Jim Bailey Shares Formula for Longevity
One hundred years is a long time to be in business, yet since 1912 The Daily Record has been bringing daily news and financial information to our fine city. We recently sat down with Jim Bailey, the caretaker for the last thirty seven years and grandson of the founder.
Publisher: Thanks for the conversation, Jim. Congratulations on your anniversary. 100 years in business is quite an accomplishment. You certainly are in select company. Not many get to this milestone.
Jim: Yeah, I guess it is. You sure you want to write about this? People don’t really care, do they?
Publisher: If your story can help other business owners weather the storm and pass their business onto the next generation, then yes, they do care. 100 years is a big deal. However, we can always just wait until your 200th year anniversary to tell your story, but I don’t think either of us have that kind of patience. (We share a laugh)
Jim: All right, let’s do it then.
Publisher: How did you come into this business?
Jim: I originally had no ambition to be in the publishing business. In fact, I didn’t work much in the business or knew much about it when I began in 1975.
I had always wanted to be a lawyer and was attending Mercer when my father who was only 47 at the time had a heart attack. That created an enormous challenge and opportunity for me to come back to town and jump into the business. I literally walked in one day and didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what I was doing and that caused me to make some decisions.
I was about 23 years old, borrowed a ton of money and bought a bunch of equipment. We had a hill to climb ever month, but I just had to make it work with what we had. Sleeping in the office was not unusual, but I had a vision and it worked. We paid off debt and survived. In hindsight, it was the risk I needed to take at the time.
Dad recovered but had further surgery to face so as he reengaged, we both realized how much the industry had changed. Going from hot type to cold type was foreign to him. We ended up evaluating the business, he held the note and immediately I started another large payment. My dad went on to live a long and comfortable life and even shot his age (in golf) when he was 72. He passed away two years ago at age 85. He was an incredible friend and life mentor. Nothing made me more proud as when we used to walk together downtown and people would call us the “Bailey brothers.” He was a great guy and I never wanted to let him down.
Publisher: How has the business evolved?
Jim: In the early days, my grandfather would pull county records from City Hall and list every county record, every building permit, new electric service, every car sale and even marriage licenses. All of which was entered manually.
Long time business people tell me all the time that they got the paper every day because it told them who to call on. We added news along the way and tried to cover general happenings, and really didn’t do a good enough job. That’s when we realized there was a niche for daily business news.
Through the evolution, there were never any home runs, just a lot of singles and doubles, and a lot of strike-outs and there is nothing wrong with that. We have had our competitors along the way that competed in this space. Business happens every day. As you know Brian, in this business, you are never content. You know you can always do better.
The Daily Record has evolved more in the last 25 years than it did the first 75.
Publisher: So what’s next?
Jim: We are always trying to figure out what people want. We are experimenting constantly.
Understanding how people consume their news is a full-time job. The smallest detail can’t go unnoticed. We experiment with the subject lines in our emails. We want to be first with news. It’s a very competitive business so aligning yourself with the right partners is critical.
Having our own press is a huge advantage. We can turn a story around quickly. We like having the big news to happen in the morning so we can have it printed and on the street in the afternoon. We can make this happen in two hours if we have to. But today we have to have it on line even faster.
This is a tough business. The staff here is deadline driven so to be daily, nothing can wait. We have to be as creative and precise as possible in a given period of time. I think that is how I learned and became comfortable multi tasking and making instant decisions and if not right, making them right. That’s how we as a team, have been able to produce over 27,000 continuous issues of the Daily Record.
Publisher: Now that you mention it, Jim, the daily newspaper industry has been decimated in recent years due to the Internet. Is your business model different?
Jim: I don’t think it is. The Internet now gives everyone a voice, some credible, some not. There are some great forums where discussions by many and the results of all of those opinions create some interesting results. I’m fascinated by some of the things said.
Our job is to figure out how to deliver accurate news in a timely manner. News that our reporter puts his name on and I’m willing to back up. We are always going to be paying professionals to seek out truths. The format for delivery will change, but the core model remains the same. Our challenge is how do we make money doing it?
Publisher: Are you implying all newspapers will eventually die?
