Recession affects production priorities

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Rich Zweiback has been working in b-to-b magazine production since 1987, when he joined the staff of a financial title that quickly folded. Now he's the executive director of manufacturing at Lebhar-Friedman Inc., which publishes titles that focus on food service, health care and retail. Media Business: With so many difficulties in the marketplace, how do you prioritize what to work on? Zweiback: It's survival of the fittest. We're re-evaluating everything from paper stock to work flow to staff responsibilities. We're looking to automate everything we possibly can with the proviso that we can't break the bank right now to save money. MB: Do such tough times create more partnerships with vendors? Zweiback: We'd love to do that, but our suppliers are probably in worse shape than their customers. You seem to read every day about how another paper company is closing a mill and printers are closing down lines. It's a great time to be purchasing, but nobody wants to break anybody over their knee. In the long run, it doesn't help to lowball everybody knowing that everyone is hurting. MB: What do times like this mean for your staff? Zweiback: We're taking on a lot more responsibility. In a more profitable time for the industry, we'd be looking to add staff. We've integrated the Web ad trafficking, the digital newsletters. All of our digital properties are growing, and we're taking on added roles. MB: What's your advice to other production people? Zweiback: Take on as much as you can. Learn as much as you can. Be as diverse and varied as you possibly can, because a jack-of-all-trades can succeed a lot better and be more valuable than [those] who pigeonhole themselves. —M.J.M.
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