The Daily Illini and Illinois News Media Taught me everything I know about business

I went to the University of Illinois back in the late 1990s.  My junior year, one of my best friends got a job selling ad space at the Daily Illini.  That was the student run newspaper that was affiliated but not owned by the University.  Since I tended to follow this guy from job to job, I applied and what do you know, I landed the job too.  This was back in 1996-1997 for reference.  My buddy and I each bought Primeco phones which were the latest rage.  You could get 300 anytime minutes for around $60 a month which was a super deal back then.  The phones were huge.  I think we still tried to keep them in our pocket.

That was the beginning of being available for clients.  I took the newspaper job very seriously.  If I made a mistake it could drastically effect a local business.  Many of the local businesses in Champaign relied on the newspaper ads for the college and the town to promote.  This was a different time.  We didn't go to the Internet for news or college information.  We went to the Daily Illini.  If you were in a fraternity or a sorority you would find details about events in the classified.  Everyone read the paper.  It has a pass along readership of 3 and a circulation around 20K,

The reason the Daily Illini was the best job was because we were selling ad space on commission.  A full page back then was around $700.  If you sold a couple of full pages a month plus your regular required sales, you could make a really nice living.  We had quotas every month.  If you made your quota you got a bonus.  If you made your quota in consecutive months the bonus was raised.  It was possible to make $1000 in a month and that was a ton of money back in the late 90s. Its a ton of money now.

I learned how to find the right buyer.  I learned how to sell on the client;s time and not on my time,.  I learned how to check proofs and make sure the ads were correct.  I learned how to make good when mistakes happened.  I learned how to use a fax machine.  I learned how to use a special computer system for placing ads and for place classified.

I learned how ad space was sold and how discounts worked.  I learned about how agents get 15% discounts that they don't have to pass along to their clients.  It was a great experience and I used it to help land my first real job which was working at CDW selling computers.  From CDW I learned a very valuable lesson and I have tried to live by it.  People buy from people they like.  I have always believed this and I try to find vendors that I enjoy working with and I try to find clients that I enjoy working with.  We will take anyone's order but there are some clients out there where I will call on them and call on them until they finally decide to use us for their bar stools.

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