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On the Job with Ken Boler

Ken Boler is the general sales manager of The Albany Herald and albanyherald.com.

Ken Boler is the general sales manager of The Albany Herald and albanyherald.com.

He hunts, he fishes, and he had a childhood obsession with Chuck Taylor All-Stars.

That’s just a glimpse into the personality of Ken Boler, general sales manager for The Albany Herald and albanyherald.com.

In a question-and-answer session with The Herald’s J.D. Sumner, Boler discusses his leadership style, his obsession with his iPhone and his thoughts on the keys to raising revenue in the news industry.

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Q: What was your first job?

A: Actually, I was a CEO at 11. I asked my grandfather for a pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars and he asked how much the shoes cost. I told him $13.95 plus tax and he said, “You’re going to continue to get the two-for-$5 from Kmart like you’ve been getting and you’re going to be happy with it, or you can get the lawnmower and start cutting grass.” A few weeks later I was up to 15 yards at $5 apiece and that was cutting the grass, soliciting for the business, servicing the accounts and collecting my money. So I think that would make me a CEO at 11.

Q: With that hard-earned paycheck, did you buy the shoes you had been wanting?

A: I bought every color they had. And he took me down to C&S Bank, Citizens & Southern, a Georgia bank, and that’s where I opened my first bank account.

DOSSIER

NAME: Ken Boler

AGE: 51

POSITION: General Sales Manager, The Albany Herald and albanyherald.com

PERSONAL: Married for 33 years with two adult daughters

Q: What role models have you had in your professional life?

A: I think I’m probably a cluster of a lot of people. I basically say that because I’ve taken the good and the bad from a lot of people. When I say I’ve taken the bad from a lot of people, one of the things I learned first was when I ran into some of the those supervisors and managers and leaders that I felt were horrible ... I learned that when I got in a position where I would be over an organization and would be interacting with people, that behaving like that wasn’t something I wanted to do.

In terms of the business side, there’s a lot of smart people in this business. There’s some people that understand the old legacy newspaper, before the digital, before the web, before the smartphones, and they still have a lot of credibility. They have a lot of credibility and knowledge for collecting news and delivering news. And those people who are Johnny-come-lately on the digital side are very smart. And I guess that I’m a bit of a hybrid of both.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: I love to hunt. Read? I like to read trade magazines, particularly those people who are really good in marketing. Those people who are good at strategizing or how they took a business that may have been failing and turned it around. The Boston Market story is a good story. And businesses that are kind of re-identifying themselves that used to make a product that is no longer relevant and now they’re making another product and they just retooled. Those are always good lessons, because as everyone will attest, there are a lot of businesses that have just been flipped on their heads. With new technology we better be real good at learning how to do things differently.

Q: What’s your favorite office-related gadgets?

A: My iPhone. I cannot be separated from my iPhone. If I leave my house and I don’t have my phone on me, it’s not a matter of going back at lunch, there will be a fast U-turn in the middle of the street because I just feel helpless without it.

Q: If you were stranded on an island, what three items would you most like to have?

A: Probably as many newspapers as I could gather up. Just for the longevity of reading. Having my iPhone, of course, that could receive a signal no matter where I was. And probably a pretty good bit of food. As you can see, I love to eat, and Albany’s good for that. I’m traveling the restaurant circuit right now, and when I’m done with that I’m over at the Y working out because the food is good. I’m definitely enjoying Albany.

Q: What strategies or tactics do you use to inspire or motivate your subordinates?

A: First of all, we’re going to hire talent. We’re going to develop talent and we’re going to reach down and make sure that talent is bring their “A” game every day. You don’t have to browbeat people to do that. You don’t have to storm around and stomp your feet and waive your arms to do that. If you hire well, and you hire talent, you can challenge that talent to bring their “A” game. The other thing is to lead by example. I’m not asking anyone on staff to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. We’re going to take care of customers, that we’re leveraging our customers and doing what customers need us to do. Give them a return on their investments with us, and really just bring their “A” game. Just do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it.

Q: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?

A: I would probably say Nelson Mandela, simply because of everything I’ve read and heard about what he’s experienced and how he experienced it. Just the trial and tribulations that he overcame and continued to stand strong. And at his age, I think I would put him in front of a lot of others. All of our days are numbered, but I know he’s not in good health. So if I could spend a minute with him, I would enjoy doing that.

Q: If you could go anywhere, where would you go and why?

A: Really, there are just so many places within a short drive of here that I would really like to go to get away for a while and unwind from the stresses of the day. There are a lot of places I went during my stint in the military — the Philippines and Guam, South Korea and Japan. I think it would be a lot different to go as a tourist without weapons on your side, and I would probably backtrack everywhere I went in the military and now go without a weapon and enjoy the place. I think it would be a vastly different view and experience. I’ve been to some gorgeous places around the world, but most of them were during my military service.

Q: What is your strategy for generating revenue in a competitive market?

A: Let’s just do what we can control. Let’s do what we can do better in terms of print and online and delivering our product to our customers. And let’s not worry about the other guys. Let’s worry about what we can control, and make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, and I think if we keep that cost-effective, and look for ways to leverage our brand in print and online.

Q: Do you have a secret talent that few know about?

A: I’m a closet comedian. It helps to laugh. Every day you should find a reason to smile and laugh, no matter what you’re facing. Life’s not that long. I see people in all walks of life. I was over at the hospital the other day having lunch with a colleague. You look at the people that are coming and going out of the hospital, and you know that they have some serious issues. We’re all going to get our day there. So I challenge people to work hard, play hard, find a reason to laugh. Find a reason to give thanks. Just us sitting here having this conversation is a reason to give thanks. But I like to laugh, I like to have fun. I would be a comedian. I’d like to do some standup.