How to Be a Bigger, Better Book Publisher
We also experience recurring revenue now by publishing directories that are annual. We turned the directories into pieces that are automatically renewed unless a customer requests them to be stopped.
We do the same with book products. For example, we have a product that covers “50 Top Employment Laws in 50 States” that we republish every year. Essentially customers get it every year at the current price, and we send a postcard in advance stating that when they bought the book originally they agreed to take future additions. The next one is about to come out, and if they do not want it they can let us know.
BB: Did M. Lee Smith need to change strategies at some point to better accommodate the changes occurring as a result of growth?
Oswald: We’ve [changed] our internal structure …. We went to a group publisher model and have subject-matter experts in each area.
We have experts in employment law and general human resources, and someone in charge of electronic video training products for supervisors in companies. Those people have top line and bottom line responsibility in their subject areas, and they are product developers. We look for those individuals who are close to and have good relationships with others in the markets we handle.
In the past, we were more centralized with just one or two people handling it all.
BB: Has acquisition played a major role in the company’s growth?
Oswald: We acquired competitive book and newsletter titles. In fact, six years ago we bought out our largest competitor of labor newsletters—The Labor Letter, Inc.—which was based out of California. That company had state employment newsletters in 26 states.
BB: Have you used any creative financing or investment strategies to facilitate growth?
Oswald: I purchased M. Lee Smith a year ago. I’ve known Lee through trade associations, and he called looking for someone to run the business since he was approaching retirement. I said I was interested in buying.