But everyone who heard that the then youthful sales executive was leaving an established media house for a newspaper that had not even published its first edition yet thought he was out of his mind.
A friend to Atusiimire called Wilbroad Nakabala, who had been recruited by The Observer Media Ltd as marketing manager, had encouraged him to join the new paper. Atusiimire weighed his options and decided it was better to cast his lot with Nakabala’s team. But his friends and family members would have none of it.
“Whoever I talked to, including my wife, discouraged me. They said, ‘this is a paper that is closing tomorrow. Why are you joining it?'” he says.
At the time, Atusiimire was working with The New Vision, where he was in charge of sourcing aertising for the company’s local language newspapers. He says the commission that he earned at the time was lower than what The Observer promised.
“That is the reason why I decided to join The Observer,” says the 39-year-old.
During the first month of The Observer’s existence, Atusiimire was just one of only two salespersons that the company had got on board. The other was Michael Ruhumuriza, who threw in the towel almost immediately.
“For him, because the paper was new, he decided that he could not handle. He couldn’t sign any order and he decided to run away,” recalls Atusiimire.
“But I persisted. I said, ‘let me give it a try. If they close, I close with them. If they continue operating, I will continue with them’.”
Atusiimire’s resilience won him the respect of The Observer’s shareholders and the affection of Ogen Kevin Aliro, the paper’s founding managing editor. Aliro introduced Atusiimire to some of his friends and would even offer the marketing executive his car to go look for aerts.
“The late Kevin encouraged me so much,” says Atusiimire. “He could sit me down and tell me how I can do it better. That also gave me morale to keep trying until I reached a point where I started getting serious business. After that, I was comfortable.”
Having identified Atusiimire as a good salesman, The Observer directors offered him the liberty to sometimes play by his own rules. For instance, he could claim for his commission as soon as an order was paid for, and he could ask for an aance anytime he wished. With that kind of support from management, Atusiimire says he got comfortable at The Observer and it began “to feel like family.”
“All the directors were friendly. They liked me. I also started liking the job because of the way I was being treated,” he says.
“Everyone could contact me as far as aertising was concerned. Directors treated me like I was one of them. That factor motivated me so much. I felt I could not leave these guys because of the way they were handling me.”
Atusiimire once promised Aliro that he would secure for the paper an eight page supplement. That promise came true, except that the supplement was published in the week that Aliro died.
“That thing annoyed me so much. I will not forget that,” he says. “Kevin was really waiting to see that happen.”
After Aliro’s burial, Atusiimire received a call from his former boss’ wife. Her words touched him deeply and kept him going.
“She told me how her husband used to tell her about me. She said, ‘wherever Kevin is, he is seeing you. Don’t disappoint him. Please continue what you were doing’,” he recalls.
Buoyed by those words, Atusiimire persevered with The Observer. Looking back, Atusiimire says it is a decision he does not regret because of how much he has benefitted from associating with the company.
“I have done a lot from Observer, including uplifting my relatives and family members, and developing myself,” he says.
As The Observer marks 10 years, Atusiimire says there is still some unfinished business both for him and the company.
“I can’t wait to see Observer becoming a daily before I retire,” he says. “That is my dream.”
Source : The Observer