Are You the Weakest Link?
As I was preparing for this column, I came across the following statement in a brochure prepared by Strategos, strategic planning consultants, that I picked up at an event a few years ago:
“What’s amazing is how often top management is surprised when dramatic external change happens. Why the surprise? Is it that the world is violently turbulent, changing in ways that simply cannot be anticipated? Perhaps. But we call them ‘inevitable surprises.’ Think about it. In retrospect, you could have anticipated most of the disruptions in your industry. You can build this capability into your organization. You can be prepared—before your competition.”
In many respects, publishers, by definition, are on top of trends, change and competition. It is the stuff of what many a frontlist is built on. Yet, publishers can miss the beat by not fully embracing the nature of the businesses that they are really in—the manufacturing business and the content business.
Because we are also a highly collaborative industry, we also tend to overlook competitive threats to ourselves from outside the industry, as well as threats to and among the vendors in the supply chain on whom we depend—prepress houses, server hosts, printers, paper mills, distributors and various editorial and production services, for example. Will they be there tomorrow? Thus, we can remain unprepared for other threats and opportunities even as we convert to, say, print-on-demand, digital platforms and strategically located physical inventories.
Envision Your Company as a Link
Think of yourself as a link in someone else’s supply chain. Thinking of and diagramming ourselves as both the object as well as a link in many supply chain loops is useful for mapping our present and possible future. Identifying the core competencies that express our primary value proposition for the customers we are trying to reach will help determine how strong a link we are.
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.