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Neuharth plunged in on USA Today

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in Leaders & Managers

While leading the charge into unknown territory, you could easily freeze as your inner voice screams “Do something!” The solution: Pick something small and plunge in.

Example: Al Neuharth envisioned a national newspaper … a simple idea but a huge undertaking.

Once USA Today launched, Neuharth—knowing he couldn’t be everywhere or do everything—picked something small and plunged in.

When he jogged, when he broke from meetings and as he flew in and out of airports, he checked the newspaper racks to make sure they were stocked.

Sometimes, he flitted from rack to rack in a city, pumping in quarters and checking each issue’s color, format and “feel.”

In the Oct. 15, 1982, edition issued in Rochester, N.Y., he noticed that the weather map’s sky printed purple. He jotted a note to the paper’s president, asking: “Skies are basically blue. What happened?”

Neuharth’s plunge-in approach helped the newspaper overcome some initial miscalculations, including an underpowered computer system and no outlet for subscriptions, to reach a circulation of 1 million in only one year (a feat it took The Wall Street Journal 77 years to accomplish) and in seven years became the nation’s largest daily newspaper.

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