Old and new: Things change, things remain the same

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impact aug 1991
The first issue of the GOHBA Impact, published in August, 1991.

The end of the contract to publish the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) Impact newsletter in part saddens me, but I accept its inevitability. I received the invitation to start work on the six-times-a-year newspaper-format publication in 1991, and recall putting the first issue together during my then three-year-old business’s first existential crisis as a major multi-year recession burned into the North American economy.

In fact, just a few months earlier, in April, 1991, I thought it was “over” — I had burned through a $30,000 loan from my family and knew it would not be right to even think about asking for any more financial support.

Then, I had the second major epiphany in my life (the first had happened about 11 years earlier as I lived through the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe as a journalist), when I realized I was absolutely responsible for my life and should blame no-one (including myself) for my problems. I concluded that I would do what I can to make things right.

Then I received a fortunate call from one of the association’s directors. “Would I like to quote on publishing a newsletter for the association,” he asked?  I responded: “Is there competition for this project?”  The representative said: “No — as you are the only member in the category.”

It turns out I was benefiting from the association’s “Be a member . . . do business with a member” motto, coupled with some incredible good fortune. First, despite my business crisis, I had decided not to cancel the association member. Second (as I learned out later), one of my company’s earliest advertisers — also a GOHBA board member — had proposed the idea and recommended me to his peers.”

I started work on the project from a temporary shared residence, pushing out the first issue as a supplement to Ottawa Construction News, and gaining some helpful advertising revenue just when I needed it the most.

We carried on with the publication through boom and bust times, never getting rich off of it, but almost inevitably discovering its power when we needed a little business boost.

Last summer, in fact, was one of those times. As I faced another business crisis, I decided to switch from printed to electronic format for our other publications, and this made the Impact uneconomical expensive to produce without a return to a very old association subsidy. However, the association decided to continue with the subsidy, so we published for another year.

Finally, a few months ago, after the GOHBA decided to hire a new executive director, it also decided it was time to take the newsletter in-house and make it an electronic publication. Our contract would end, at last.

In the 27 years since we started publishing the Impact, we’ve produced about 160 issues.  I married (we celebrate our 25th anniversary this spring) and went from being 37 years old, to 65.

Interestingly, many of the issues and concerns in the original Impact remain today, and the association’s fundamental values remain intact.

But certainly the publishing business has changed and, in our adaptation to electronic formats, we’re preparing for a major new publication launch in the next few months. So the loss the old doesn’t mean the end of the new.

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