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.