More Information About Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)
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The name Richard Guenther once meant something
You must imagine where I came from when I arrived to Houston. I was a highly visible leader in Germany, being the Director of what HSLDA often referred to as HSLDA of Germany. My wife and I often met with some of Germany's highest politicians — presidents of state senates, heads of counties, mayors and even the German vice president of the European Parliament, who sometimes addressed me as Mr. America and once told me that I had a very convincing wife.
When there were problems with families in Paderborn, the German government sent one of its top international negotiators to meet with us and these Russian German families. As it turned out and after another meeting, we won this man over to our side. He was quoted in one of Germany's leading newspapers to say that these Paderborn families should be left alone. It wasn't long and we heard that he had been retired.
We were mentioned in the press throughout Germany and the press liked our stories. We were somebody to be reckoned with. We had a name both in Germany and in America. James was hiring someone who would bring him and his operations prestige.
In the 1990's homeschooling was very little known in Germany. If you were to tell someone that you homeschooled your children their mouths would fall open. What on earth is homeschooling? Even government officials we met during this decade were not familiar with the homeschool movement in America. This all changed when we began our work in the year 2000. Beginning with the Harder family we went public in a big way. News outlets across Germany were running to write articles about homeschooling. We were being called for interviews and asked to be on radio and television programs.
There were many articles written in America about the Guenthers and the work they were doing in Germany. In the 2005 May/June issue of Homeschooling Today magazine, I was referred to as the Lafayette of Germany. What was interesting here was that Chris Klicka called us after the publication of this article and for reasons only he could understand was very angry at James for allowing this article to appear in his magazine. He said that he was going to tell James that from now on any articles he wanted to place in his magazine that had to do with Germany first must be cleared through Chris Klicka. This puzzled both Ingrid and I.
Later, when I had just begun to work for James, I had an idea of a product I believed would sell well in America and that would allow us to finance our now lain-on-ice ministry in Germany for lack of funds. I called a close family friend, a man who has been a large figure in the American homeschool movement to tell him about it and to ask him to put me into contact with someone who might be interested to finance it. He told me that Chris Klicka had told him that anything that had to do with Germany had to first be cleared through Chris. This puzzled me and my wife. What should Chris have to do with this? What was it his business? But after all, Chris was a trusted friend so we believed that he must have had a good reason.
James McDonald wants $60,000 per issue ad revenue
James and I emailed back and forth and spoke on the phone during October and November of 2005, while my family was still living in Germany. In one email, he told me that it was his goal to increase the ad revenue of his magazine to $60,000 per issue. Now, upon my arrival to begin work, he told me that he wanted it done by year's end. I was not aware what this meant but later understood that it was an almost impossible task he was asking of me. It took me some time and difficulty until I finally estimated that when I began work the ad revenue was around $20,000 per issue.
I used my name and the work we had done in Germany as my selling point. It worked wonders! Many ad buyers wanted updates of what was going on in Germany. They believed that they were at the right address talking to me. To make a long story short, by the end of March, a mere three months after I had begun my job I had already achieved the goal of $60,000 per issue.
I cannot tell you how many calls I received from advertisers who were disgruntled because James had failed to publish several issues of his magazine. One was the March/April 2005 issue and the other was the November/December 2005 issue. I was not aware that these issues had not gone out before I began my job. The loss of the Christmas edition was the worst. Advertisers had special offers that ended January 1. They felt terribly cheated because this was the most important issue of the year in which to place their ads. I addressed these complaints by assuring them that James had for too long been understaffed and that this is why he brought me onboard. From now on everything would work just fine.
Payday arrives and James cannot pay
When payday arrived on January 15, James told me that he did not have the money to pay me. There was no forewarning of this, so I was totally shocked especially since he had told me that I could expect to receive $4,000 a month to begin with. Being told that he did not have the money to pay me, I believed that he and his operations were in financial difficulty. I asked James to meet with me in my home office. In this meeting and with my family present James offered to pay me $5,000 for the month of January from a donation check which someone had pledged to donate to his ministry.
He kept telling me that he was waiting for the check to arrive in the mail so that he could pay me. In a February 14 email he said: "I gave your family $5,000 from our ministry account to cover this month's (January) needs, while I have only been able to cover half my salary."
Since I was the Director of Operations, I needed to take a close look at why James was in financial trouble. I asked his bookkeeper if the accounts of his three businesses were kept separated or if they were entangled with each other. I asked to see the books. Surely the money trail would provide the answer and enable us to make some adjustments and get everything back on track. I was never given the opportunity to see the books but was told to "go back and sell!" James was short and told me that nobody would get paid if I didn't sell. Of course I believed that James was irritated often because of the pressure he was under.
On one occasion, when James was backing out of his parking spot at the Tea Shop where he spent much of his time, he accidentally backed into my car, tearing off half of the back bumper. He apologized for this and asked if he could pay for it. I told him that it was an old car so just forget it. I was just relieved that no one had been hurt. He said that it was a good thing that he believed in predestination because this was predestined to happen — whatever that meant.
I saw very soon that the magazine could be a moneymaker and a good opportunity for me and my wife to finance our ministry in Germany. I could see raising it out of the little niche it was presently in — generally Presbyterian — into a much broader market. Since we were well known, this would have been in my opinion an easy undertaking.
Though I was not given opportunity to look into the books, and having watched James go about his business, I believed that the root of the whole problem was that James was not a good businessman (to which he admitted in front of his wife, me and my wife, and two men from James church in a meeting a few months later). I believed that if given the chance I could grow this magazine out of the little corner it was in and make it a great success.
James had already told me even before I began my job that he would eventually like to sell Homeschooling Today magazine and go full time into the church ministry (James was a Pastor and had begun a small church). Along with believing that James was in financial trouble, knowing this also encouraged me to begin talks with James to take over the magazine. In early February I began to discuss with James taking ownership of the magazine.
The old car I had purchased for $500 had given up less than two-months after I had purchased it. My family was now in dire need of another car. I asked James if he would co-sign. He told me that he couldn't do that but that he had a friend who owned a car lot in town and he would contact him. If he ever contacted his friend I never heard about it. I told James that since he would not cosign I needed an employment contract to show to the car dealer who might be willing to sell me a car if I could present him with an employment contract. He told me he was working on a contract but that it wasn't ready yet.
I couldn't understand why James was having difficulty working up a contract for me. It certainly wasn't my intention to irritate him by asking too often for this contact that he had promised to me upon my arrival to begin work. Though I couldn't understand why, especially since I was selling at such a high rate, James was obviously irritated with me.
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