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From cover capers to connections

Entering its 40th year of publishing, In Business magazine remains the voice of small and independent businesses.

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From the pages of In Business magazine.

Historians looking for a way to explain the perils of publishing might note the nearly cover-free beginning Robert and Suzanne Beecher experienced in launching the first monthly edition of In Business magazine in March of 1978 (below). The Beecher’s concept of a local business magazine was about to come to fruition. The news gathering, writing, editing, and most of the layout was finally done and then, one day before that inaugural edition was scheduled to go to press, they realized they had forgotten something pretty important — the cover.

IB's first cover, March 1978

Suzanne Beecher, who served as assistant publisher for that first edition, can laugh about it now but at the time it was “panic city” for a couple who already operated a local shopper publication called Ad City. “We were so excited about the concept and about writing it and editing it and working on the layout, and then the last minute, I don’t know but it might’ve been the day before we were scheduled go to press, we realized we forgot to do a cover,” she notes, laughing at the memory. “That’s how we came up with a green cover with the logo on it.”

It might actually have been a good sign of prosperity because green ink is a better color for the cover of a business magazine than red ink, but the world of publishing is one of constant change. What the Beechers started in 1978 has gone through several necessary transformations, each one leading to the monthly publication you see today.

The ball may have never gotten rolling if Suzanne hadn’t issued a bit of an ultimatum. Observing IB’s first anniversary in March of 1979, Suzanne (then editor) began her monthly Editor’s Comments by recounting how she had reached the point where she could no longer tolerate her husband’s lament about the lack of a local business publication.

“Suzanne,” Bob (Beecher) kept repeating. “Why hasn’t anyone done a publication for local businesses? There are lots of trade journals and consumer magazines around, but there’s no way for local businesses to reach each other. I just can’t understand why there’s no publication for local businesses.”

Replied Suzanne: “Bob, I’ve listened to that idea for the last four months, and I refuse to hear it anymore! Why don’t you do something about it? Everyone’s been telling you what a great idea it would be …”

As you can surmise, Robert finally got around to launching this magazine, and his comment about finding a way for local businesses to reach each other still rings true because 40 years later connecting businesspeople is what In Business magazine is all about. In this particular era of business, connections are made through multimedia channels. Back in the Beecher’s day, they were made through ink-stained effort.

When the magazine launched, Robert Beecher had already introduced the aforementioned shopper publication. He also ran a typesetting business called Setype, so he had been in the publishing field for several years. “He had an idea that we could have a way for smaller businesses to communicate, and since we owned small businesses dealing with some of the same issues … it was kind of a brainstorm,” recalls Suzanne, who at that time owned and operated a restaurant called the Cutting Board in Middleton. “Robert is an idea guy, and he’s come up with several great business ideas in 39 years.”

The Beechers owned the magazine for 11 years, and looking over back issues from the first decade, it’s obvious their focus was on information for small and independent businesses. They shaped many of the magazine components still recognizable today, including the “New Business” department, which evolved to today’s Startups. Cover stories spotlighted area business practices and trends, and there were occasional business book reviews.

Now an author, blogger, and the founder of DearReader.com, an online service for book lovers, Suzanne Beecher noted that a lot of IB’s early editorial content was about small business issues she and Robert had dealt with their entire careers. “It was easy to relate to small businesses and the things they have to deal with,” she notes, “and, of course, people are always interested in that new business down the street. Who owns it? What are they paying? How did they solve a problem? People are always interested in what someone else is doing.”

Perhaps the biggest business story of that era was one that would not become evident for years — the launching of Epic Systems, which eventually became a dominant player in electronic medical records and is now Dane County’s largest employer.

Due to an eye disorder Suzanne developed, the Beechers sold In Business magazine to current owner Bill Haight in 1989. They would continue their entrepreneurial pursuits in Florida, where they have lived for years, and they still receive the magazine and appreciate the way it has found new ways to accomplish its original mission — finding ways for local businesspeople to reach each other.


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