A Bump In The Road
As The Tribune Comes Back Home
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
It was an adventure: my first week with
our brand new, old business.
I’ve been running the Trib
and more for the past 24 years and it all should be second nature by
now. It normally is.
There are daily decisions, a chaotic
pace, but most of it, second nature.
Obviously, after reacquiring the Tribune
last Monday, the transition from a public company with Manhattan-based
financial, human resource, and support staff to a totally Queens-based
operation would take some doing. The first week — the first several
weeks — could be tough.
Remember: expect the unexpected.
We began last Tuesday with the addition
of one staff member, a controller, and everything else the same. Sure
there will be other changes, but I wanted to make the transition as
seamless as possible for a hardworking, loyal staff of 40-plus.
The initial tasks included: contracting
for health insurance (I took care of regular insurance and libel insurance
a couple of weeks earlier); banking and bank accounts; arranging for
payroll; setting up a new accounting system and server; converting the
data from the selling company’s accounting system into our new
accounting system and more.
Of course, there was also the job of
running the business during busy season — busy season is good . . . it
should always be busy season. Our first issue of the Trib was
a blockbuster glossy and it had to be billed manually. Don’t worry;
we’re entering the information into our new accounting system shortly.
We had to deal with vendors who were calling to find out which company was
going to be paying the bills. When we told them we would, they seemed
And then there was the press. You know
those annoying newspaper people: the Associated Press, The Times,
Newsday, The Daily News, Editor and Publisher, the Times
Ledger group and more– with
an average of four calls apiece – ate up a day plus. There were the
well-wishers calls, emails, plants, cookies, and kisses. They were all
great, appreciated and had to be acknowledged. Keep ‘em coming.
There was a newspaper to get out. As a
matter of fact, our nine editions of the Trib and Western
Queens Trib and one edition of the PRESS have
three different press times, different dates, and schedules — there are
actually three weekly deadlines. Running the business is really a full
We actually also have another business,
Multi Media, which provides, printing, graphic and consulting services.
With all of that going on during the
transition, it was good to welcome an experienced controller who was
handling the accounting system, computer data conversion, payroll service
conversion and more.
It was our first day Tuesday, and Friday
was payday. And Bob — there’s no better name for an accounting person
— was energized and ready for the task. We knew how important it was to
make sure the staff was paid in the regular, efficient, timely manner.
And so, Bob had arranged with ADP, the
company that previously processed the payroll for the former company, to
transfer the entire payroll over to us. We opened a new payroll bank
account and sent the requisite forms onto ADP. They assured Bob that their
computer would be all set with our new company, staff, salary and
deductions on Thursday and we could phone in the hourly information.
Payroll would then be delivered, by messenger, no later than Friday at
Whew! — One headache out of the way,
if you believe what they say.
ADP did a yeoman’s job. So did Bob and
Heriberto, the other member of the Tribune accounting
team. And on Thursday afternoon, all was on schedule and set to go. Yeah,
Friday, 9 a.m., Bob calls and receives
confirmation from ADP that the messenger would arrive by noon.
We had already arranged for a staff
lunch to be served at noon so it all seemed to fit together without
At noon Bob was back on the phone and
ADP was trying to track down the messenger. He was lost, but presumably
given new directions.
We ate lunch and I thanked the staff for
their support and good wishes and explained the payroll is with the
messenger who was on the road and on the way.
Next ADP call, 2 p.m.: messenger lost on
There was some staff grumbling. There
were those concerned with getting money into the bank by 3 p.m. and others
who needed cash for the weekend. We started making individual arrangements
to meet the needs of a loyal but still unpaid staff.
Now our Citibank branch is open until 4
p.m. on Friday so all was not lost. So when Arby’s – the newly opened
fast food roast beef franchise just on the other side of the L.I.E. –
called to say they had our payroll, it looked like we could put checks in
hands and staff in the bank before closing. Whew!
Heriberto went to Arby’s and after
phone identification they release our payroll. It seems they were still
waiting for theirs. Now, they had opened the payroll package thinking it
was theirs, so we did a quick check to verify that we had everything. We
still had time.
As Bob showed me that ADP had printed
the wrong address on our package of checks — it must have been Arby’s
address, but I didn’t have time to check — I quickly divided checks by
department and gave them to department managers to distribute. A handful
of staffers dashed out the door and headed to the bank, just before 4 p.m.
At the same time, Associate Publisher Mike Nussbaum went to the bank to
complete some paperwork for our company.
At 4 p.m., Mike calls from the bank.
“The checks have the wrong account
number!” he said.
