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:

14.1. Determine the tasks to be carried out

It was broadly discussed, and I hope by now it is clear which tasks a manager should undertake:

On the short term (working with the initiative group):

• Organize the meetings of the initiative group.
• Prepare all documentation and information of the initiative group.
• Record and write the minutes of the meetings.
• Organize and archive the documents of the initiative group.
• Handle any necessary translation of documents.
• Ensure communications within the group.
• Gather the information necessary for the audit system.
• Visit and talk to different market players.

On the long term (managing the ABC):

• Manage the membership and its development.
• Prepare the strategic and technical decisions.
• Plan and administer the audits.
• Organize the meetings of the ABC forums.
• Plan and execute financial operations.
• Plan and execute the communications.
• Be the ABC spokesperson.
• Report to the superior ABC forums.

14.2. What person do we need?

Once the tasks and their associated objectives are delineated, it is time to decide what type of manager will lead the ABC. Per my own experiences, think of a young person, entering his/her career.

Here is a summary of desired character traits and assets for this person:

• Recent graduate (engineer, or economic/finance/accounting school – you need someone who understand numbers, and thinks system-wise).
• Has media background.
• Good English language skills (because the ABC will have international exposure).
• Speaking all official languages of the country (if it is the case).
• Computer savvy, plus skills (Word, Excel, Internet and current with all e-communication formats).
• Good communications skills – oral and written.
• Valid passport (you may want to send the person abroad for training).
• Living in the capital city (you don’t want to hire someone who needs hours to commute).
• No criminal record (you don’t want to have someone with a criminal record running the ABC, do you?).
• Available to start the work immediately.

Please consider these necessities, too.

• A driver’s license.
• Administrative and project management experience.

Proof of these necessities should be provided (such as copies of the diplomas, passport, etc.). Some are subject to later scrutiny (such as good communications, flexibility, languages spoken, etc.).You must be aware of the disingenuous applicant, who can deceive via their resume. Verification of resume details should be done during the interview stage.

14.3. Write and run a job advertisement

It is time to announce the job, so write and publish an advertisement.

Get someone who has experience in human resource management or in working with help wanted ads in media to write the advertisement. Or contact IFABC for some samples.

The ad must contain a brief description of the job to be carried out, and – if you think it is useful – a salary range. You may also want to mention if the job has a probation period or not.

Make sure you include the deadline of the application, the form and language in which the applicants must submit their applications, the (e-mail) address for applying online, and the supporting documents to accompany the resume. References are a good example.

Please also mention that an initial round of selection will be done, and the selected persons will be invited for a personal interview.

You probably have lots of contacts in the media; therefore, you should arrange for the ad to be displayed in many places. If needed, make sure the ad has multiple insertions.

If anyone from your contact group proposes a person, don’t say no. Just make sure that the same process and requirements are used. Practice due process and equal employment opportunity.

14.4. Reviewing and selections from the applications

Before doing any selection, one must think of the hiring process in terms of how many people are expected to apply, how many total interviews will be required (maybe several rounds) over what period of time, from how many final candidates?

If the response to the ad is low, you will probably have to take a thorough look at each application. By contrast, if there is a big response, you may have an easier job. You may develop a check list of preferred qualities in narrowing down the list. Nonetheless, you need to be able to anticipate the rate of response and churn of the applications, in order to set up the appropriate selection process.

As the applications arrive at the designated address, the selection should take into consideration the following:

• Did the applicant read (understood) the advertisement? Exclude those applications, which clearly didn’t follow the instructions of the ad (didn’t come on time, documents missing, etc.).
• Content of applications. Are there any applications which are far from matching the ad requirements? Exclude these.
• Is there any very interesting application? You may keep applications which are missing some items above, but look very promising.
• Are there enough applications? Run the ad again, ask the people you know to propose candidates.
• Taking into consideration the specificity of the ABC, consult with your allies on the applications, in order to exclude a “brick” – someone built-in by a market player, especially a publisher. The test of trust and independency must start even before you meet a given person.

It is important to make a score sheet and assess each of your items against this sheet. You must be able to make your selection on an objective basis, especially when you have a lot of applications. Never exclude an application for good. Make sure you write a scorecard for each application, and take the time to review again your assessment of each.

Once the selection process is done, prepare for personal interviews.

14.5. Interview people

Invite the selected people to a personal interview. Ask them to bring any documents which may add to, or support their application.

It is good if you can have assistance from a professional to help you with the interviews. Nevertheless, you must clearly set the goals for the interviews: to personally meet the applicants selected in order to assess if they match up with the job profile, and if they have the necessary skills and willingness to do the job. It’s not an easy task.

Whatever your interviewing skills, make sure you exclude those who try to deceive you. Be prepared to identify the intelligent and honest people. If there is any skill you cannot assess by just talking to the person, make sure you run a test. For instance, if you want to make sure the person speaks good English, make sure you have an English conversation with the person, or if you are not good at English, get someone competent to talk to the person.

Again, make sure you will make an objective decision. Have your scorecard with you. Do not decide up or down during the interview. If you have someone who assisted you, sit down and talk. Decide later.

Introduce the best applicants to the group

It is a good practice to set in advance the number of applications that will be in the final decision pool. This is totally arbitrary, and it depends on the depth of talent in the job market, the quality of the applications, and the time and resources you have to make the selection.

If you don’t feel confident with an arbitrary number, just take the best 3-5 applications.

If you are in doubt about the top five, conduct another type of interview – even via phone or per some written questions to be answered in a second meeting.

Finally, who will make the final choice? Work via consensus, not just a majority vote of the selection committee. Present this to the entire initiative group for their approval.

Naturally, the final two applicants should be invited to meet personally the initiative group. Ask each to make one final presentation as the chosen new director and to present a plan of ABC development in a 10-minute time frame.

Based on these final presentations, choose your new director via consensus.