Imagine being able to tell your grandkids that you worked on the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album, or on “Star Wars”—playing an important role in the creation of a cultural phenomenon that anyone would be proud to claim as the capstone of their career.
Francine Colaneri, the book industry’s 2008 Publishing Executive Hall of Fame inductee, is just that lucky. As vice president of manufacturing and supply chain at global children’s education and media company Scholastic Inc. (New York), she was instrumental in coordinating the manufacture and distribution of all seven books in the “Harry Potter” series published in the United States.
“We have rewritten publishing history with ‘Harry Potter,’” she says. “I make jokes at home—I always say to my children, you have to make sure my grandchildren know I was a part of this.”
Colaneri speaks with pride of Scholastic’s success in delivering so many books to so many people, stressing the “cohesiveness” of the various teams within the company and their vendor partners in meeting the unprecedented challenge of the “Potter” books—something her colleagues say can largely be ascribed to the team-building skills of Colaneri herself.
Respect of Her Peers
“Francine is an exceptional leader. She is open-minded, a good strategic thinker, and open to change and trying new things. She is well-loved by her staff and by everybody at the company,” says Beth Ford, who worked with Colaneri as Scholastic’s senior vice president of global operations and information technology, and recently left her position as COO at Hachette Filipacchi Media to re-enter the consumer packaged-goods industry. “She is held in a great deal of esteem and respect by everyone who interfaces with her, including her suppliers. She treats her vendor partners truly as partners.”
Janet McCarthy Grimm, vice president of Lindenmeyr Book Publishing Papers, which works with Scholastic, adds, “Regardless of how great the challenge, Francine presents business opportunities (and imperatives) clearly and concisely. She always believes that we should all strive for perfection, yet when the rare mishap occurs, Francine makes the solution her top priority. The suppliers who work with her steadily all know that if there is a problem, Scholastic will collaborate to find the best possible resolution from all angles. Francine has always expected 110 percent from the people she works with and that is because she generally is giving 120 percent of her own effort.”
Ford praises Colaneri for her “calm demeanor,” intelligence and deep knowledge of the manufacturing business, crediting her for efficiency strategies that drove millions of dollars in savings for Scholastic.
“There is no better person I can think of,” she says, “for induction into the Hall of Fame.”
41 Years in the Business
Colaneri has lived through tremendous changes in the industry since she was first bitten by the publishing bug in high school, while working as an intern at McGraw-Hill.
“I just loved books and reading from when I was a child, and there was a great appeal to me to work with a publisher,” she says. “I hate to say, I’ve been in the business since 1967.”
Landing in book manufacturing was “kind of flukey,” Colaneri recalls. Having started in editorial after college, she soon found that her true home was in the manufacturing area.
“It was just such a fit,” she says. “I loved the idea of making books, making product … starting out with an idea, a concept of a story, and taking that and working through the process to get to a finished product that could go out to the consumer.”
After working in manufacturing and corporate purchasing at McGraw-Hill, Colaneri came to Scholastic in 1986. She is currently responsible for the purchase and management of materials and services used to produce the full range of Scholastic’s products, from books to promotional materials and educational resources.
The most important change in her 22 years at Scholastic, Colaneri says, involves the range of options made possible by new technology, from digital printing to personalized products and forms of integrated media. As an example, she cites the new global, multiplatform series, “The 39 Clues,” an interactive 10-book series, online game and trading-card product that allows young readers to be a part of the story, and solve clues and win prizes. The simultaneous global launch spanned numerous time zones from Australia and New Zealand to numerous countries in Asia to England, Canada and the United States.
“You can imagine the coordination and planning to make this happen,” she says. “Putting together a program like that requires some different thinking, some new technologies.
“… With Scholastic, because of the breadth of our product, it isn’t just looking at what printing technology is available, because we are much more than a book publisher,” Colaneri continues. “It’s looking at what technology is out there that can support non-book product that can be used to complement what Scholastic does in their book product.”
A “Green” Thumb
While referring to working on the “Potter” books as “truly the highlight of my career,” Colaneri also played a key role in helping Scholastic become an industry leader in environmental initiatives, crafting policy and arranging (for the “Potter” series) the largest-ever purchase of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper for a single book.
“We, at Scholastic, have been, since I’ve been here, using recycled content and doing lots of things that are environmentally sound,” she says. “Going back a few years, the discussion was, ‘We’re doing these things, we really should put a policy around this and make us accountable for doing a little bit better than we’d done the year before.’”
Working with stakeholders including mills, printers, environmental groups, investors and the education market, Colaneri was instrumental in helping to craft a comprehensive “green” procurement policy that has drawn widespread industry praise.
“In putting it together, we had a well-thought-out plan for what needed to be done to ensure that we had a policy that was strong in and of itself, and was a stretch for us,” she says. “We looked at the baseline, what are we buying today, and … based on that, put together a policy that is aggressive. We meta-sized our goals and said we would report on our performance against that goal.”
The policy includes increasing the use of FSC-certified and post-consumer recycled paper, working with mills to develop lighter paper while retaining quality, and extensive internal recycling and energy-saving strategies. True to Scholastic’s mission, an important component of the strategy has been educating children in learning to care for the Earth.
“We feel really strongly that … we want to educate and get the message to kids out there,” she says.
For Colaneri, the greatest satisfaction comes from knowing the positive effect Scholastic’s products have on children. She recalls fondly the night last summer when the final “Harry Potter” book was released: “I went to Barnes & Noble for the midnight party, stood up in the mezzanine as the books went on sale, and there were kids who just opened that book and sat right down and started reading right there. And it was, ‘Oh my God, I had the chance to help make that happen.’
“I do not exaggerate when I say we really are about the children,” she adds. “Our customers are the parents and teachers of children, but so much of what we do is driven by and for the children. It’s a wonderful thing to come to work every day, and I love what I do.”
Related story: The 2008 Publishing Executive Hall of Fame Inductees