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General Excellence
Dennis Wichterman
Senior Director of Local Sales
Knight Ridder Digital

When he directed Philly.com’s online sales operation, Dennis Wichterman had a brass ship’s bell in his office. He rang it every time an online ad sale was recorded. At first, nearby employees complained about the noise. But as the clanging became more and more frequent, the complaints quickly subsided. People understood they were hearing the sound of success.

Wichterman’s leadership helped turn around the online revenue picture of Philly.com, Knight Ridder’s largest online and print market. His guidance grew revenue by $5.8 million over the previous year, a growth rate of 71 percent.

In his previous job as director of online sales for Knight Ridder’s 18 mid-sized to small newspapers, Wichterman helped the City Group deliver 77 percent year-over-year online revenue growth in 2005. The group finished more than $6 million above budget. Recently promoted to senior director of local sales, he will be working with all 29 markets in 2006 to maximize ShopLocal and banner advertising.

One of the small but important touches that Wichterman brought to the papers in the City Group was commissioning the design of an unofficial logo for use by his sales team.

“There was a sense that the papers [the City Group] weren’t as important or having as much of an impact on the financial success of Knight Ridder as the larger papers,” he said. “The logo gave a sense of being, a sense of identity.”

Wichterman stressed to the sales team how well they were doing and showed them that year over year, their growth was better than the metro markets. “They were actually beating expectations better than the metro papers,” he said.

To improve those figures even more, Wichterman led the development of tailored market-specific programs for driving growth in every category: recruitment, automotive, real estate and retail. He summed up a formula for success in two simple clauses: “Praise people if they’re doing well; coach them if they’re not.”

He learned a valuable lesson from Fred Mann, his first manager in Philadelphia. “I’m only as good as the people who work for me,” he said. “My whole career I’ve been surrounded by excellence, is what it comes down to.”

Mann showed him that it’s not always push, push, push, Wichterman said. “You need to understand the people behind the success.”

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