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Published August 03, 2010, 10:05 AM

Western ad rep has been Agweek face for 25 years

FARGO, N.D. — As Agweek magazine turns 25, Fayette Heidecker is the only employee in the news and advertising side who can say she’s put her heart and soul into the publication through its entire history.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — As Agweek magazine turns 25, Fayette Heidecker is the only employee in the news and advertising side who can say she’s put her heart and soul into the publication through its entire history.

Heidecker of Dickinson, N.D., was hired in July 1985.

“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years,” Heidecker says. “When you think of 25 times 52 weeks a year, that’s a lot of deadlines.”

That’s right — 1,300 weekly deadlines, to be exact.

Much of Agweek’s success in the western region has been a result of Heidecker’s work, says Noel Letexier, who served as Agweek advertising director from 1988 to 2001.

“Her customers are as loyal as they get,” he says.

Heidecker is steeped in the agriculture and region she serves.

She grew up on a diversified farm in Taylor in Stark County, N.D., the fourth of five children. Her parents, Orville and Lois Gullickson, grew small grains and raised hogs and still live in Taylor. Her father was a World War II veteran in the Pacific and came home to be a leader in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, giving her both a knowledge base for agriculture and an example of what’s important for personal interactions in business.

A string of ad ‘firsts’

After high school graduation in 1974, Heidecker immediately started working in advertising. Other than two years in California, she’s worked in it much of her life.

She can claim a string of “firsts” in an advertising career that is rich in relationships.

“I was one of the first reps for KLTC Radio in Dickinson, and then, five years later, at the new TV station, KQCD (named for ‘Queen City Dickinson’),” she says.

She’d left advertising to work over-the-road for a Bismarck, N.D., company called Control-O-Fax that did things like microfilming for dental and medical offices. In that job, she was in Bismarck a lot and one day read an ad in the Bismarck Tribune.

“It said, ‘New agricultural publication coming to this area — looking for sales people,’” she says. “They weren’t going to hire a rep in Dickinson, but they hired me anyway — I suppose because of my advertising experience of about 10 years. They also hired a Bismarck rep, so there were two of us right away.”

The excitement of a new magazine made it easy to sell.

“People were so excited about this publication coming to the area,” she recalls. “It was going to be an ‘editorial’ magazine, a marketing tool. It was going to come out every week, so it was more timely and current. And it was something where we’d have a western issue. It was actually a magazine for the west as well as the east.”

It was ‘Stockmen’s hour’

Initially, Heidecker would sell ads through the week and go to Bismarck once a week to put together ad layouts. There were implements and car dealerships in most of the little towns on the western landscape.

“We didn’t even have a fax machine, of course. Everything was done by film. From Bismarck, things would be sent to Grand Forks,” Heidecker recalls.

Larry Schnell, a co-owner of Stockmen’s Livestock Exchange in Dickinson, immediately saw the magazine’s potential and has had an ad on the back cover since the very beginning.

“He felt everybody was ready for something like this,” Heidecker says. “His sale was on Thursdays, so Friday mornings, I’d get the sale report and call Grand Forks. It would take us about an hour, but I’d have to read the auction results line by line over the phone.

“I’ve always felt like all of my clients are my friends,” she says, and that has been a comfort to her as she has worked on the road in a vast rural landscape and sometimes harsh climates. She’s been snowbound on the road three times.

“I’ve felt like a kind of partner, to help make their business better,” she says.

Heidecker says many things have changed about her work.

The number of companies on the landscape has changed, just as the number of farms has changed. Today, 75 to 80 percent of her clients are involved in livestock, especially as implement dealer ownership has consolidated in larger companies in the Red River Valley.

Much has changed — of course.

What changes, stays

Heidecker works with livestock sale barns as well as bull producers and other input companies. The pace in the business world has grown quicker as people cover larger territories and clients rely more on telecommunications to do business on the road.

There has been a parade of technological advances that seem rudimentary today. Fax machines and computers became commonplace and useful in the late 1980s. Cell phones aren’t always reliable in all places, even today, but still have changed the picture. Digital cameras have been big.

Technology has allowed ranchers, companies and Agweek to do more with fewer people. It has made the work an ever-changing thing.

“My job has never been boring or stale because there’s always something to change your ways and learn,” Heidecker says. “I’m a lifelong learner.”

“Larry now sends sale results directly to a modem over the phone,” she says of Schnell at Stockmen’s in Dickinson. “We’ve come a long way.”

But what hasn’t changed is that there are very few people who sell cattle with him who don’t read Agweek.

Growing relationships

One thing that doesn’t change is that she’s “still fired up about Agweek,” Heidecker says.

“So many people tell me they like the magazine. It covers such a large area, the advertiser has a tool to do it all,” she says.

She married Gary Heidecker in 1981. They have two children, including a son, Justin, who was the “first baby” born of an Agweek staffer, in June 1986. Another first.

As with farmers and ranchers, she works out of her home, where she balances work with family.

Heidecker’s business style is to be completely involved in the community in the western agriculture that she loves — advertising businesses, the ranchers and farmers they serve, as well as the groups that represent them.

“Since I’ve been so far from the home office, I have enjoyed being involved in clients’ special events,” she says, running through a list of farm show names starting with Glendive, Mont., and Williston, Dickinson, Bismarck and Bowman in North Dakota.

“I try to help and do something to be involved,” she says. “If somebody ever asked me to do something, I did. I’ve never felt like I worked 8-to-5, so if it was good for the client, it was good for me and for Agweek in general.”

One example is that Agweek has been supreme champion sponsor at the West River Livestock Show in Dickinson since the event started.

“We really try to sponsor and be involved in as many events as we can,” she says.

“The clients I work with — they’re the best. They want their customers to be successful; I want them to be successful. We’re all connected to the ag sector, and everybody wants everybody to be successful.”