And he lived to tell the tale
By Mike Williscraft
When meeting Tom Haire one might not think he has something significant in common with world renowned crooner Tony Bennett…but they do.
In 1953, at 17, Tom was doing what he was born to do – sell ads at his first job as a junior rep at the Belleville Intelligencer.
Bennett on the other hand was doing what he was born to do, sing, having “Rags to Riches” on the top of the charts that same year.
Both men doing what they do and doing it well.
Fittingly, until April of this year when Tom retired – for a third time – they both continued to produce at top levels.
For Tom, born in 1936, the early part of his career meant several moves and whole lot of learning at every turn.
His path brought him to Niagara and the Henry Burgoyne-owned Rannie Publications, then Grimsby News, as it was called in its first year, and eventually Niagara This Week after Torstar bought the independent paper in 2004.
“My first ad manager, Fred Barton, told me if I wanted to get anywhere I had to prove I could sell,” recalled Tom.
To do that, he left the print sales position and went into straight commission selling for an insurance company.
“That is where I learned to sell. If I didn’t sell, I didn’t get paid,” he said.
With that base under him, the moves, the promotions, the awards started to come. Then, a career course change.
“I bought the Bobcaygeon Independent and, one year later, the Fenelon Falls Gazette,” Tom said.
Fifteen years of that brought him to another key decision.
“I had to sell. It was just too much for me. I loved being able to do what I wanted and nobody telling me what to do, but finances was the downside.
It was Bill Poirier who was publisher of the Cobourg Daily Star at the time, a former general manager of the Grimsby Independent, who picked up the phone and called Tom with a job offer in Belleville. This set off another chain of moves that ended up with Tom putting a call into Burgoyne, whom he knew as owner of the Cobourg paper, and he was brought to Niagara as regional sales manager and eventually general manager. His layoff in 1995 after a corporate takeover was his first retirement.
That did not last long, however, as he got back into the mix with Grimsby News. A second retirement in 1999 and a move to Belleville was short-lived as he was back to Niagara and Niagara This Week for another run. There he stayed, most recently as a manager in the flyer sales division until this year.
So, why print sales?
“Because I love it. There weren’t too many days when I got up and didn’t enjoy going to work,” said Tom.
“After I hit the 50th, 60 seemed doable and I wanted to do something very few people have done.”
The business environment and especially print has seen a ton of change since the early 50s, but none bigger than the advent of desktop publishing, said Tom, who noted his starting salary at his first job was $23 per week.
“I worked in every department of newspapers – retail, classified, news, accounting, press operator, production, circulation and flyer sales: everything but digital.”
“What I learned was news used to be king. Now the dollar is king. The province used to be filled with solid independent papers, now they are mostly corporate owned.”
The style of selling, with the change of markets and technology has also changed.
“You used to pack a briefcase and walk out the door and make all your calls on main street. Now territories are huge and there is a lot of driving or much is done electronically,” said Tom.
Whether it was the change from hot lead printing to offset, or a typewriter to a Blackberry, Tom made the adjustments that needed to be made and he always found a way to communicate well with his staff.
He encourages anyone thinking about getting into the newspaper industry not to hesitate, noting it will always be around…in some form.
“For sales, a rep needs to understand their clients and sell them what works for those clients, whether it be digital or print,” said Tom.
“With the mostly corporate ownership, it also allows for much more advancement than their used to be. You can move up fast if you have ability. I am not sure where it will all go but, then again, nobody is.”
Feature photo — Team Rannie, back in the day…1992 to be exact. Tom Haire (white straw hat) oversaw this crew who published the Lincoln Post Express from its Central Avenue office in Beamsville.