FuckedCompany.com - The Dot-com Deadpool
 Memo to TheOnion.com employees

Greetings and Salutations,

The dust is finally settling from a wild first half of the year. So let’s get everyone 
caught up on what’s happening and what’s changing in Onionland. Please try to get through 
the entire note as it all relates to the company’s growth and change and sooner or later 
it’s likely to affect you. I look forward to all of your comments/questions/general input 
in response to this update. 


It’s been almost one year since we learned that we would not be selling the company. At 
that point, we discussed three different Plans (A, B, and C) for the expansion of the 
company at the staff meeting in Madison. To review, Plan A was to continue the process of 
selling the company to an entity with strong connections to the entertainment industry and 
the media we operate in and wish to operate in. Plan B was described as hiring a new team 
of managers and executives to run the company. Plan C was to grow using the staff and 
resources we have and make the most of it on our own accord. 

Regardless of which plan seemed most agreeable, we were to form an internal Onion managing 
board made up of editorial, production and business staff to increase communication 
throughout the company and discuss operations. This board met in November, December and May 
and will meet again in the next 30 days. The meetings have been long and exhausting but 
generally productive and meaningful. I extend my appreciation to everyone contributing to 
these meetings (Chris, Andrew W, Stephen, Rob, Todd, Carol, Mike and Ryan). I think we’ll 
find that a quarterly schedule of the meetings of the Onion managing board will be 
sufficient. A schedule on the order of May, August, November and February seems about 

The assessment of the best plan to follow, after a year of operations, is to grow the 
company in a manageable fashion and preserve the soul and quality of the Onion while 
keeping our options open. This means adding all levels of staff to assist in the process 
(management and executives included), raising money and raising the bar on how we conduct 
business. Taking any of the Plans individually as discussed won’t meet the principles 
necessary to keep the Onion afloat and moving forward. Plan A gives us no significant, 
on-going input and too much uncertainty over the product and quality control and 
preservation. In addition, the last year has been about the worst possible time in years 
that we could ever be trying to sell the Onion given the economic conditions, advertising 
downturn and Internet implosion. Plan B is important, desirable and unavoidable as we grow, 
but is no real viable “plan” on it’s own. Hiring managers and executives is a matter of 
careful integration. Plan C is already proven impossible because of the need for more 
financial resources and the desire to grow faster than we can on our own. 


The result of all these conclusions/realities was that “Plan D” would have to be created as 
an achievable hybrid of the first three plans. Putting the variety of desirable elements 
from each plan together, here’s what we have moving forward. 

[From Plan A] We would like to keep our options open regarding the possible sale of the 
company to a highly desired and qualified buyer. That means that we have to maintain our 
accounting programs and practices at a level high enough to present our detailed financial 
picture to any interested party at any given time. It also means that a working business 
plan with real budgets and projections will have to be maintained. Onion, Inc. will always 
be in position to take advantage of a selling opportunity if all the circumstances are 
right. We are prepared for these situations with our improved accounting, bookkeeping and 
financial practices. [Plan B] As part of the working business plan, we have built an 
organizational chart for the business department and identified positions that need to be 
filled for the Onion to be able to hit our sales goals and projections for Print, Internet 
and Radio advertising. These positions include sales managers, local and national, 
marketing experts, finance managers, merchandise experts, and seasoned business people. 
Most of these positions are new to the Onion and will take time to hire and be effective. 
[Plan C] So, maintaining operations on our own is going to require considerable financial 
support and resources even if we are to pass the baton to executives with more worldly 
business experience. So, with no further ado, I’ll start bringing you up to speed on how 
Onion operations are developing in pursuit of Plan D.

To get things done in this life, it takes talent, determination and lots of time or money. 
Since talent and determination are bountiful, and we’ve spent a lot of time on this already 
[next week marks the beginning of our 14th year of publishing the Onion], then money would 
tip the priority scale in its favor. Raising money for a company that is losing money in a 
bad economy and a weak advertising market (and a weaker Internet advertising market) is not 
exactly easy. This was the single toughest and most pressured task I’ve ever attempted in 
all my days. And I have a fine case of the hives to prove it. However, some things for the 
Onion just seem to happen in due time. At the eleventh hour, we raised enough working 
capital for Onion, Inc. to operate for what appears to be enough time to weather the 
economic and advertising storm while implementing Plan D to the best of our abilities. This 
feat took a great team effort from Chris, Matt Astbury, Kari Birney, my good friend, 
confidant and new Onion Financial Officer, Tim Carroll and our new corporate attorney and 
fine businessman, Robb Risch. And as you’ll realize, Scott Dikkers was generous, kind and 
true in the opportunities he allowed us to get an arrangement together that benefited 


Here’s exactly what happened in buying Scott out and raising money for the company. By way 
of a loan from our new investor, David Schafer, Onion, Inc. bought Scott’s voting shares 
back at the end of July. David, a very successful New York businessman, all-around good guy 
and fan of the Onion, then bought Scott’s voting shares and some non-voting shares at a 
price that netted Onion, Inc. a sizable amount of working capital. With some real working 
capital in the door, the Onion has the money to move operations forward while remaining 
virtually debt free in the short term. Now, we can proceed with strength and speed in the 
hiring processes, get the NY edition off the ground, improve our business practices and 
infrastructure for all operations per the business plan.

