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Green Sheet Memories

I was a part of The Green Sheet, Inc. from 1997 to 2001, serving as Staff Writer, Advertising Account Executive, Assistant Editor and Editor. When I joined The GS, the staff increased by 50%! The Green Sheet consisted of the publisher (Paul Green) and Managing Editor (Julie O'Ryan-Dempsey) - and staff writer makes three! We didn't have e-mail, let alone a Web site. When we did get e-mail we shared a single AOL account.

The Green Sheet was six pages (it made its debut as a 10-page edition on March 10, 1997), and the GSQ was nothing but a twinkle in Paul's eye even though the United States Check Study had been produced since 1985 (and would be in the GSQ format in 1997). Times certainly have changed.

I came from a book and magazine background with some marketing and communications experience, so for me The ABA was the American Booksellers Association, not the American Bankers Association. And what did I know about buy rates and interchange? My first step was to make a cheat sheet of acronyms. My second step was to find out what they meant!

Rookie Assignments or Snipe Hunting?

A big part of my job was tracking down industry information: numbers, data, trends, etc. One of my first assignments was to find whose job it was in the U.S. government to determine how many checks Americans write and what the average amount is. Easy, right? Someone records these things, I thought, I just need to find the right contact. Well, it turns out no one in the government records this data except the Federal Reserve, and it guessed at some of the information.

Another research assignment was to find out about mag stripes on the backs of driver's licenses: what they record, who manufacturers them, how many states use them, etc. Sounds easy, right? Trust me, it's not.

What these and other assignments taught me are what I call "The 5 rules of GS Research and Investigative Reporting:"

  1. Expect to be transferred a minimum of five times.
  2. Do not anticipate results from the first three attempts.
  3. Don't take the first answer for gospel.
  4. For every answer, there will be a person or organization to refute it.
  5. Always check Paul's "fan mail" to see if the person you're calling may have an "opinion" of Paul or The GS.

Getting to Know You

Another part of my job was talking to industry insiders. For my first Green Sheet article assignment, Paul called me into his office and asked me to call all the equipment resellers and distributors and find out about their products: specs, features, pricing, etc. (That's one thing about working for Paul - you never felt he was ordering you to do anything.)

I was a little nervous since I was still working on my cheat sheet of manufacturers, but I could do it. As it turned out, the people at ATMG, ATM Network, Lipman USA, US Wireless Data, VeriFone, CDE Services, The Horizon Group, TASQ Technology, Netkey and others couldn't have been more helpful, patient and informative. It must have gone well because the next time we covered equipment manufacturers and distributors, it was the topic of an entire GSQ!

A Quarterly? In Color?

In late 1997, Julie O'Ryan-Dempsey and I were attending a seminar on printing, design and desktop publishing. We learned a lot of tips that helped us make The Green Sheet the best it could be. After the lunch break they started discussing color printing, and Julie and I turned to each other with a look of, "I am so glad we aren't a four-color publication." It was not two weeks later that Paul said, "I have a great idea - let's do a four-color quarterly magazine!"

After some steep learning curves and a few months of hard work, we were finally ready to bring the first GSQ, which profiled equipment manufacturers, to the printer. I remember driving to the printer and delivering a copy-paper box full of film, camera-ready artwork and just about any type of medium you could use to get something printed, including more than a dozen Zip disks.

Today, you can FTP, e-mail documents and burn CDs. It may not have been the most efficient way to send a job to press, but we learned fast, and the February 1998 issue, "POS Terminals Today," was a success. (Even though the February 1998 issue was the first GSQ, we completed the 1997 United States Check Study in full color the year before.)

Meet and Greet

Fortunately, another part of working for The GS was talking with people inside the financial services industry. Over the years I talked with hundreds of people, many on a biweekly basis, especially the advertisers. (I remember that Horizon was the first to purchase advertising, its first paid advertisement appearing on March 10, 1997.) Yet, I never met many of them. Finally, at the ETA meeting in Chicago, I was able to meet some of the people I had been talking with for years, including reps from Dassault AT, Bridgeview Bank, Hypercom, US Wireless Data and VeriFone.

Another fond memory is the Graduate School of Electronic Payments at Boston University in 1999. Where else would you find bankers, lawyers, financial services professionals and representatives from the postal service and grocery store associations sharing dorm rooms in the middle of summer?

It took less than a day to revert to high school. We had our cliques; we always ate at the same lunch table, and the talk at 4 p.m. each day was, "What are we going to do tonight?" Anything to escape the dorm room - no phone, radio, TV. It is amazing how fast you will become friends when your alternative is a bare dorm room.

A Good Time Had By All

My years at the GS were full of fun people who loved their work and worked hard. It was an exciting time when concerns included Y2K and whether "clicks and mortar" would replace "bricks and mortar." Dot-coms were springing up everywhere, and instant millionaires seemed to be made weekly. Our economy has certainly changed since then, and, therefore, so has the landscape of the financial services industry. But the people are the same - hard-working, fun-loving professionals who work to make the financial services industry the best it can be.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.
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