a middle-aged professional with any true free market experience; therefore they choose the alternative – a young, less established person with an entrepreneurial character.

It is much easier to find this entrepreneur who is at the beginning of his/her professional life in an emerging democracy and free market system. The established person – beyond the financial problem and vested interests (in other words, hidden agendas) –may also be quite difficult to train because of entrenched values and habits. Such agendas could even work to under mind the credibility of the ABC.

A young person is a better fit with the type of work required for establishing the organization – lots of travel, and a high-energy level to support the need to multi task and work long hours.

There are also some drawbacks for hiring a younger person: less knowledge of the market, a reluctance to make decisions, a higher probability for making mistakes, less operational experience.

Nonetheless, these disadvantages are easy to cope with, and can become advantages. All the ABC management should do is to set clear goals, outline a proper list of tasks, slowly increase the workload, monitor the work of the newly hired person, and be able to manage the ABC’s developmental pace and give ongoing advice.

The ABC board of directors/chairman must support the new person, cherish his/her efforts, introduce him/her to the market, and introduce the new director to the industry.

A well-formulated job description can help a lot, too. A detailed working plan, with realistic deadlines and reasonable oversights is crucial. Encouraging independent decision-making, and delegating these decisions from the board to the directors is important as well. If mistakes occur, the board needs to keep in mind that mistakes are made only by those who experiment, so the board must be sure to react cautiously to such problems.

One major advantage to have someone at the very beginning is to ensure proper functioning of the initiative group. As described in chapter 10, the initiative group will have a lot of work to do. It is very practical to have someone to manage this mini-project. Maybe that temporary manager for the initiative group is the future managing director of the ABC. Take a look around you, and see if there is any young, agile person who can do the hard work. There are many young people out there, who are just waiting for a good opportunity, and they are willing to prove it.

You may well want to hire the ABC’s first people in two stages: one for working with the initiative group, then for the ABC itself. Even consider hiring two different persons for the two jobs. I would not exclude keeping both of them: one could become the assistant (secretary), while the second would act as the manager of the ABC.

If you have enough resources, hire a human resources specialist for the whole process, or parts of it. If you don’t have such a service, or you cannot afford to pay for it, go thru the following steps:

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