Turning phone books into a booming business: Ralph Logan retires from Arvig after 36-year career
After 36 years in the phone directory business, Ralph Logan, directory operations and sales manager with Arvig, has retired. Again. Logan hadn't always planned to be the man behind stacks of phone books. He started college in 1972, majoring in ma...
After 36 years in the phone directory business, Ralph Logan, directory operations and sales manager with Arvig, has retired. Again.
Logan hadn’t always planned to be the man behind stacks of phone books.
He started college in 1972, majoring in mass communications, and then joined the service.
“It was the wrong time, because it Vietnam,” Logan said with a quick laugh.
When he came home from Vietnam, Logan planned to finish college and then teach sales and marketing.
That plan didn’t last long, either.
“I found out what a teacher made, and two days later, I went and applied at Northwestern Bell,” Logan said. “It was a great career.”
When the company was bought, 24-1/2 years later, Logan was given the chance to retire, and he took it. He and his wife relocated to their lake home on Little McDonald Lake, near Perham.
“I thought I’d spend some time getting it updated,” Logan said of the house. “It had a wood-burning stove in it, and orange carpet – shag, by the way.”
While Logan was making his plans, a change was happening nearby at the offices of Arvig.
In 2002, the company decided to start publishing its own directory rather than continuing to have another business do it.
“They weren’t seeing the increase in revenues they anticipated, so they decided to do it themselves,” said Logan.
That’s when Logan’s plans ended up changing for a third time.
One of his wife’s cousins was working at Arvig at the time, and she mentioned to the company that Logan had experience with directories.
“So I came in, talked to them,” Logan said. “I liked what they wanted to do and they liked what I wanted to do, so we decided, ‘Let’s try it.’”
At first, it was Logan, as an independent contractor, and Rich Richter starting out the directory department.
“First year we tried it, we increased the value of the book by about 75 percent,” said Logan. “It wasn’t really truly hard to do.”
In 2008, with the department’s continued growth, Charly Baune, from New York Mills, joined on as a sales manager to help keep up the forward momentum.
As time went on, Logan said, Arvig acquired other phone books through purchases of other companies.
“The long and short of it is, after 13 years, we have 26 telephone directories in six states and 28 employees in nine offices,” Logan said.
He explained that customers in Walker have little use for the Perham listings, and vice versa, so the Arvig book was split into three regional versions. Arvig also publishes the Smart Search and Missouri River Pages directories in other areas.
“We did things the way we thought were the best for our customers, and our business customers seemed to agree with it,” said Logan of the decisions to add color, make some spiral-bound directories and deliver books to every area resident. “Our revenues have increased exponentially over the last 13 years… and the usage has continued to increase, believe it or not.”
In recent years, the directory department began to expand beyond paper books and also experiment with online resources and needs. One such example is the free Arvig Directory App, which allows users to search for residential and business listings.
“Our customers’ advertising content in the Yellow Pages is put on that app at no charge to the customer,” Logan explained.
Logan said working with Arvig has been a rewarding second career, but that he can’t take all of the credit.
“I believe that we owe our success to David Schornack’s foresight into what the company needed,” Logan said. “He pretty much let us run the department, because we were the subject matter experts.”
As of Dec. 31, Logan retired from his position. He will continue doing work in sales.
“We’re still growing,” Logan said of the department, when asked how he feels about handing the helm over to Richter and Baune. “I’m very comfortable and happy to be leaving (the department) at this point in time. It’s been a great journey. It’s been a fun journey.”