Bo Sacks: What's a Pound of Flesh Worth These Days, Anyway?
What's a pound of flesh worth? What's a fair wage? Is your day's labor in the publishing salt mines worth what you earn?
Here is another question, which seems particularly relevant and timely in light of recent reports showing that some executives at magazine industry associations earn annual salaries of $400,000 to $740,000: Do they think that - at a time when the industry is as challenged as ever - they have earned that pay in the same salt mines for a job well done?
I mentioned this line of questioning to my son, who proceeded to practically rip off my head. He asked what right I had to comment on another person's salary. Well, I responded, when I see General Motors, once the world's largest automobile corporation, driven willingly off a cliff by management that has been ineffective for more than four decades, the very same management that makes hundreds of millions of dollars in salary and compensation, I believe I have the right to an opinion.
What should we expect from an association officer in exchange for his/her compensation? I'm not looking to condemn or single out any one executive or association. I'm simply calling for an industrywide discussion. Is there, or should there be, a correlation between compensation, results and revenue at any industry association?
It was pointed out to me by a friend, whose perspective I sought for this column, that there is no such thing as "fair" in economics. His opinion was that people do not engage in an economic transaction unless they feel that they are getting a benefit greater than their costs. In this case, I am not so sure that concept can be applied. This is just not a typical business relationship of vendor and supplier.
So, it seems to me that the question comes down to this: What is the benefit to the association membership of paying association management the salaries they are being paid, and who determines this value? The obvious answer is that the associations' boards of directors decide both the criteria and the range of compensation packages.