I’ve spoken with a few staffers and shareholders about Mr. Schafer and many of the same 
questions keep coming up. How will he be involved? Will he be on the board? Is he going to 
be breathing down our necks for nothing but profits? Does he want to flip the company and 
sell it for a quick buck? Are we going to meet him? These are all legitimate concerns and 
questions and many of the same ones I had asked in previous meetings. 

The great things that struck me from the beginning about the possibility of working with 
David Schafer were; 1) he understands our quirky company and knows that we need some time 
to get to a higher level of operations and sales, 2) he has a simple investing philosophy 
of buying right and allowing the value of a company to develop over time and 3) he liked 
the business plan we wrote which pretty much contains all the concepts of plans B and C as 
we have discussed. Also, David told me in early on in our discussions that he only wants to 
get involved in projects that he can appreciate and enjoy. In other words, he’s willing to 
see us through the long haul. Needless to say, we have a big fan in David Schafer and he 
wants to see us reach our potential. And make a bunch of money! This is far from a 
philanthropic gesture on his part. He fully expects us to obtain the sales and revenue 
numbers we laid out in the Onion financials and keep the expenses in check according to the 
budgets and turn profitable inside a year.

I believe that David brings much more than just financial resources to the Onion. He’s a 
sharp businessman. He’s well-connected in NY after working there over 25 years. He’s going 
to open some important doors for the Onion. He and I have talked about building an Advisory 
Board that would function in addition to the Onion management board as a business 
think-tank for future moves . The Advisory Board would be a combination of professionals 
with a variety of perspectives from finance to advertising and corporate structure to 
publishing and sales to merchandising. As yet, the Advisory Board is in the conceptual 
stage and has not added any members officially. This board will likely be Schafer’s place 
and point of influence at the Onion. He’ll also be following the finances of the company 
very closely and meeting with me periodically. We’ve discussed expenses and budgets and 
accounting practices so that we can closely monitor and analyze our spending and revenue 

Obviously, everyone would like to meet Mr. Schafer and hopefully, we will find a date and 
time soon for a gathering. 


I mentioned earlier that I had brought Tim Carroll in to assist us from a financial 
management angle in preparing The Onion business plan for investors and future operations. 
He was very instrumental in restructuring our books for presentation over the last several 
months and in preparing budgets and projections. He will be employed here at the Onion as 
our financial officer. He oversees all financial aspects of the company both internally 
(budgeting, financial planning, accounting, financial analysis, cash flow
management, reporting) and externally (maintaining relations with investors, raising new 
money when needed, preparing the company for sale or going public). Tim will be working 
closely with Chris Cranmer, the business staff and myself.

Tim lives in Dallas, TX and has a Masters degree in finance and marketing. He worked with 
GTE for 13 years with the bulk of his experience in business planning and development. Tim 
was my manager at the Daily Cardinal for about a year back in college and got me into the 
business. And just in case you think I’m playing favorites and he’s just a friend, Tim is 
the guy who fired me from the Cardinal later that year! He also introduced me to Tim Keck 
for the first time. He’s been following the Onion since it started and has informally 
consulted with me all along. I’m making him part of the team because he has an 
extraordinary amount of business talent and vision and communication skill. We’re very 
fortunate to have him on our side. 

Tim’s first mission is to update, organize and improve our internal accounting systems and 
monthly financial statements. In order to do this, we’re getting new accounting software, a 
sharp, new sales and database program and customizing our reports for greater a much better 
understanding our businesses. We’ll be getting a couple of PCs to run the new business 
software on and customizing programs to meet our reporting and invoicing needs. Our goal is 
30 days for the Onion to have a whole new world of meaningful numbers.

Then he’ll continue helping us coordinate budgets, sales forecasting, interpreting and 
analyzing results of operations, and again, customizing the reports we generate each week 
and month to track our progress closely. Tim will also contribute to reorganizing the sales 
department and building it into a national force and completing marketing ideas. With his 
education and work experience, Tim will no doubt add a dimension to the business we have 
not had. 


Since the beginning of this year, our financial crunch has halted progress throughout the 
company. It affected office build outs in Madison and New York, hiring of sales reps in New 
York, Madison and Milwaukee and the hiring of national sales reps to help sell the Internet 
and the Onion Radio News. Now that we can move forward, the structure of the business staff 
will change. We’ll be hiring the staff we need at every level of business and the managers 
and interns to work with them and assist in the process. 

