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She Worked Her Way to the Top

"Audrey MacLean"

The TORONTO STAR is Canada's largest newspaper with a daily delivery of about 550,000 and a Saturday edition of 850,000 copies. It employs 2,600 not including delivery people.

TORSTAR'S gross revenue for 1989 was just under $1 billion. It's a big company and quite intimidating to a shy, 17-year-old girl from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia who started there as a junior file clerk in 1959. Today that shy, young girl, Audrey MacLean is Director of Operations, Planning and Control.

"I'm basically responsible for putting the paper together, deciding how big it's going to be, where the section breaks are, where the ads go, and ultimately getting the paper out.

"I have been credited with helping save the company millions of dollars but it was not through an idea I had, but basically an on-going effort. For

example, when the paper is put together there has to be consideration for how many pages it will contain. To put this into perspective, one page using both sides costs THE STAR almost $5,000 in newsprint. So if I can create the newspaper and satisfy all the different departments: news, advertising, the advertisers and the readers, and save a page or two, or three or four, I certainly can save the company a lot of money. Which is what I have been able to do."

Audrey says it is a daily effort and you have to be prepared for it. Planning ahead is the key:

"We seriously start to make up the Sunday edition on Thursday. For Wednesday's paper we start Monday morning and develop until about 3

p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Then it's closed as far as getting the information to the news department and the composing room, where the ads go, where there's colour to be used and how big it's going to be."

Audrey has a big job, eight people report directly to her.

"But in many ways more do. Because I coordinate the efforts of all the different departments. One big concern at any newspaper is the jockeying for position by the various departments and freelance contributors. Trying to put the ads where the advertisers want them to be. That's the biggest challenge: trying to satisfy everyone when you only have X number of pages. And, of course the news-people want all the front pages. It's a daily effort trying to make everybody happy."

When Audrey started out in the newspaper business 33 years ago, there were a few women reporters but women were mostly employed in clerical positions and selling advertising. That has all changed now and there are women in every department. But there are not many in key management positions like her's. What did she do differently that got her to the top?

"I was lucky to have some ambitions given to me by God. And probably the most important thing is that I care. I care about people and I care about doing things right. I had to work hard and that hasn't stopped. Now that I have made it to this level at THE STAR there are other women who have similar ambitions. There are a lot of ambitious women in every company today. So I do a lot of mentoring. Not just to women, but largely to women.

"Sometimes they need help and they look at me and say: she made it. So can I.

"My door isn't always open because my job is very hectic at times, but I always try to find time if someone wants to talk."

With such a busy schedule and always deadlines to meet, does she have any time for herself?

"I try not to add up the hours I work in a week! I guess it's 60 or 70. At home I get a lot of phone call interruptions, but I tend to stay away from THE STAR building on weekends if I can. And when things are slow I goof off. I take my holidays and go to warm climates in the winter and try to get

away from it all. I'm not the sort of person who takes work home mentally. It doesn't eat at me inside. I probably couldn't do what I do if that were the case."

What's Audrey's advice for anyone working for a company who wants to reach the top?

"I'm not sure they would take my advice. Most young people I talk to today have a different attitude towards work than what I had when I was starting out. Maybe even from what I have now. I would advise them not to just do their own job but to be looking for ways to help the person next to them. Reach out. Do a little more than you are actually required to do. Take criticism.

"Take every opportunity you can to learn something that isn't part of your job. Because you'll be recognized for it; I certainly was. I had only a grade 12 education when I started but I supplemented my education with many courses, mostly in learning to work with and manage people."

Does she have any regrets for all the hard work and time she has put in to get where she is?

"I wish sometimes I had had more time to spend with my children. I was widowed when they were two and four. But, when I did see them it was quality time. However, I do sometimes think maybe I should have slowed down a little bit then."

This is a common statement I hear from most Achievers.

Audrey MacLean is an enthusiastic person with a positive attitude that has taken her to the top in her profession. She believes in team work and in taking advice from the people who work with her.

"I don't believe in taking the attitude that I am the boss and they are going to take direction. Maybe my way is their way because their way is better then mine."

Good advice from a woman who started at the TORONTO STAR as a file clerk and rose to become the Director of Operations. If you take her advice, you can make it work for you too.

She's another Canadian Achiever.



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