Directory Project Tests Early Staff’s Mettle

From the Lessiter Lore column of the May 2018 Lessiter Link newsletter

Frank and Pam purchased American Farriers Journal in January 1992. (In fact, Mike and Frank had a memorable trip driving to Massachusetts for the closing and to bring home issues and film. On the drive back, Mike stopped at a pay phone to tell Dave Kanicki he was accepting the associate editor position at Modern Casting in Illinois). 

One of the areas of opportunity Frank saw with AFJ was its directory edition, which was small and lacked industry authority. “From our Rural Builder experiences, we knew what it took to deliver a successful Buyer’s Guide and prepared to dramatically expand it for our November 1992 issue,” Frank recalls. 

In 1992, the entire company totaled 5 employees, including Frank, Pam, Sue Ramstack, Alice Musser and first-year associate editor Mike Gallenberger. Not only was the staff entering a new market and had much to learn about it, but there were mailings to send to suppliers, data to be entered and production headaches to endure. The advertiser listings (striped in red) had to be hand-bladed in that first year. 

Working in the tiny North Hills Drive “facility” in Brookfield, the 5-person crew rallied behind the chance to make a statement with the biggest issue subscribers would’ve ever seen. What transpired was an act of will and endurance. To this day, you can still hear the whispers from the hills ... “Remember the Buyer’s Guide!” 

“Our team of 5 worked 19 days in a row to finish the AFJ Buyer’s Guide,” Frank says, noting that on Sundays, they’d worked only from 1 to 6. “Everyone was exhausted, but Pam said there was not even one complaint from the team. We simply had to do it at that particular time. With the new acquisition, we had to get some successes coming in.” 

The team solved the initial production problems shortly thereafter, with a large format printer to streamline the manual color striping. A major purchase of $4,000 in 1993, the investment paid off in the first year. 

The rest is history as that once-a-year AFJ edition has led all others in sales ever since. To this day, American Farriers Journal charges a premium rate on its Farrier Supplies & Services Guide. Frank was also threatened with a lawsuit by a supplier who didn’t respond to the mailings and was left out. He’d told Frank that not appearing in the Buyer’s Guide directory would eventually bankrupt his business. Talk about a powerful testimonial (and Frank used it)!