School of Journalism

UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-COLUMBIA		   This case was prepared by

                                           Charles Warner and Ron Steiner


                      Did Hank Abbey Have To Retire?

     Hank Abbey was fifty-six years old and had just been awarded

an expensive gold watch to recognize twenty-five years of service

to WMEE-TV.  Elaine Monsoor the station's new, thirty-six-year-old

vice president and general manager made the presentation at a staff

luncheon in studio A.  Hank's wife and three grown children were

present for the event, along with most of WMEE-TV's employees.  In

addition to the watch, Hank received a congratulatory FAX from the

company's president.

     Hank's family was very proud of his long service and

accomplishments, not only at the station, but in the community.

Hank was the senior account executive on an eight-person sales

staff for WMEE-TV, an ABC affiliate in a mid-sized market.  Hank

had an opportunity to become local sales manager twelve years

earlier, but he had decided to remain an account executive because,

as he said, "I don't like all that administrative paperwork." 

     Hank had enormous respect in the business and advertising

community as well as in the community at large.  He had been very

active in the Advertising Club, Boy Scouts, Red Cross, Junior

Olympics and his church.  Hank had served as a board member of the

Advertising Club, was a past president, and three years ago was

named Man of the Year in Advertising by the Advertising Club--the

first media salesperson to be so honored.

     Most of the salespeople who worked with Hank respected him

too, as did the national sales manager (NSM) Linda Puckett, age 40. 

Whitey DiOrio had been the station's local sales manager for the

last two years, after six very successful years as a WMEE-TV

salesperson.  Whitey had a reputation in the market for being an

aggressive and innovative sales manager.

     Linda had been with the station for only one year, coming from

the station's national sales representative firm.  Prior to that

sales experience, she had been a buyer at K,R & B Advertising. 

Linda was very fond of Hank and relied on him to help her

understand the local market and local business conditions. 

Although she was totally involved in national business, Linda

realized that she must gain experience in local sales if she was

ever to get consideration for a general sales manager's position

with WMEE-TV's parent company.

     Although Hank appeared pleased with the recognition of the

watch and the retirement party, underneath it all he was upset.  He

felt out of touch with everything going on at the station now, and

as though he hadn't really been given a fair shake.  As the senior

account executive, Hank had been assigned a list containing many of

the most significant local agencies and accounts.  Many of his

advertisers and media buyers were long-time friends as well as

customers.  He had been through the ups and downs of business

cycles and relationships with many of the most important media

people in the market. 

     But Hank began to see the market changing, the television

industry changing, the station's staff changing and his assignments

changing.  He continued to have large billing, but he only made his

billing quota in months that the station did very well in total

billing.  Hank was often criticized by his local sales manager,

Whitey DiOrio, for not developing new business and for not making

specifically tailored marketing proposals to accounts at the client


     Some of the WMEE-TV salespeople continued to go to Hank to

seek advice, but others harbored resentment because he had so many

important, big-spending, repeat customers.  Also, Hank's attitude

was growing more and more negative as he began to feel that his

work as an account executive was unfulfilling.  During recent

months, Hank and another salesperson, Jo Alice Matter, began to

complain to each other about the station, the corporation, the

business and their jobs.  They were discrete enough not to let

their negative conversations be overheard by anyone else, but when

they were together they seemed to feed on each other's negativism.

     Jo Alice admired Hank and his stature in the community.  She

did not care for Whitey DiOrio, feeling that he was much too

aggressive and demanding.  Despite being only thirty years old, Jo

Alice felt she had been around long enough not to be asked to make

so many new business development calls and make "those silly sales

projections."  Her achievement of her billing quotas was barely

acceptable--she achieved them about half the time--but certainly

not outstanding.

     Whitey, as local sales manager, was trying to juggle the needs

of the diverse personalities on his staff, achieve station guotas

and make a name for himself in the company's broadcast division. 

He felt he was being held back by the unspectacular performance of

his sales staff.  He had some very good performers, but he began to

focus more and more on Hank as a major source of what he, Whitey,

perceived as a performance shortfall.

     Whitey was getting no reinforcement of these negative feelings

about Hank from Everett Moore, the station's general sales manager,

who had progressively become less involved in the local sales

effort.  Moore was required to write a lot of reports for corporate

headquarters and spend time in meetings with the new general

manager and other department heads.  The new general manager,

Elaine Monsoor, had been a successful news director at another

station in the market and had no sales background.  She trusted

Everett Moore and relied on him as her sales expert and mentor.

     At the beginning of the year a new, corporate-dictated

compensation system had gone into effect at WMEE-TV.  A major

portion (over 33%) of the local salespeople's compensation was

based on a quarterly bonus based on achievement of local sales

guotas that were based primarily on new business development.  Some

of the account executives who developed substantial amounts of new

business expressed displeasure with the new system.  They felt that

they missed the bonus at the end of the first quarter because some

of the staff, Hank in particular, contributed little new business.

     The number-one new business producer, Allen Leach, usually had

the most new accounts on the air.  Allen was not bashful about

pointing out his productivity to Whitey DiOrio and Everett Moore.

The flip side of Allen's value to the station was that he had a low

rate of account retention and repeat business.  He had twice as

many accounts on his list as any other salesperson because he was

relentless about digging them up and claiming them. 

     At the end of the second quarter, Everett Moore called in

Whitey DiOrio for a performance review.  Although local sales were

up four percent over last year, the station had missed its

projections for the second straight quarter.  Moore was starting to

get some heat from the general manager, Elaine Monsoor.  Monsoor in

turn was getting questions from corporate headquarters, which was

passed directly on to Whitey DiOrio.

     During the performance review Everett Moore unofficially put

DiOrio on notice. "We need to see this thing turned around by the

end of the year or I will have to look at making some changes,"

Everett Moore told Whitey DiOrio.  

     Whitey was angry.  It wasn't his fault the new business quotas

were being missed, it was primarily Hank's.  "Can I force Hank to

retire?" Whitey asked Everett, "I've been building a case on paper

for six months and have warned Hank twice." "Do what you have to to

turn things around," said Everett.

     The first thing Whitey did when he left Everett Moore's office

was to call Hank Abbey into his office and say: "I'm sorry Hank,

but the heat's on.  Here's the bottom line: you can retire and have

a gold watch and a party--leave with honor and dignity--or I'll

give you three months notice right now and fire you.  I've got a

paper trail built on you and can do it." 

     Hank looked almost relieved.  "Great," he said, "I can't wait

to get out of here.  Consider me retired!" 

                               AUTHOR'S NOTE

     While the incidents in this case are not factual, they do

represent a composite of actual events and operating practices of

some companies.  This case was prepared to use as a teaching tool.


1.   If you had been WMEE-TV's local sales manager, what would you

     have done differently than Whitey DiOrio did?

2.   What are some ways to avoid the burnout that Hank Abbey


3.   Where would you start to turn around the local sales

     performance problem?

4.   Is there a local sales performance problem?

5.   Would you have made the same decision Hank Abbey made about

     retiring instead of getting fired? 

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