Jim: No, just the way it is delivered. I like to think of AT&T or Cannon and the way they reinvented themselves. They didn’t go away, they adapted to fit the demand. Newspapers are part of the fabric of the community. It’s incredibly important. Also, when you look up a story electronically, you find what you are looking for, but think about all the other information you get in a newspaper. Let me give you an example. If you wanted to find out information on the Mayor’s budget, you can find just what you need online, but if that same story was in a newspaper it might be sandwiched between other articles that catch your eye. You may find that the JEA raised their rates or the bus route you rely on has been changed.
These may be things you had no intention of reading until you saw them in front of you.
(Added, but I think important to the answer)
Also Brian, keep in mind about 40% of those over 65, 30% Hispanics and 25% of African Americans still don’t have regular internet access. Although it’s changing, there is still a need.
Also, in this age of government transparency, people want more. Meetings of City Council and the Authorities are taxpayers business and should be open and accessible so you can attend or a reporter can share with you the action taken at such meeting.
Although having them on the internet is helpful, you would never want them only on the internet. In a newspaper, it is printed and you can see it and it becomes a permanent record.
We are at the point of electronic information overload. This political season might be a good example of that. My house was flooded with direct-mail pieces. You are inundated with emails, so print orders were up this political season.
With that being said, I am not naive. We push electronic news for readers who prefer that.
Publisher: Since you brought up the topic, will we see you pursue public office again? (Bailey ended a campaign to be mayor of Jacksonville in 2010)
Jim: I don’t know. There are lots of moving parts that would have to come together. I never wanted to be in politics and didn’t have much ambition to be something other than mayor. I ran because I knew it was a critical time for our city and we needed strong leadership from someone not looking for the next job. I had the business running smoothly and I thought I could transfer my leadership experience to public service. I also had the support from my wife and six daughters. Right now, I am absolutely engaged in Bailey Publishing but as I said the last time we visited, my 37 years of business experience might be of value to many small businesses or nonprofits if needed.
Publisher: You’ve been the captain of the ship for 37 plus years now. Still having fun?
Jim: I think fun is a choice. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living. I think I could have fun with anything I do. Although there are huge demands on me, my wife is very supportive. Work, for me, is a hobby. I get frustrated now more than I used to mostly because I see people not realizing or being able to reach their full potential.
Publisher: Earlier you mentioned your civic work. Where does this passion for community activism come from?
I think it’s important. In this economy it’s important to take ownership of where you live. I can’t imagine living in a community that doesn’t celebrate their generosity. I think it originally started when I had kids. I wanted to set the example of being a great person. I wanted them to grow up thinking that this is how they were supposed to behave. I thought it would help them get engaged later on. I didn’t realize I do that much, but I guess I do.
Publisher: You are famous for your list. Let’s see it. (Friends and co-workers know that Jim has carried a to-do list is his pocket every day for nearly 40 years.)
Jim: Hahaha. Here it is. (Pulling out a folded paper wrinkled from carrying in a hip pocket). It never seems to get smaller. I re-prioritize every single night. It works for me. It’s how I keep the ball moving.
Publisher: It’s 3:30 p.m. now. How are you doing on today’s list?
Jim: Not great, I have been talking to you for an hour, but the day isn’t over yet!
Publisher: Tell me one thing people don’t know about you.
Jim: To de-stress from my day, I watch the Kardashians, or anything with Pawn or Swamp in it on TV. Before you think I’m a groupie, understand something, I’m a huge outdoors person and I think business all day. After most of my days, it is relaxing to watch something mindless.
Publisher: What?! I didn’t expect you to say that in a million years. I don’t think you are the target audience.
Jim: I know, it’s strange, but you will learn soon enough, with daughters, I’ll watch whatever they want me to. Now, I won’t miss an episode.
Number of employees: 28
In business since: 1912
Lessons to last 100 years
- Everyone (employees) has value. You just need to find their strengths
- Don’t always look for the home runs. There is nothing wrong with singles and doubles
- Never stop experimenting
- Take pride in helping your team get better
- There should always be room in your organization for someone that gives 110%
- I’m not concerned with individual mistakes, I focus more on where my process broke down
- Part of the cost of doing business should be investing your time and resources back into your community
- Work hard, play hard
- Leaders provide solutions
6 pillars of character
Jim Bailey was recently selected to receive the Golden Rule Award presented by Character Counts. This award was created to honor members of our community who consistently live a life that personifies the Six Pillars of Character.
This is reserved for Individuals who contribute to our community in unique and meaningful ways which are consistently driven by trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship – the attributes it seeks to honor.
To see more or to attend the upcoming ceremony, click http://ccinjax.blogspot