Through its annual conference and other educational efforts, the Media Financial Management Association can help make your company develop badly needed new businesses in step with the rapidly changing media marketplace. It can also help you identify those new businesses and cope with the cost of restructuring that is an inevitable symptom of hard times.
A colleague called my attention to a recent story in USA Today, “Business Founders Likely to Emerge from Meltdown,” about the many entrepreneurs who, like Staples’ Tom Stemberg, went on to start successful companies after being laid off during an economic downturn.
In fact, USA Today asked the CEO organization Vistage International to survey its membership and ask how many of them had gone on to start their businesses after a layoff. The survey found that one-third of the 2,441 respondents had been laid off or fired before becoming a founder or CEO.
Nearly 80 percent of those who involuntarily lost a job said that, in retrospect, it turned out to be good for their careers. Only 2 percent said that it turned out badly.
Similar results were reported by SmartBrief, which found that 61 percent of the 626 respondents to its survey had been laid off or fired and half of those said it was the best thing that ever happened to them.
As USA Today reported, the number of success stories will be relatively small when compared to the total number of startups. My money would be on the individuals whose leadership and entrepreneurial skills had already been contributing to the success of their employers before they received pink slips. To me, those employees represent the type of talent that their former employers can least afford to lose.
This is especially true in the media industry where traditional media businesses must respond to the tremendous changes affecting their business models as well as the current economy.
This is a time where media companies need these potential entrepreneurs to become its “intrapreneurs.” Management consultant Gifford Pinchot, who coined the term intrapreneur with his 1985 bestseller Intrapreneuring, used it to talk about the importance of fostering entrepreneurship within the corporation.
The challenges — and opportunities — faced by American businesses in those days look a lot like the ones that we face today. Pinchot has even published a follow-up book, Intrapreneuring in Action, to show results that have been achieved by many businesses that applied the potential of intrapreneurship as part of reinventing their organizations.
Of course, unleashing that potential requires empowering intrapreneurs with the knowledge that serves as the raw materials they’ll need for guiding the innovation that can yield competitive products and services for their organizations.
The Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary are supporting that process with “Responding to Change,” our 2009 annual conference.
As part of our response to the changes affecting our members, we are co-locating this year’s conference with that of the Interactive & Newsmedia Financial Executives. The joint conference will be held May 12-14, at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta.
In addition to allowing the organizations to control expenses by co-hosting general sessions and other activities that are of common interest to our respective memberships, we’ll have breakout sessions that are targeted to their unique educational requirements.
This year, in particular, we are focusing conference topics on both the near-term strategies for survive the current economy and the information that intrapreneurs will need for helping their companies to shift business practices.
To assist members in responding to the economic downturn, we’ve scheduled sessions on effective cost control; ways to turn treasury into a revenue center; and opportunities to use remote deposit to cut bank fees and accelerate revenue recognition, among others.
On the revenue side, we are organizing sessions on subjects such as games and gaming, mobile-embeddable line broadcasts, Internet advertising standards and so-called 360 selling.
We have also taken particular care in selecting keynote speakers that can help attendees gain insights on the where the economy and the business is going.
For an economic perspective, they will hear from Ali Velshi, CNN’s chief business correspondent, and Dr. Robert A. Eisenbeis, chief monetary economist at Cumberland Advisors (and retired research director of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank).
For the content perspective, we’ll have icons from traditional media, including radio personality Neal Boortz, and Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Mike Luckovich, who will discuss how they are responding to the changes affecting their brands and businesses.
The finance professionals who go to the conference are looking to MFM to continue its 49-year tradition of delivering a great return on their investment of time and money.
Our conference co-chairs, Sam Bush, SVP/CFO and treasurer for Saga Communications and Dawn Sciarrino, managing member at Sciarrino & Shubert PLLC, are leading the effort to provide this year’s attendees with the knowledge for helping their companies to exit the recession poised to meet market demand and ready to seize emerging opportunities for growth. More information about the conference is available at MFM’s Web site.
While MFM’s annual conference is our largest educational undertaking, it is by no means our only one. We also have been targeting this year’s Distance Learning Seminars to give participants the skills they need today for being effective intrapreneurs within their organizations.
Our March CPE teleconference, Downsizing: Coping (and Changing) with a Workforce Reduction, will be held on Thursday, March 26, from 4 to 5:15 p.m. ET, and examine how a reduction in force impacts us on industry, functional and personal levels.
Seminar moderator and organizational development expert Phillipe Denichaud will also help attendees identify the skills they need to deal with workforce reductions. For more information about the seminar, click here.
Of course, the fact that we are hosting a seminar addressing the impact of workforce reductions on a company means that there are talented professionals who have received pink slips and are now weighing their employment and entrepreneurial options.
As an organization that serves the industry’s professionals, we recognize that members who have been downsized need the services that we can provide to them on an individual membership basis. This is why we offer each one of them a dues waiver program while they are looking for their next great opportunity. They can continue to take advantage of our job bank, annual conference, distance learning seminars, publications and Members’ Only “Ask The Expert” service.
Whether they become intrapreneurs or entrepreneurs, we all benefit by not losing these talented professionals and by helping to enhance the skills that they can provide to our industry in their future roles, whatever they may be.
After all, a survey of the entrepreneurs who have become CEOs within media companies and businesses that support the media industry would show that they too have been faced with turning the worst of times into the best times in their careers.
Mary Collins is the president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association, a professional society addressing the diverse needs of the industry’s financial and business professionals. Her column appears here every other Friday.