The Onion needs to have a major sales force in place. After all, the sale of advertising is 
how we derive about 80% of our revenue. Our plan for the growth of the sales department 
includes not only restructuring the organization and adding sales reps everywhere but also 
to obtain the resources and flexibility we’ve been lacking for more effective print and 
Internet sales. We’re going to have to customize programs and try new things in order to 
obtain business from advertisers in this buyer’s marketplace. This means we’ll be asking 
for much cooperation from editorial and production in the coming months so that deals can 
be closed.


The Onion sales team is in great pursuit of better and more credible sales materials. We 
need a more thorough look at the reader, finer presentations, recent and regular updates 
and high-quality tracking, delivery and reporting systems. We need help desiging sales 
materials and promo pieces that are exciting and different for the advertiser and agency to 
look at. We have a great, award-winning paper and business and our sales materials are 
lulling them to sleep.

We’re getting a new ad serving system for the Internet called Ad Juggler. Ad Juggler will 
make serving flights a breeze and maximize efficiency on our servers. The software should 
be set up by the end of the month. We’re also getting a new Internet demographics company 
to get us more information on the demographics and habits and particulars of our readers. 
In addition to conducting regular reader surveys on line (twice annually). 

We’re officially auditing the circulation of the newspapers in each city this Fall. An 
official, third-party audit will give us needed credibility with national advertisers in 
the evaluation process of our fine publication. It will be neat to have that little logo in 
the bottom of the staff boxes. VERIFIED!

The Onion needs to know more about its readers and needs that information documented and 
validated. So we’re going to do this a couple of different ways. First we’ll be subscribing 
to the Media Audit again. A questionable source but the one that may come through for us 
when it comes to selling the tobacco and liquor companies ads next year. 

I’ll be looking to the writing staffs to help assemble some sort of an editorial calendar 
so we can be in the know when a “best of” issue is on the way or when we can count on a 
Summer Music Guide, etc. And compete with the other papers in the market more effectively. 

As we all know, much attention and resources were given this year to getting the comedy 
staff to NY. The Onion, rightly so, invested a lot of money in moving, raises, offices and 
new positions so that the comedy staff can continue to grow media relationships in New 

Now that Editorial is settling in to the big city, we need to put as much, if not more, 
resources and attention to the Business staff. We need to develop corporate partnerships so 
that the Business of the Onion is as successful as its product. To do this, we need 
cooperation and respect, in and among, all departments. 

With that will come expectations of excellence that have not yet been enforced in every 
department. We all know there is always room for improvement, and while some departments 
need more than others, we are going to expect that step-up. We will not tolerate 
mediocrity. More discussion of expectations of employees and departments will be discussed 
at internal board meetings. 


• The street date for the New York Onion is confirmed for the 27th of September. Come what 
may, THE ONION is on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn starting the last issue of 
September, 2001. 

• Our circulation manager in New York is Paul Millman. He is working with an assistant 
named Erik Burnstein. They are handling everything from ordering and getting boxes and 
racks out to obtaining permission from local establishments for distribution. We are just 
completing the one-sheet and map for NY distro and it is available for all to see.

• We have two new reps starting this month in NY. Heather Locraft and Jeff Canzona. Heather 
has started training. Feel free to send a “welcome” email to her at hlocraft@theonion.com. 
Jeff will be working immediately, but will make his first appearance in the NY office 
September 5th. 

• Dispatches from the Tenth Circle, The Best of The Onion is in stores September 4th. In 
promotion of the book, Rob Siegel is booked on The Conan O’Brien Show September 17th (ish). 
The book is amazing! There will be plenty of copies in all offices next week.

• The San Francisco sales operation is on hold for now until we stabilize our business. The 
plan is still to open in more cities and to do so as resources provide and as the business 
climate dictates. 

• The Madison offices will be in a new and improved location as of the 1st of September. 
The new address is 131 W. Wilson Suite 1201, Madison, WI 53703. 

• The Chicago office is expanding to include 4 new office spaces and two new parking spots. 
Ryan is back in Chicago and Keith Phipps and Phil Meier will be moving there next month. 

• New York is getting a new mailing address/PO Box for fear of the crazies visiting 
regularly. This will be announced as obtained.

•The Onion is making its first movie! We will be signing a deal with Fox/Regency Films to 
write and produce a low-budget sketch comedy film with one of the famous Zucker Brothers 
(David) as producer. I’ll let you know more on the schedule of things as we get the 
details. No, this not part of the Miramax arrangement. We have, indeed, already begun 
pitching them ideas but this sketch movie was in the works before we got in bed with Harvey 
and Bob. 

I look forward to your comments.