A chance meeting in a grocery store between Randy Loeser and a student from the elementary school where in the late '90s he had been assistant principal sent Loeser to Advanstar Communications.
The student was in tow with her dad, Alex DeBarr, an exec VP of Advanstar. At the time, Loeser was an Internet products manager at Penton Media. Shop talk while grocery shopping led him to a marketing job at Advanstar. In July, Loeser was promoted to publisher of Advanstar's Paperboard Packaging Group.
His first order of business will be to establish his credibility—he succeeded publisher Robyn Smith, who retired after 16 years—and to show Advanstar's stepped-up commitment to the market. The Paperboard Packaging Group publishes Official Board Markets weekly and Paperboard Packaging monthly.
"My story is circulation, editorial and the loyalty our editors have to this publication, and the power of Advanstar and the resources it can bring," Loeser said. "[At Penton] I learned that if you have a good editorial product and good circulation, you should be able to sell to any advertiser."
That pitch won't focus so much on ad pages as it will on a fully integrated program ranging from custom publishing to Web conferencing. And to demonstrate the group's commitment to a global market, Loeser is adding two editorial staffers and a full-time sales representative in Europe.
Loeser attributes his success thus far to his knack for networking and building relationships. His career has mirrored his baseball background as a utility player while growing up: He previously held sales positions with the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Cavaliers, spent three years as assistant principal at the Cleveland-area grade school he attended and worked 2.5 years at Penton.
"It's a lot in 31 years," he said. "I'm not a person who has ever sat back. Anytime anyone has come to me with something different, you have to be open to the challenge. In each of these cases, I've been fortunate in loving what I've done."
Before his promotion, Loeser was responsible for the day-to-day marketing activities of Advanstar publications such as Pit & Quarry, Golfdom, Pest Control Magazine, Landscape Management and LPGas. He also served as interim publisher of Post Magazine . He likened his first 18 months at Advanstar to a four-year college education.
"It's lean, and you really have to own your business, whether it's marketing or you're in charge of the mailroom," Loeser said. "You have to be on your game all the time. The mentality is always `Let's play to win.' "