“What?” I ask.
“The ADP paychecks are not drawn on
our account,” he explained.
“Whose account? Is there anything they
can do? Can we fix the problem?” I shot back.
“No, there is nothing the bank can do
and there are staff members waiting on line at the bank,” Mike related.
“Tell them to come back; we’ll issue
manual checks and help with individual needs,” I instructed.
Bob and Heriberto shifted into high gear
as I collected paychecks imprinted by ADP with the wrong account number
and they redrew them each manually.
I checked Bob’s paperwork sent to ADP
and confirm that Bob filled out everything correctly. Our address was
correct; and our account number was correct.
In the middle of that long account
number banks give you we had a series of three numbers: “655,” which
Bob correctly gave to ADP. However, ADP printed “666” causing the
latest in the day’s comedy of errors.
Now, I’m not sure the genre of movie
that “Damien” or “The Omen” falls into. I’m a lover of horror
and sci-fi flicks. Those old “Son of Satan” occult type films are the
basis of my knowledge and my frame of reference concerning satanic
worship. And yes, I clearly recall the “666” hidden under Damien’s
hair as being pronounced, “the sign of the devil.” A handful of
staffers made reference to the occult’s influence on the less than
perfect ending to a wonderful week.
Everyone got paid. We had reacquired the
Tribune. Things were up and running and we merely
experienced a small bump in the road.
It is those types of bumps that small
businessmen deal with regularly. You have to admire the entrepreneurs that
fuel a large portion of our borough’s economy. There are the experienced
ones like myself and there are those who are new to this country and face
the bumps as well as the government bureaucracy and language barriers.
Friday’s experience gave me a renewed
respect for small businesspeople. The experience gave me renewed respect
for all of those who have a business dream and dare to follow it. They are
indeed a courageous lot and are at the heart of the borough of Queens.
And, after many years of being part of a
big corporation, I am proud to be back home in Queens as a member of that
exciting community of small businesspeople. I am fortunate to be able to
follow my dream.
It’s good to be home.
State Senate Dems: Déjà
Vu Coup Two
As regular readers know, the hectic
work-week — now intensified by our reacquisition of the Trib,
makes it almost impossible for me to write my column during the week. And
so, I sit at my computer on Sunday with football on the TV, as the Giants
continue to make me suffer.
Writing a political column in advance is
no easy task.
On Tuesday (two days after I write this,
but two days before it’s printed), the State Senate Dems are scheduled
to vote for their leadership positions.
And the worst kept secret in Albany is
that State Senators prompted by none other than presidential candidate
Rev. Al Sharpton, are attempting to dislodge Dem minority leader Marty
Connor of Brooklyn. The spin goes that Connor, – an election law
practitioner – devoted more of his energies to serving his lucrative
client Thomas Golisano – the Independence Party’s unsuccessful
gubernatorial candidate – than to promoting the interests of the Senate
The City’s Black leadership has been
meeting in Harlem and are backing David Paterson, a Harlem Dem who is
legally blind and the son of former state Secretary of State Basil
Paterson. With the support of black members and Manhattanites Tom Duane,
Eric Schneiderman and Liz Krueger and the rumoured backing of Ed Koch, the
coup has life.
Queens Dem boss Tom Manton is solidly
behind Conner, and will deliver all Queens Dem members except for the
Smiths. The Bronx leadership is pledged to stay loyal — it was their
betrayal that foiled the last Albany coup. The Latinos seem to be aligning
themselves with Connor. However the Bronx’s Ruben Diaz and Efrain
Gonzalez are being counted by the coupsters.
We hear that Queens’ one black
Congressman, Greg Meeks, is working the phones in support of the coup.
Charlie Rangel is apparently spending
more time in his district than in Washington, missing last Wednesday
night’s important vote on Homeland Security — a strange occurance for
the dean of the NY Delegation. Is it a coincidence that he’s back in his
district which apparently houses the war room for the coup leadership.
With three upstaters, the group is said
to have 16 votes – enough for victory, including both Queens Senators
Smith — Ada and Malcolm.
Coup whispers blame it all on someone
trying to find a scapegoat for Carl McCall’s crash-and-burn campaign and
Conner is the most convenient target for Sharpton. One old white man
observed that Brooklyn Beep Marty Markowitz would prefer to pin it all on
Does all this portend ill for New York
Dems who, with a two million voting enrolment advantage in the State, seem
to be marginalizing themselves and moving towards the left wing of the
Are they following the example of the
National Party which took a giant step to the left and elected San
Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi after the party’s abysmal showing in the
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com