The Corner Office: How Hachette Book Group Measures Success
With its new Web site, HBG has established an infrastructure for digital development, says COO Beth Ford.
With close to one year on the job, Hachette Book Group (HBG) Chief Operating Officer Beth Ford continues to work toward increasing efficiencies—and profits—for owner Hachette Livre, who purchased the publishing company from Time Warner in March 2006. Ford, who joined HBG last September after serving seven years as Scholastic’s senior vice president of global operations and information technology, dove right in by reviewing the publisher’s processes and identifying “gaps” that needed to be filled.
It’s a full plate of responsibilities—one Ford relishes, she says. She spoke with Book Business about her approach to improving HBG’s bottom line.
• How do you improve a process or a department?
Beth Ford: … There’s a couple of ways I’ve approached it. I try to partner with [HBG Chairman and CEO] David Young. [We ask,] “What are the ‘pain’ points? What should we focus on?” … One thing to [understand] is … what the CEO thinks.
I [also] try to look at the major [spending] categories. What are the things—in the order of magnitude that can improve our bottom line—that are important to our customer and internally? … Then I sit with the heads of the departments, and see what their metrics are and how they approach their business. I like to [identify the trends] in their cost elements. I assess to see if that [department] needs some change or if there’s opportunity for improvement.
• How do you measure improvements?
Ford: I’m a very big believer in keeping track and keeping score by measuring the baseline performance and making sure you have the right metrics in place. … At the moment, I have a very strong team that’s working with me to challenge their own thinking or just build on their own baseline, working together to make sure the metrics are in place. If we do that, I think we will be successful [with] the bottom line of the business.